Hauptli’s Lecture Supplement on Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations[1]


Part I, Sections 1-242


     Copyright © 2014 Bruce W. Hauptli


Part I:


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


1 Augustine maintains that words name objects while sentences combine names—each word has a meaning and the meaning of a word is the object which it stands for.  He makes no differentiation between different kinds of words.  This view suggests, of course, the view of the early Wittgenstein! 


Wittgenstein asks us to think of the “following use of language:” send someone shopping with a slip marked “five red apples.”  How does the shopkeeper know he is to look up the color red? 


“Explanations come to an end somewhere.—But what is the meaning of the word ‘five’?—No such thing is in question here, only how the word ‘five’ is used.” 


-Note that the appeal to use and to explanations here is just what happens in the first pages of the Blue Book![2] 


2 Imagine a [primitive] language which fits Augustine’s description: builders, blocks, pillars, slabs, and beams. 


-3 Not everything which is language fits this sort of description—not all games involve moving pieces on a board. 


-6 Ostensive teaching of words: as the child learns the “slab” language: “This ostensive teaching...can be said to establish an association between the word and the thing.  But what does this mean?  Well, it can mean various things.” 


--“With different training the same ostensive teaching of these words would have effected a quite different understanding.” 


-7 Language-games introduced. 


8 Expand language game of (2): color samples, numerals, ‘there’, and ‘this’. 


-9 Think of the ostensive teaching: how are ‘there’ and ‘this’ taught? 


-10 Different uses! 


-11 Differences in use of tools in a tool-box.  “Of course, what confuses us is the uniform appearance of words when we hear them spoken or meet them in script and print.  For their application is not presented to us so clearly.  Especially when we are doing philosophy.” 


-12 Think of the differences in the similar looking handles in a locomotive—some are “rheostats” and some are two-position switches. 


15 Naming and labeling—names often “signify” as do labels. 


-16 Are the color samples in (8) part of the language? 


17 We can say that the language-game in (8) has different kinds of words, “but how we group words into kinds will depend on the aim of the classification—and on our own inclination.” 


19 “...to imagine a language means to imagine a form of life. 


Is ‘Slab’ in (2) a word or a sentence?  If you call it a “shortened” sentence, why not call our “Bring me a slab” a “lengthened” sentence? 


-20 “I think we shall be inclined to say: we mean the sentence [‘Slab’] as four words [rather than one] when we use it in contrast with other sentences such as ‘Hand me a slab’, ‘Bring him a slab’, ‘Bring two slabs’, etc.; that is, in contrast with sentences containing the separate words of our command in other combinations.....We say that we use the command in contrast with other sentences because our language contains the possibility of those other sentences.” 


-Don’t look to accompanying mental processes to distinguish the different sentences (when they are different).  “Doesn’t the fact that the sentences have the same sense consist in their having the same use?” 


21 New language game where individuals report the number of slabs in a pile—how does the report (or statement) “Five slabs” differ from the order “Five slabs”?  “...it is the part which uttering these words plays in the language-game.” 


-22 We might be able (à la Frege) try to rewrite every sentence as an assertion—or as a question.  Frege’s “mistake” comes in thinking that in asserting we engage in two actions: entertaining (a proposition) and asserting it (assigning a truth-value). 


23 “But how many kinds of sentence are there?  Say assertion, question, and command?—There are countless kinds: countless different kinds of use of what we call ‘symbols’, ‘words’, ‘sentences’.  And this multiplicity is not something fixed and given once for all: but new types of language, new language-games as we may say, come into existence, and others become obsolete and get forgotten.” 


-List of different sorts of language games.


-24 Failure to keep the multiplicity in mind leads us to error. 


-27 Not all uses require names. 


28 Ostensive definitions may be variously interpreted. 


-29 How one takes a definition “...is seen by the use that he makes of the word defined.” 


32 Augustine’s model of language learning presumes a background wherein the learner already knows what names are, and where the learner can then begin to guess and refine guesses as to what the language’s names mean. 


33 In response to those who adhere to Augustine’s model and reply upon ostension: “And what does ‘pointing to the shape’, ‘pointing to the colour’ consist in?  Point to a piece of paper.—And now point to its shape—and not to its colour—now to its number (that sounds queer).—How do you do it?—You will say that you ‘meant’ a different thing each time you pointed.  And if I ask how that is done, you will say you concentrated your attention on the colour, the shape, etc.  But I ask again: how is that done? 


36 Because we cannot specify one bodily action we call pointing to the shape (etc.) we sometimes think there must be a mental (spiritual) action which fits the bill. 


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


37 “What is the relation between name and thing named?”  Look to the language games to see! 


