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As a landmark philosopher of language and of mind, Ludwig Wittgenstein is also remarkable for having crossed, with apparent ease, the “continental divide” in philosophy. It is consequently not surprising that Wittgenstein’s work, particularly the Philosophical Investigations, has been taken up by philosophers of education in English. Michael A. Peters (1999), Christopher Winch (2002), Smeyers & Burbules (2010), and others (e.g., Aparece 2005) have engaged extensively with the implications of the later Wittgenstein’s philosophy for education. One challenge they face is Wittgenstein’s use of the word “training.” It appears throughout his discussions of language learning and in his periodic references to education. This is made all the more problematic by realizing that the German term Wittgenstein uses consistently is Abrichtung, which refers exclusively to animal dressage or obedience training, and which connotes also the breaking of an animal’s will. I argue that this little-recognized fact has broad significance for many important Wittgenstinian insights into education. I conclude by considering how an unflinching recognition of the implications of Wittgenstein’s word choice might cast him as a pessimistic or tragic philosopher of education and upbringing –following “pessimistic” German-language traditions– rather than as one compatible with “progressivist” Anglo-American orientations.


The published title is, "Training and Abrichtung: Wittgenstein as a Tragic Philosopher of Education."

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This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Routledge an imprint of Taylor & Francis Group in Educational Philosophy and Theory of January 2017, available online at doi: 10.1080/00131857.2016.1182415