Hauptli’s Lecture Supplement Introducing Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations

     Copyright © 2014 Bruce W. Hauptli

I. Introductory Remarks:

One of the central criticisms which the latter Wittgenstein offers of his Tractatus views is his critique of the notion of “analysis.”  In his Wittgenstein: A Religious Point of View, Norman Malcolm characterizes the process of analysis and the later Wittgenstein’s critique as follows:

the complete analysis of what a sentence meant will result in an exact correlation between simple signs and simple objects.  The true sense of a proposition is displayed when it is analysed into elementary propositions containing a specific and countable number of simple signs. 
  But does anyone have a mastery of this supposed procedure of analysis?  Wittgenstein later realized that he did not....In remarks probably written in 1936, he admitted that he did not even have a method for determining whether a given proposition was not an elementary proposition....1 

The passage mentioned is:

if you want to use the appellation “elementary proposition” as I did in the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, and as Russell used “atomic proposition”, you may call the sentence “Here there is a red rose” an elementary proposition.  That is to say, it doesn’t contain a truth-function and it isn’t defined by an expression which contains one.  But if we’re to say that a proposition isn’t an elementary proposition unless its complete logical analysis shows that it isn’t built out of other propositions by truth-functions, we are presupposing that we have an idea of what such an ‘analysis’ would be.  Formerly, I myself spoke of ‘a complete analysis’, and I used to believe that philosophy had to give a definitive dissection of propositions so as to set out clearly all their connections and remove all possibilities of misunderstanding.  I spoke as if there was a calculus in which such a dissection would be possible.  I vaguely had in mind something like the definition that Russell had given for the definite article, and I used to think that in a similar way one would be able to use visual impressions etc. to define the concept say of a sphere, and thus exhibit once for all the connections between the concepts and lay bare the source of all misunderstandings, etc.  At the root of all this there was a false and idealized picture of the use of language.  Of course, in particular cases one can clarify by definitions the connections between the different types of use of expressions.  Such a definition may be useful in the case of the connection between ‘visual impression’ and ‘sphere’.  But for this purpose it is not a definition of the concept of a physical sphere that we need; instead we must describe a language game related to our own, or rather a whole series of related language games, and it will be in these that such definitions may occur.  Such a contrast destroys grammatical prejudices and makes it possible for us to see the use of a word as it really is, instead of inventing the use for the word. 2

After citing this passage Malcolm continues by saying:

the thesis of the Tractatus that every genuine proposition is a ‘picture’ presupposed that there is at hand a calculus, a deductive procedure, by which logical analysis can determine whether any proposition whatever is an elementary proposition or is a truth-function of elementary propositions.  The realization that the notion of there being an available calculus in which a ‘complete analysis’ could be carried out was an illusion, meant that a basic assumption of the picture-theory of propositions was undermined.  The once powerful idea that every meaningful sentence is a picture was now seen not to have a clear meaning.  This was a severe setback for the theory of language in the Tractatus.3

Another of the central criticisms the latter Wittgenstein offers of his Tractatus views is his critique of the notion of “simples.”  Malcolm characterizes this critique as follows:

this elegant and eminently satisfying version of the perfect order holding between language and reality was struck a crushing blow by the Investigations.  Paragraphs 47 through 49 present a tour de force in philosophical criticism.  What is attacked is the assumption of the Tractatus (and of much previous metaphysics) that the distinction between simple and complex has an absolute sense.  In a variety of telling examples Wittgenstein shows very clearly that whether any particular thing is called a ‘simple’ thing or a ‘complex’ thing depends on accepted conventions, on decisions made for practical purposes, or on what comparisons are at issue.4

But since nothing is ‘intrinsically’ simple, simple in an ‘absolute’ sense, then this basic conception of the Tractatus is empty, and so is the conception of a ‘name’—for a name is supposed to mean a simple object; and so is the conception of an ‘elementary’ proposition—for an elementary proposition is supposed to consist of an interconnection of names, and so is the conception of ‘analysis’ in the Tractatus—for analysis is supposed to determine whether any given proposition is elementary or non-elementary.  The impressive edifice of the Tractatus is demolished by Wittgenstein’s description in the Investigations of how the terms ‘simple’ and ‘complex’ are actually used.  This is an example of where one might want to accuse Wittgenstein of destroying everything ‘great and important’, and where his reply would be that he is destroying nothing but ‘air castles’ [or “houses of cards,” cf., Philosophical Investigations, I, 118].5

     In our readings, we will see these and other critiques develop.  As you are reading this text, consider the two different sorts of “reading” of his view offered as we discussed the Blue Book, and endeavor to reach a [tentative] decision as to whether he wants [only] to practice a philosophical therapy, or wishes to advance, and defend, specific philosophical theses.