38 Russell says ‘this’ is the only genuine name: “This queer conception springs from a tendency to sublime the logic of our language—as one might put it.  The proper answer to it is: we call very different things ‘names’; the word ‘name’ is used to characterize many different kinds of use of a word, related to one another in many different ways;—but the kind of use that ‘this’ has is not among them.” 


“It is only in language that I can mean something by something.” 


Naming seems a queer process—especially when one believes there is some one thing called naming.  “...philosophical problems arise when language goes on holiday.” 


39 Should names signify simples?  “The word ‘Excalibur’ [Nothung][3], say, is a proper name in the ordinary sense.  The sword Excalibur consists of parts combined in a particular way.  If they are combined differently Excalibur does not exist.  But it is clear that the sentence ‘Excalibur has a sharp blade’ makes sense whether Excalibur is still whole or is broken up.  But if ‘Excalibur’ is the name of an object, this object no longer exists when Excalibur is broken in pieces; and as no object would then correspond to the name it would have no meaning. 


Sections 39-42 offer a critique the view of the Tractatus[4] that names must denote existent objects. 


-40 “It is important to note that the word ‘meaning’ is being used illicitly if it is used to signify the thing that ‘corresponds’ to the word.  That is to confound the meaning of a name with the bearer of the name.  When Mr. N.N. dies one says that the bearer of the name dies, not that the meaning dies.” 


43 “For a large class of cases—though not for all—in which we employ the word ‘meaning’ it can be defined thus: the meaning of a word is its use in the language.” 


-“And the meaning of a name is sometimes explained by pointing to its bearer.” 


-Hanna Pitkin notes that the translation should be that: “for a large class of cases—though not for all—in which we employ the word “meaning” it can be explained thus: the meaning of a word is its use in the language.”[5] 


46 Plato [Theaetetus], Russell, the early Wittgenstein, and names and simples. 


47 “But what are the simple constituent parts of which reality is composed?—What are the simple constituent parts of a chair?—The bits of wood of which it is made?  Or the molecules, or the atoms?—‘Simple’ means: not composite.  And here the point is: in what sense ‘composite’?  It makes no sense at all to speak absolutely of the ‘simple parts of a chair’.” 


-Cf., section 60! 


-“Does my visual image of this tree, of this chair, consist of parts?” 


-What sense of ‘composite’?  Chessboard.  “To the philosophical question: “Is the visual image of this tree composite, and what are its component parts?” the correct answer is: “That depends on what you understand by ‘composite’.”  (And that is of course not an answer but a rejection of the question.” 


-This passage’s critique of the notion of “simples” (along with 48, 48, 49, and 60) clearly differentiates the later Wittgenstein from the early Wittgenstein). 


48 A language game where the Theaetetus view works—colored squares in a certain order.  Sentences are, for example, “R.R.B.G.G.G.R.W.W.” 













What are the simples?  Does it matter which we say so long as we avoid misunderstandings in any particular case? 


-49 Again: naming is preparatory to using—naming isn’t, by itself, a move in our language game. 


50 “One would, however, like to say: existence cannot be attributed to an element, for if it did not exist, one could not even name it and so one would say nothing at all of it.—But let us consider an analogous case.  There is one thing of which one can say neither that it is one metre long, nor that it is not one metre long, and that is the standard metre in Paris.—But this is, of course, not to ascribe any extraordinary property to it, but only to mark its peculiar role in the language-game of measuring with a metre-rule.” 


-In his “Wittgenstein and Skepticism,” James Bogen discusses “E-propositions” (or enablers) which must be accepted if a “game” is to be played, and emphasizes the special role which these enablers play.[6]  Cf., also Michael Williams’ Groundless Belief: An Essay on the Possibility of Epistemology.[7]  In his The Construction of Social Reality, John Searle notes that the French Standard meter is kept in the pavillon de Breteuil in Sevres.[8] 


-The “standard metre” passage anticipates the discussion of 210-242 [“At some point reasons give out.”]  The “enablers” are not simples—that, I believe, is the whole point of the “standard metre” passage![9] 


-“...to say ‘If it did not exist, it could have no name’ is to say as much and as little as: if this thing did not exist, we could not use it in our language-game.—What looks as if it had to exist, is part of the language.  It is a paradigm in our language-game: something with which comparison is made.” 


51 What does it mean, in the language of (48) to say that ‘r’ corresponds to the red square?  Look and see!  “In order to see more clearly, here as in countless similar cases, we must focus on the details of what goes on; must look at them from close to.” 


