Explanation and Understanding


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The late G. H. von Wright, who succeeded Wittgenstein in the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge and served as one of three executors of the Wittgenstein estate, was a visiting professor at Cornell University from 1965 to 1977 and finished his career at the University of Helsinki. His many books include The Varieties of Goodness, Norm and Action, The Logic of Preference, and Freedom and Determination.


"Explanation and Understanding, perhaps von Wright's best-known book, showed the influence of Wittgenstein but marked a clean break with the positivism of his youth. He suggested that human action could not be explained causally by scientific or 'natural' laws, but had to be understood 'intentionally'-a concept connected with wants and beliefs developed in a social and cultural context."-Daily Telegraph "This is a very good book packed with much original material; it also contains illuminating reinterpretations of some familiar theories and arguments. The range of topics treated includes causation, action, verification of gnomic statements, practical inference and its use in the explanation of action, and the structure of explanation in history.-Philosophical Review

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