‘Don’t Think, Look!’: A Wittgensteinian Critique of Entrepreneurial Action and a Way Forward

Neil Aaron Thompson, Orla Byrne, Dimo P. Dimov

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Drawing on Wittgenstein’s (1953) argumentation in Philosophical Investigations, in this article we demonstrate that theories of ‘entrepreneurial action’ do not definitively represent objective things because (a) we can always find cases that violate the conditions of the definition or (b) we can ex post explain any empirical case due to the conditions that delimit application being unspecified. Furthermore, we draw on Wittgenstein’s private language argument and ‘beetle in the box’ thought example to show that it is not possible to sustain the idea of an ‘inner’ mental world within which the ‘outer’ world is rendered and ‘judged’, ‘known’ or ‘motivated’. We conclude with an exposition of an alternative way of talking about and conceiving of ‘entrepreneurial action’, and, importantly, what this means for ‘theory development’ in entrepreneurship studies. Following the practice tradition set forth by Wittgenstein, we discuss how it is through practices that ‘entrepreneurial action’ gains and retains its meaning. The implication for the field is a re-orientation towards the logic of practice in researching and theorising entrepreneurial phenomena.
Original languageEnglish
Article number14414
JournalAcademy of Management Proceedings
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2019

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