53 We could consult a table to play the language-game of (48)—using it rather than memory or association to match colors and color “words.”  It would, then, function as a rule in the language game.  But there are many different sorts of rules! 


-54 Rules may be aids in teaching, rules may be instruments of the game, or a rule may be read off the behavior of the players by an outside observer. 


-56 Comparison of relying upon memory and upon samples. 


60 Critique of the notion of “simples:” broom, broom stick, and brush.  If names are to name simples and sentences are to join simples together into complexes, “then does someone who says that the broom is in the corner really mean: the broomstick is there, and so is the brush, and the broomstick is fixed in the brush?”  Imagine two different language-games (a) one played with names for complexes, and (b) one with names for simples—in what sense is one an analysis of the other? 


Cf., 47-49, 89-133, and Notebooks pp. 60-66.[10] 


62 “...there is not always a sharp distinction between essential and inessential.” 


63 Critique of the notion of “analysis: “to say...that a sentence in (b) is an ‘analyzed’ form of one in (a) readily seduces us into thinking that the former is the more fundamental form....” 


This critique of the notion of “analysis” (along with section 64) constitute a significant break with the views of the early Wittgenstein.  Cf., Philosophical Grammar, pp. 211-212.[11]  Cf., sections 89-133 [“Analysis and Metaphilosophy: In What Sense Is Logic Sublime?”] below! 


64 “In what sense do the symbols of this language-game stand in need of analysis?  How far is it even possible to replace this language-game by (48)?—It is just another language-game even though it is related to (48).” 


Imagine a variant of the game in (48) where people have names for rectangles having two (or more colors) but not for individual colors—the French tricolor:















“In what sense do the symbols of this language-game stand in need of analysis?  How far is it even possible to replace this language-game by (48)?—It is just another language-game even though it is related to (48).” 


-In his Pyrrhonian Reflections On Knowledge and Justification, Robert Fogelin maintains that: “in the opening, say 137 sections of the Philosophical Investigations, Wittgenstein exemplifies a profoundly new way of doing philosophy through a sustained critique of the underlying viewpoint of the Tractatus.  It is important to see that this critique of the Tractatus is not narrowly aimed at its particular shortcomings.  The critique is intended to exemplify a method for dealing with any attempt at philosophical justification.  It is part of a general critique of philosophizing.  The aim, then, is not to replace the Tractarian set of concepts with another set that will do the job better.”[12]  Fogelin goes on to cite sections 118, 124, and 133 of Part I of the Philosophical Investigations and then says: “in these passages and many others, we hear the voice of the neo-Pyrrhonian Wittgenstein. 

  On the other side, if the textual analysis given above is correct, there is a second voice in Wittgenstein’s later writings that speaks in opposition to the first.  The situation is not like that found in the Tractatus, where a fully coordinated system of superconcepts is presented in an effort to solve a set of philosophical problems.  In the later writings there are what we might call outbreaks or eruptions of...philosophizing that evade the critical eye that should have detected them.  This is the Wittgenstein who, in complex and indirect ways, attempted to replace the package of atomism, privacy, and thought with the package of holism, publicity, and action.”[13] 


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


65 Instead of producing something common to all that we call language, I am saying that these phenomena have no one thing in common which makes us use the same word for all, but that they are related to one another in many different ways.  And it is because of this relationship, or these relationships, that we call them all ‘language’.  I will try to explain this.” 


66 Is there something common to all things called games?  Don’t say ‘There must be something common, or they would not be called ‘games’’—but look and see whether there is anything common to all.” 


-Note: while he says “Look,” he is not offering us an empirical theory.  He does not believe what he is doing is a science, and he maintains that his “study of grammar” is not an empirical sort of study.  Thus we must make certain we interpret his command that we “Look” carefully.  In his Culture and Value, Wittgenstein says: “I might say: if the place I want to get to could only be reached by way of a ladder, I would give up trying to get there.  For the place I really have to get to is a place I must already be at now. 

  Anything that I might reach by climbing a ladder does not interest me.[14] 


-In his The Construction of Social Reality, John Searle discusses Wittgenstein’s use of “games” (which is central to his notion of a “language game”), and maintains that: “there are certain common features possessed by paradigmatic games such as those in competitive sports....In each case the game consists of a series of attempts to overcome certain obstacles that have been created for the purpose of trying to overcome them.  Each side in the game tries to overcome the obstacles and prevent the other side from overcoming them.”[15]  If Searle is looking for the “common characteristic,” what would Wittgenstein say in reply?  What sort of thesis is he offering (is he offering a thesis)?  In his Renewing Philosophy, Hilary Putnam maintains that in talking about “family resemblance,” “...Wittgenstein was not just making a low-level empirical observation to the effect that in addition to words like scarlet, which apply to things all of which are similar in a particular respect, there are words like game which apply to things which are not all similar in some one respect.  Wittgenstein was primarily thinking not of words like game, but of words like language and reference.  It is precisely the big philosophical notions to which Wittgenstein wishes to apply the notion of family resemblance....what Wittgenstein is telling us is that referring uses don’t have an “essence”....”[16] 


“And the result of this examination is: we see a complicated network of similarities overlapping and criss-crossing; sometimes overall similarities, sometimes similarities of detail.” 