II. An Outline of Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations:6

Part I:

I. Augustine’s Theory of Meaning: [1-36]

2. The initial Language Game: Builders, blocks, pillars, slabs, and beams.
6. Ostensive teaching of words.
8. (2) with color samples, numerals, ‘there’ and ‘this’.
19. “To imagine a language means to imagine a form of life.
-19. Is ‘slab’ in (2) a word or a sentence?
21. (8) expanded to include reports (as well as orders).

II. The Relation Between Name and Named; Simples; and Analysis: [37-64]

39. Should names signify simples?  Excalibur as a composite, as broken, and yet named.  A critique of the Tractatus view.
46. Plato, Russell, and early Wittgenstein on simples
-47. What are the simple constituents of a chair?
50. The “standard meter” passage.
60. Critique of simples.
63-64. Critique of analysis.

III. Language, Games, and Language-Games: [65-88]

65. “Family resemblance” introduced.
-66. Is there something common to all games?  Don’t say “There must be, instead look and see!
72. Seeing what is common.
-What shape is the sample of green?
78. Knowing as a family resemblance—many different kinds of knowledge!
79. ‘Moses’—does not have a fixed and unequivocal use in all possible cases.
86. Could arrows be used to symbolize a unique interpretation for (2)?  Wouldn’t these arrows themselves need interpretation?

IV. “Analysis” and Metaphilosophy: In What Sense Is Logic Sublime? [89-133]

89. Logic seemed to have a peculiar depth (to be of universal significance).
-94. “A proposition is a queer thing!”  The “subliming” of logic.
107. The crystalline purity of logic was a requirement, not a discovery.
109. We must do away with explanation—description alone will take its place!
116. Bring words back from their metaphysical to their everyday use!
125. Entanglement in our rules is what we want to understand.
133. The “real discovery” would enable him to stop philosophizing.

V. “This Is How Things Are:” [134-149]

142. Normal cases, clear prescriptions, and lumps of cheese.
143. Understanding a new language-game and mistakes.  There is no sharp distinction between a random mistake, and a systematic one!

VI. Knowing, Understanding, and Being Able To “Go On:” [150-186]

153. We shouldn’t be looking for the “common characteristic” of all cases of “understanding.”
-154. Try not to think of understanding as a “mental process” at all.
156. Reading as another example (re. “understanding,” and re., “being able to go on”).
-161. There is a continuous series of cases ranging from memory repetition of a passage to actual reading.
--164. Metaphor of trying to strip all the leaves off the artichoke to find the “real artichoke.”
-168. There is no one feature which occurs in all cases of reading.
170-172. If it seems that the written words “guide us,” then consider the variety of ways in which we can be “guided.”
179. Practice and formulas.
182. The grammar of ‘to fit’, ‘to be able to’, and ‘to understand’—more complicated that it might at first appear.

VII. On Obeying A Rule: [187-209]

187. If the rule is “add 2” [186], must one have “thought of the step from 1000 to 1002” if one “knows how to go on?”
189. Aren’t the steps “determined by the algebraic formula?”
-190. What is the criterion for “the way the formula is meant?”
--Emphasize 193.
197. Must the rules be before our mind?
199-202. On the impossibility of obeying a rule privately.
-199. Rules and customs.  “To understand a sentence means to understand a language.  To understand a language means to be master of a technique.
--Cf., 142 [lump of cheese]; 217 [reasons, causes, and bedrock]; 241 [agreements in forms of life]; II p. 223 [we can’t find our feet with them]; and II p. 226 [forms of life].
-202. Obeying rules are practices.

VIII. At Some Point Reasons Give Out: [210-242]

211. My reasons will soon give out, and then I act without reasons.
-213. A doubt is [only] possible in certain cases
-217. Reaching “bedrock”—which is not a foundational metaphor here!
241. Agreement in forms of life.

IX. The Private Language Argument: [243-315]

246. In what sense are my sensations private?
251. “I can’t imagine the opposite—a grammatical statement
257-258. What would a private language be like? [Diary]
258. Private Languages lack a criterion of correctness
265. Justification: appeal to something independent.
272. Private experience but not private exemplars.
-275. The blue of the sky.
-278. Again: “what use are you thinking of?”
291. Descriptions are instruments for particular purposes
293. The Beetle in the Box.
295. “I know from my own case” is a grammatical proposition.
303. Just try to doubt others’ pains in real cases!
-303. Surely there is a difference: pain and pain-behavior!
308. How does the philosophical problem arises here.
309. Shewing the fly the way out of the fly-bottle.

X. Thought, Language, and Convention: [316-403]

317. Misleading parallel:
pain:expression ::thought: proposition.
325. What people accept as justifications is shown by their lives.
337. Don’t I intend the whole construction of the sentence from the very beginning?
344. Our criterion for someone’s saying something to himself....
345. Regarding: “What sometimes happens might always happen.”
350. Five o’clock on the sun.
355. Languages are founded on convention.
359. Could a machine think?  Could it feel pain?
377. What is the criterion for the sameness of images?
-381. How do I know this color is red—I speak English.

XI. On Personal Identity: [404-414]

410. ‘I’ is not the name of a person—nor ‘here’ of a place.

