Wittgenstein as a rebel: Dissidence and contestation in discursive practices

Jose Medina*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Through a new interpretation of Wittgenstein's rule-following discussions, this article defends a negotiating model of normativity according to which normative authority is always subject to contestation. To refute both individualism and collectivism, I supplement Wittgenstein's Private Language Argument with a Social Language Argument, showing that normativity cannot be monopolized either individually or socially (i.e. it cannot be privatized or collectivized). The negotiating view of normativity here developed lays the foundations of a politics of radical contestation which converges with Chantal Mouffe's framework of 'radical democracy', while departing from her agonism in preserving the structuring and constraining role that tacit agreement in action plays in rule-following practices. My account of the 'burdens of eccentricity' elucidates how the normative force of dissidence can be properly recognized and used effectively for social transformations. I argue that there is a 'presumption of normalcy' in favour of the established consensus of action, but that this presumption is defeasible: in normative disagreements, a violation of expected normalcy shifts the burden onto the shoulders of rebellious agents who must show that their dissenting behaviour can be a legitimate extension, revision, or transformation of the practice in question.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-29
Number of pages29
JournalInternational Journal of Philosophical Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2010


  • Contestation
  • Dissidence
  • Intelligibility
  • Normativity
  • Private Language Argument
  • Wittgenstein

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy


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