Here we have another major difference with the early Wittgenstein—he now rejects the talk of the “essence of language” (which was essential to the project of the Tractatus).  Cf., Tractatus: 5.471 and 5.4711.  Cf., Investigations sections 66-88, 92 ff., and 114-133 below. 


68 We can draw boundaries, of course.  “You can draw one; for none has so far been drawn.  (But that never troubled you before when you used the word ‘game’). 

  ‘But then the use of the word is unregulated, the ‘game’ we play with it is unregulated.’—It is not everywhere circumscribed by rules; but no more are there any rules for how high one throws the ball in tennis, or how hard; yet tennis is a game for all that and has rules too.” 


Must we have exactitude to have meaning?  Marginal remark on p. 33: “Suppose someone says to me: ‘Shew the children a game.’  I teach them gaming with dice, and the other says ‘I didn’t mean that sort of game.’  Must the exclusion of the game with dice have come before his mind when he gave me the order?” 


70 Sometimes indistinctness and inexactitude is exactly what we need! 


72 Seeing What Is Common:


color samples of same color (different shapes),


color samples of different shades of blue,


73 it sometimes seems as if we are almost placing a table in a person’s mind when we engage in this process,


“So if I am shewn various different leaves and told ‘This is called a ‘leaf’’, I get an idea of the shape of a leaf, a picture of it in my mind.—But what does the picture of a leaf look like when it does not shew us any particular shape....” 


-“Ask yourself: what shape must the sample of the colour green be? 


75 What does it mean to know what a game is? 


78 Compare knowing and saying:


how many feet high Mount Blanc is,


how the word ‘game’ is used,


how a clarinet sounds. 


“If you are surprised that one can know something and not be able to say it, you are perhaps thinking of a case like the first.  Certainly not one like the third.” 


79 “Has the name ‘Moses’ got a fixed and unequivocal use for me in all possible cases?—Is it not the case that I have, so to speak, a whole series of props in readiness, and am ready to lean on one if another should be taken from under me and vice versa?” 


80 Does our use of ‘chair’ preclude applying it if chairs suddenly started disappearing momentarily?  John Cook notes that: “the Tractatus view was that in our use of ordinary language we are “operating a calculus according to definite rules”...and this meant that “There is a chair” follows from various sense-datum propositions.  In opposing that view, [the later] Wittgenstein now asks us to consider a case in which something unheard of occurs in the stream of sense-impressions.  And we are asked whether, in truth, we know what to say in such a situation.  If the Tractatus view were correct, we would know, and Wittgenstein is counting on his readers to admit that they don’t know—and thus to acknowledge that the Tractatus view was in error.”[17] 


81 Ramsey thought of logic is a normative science.  Wittgenstein contends that if we think that in philosophy we are to think of language games as approximating an ideal and fixed calculus, then we are on the brink of a misunderstanding. 


85 “A rule stands there like a sign-post.—Does the sign-post leave no doubt open about the way I have to go?”  Is there only one interpretation? 


-Sign-posts in foreign lands may not be immediately obvious to us—their interpretation may not be clear (examples: “Changed Priorities Ahead” in Britain; signage in the Alps indicating how long the tunnels are). 


86 Written rules with arrows for language-game (2).  Only one interpretation?  Can’t these rules themselves have varying interpretations? 


87 “...an explanation may indeed rest on another one that has been given, but none stands in need of another—unless we require it to prevent a misunderstanding.  One might say: an explanation serves to remove or to avert a misunderstanding—one, that is, that would occur but for the explanation; not every one that I can imagine. 

  The sign-post is in order—if, under normal circumstances, it fulfills its purpose.” 


-88 Is “Stand roughly here” inexact?  “Am I inexact when I do not give our distance from the sun to the nearest foot, or tell a joiner the width of a table to the nearest thousandth of an inch?  No single ideal of exactness has been laid down....” 


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


89 “...there seemed to pertain to logic a peculiar depth—a universal significance.  Logic lay, it seemed, at the bottom of all the sciences.” 