XII. Remarks on the “Natural History” of Human Beings: [415-465]

421. Sentences as instruments whose senses are their employments.
432. Breathing life into dead signs.
453. Saying the expectant person perceives his expectation is nonsense.
464. Turning disguised nonsense into patent nonsense.

XIII. “What Does Man Think For?”  [466-500]

470. Sometimes we think because it has been found to pay.
479. Calling for grounds (“before” and “after” the fact).
496. Grammar describes (but does not explain) the use of signs.
499. Boundaries and our reasons for drawing them.

XIV. In Regard to “The Purpose of Language Is To Express Thoughts”: [501-524]

522. Propositions as pictures (portraits or genre-pictures).

XV. Understanding and Context: [525-655]

531. Understanding a sentence (as replaceable, as unique).
547. Negation as a mental activity—look for it!
551. ‘Not’ in different senses—same sense?
557. “The meaning of the brackets lies in the application.”
563. Meaning of game piece is its role in the game and using kings in chess to see who goes first.
569. Language as an instrument.
580. An inner process is in need of outward criteria.
583. Expectation, smiles, and surroundings.
593. Philosophical disease and one-sided diets.
-613. Willing is not an action.
654. This language-game is played.

XVI. Look On the Language-Game As The Primary Thing: [656-693 (end of Part I)]

666. “It will soon stop” (toothache and piano tuning).
673. The mental activity doesn’t “accompany” what is said.
679. “But can you doubt that you meant this?

Part II:

(i) The phenomena of hope are modes of a complicated form of live.  [p. 174]

(ii) Saying sentences with the meanings of words exchanged.  [pp. 175-176]

(iii) “What makes my image of him into an image of him?  [p. 177]

(iv) “If the picture of thought in the head can force itself upon us, then why not much more that of thought in the soul?”  [p. 178]

(v) “What do psychologists study?”  [pp. 179-180]

(vi) “The meaning of a word is not the experience one has in hearing or saying it, and the sense of a sentence is not a complex of such experiences.”  [pp. 181-183]

(vii) “Do dreams occur when we sleep, or are they the memory phenomenon of the awakened?”  A nonsense question?  [p. 184]

(viii) We teach the use of sensation words.  pp. 185-186]

(ix) “‘Observing’ does not produce what is observed.”  pp. 187-189]

(x) “How do we ever come to use such an expression as “I believe...”?”  [pp. 190-192]

(xi) “Seeing,” “Seeing As” and Other “Psychological” Concepts. [pp. 193-229]

The duck-rabbit drawing.  [p. 194]
Expression of a change of aspect: expression of both a new perception and of the [old] perception’s being unchanged.  [p. 196]
What is the criterion of the visual experience?  [p. 198]
“The concept of ‘seeing’ makes a tangled impression.  [p. 200]
Triangle Drawing and Its Aspects.  [p. 200]
“Do not try to analyse your inner experience.”  [p. 204]
The examples are not offered as theory, but as therapy!  [p. 206]
I cannot see a conventional picture of a lion as a lion.  [p. 206]
Double Cross Figure (Aspect A).  [p. 207]
The substratum of this experience is the mastery of a technique.  [p. 208]
There are different concepts of experience!  [p. 208]
Being struck is not simply to be “reduced” to looking plus thinking.  [p. 211]
Meaning is as little an experience as intending.”  [p. 217]
“Let the use of the words teach you their meaning.  [p. 220]
““I know what I want, wish, believe...” is a bit of philosopher’s nonsense.  [p. 221]
Criticism of Moore’s “I know I have a hand.”  [p. 221]
“I can know what some else is thinking, not what I am thinking.  A whole cloud of philosophy condensed into a drop of grammar.”  [p. 222]
“Determining the length of a rod” is learned not by learning the meaning of ‘determining’ and ‘length’ but by learning what it is to determine length.  [p. 225]
“What has to be accepted, the given, is forms of life.  [p. 226]
“A child has much to learn before it can pretend.  [p. 229]

(xii) We are not interested in causes.  [p. 230]

(xiv) The Barrenness of Psychology.  [p. 232]

Notes: (click on note number to return to that note's text)

1 Norman Malcolm, Wittgenstein: A Religious Point of View? (Ithaca: Cornell U.P., 1994), p. 34.  

2 Cf., Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Grammar, ed. Rush Rhees, trans. Anthony Kenny (Berkeley: University of California, 1974), pp. 211-212.   Emphasis (bold) added tot he passage. 

3 Norman Malcolm, Wittgenstein: A Religious Point of View?, op. cit., p. 35.  

4 Ibid., p. 38.   Emphasis (bold) added to the text. 

5 Ibid., p. 39.  

6 Unless references are otherwise indicated, the references refer to Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, trans. G.E.M. Anscome (N.Y.: Macmillan, 1953).  References to Part I are indicated by section numbers, and references to Part II are indicated by the appropriate page. 

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