First Steps and Conceptual Creativity
n §308 of the Philosophical Investigations, Wittgenstein talks of the first step in philosophizing being “the one that altogether escapes notice ... that’s just what commits us to a particular way of looking at the matter”. A good example of such a first step is Frege’s use of function–argument analysis and the associated conception of concepts as functions, which led to almost all his characteristic doctrines. It is tempting to see the conceptual creativity involved here – in Frege’s reconceiving concepts as functions – as originating in some “Eureka!” moment and as catching on when others can exclaim “Now I can go on!”; but all this needs careful description to avoid mythologization. In this essay I explore some of the connections between conceptual creativity and the kind of first steps of which Wittgenstein spoke.