90 “We feel as if we had to penetrate the phenomena: our investigation, however, is directed not towards phenomena, but, as one might say, towards the ‘possibilities’ of phenomena.”  Our investigation is a grammatical one. 


91 Is there a final analysis? 


-92 “This finds expression in questions as to the essence of language, or propositions, of thought.—For if we too in these investigations are trying to understand the essence of language—its function, its structure;—yet this is not what those questions have in view.”  But many believe that the essence is something hidden—and Wittgenstein rejects this. 


94 ‘A proposition is a queer thing!’  Here we have in germ the subliming of our whole account of logic.  The tendency to assume a pure intermediary between the propositional signs and the facts.  Or even to try to purify, to sublime, the signs themselves.—For our forms of expression prevent us in all sorts of ways from seeing that nothing out of the ordinary is involved, by sending us in pursuit of chimeras.” 


99 It seems as if sentences must have definite senses—exact senses.  But do boundaries have to be exact, do enclosures have to be without holes? 


-107 “The more narrowly we examine actual language, the sharper becomes the conflict between it and our requirement [for an exact language].  (For the crystalline purity of logic was, of course, not a result of investigation; it was a requirement.)  The conflict becomes intolerable; the requirement is now in danger of becoming empty.—We have got on to slippery ice where there is no friction and so in a certain sense the conditions are ideal, but also, just because of that, we are unable to walk.  We want to walk; so we need friction.  Back to the rough ground! 


-108 “We see that what we call ‘sentence’ and ‘language’ has not the formal unity that I imagined, but is the family of structures more or less related to one another....The preconceived idea of crystalline purity can only be removed by turning our whole examination round.  (One might say: the axis of reference of our examination must be rotated, but about the fixed point of our real need.)” 


109 “We must do away with all explanation, and description alone must take its place.  And this description gets its light, that is to say its purpose, from the philosophical problems.  These are, of course, not empirical problems, they are solved, rather, by looking to the workings of our language, and that in such a way as to make us recognize those workings: in despite of an urge to misunderstand them.  The problems are solved, not by giving new information, but by arranging what we have always known.  Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language.” 


Cf., 291! 


111 “The problems arising through a misinterpretation of our forms of language have the character of depth.  They are deep disquietudes; their roots are as deep in us as the forms of our language and their significance is as great as the importance of our language.” 


-114 When we look at Tractatus 4.5 (“the general form of a proposition is....”), we think we are getting at the essence but “...one is merely tracing round the frame through which we look at it.” 


--Note the change in the metaphor here: in the Tractatus he speaks of “using the boundaries of sense” to “show” what is of transcendental importance (the “circumference” in the figures I used to explain his views), while here he speaks of “tracing round the frame through which we look!” 


-115 A picture has held us captive.  And we could not get outside it, for it lay in our language and language seemed to repeat it to us inexorably.” 


116 “When philosophers use a word—‘knowledge’, ‘being’, ‘object’, ‘I’, ‘proposition’, ‘name’—and try to grasp the essence of the thing, one must ask oneself; is the word ever actually used in this way in the language which is its original home?—

  What we do is to bring words back from their metaphysical to their everyday use. 


Is this an anti-metaphysical passage? 


117 The sense of a sentence is not an atmosphere which can be carried with it. 


118 We are destroying nothing but “houses of cards” in our studies. 


-In his The False Prison, David Pears maintains that: “when Wittgenstein’s later philosophy is interpreted in this way, many of its puzzling features fall into an intelligible pattern.  For example, people sometimes ask how he can claim to avoid theories, when he himself argues that meaning cannot be put on a static basis, or that there cannot be a ‘private language’.  The answer is that his reductive arguments remove pseudo-theories, but not in order to make room for genuine ones.  He makes no theoretical assumptions because he is in a different line of business—‘clearing the ground of language’.”[18] 


122 “A main source of our failure to understand is that we do not command a clear view of the use of our words.—Our grammar is lacking in this sort of perspicuity.  A perspicuous representation produces just that understanding which consists in ‘seeing connections’.  Hence the importance of finding and inventing intermediate cases. 

  The concept of a perspicuous representation is of fundamental significance for us.  It earmarks the form of account we give, the way we look at things.  (Is this a ‘Weltanschauung’?)” 


124 “Philosophy may in no way interfere with the actual use of language; it can in the end only describe it.” 


125 “This entanglement in our rules is what we want to understand (i.e. get a clear view of). 


Is here telling us what his purpose in engaging in his studies is?  Cf., 127 and 132. 


-127 “The work of the philosopher consists in assembling reminders for a particular purpose.” 


