Michael Weston has an interesting paper in the latest issue of Philosophical Investigations. It's about Wittgenstein, the later Heidegger, forms of life, the Zande, Native Americans, Rush Rhees, Peter Winch, and the meaning of life. Right up my street.
At the end of the paper he seems to say that Wittgenstein would reject his view because he, unlike Wittgenstein, thinks that language games can be justified (or unjustified). But this must be wrong. For one thing, Wittgenstein is vague about what counts as a language game, so I would hesitate to attribute any significant or controversial thesis about them to him. For another, I see no reason why Wittgenstein would have to reject any attempt to justify a game, practice, institution, custom, or part thereof. On p. 250 Weston writes that "there cannot be a justification for the rules themselves: that is just what we call "football" or "chess."" If that were true then how could people debate the possible introduction of goal-line technology in football? Or if my son suggests that we alter the rules of chess next time we play, how could I even try to argue that the rules we usually play by are better? This thesis seems obviously false and is not actually proposed by Wittgenstein. Charity suggests we should not attribute it to him. That makes him able to agree with the rest of what Weston says, which is probably what Weston would like anyway. Everybody wins.
Another weird idea in the paper, which Weston (unless I'm misreading) attributes to Rhees, is that unless there is a meaning of life, there can be no meaning in language. This can't be true either. I suppose that people must care about something if they are ever to learn language, and must share some sense of what matters with others if they are to share a language with them. But the fact that things matter to me, or are meaningful to me, does not mean that my life actually does have meaning. If I care very much about putting green books on my roof then my life is actually sadly bereft of real meaning. And as far as I can see, we can generalize this point. The fact that language exists only shows that things matter to us, not that anything is meaningful in any more important sense than this.
I suspect that this problem is more damaging to Weston's case, but there is plenty in the paper to make it worth reading anyway. Here's a vaguely relevant video to celebrate.