Peter Winch

Investigating “Man’s Relation to Reality”: Peter Winch, the Vanishing Shed and Metaphysics after Wittgenstein

Olli Lagerspetz read

Peter Winch believed that the central task of philosophy was to investigate ‘the force of the concept of reality’ in human practices. This involved creative dialogue with critical metaphysics. In ‘Ceasing to Exist’, Winch considered what it means to judge that something unheard-of has happened. Referring to Wittgenstein, Winch argued that judgments concerning reality must relate our observations to a shared ‘flow of life’. This implies criticism of the form of epistemology associated with metaphysical realism. Just as, according to Wittgenstein, a sentence has no fixed meaning in isolation — an observation does not constitute knowledge outside shared human practices.

Philosophical Investigations, 5 Jan. 2022

Peter Winch: Unity: Presupposition or Demand?

Peter Winch (Steven Burns trans.) read

This is a translation of a paper which the late Peter Winch wrote in German for a 1987 conference. He deals with fundamental issues in ethics, especially with the Wittgensteinian idea that “primitive reactions” play a crucial role in the formation of moral concepts. It also responds to an important objection, namely that primitive reactions can be as much immoral as moral. Ranging as it does over Winch’s interests in Wittgenstein, Simone Weil, and Plato, the paper can serve as a concise introduction to Winch’s work.

Philosophical Investigations, vol. 44, no. 2, July 9, 2021

Peter Winch in India 1986 Lecture on Simone Weil

Peter Winch read

This is a talk given by Peter Winch in 1986 when he would have been nearing completion of his Simone Weil:“The just Balance” (1989). The talk was given to a small group in Mahabaleshwar in the Indian state of Maharashtra, and the transcription by Michael Campbell is from a recording made by Prabodh Parikh who, with Probal Dasgupta and Michael McGhee, initiated the Convivium series of meetings between Indian and Western philosophers.

Philosophical Investigations, vol. 43, nos. 1-2, pp. 19-39

Weil and Wittgenstein in Winch’s “Reading”: Philosophy as a Way of Life

Francesca R. Recchia Luciani read

Abstract:  Peter Winch’s study Simone Weil: The Just Balance adopts a heuristic method through which Weil’s philosophical and religious thought is illuminated by surprising parallels with some concepts developed independently by Wittgenstein. The comparative analysis illustrates that for both these Socratic philosophers, theory corresponds to daily experience, a real “way of life” which in itself gives rise to an ethical-philosophical pragmatics that informs the most intimate ontological dimensions, encapsulating in their thought the meaning of their whole life.

Michael Campbell & Lynette Reid, eds., Ethics, Society and Politics: Themes from the Philosophy of Peter Winch (2020), pp 149-166.

The Identity of Man – Winch Between Spinoza, Weil, and Wittgenstein

Sarah Trooper read

Throughout his philosophical career, Peter Winch had a particular interest in the philosophy of Spinoza, as is evidenced not only by a variety of references on a diverse range of issues in his works but also by several lectures and seminars he delivered on this thinker. A reconstruction of his interpretation of Spinoza’s system, which unites epistemological, metaphysical, and ethical considerations as mutually dependent, brings to the fore Winch’s interest in the individual not only as an important epistemological but equally as a moral agent, who is embedded in a web of circumstances that shape her view on the world and the possibilities and options she is able to entertain. Moreover, in his reading of Spinoza, the focus on the irreducibility of the individual’s standpoint is also connected to the philosophies of Wittgenstein and Simone Weil, a connection which adds at the same time an emphasis on a fundamental limitation of moral philosophy in general.

Sarah Trooper, “The Identity of Man – Winch Between Spinoza, Weil, and Wittgenstein,” in Michael Campbell & Lynette Reid, eds., Ethics, Society and Politics: Themes from the Philosophy of Peter Winch,  Springer (2020),  pp. 135-148

Faith, Belief, and Perspective: Peter Winch’s Philosophy of Religion

Eric Springsted read

Peter Winch’s philosophy of religion is controversial, accused of mere “perspectivism” and fideism, and for avoiding discussion of any existential reference for the object of belief. This essay examines what Winch meant by a “perspective.” It first deals with problems of first-person propositions of belief. For Wittgenstein and Winch belief, and the fact it believes, are inextricably bound together. Thus Winch argues that what is said cannot be divorced from the situation of the sayer; understanding requires making shifts in perspective. Finally, I compare Winch’s use of religious language to Augustine’s doctrine of the “inner word,” arguing that there are important parallels in Winch to pre-Lockean theological understandings of faith.

Philosophical Investigations, vol. 27, no. 4 (Oct. 2004) pp. 345-369.

Winch on Weil’s Supernaturalism

Eric Springsted read

This book covers the main aspects of Simone Weil’s thought, drawing on her life where it is relevant for understanding her ideas. It is the fruit of many years engagement with scholars and scholarship on Weil in America, France, and the United Kingdom. The philosophical bases of her social and political thought, of her analysis of the natural world, and of her spiritual journey, as found in Plato, Epictetus, and Kant are uncovered.

The authors are especially concerned with controversial aspects of Weil’s life and thought: they offer an additional dimension to her understanding of the supernatural; they correct Rowan Williams’ misunderstanding of her account of preferential love; and argue against Thomas Nevin’s attempt to marginalize her as another example of Jewish self-hatred. The book also presents and assesses the new evidence for Weil’s baptism.

in Diogenes Allen and Eric Springsted, Spirit, Nature, and Community: Issues in the Thought of Simone Weil, State University of New York Press, Albany, 1994, chapter 5, pp. 77-93.