-130 “Our clear and simple language-games are not preparatory studies for a future regularization of language—as it were first approximations ignoring friction and air- resistance.  The language-games are rather set up as objects of comparison which are meant to throw light on the facts of our language by way not only of similarities, but also of dissimilarities.” 


-132 “We want to establish an order in our knowledge of the use of language: an order with a particular end in view; one out of many possible orders; not the order.” 


133 “The real discovery is the one that makes me capable of stopping doing philosophy when I want to.—The one that gives philosophy peace, so that it is no longer tormented by questions which bring itself in question.” 


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


134 “Let us examine the proposition: ‘this is how things are.’” 


135 “What is a proposition” is like “What is a game”!  (Also like: “What is a number?”) 


136 Saying “Propositions are sentences capable of being true or false” is like saying “Kings (in chess) are pieces capable of being checked.  “But this can mean no more than that in our game of chess we only check the king.” 


-He offers the disappearance theory of truth:” “‘p’ is true” = “p.” 


139 Must the whole use of a word [e.g., ‘cube’] come before us when we understand?  “What really comes before our mind when we understand a word?—isn’t it something like a picture?  Can’t it be a picture?” 


140 How is it that pictures can “force” particular uses on us?  “...our ‘belief that the picture forced a particular application upon us’ consisted in the fact that only the one case and no other occurred to us.  ‘There is another solution as well’ means: there is something else that I am also prepared to call a ‘solution’; to which I am prepared to apply such-and-such a picture, such-and-such an analogy, and so on. 

  What is essential is to see that the same thing can come before our minds when we hear the word and the application still be different.  Has it the same meaning both times?  I think we shall say not.” 


142 “It is only in normal cases that the use of a word is clearly prescribed: we know, are in no doubt, what to say in this or that case.  The more abnormal the case, the more doubtful it becomes what we are to say....The procedure of putting a lump of cheese on a balance and fixing the price by the turn of the scale would lose its point if it frequently happened for such lumps to suddenly grow or shrink for no obvious reason.” 


-Cf., 241. 


143 Getting someone to understand a new language-game: decimal notation.  “Notice...that there is no sharp distinction between a random mistake and a systematic one.  That is, between what you are inclined to call ‘random’ and what ‘systematic’.” 


145 “And now at some point he continues the series independently—or he does not.—But why do you say that? so much is obvious!—Of course; I only wished to say: the effect of any further explanation depends on his reaction.” 


-How far does one have to go on before we say one has mastered the system. 


-146 Does one have to have the whole system in view to understand?  “Isn’t one thinking of the derivation of a series from its algebraic formula?  Or at least of something analogous?—But this is where we were before.  The point is, we can think of more than one application of an algebraic formula; and every type of application can in turn be formulated algebraically; but naturally this does not get us any further.—The application is still a criterion of understanding.” 


-147 “‘But how can it be?  When I say I understand the rule of a series, I am surely not saying so because I have found out that up to now I have applied the algebraic formula in such-and-such a way!  In my own case at all events I surely know that I mean such-and-such a series; it doesn’t matter how far I have actually developed it.’” 


-148 “But what does this knowledge consist in?  Let me ask: When do you know that application?  Always?  day and night? or only when you are actually thinking of the rule?  do you know it, that is, in the same way as you know the alphabet and the multiplication table?  Or is what you call ‘knowledge’ a state of consciousness or a process—say a thought of something, or the like?” 


-149 Dispositions. 


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


150 ‘“The grammar of the word ‘knows’ is evidently closely related to that of ‘can’, ‘is able to’.  But also closely related to that of ‘understands’.  (‘Mastery’ of a technique,)” 


151 “Let us imagine the following example: A writes a series of numbers down; B watches him and tries to find a law for the sequence of numbers.  If he succeeds he exclaims: “Now I can go on!” 


Cf., Blue Book, p. 13. 


152 Are the various processes described in (151) understanding? 


153 “We are trying to get hold of the mental process of understanding which seems to be hidden behind those coarser and therefore more readily visible accompaniments.  But we do not succeed; or, rather, it does not get as far as a real attempt.  For even supposing I had found something that happened in all those cases of understanding,—why should it be the understanding?  And how can the process of understanding have been hidden, when I said “Now I understand” because I understood?!  And if I say it is hidden—then how do I know what I have to look for?  I am in a muddle.” 


-154 “If there has to be anything ‘behind the utterance of the formula’ it is particular circumstances, which justify me in saying I can go on—when the formula occurs to me. 

  Try not to think of understanding as a ‘mental process’ at all—for that is the expression which confuses you.  But ask yourself in what sort of case, in what kind of circumstances, do we say, ‘Now I know how to go on,’ when, that is, the formula has occurred to me?—

  In the sense in which there are processes (including mental processes) which are characteristic of understanding, understanding is not a mental process.” 


156 ReadingCompare the beginner and the experienced reader.  The word is applied differently in these cases.  


157 Consider whether or not it makes sense to speak of the first word one has read.  “The change when the pupil began to read was a change in his behavior; and it makes no sense here to speak of ‘a first word in his new state’.” 


161 There is a continuous series of cases ranging from repetition from memory to actually reading. 


162 Could we say that we read only when we derive the reproduction from the original? 


-164 “In case (162) the meaning of the word ‘to derive’ stood out clearly.  But we told ourselves that this was only a quite special case of deriving; deriving in a quite special garb, which had to be stripped from it if we wanted to see the see the essence of deriving.  So we stripped those particular coverings off; but then deriving itself disappeared.—In order to find the real artichoke, we divested it of its leaves.  For deriving, however, was not hidden beneath the surface of this case....” 


165 ‘But surely the words come to me in a special way as I read!’ 


-166 Consider “reading” a weird mark.  The difference lies in the situations not just in us. 


-168 Again: there is no one feature which occurs in all cases of reading. 


-169 Instead of saying that the letters/words on the page cause us to read the way we do, why not say that they are the reason why we read such-and-such? 


170 It seems like the written words guide us! 


-172 Consider the variety of cases of “being guided”—no one feature in common! 


-173 “Isn’t being guided a particular experience?”  Here one is being misled by a particular instance of this experience! 


175 Drawing a scribble and then copying it.  Influence! 


179 “It is clear that we should not say B had the right [in (151)] to say the words “Now I know how to go on”, just because he thought of the formula—unless experience shewed that there was a connexion between thinking of the formula—saying it, writing it down—and actually continuing the series.” 


“Think of how we learn to use the expression “Now I know how to go on”, “Now I can go on”, and others; in what family of language-games we learn their use.” 


-Note his “methodology” here: he moves from “What does it mean to say one ‘knows how to go on’” to “How do we learn to use expressions like ‘Now I can go on’” and, thus, directs us away from “meanings” and toward use! 


180 “This is how these words are used.  It would be quite misleading in this last case, for instance, to call the words a ‘description of a mental state’.  One might rather call them a ‘signal’; and we judge whether it was rightly employed by what he goes on to do.” 


-181 “In order to understand this, we need also to consider the following: suppose B says he knows how to go on—but when he wants to go on he hesitates and can’t do it: are we to say that he was wrong when he said he could go on, or rather that he was able to go on then, only now is not?—Clearly we shall say different things in different cases.  (Consider both kinds of case.)” 


182 The grammar of ‘to fit’, ‘to be able to’, and ‘to understand’—some exercises.  “The criteria which we accept for ‘fitting’, ‘being able to’, ‘understanding’, are much more complicated than might appear at first sight.” 


-186 “‘The right step is the one that accords with the order—as it was meant.’—So when you gave the order +2 you meant that he was to write 1002 after 1000—and did you mean that he should write 1868 after 1866, and 100036 after 100034, and so on—an infinite number of such propositions?” 

VII. On Obeying A Rule”: [187-209]


187 “‘But I already knew, at the time when I gave the order, that he ought to write 1002 after 1000.’—Certainly; and you can also say you meant it then; only you should not let yourself be misled by the grammar of the words ‘know’ and ‘mean’.  For you don’t want to say that you thought of the step from 1000 to 1002 at that time....” 


188 “Here I should first of all like to say: your idea was that that act of meaning the order had in its own way already traversed all those steps; that when you meant it your mind as it were flew ahead and took all the steps before you physically arrived at this or that one.” 


189 “‘But are the steps then not determined by the algebraic formula?’—the question contains a mistake. 

  We use the expression: ‘the steps are determined by the formula....”.  How is it used?” 


-190 “It may not be said: “The way the formula is meant determines which steps are to be taken”.  What is the criterion for the way the formula is meant? 


-193 “The machine as symbolizing its action: the action of a machine—I might say at first—seems to be there in it from the start.  What does that mean?—If we know the machine, everything else, that is its movement, seems to be already completely determined. 

  We talk as if these parts could only move in this way, as if they could not do anything else.  How is this—do we forget the possibility of their bending, breaking off, melting, and so on?  Yes; in many cases we don’t think of that at all.  We use a machine, or the drawing of a machine, to symbolize a particular action of the machine. 

  ‘The machine’s action seems to be in it from the start’ means: we are inclined to compare the future movements of the machine in their definiteness to objects which are already lying in a drawer and which we then take out.—But we do not say this kind of thing when we are concerned with predicting the actual behavior of a machine.  Then we do not in general forget the possibility of a distortion of the parts and so on.—We do talk like that, however, when we are wondering at the way we can use a machine to symbolize a given way of moving....” 


194 When doing philosophy we find ourselves saying that the possible movements of the machine are already in it.  “The possibility of a movement is, rather, supposed to be like a shadow of the movement itself.” 


-“When we do philosophy we are like savages, primitive people, who hear the expression of civilized men, put a false interpretation on them, and then draw the queerest conclusions from it.” 


-196 “In our failure to understand the use of a word we take it as the expression of a queer process.” 


197 Rules seem to be behind games like chess, so if I want to play the game mustn’t the games be before my mind, otherwise how would I know that is was that particular game I wanted to play? 


198 “‘But how can a rule shew me what I have to do at this point?  Whatever I do is, on some interpretation, in accord with the rule.’—That is not what we ought to say, but rather; any interpretation still hangs in the air along with what it interprets, and cannot give any support.  Interpretations by themselves do not determine meaning. 


-“But that is only to give a causal connexion; to tell how it has come about that we now go by the sign-post; not what this going-by-the-sign really consists in.  On the contrary; I have further indicated that a person goes by a sign-post only in so far as there exists a regular use of sign-posts, a custom. 


199 Could a rule be something someone obeyed only once? 


“It is not possible that there should have been only one occasion on which someone obeyed a rule.  It is not possible that there should have been only one occasion on which a report was made, an order given or understood; and so on.—To obey a rule, to make a report, to give an order, to play a game of chess, are customs (uses, institutions). 

  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—this is simply what I do]; 241 [agreements in forms of life]; Part II, xi p. 223 [we can’t find our feet with them]; and II, xi p. 226 [forms of life]. 


-Of course, this is extremely relevant to the issue of a private language (as well as to the discussions of understanding and intending (which are, of course, in the background here)! 


-200 Imagine natives who don’t play chess sitting down at a board and “going through the moves.  Now imagine chess played without a board (stamps and jumps). 


-202 “...obeying a rule is a practice.  And to think one is obeying a rule is not to obey a rule.  Hence it is not possible to obey a rule ‘privately’; otherwise thinking one was obeying a rule would be the same thing as obeying it.” 


206 “Following a rule is analogous to obeying an order.” 


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


211 “...my reasons will soon give out.  And then I shall act, without reasons.”[19] 


213 “A doubt is [only] possible in certain circumstances.” 


-Cf., I, 50 (the discussion of the standard metre).  The standard metre serves as the basis of the practice of metre measurement, and without it, this practice is impossible.  But (at least within the context of the game of metre measurement) we can not justify it as the standard for the practice—while we can settle questions about the length of other objects (and justify our claims regarding their lengths) by referring to the standard, we can not answer questions about its length (nor justify such claims) similarly.  Here “reasons will give out, and doubts are not possible. 


214 “If you have to have an intuition in order to develop the series 1 2 3 4... you must have one in order to develop the series 2 2 2 2....” 


-215 Responding to the background “belief” that the same thing must be going on in the cases of following rules, understanding, intending, etc., we can ask “But isn’t the same at least the same?” 


-216 “‘A thing is identical with itself.’—There is no finer example of a useless proposition, which is connected with a certain play of the imagination.” 


--Cf., Tractatus 5.5303. 


217 “‘How am I able to obey a rule?’—if this is not a question about causes, then it is about the justification for my following the rule the way I do. 

  If I have exhausted the justifications I have reached bedrock, and my spade is turned.  Then I am inclined to say ‘this is simply what I do.’” 


-Cf., 211 [my reasons give out, I act without reasons], 241 [agreement in forms of life], and II, p. 226 [what has to be accepted are forms of life] and 223 [we cannot find our feet with them]. 


-231 ‘But surely you can see...?’  That is just the characteristic expression of someone who is under the compulsion of a rule.” 


241 “‘So you are saying that human agreement decides what is true and what is false?’—It is what human beings say that is true and false; and they agree in the language they use.  That is not agreement in opinions but in form of life.” 


-242 “If language is to be a means of communication there must be agreement not only in definitions but also (queer as this may sound) in judgments.  This seems to abolish logic, but does not do so.—It is one thing to describe methods of measurement, and another to obtain and state results of measurement.  But what we call ‘measuring’ is partly determined by a certain constancy in results of measurement.” 


-Cf., 142 [lumps of cheese] and II, p. 226 [forms of life]. 



Notes: (click on note number to return to the text for the note)

[1] Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, trans. G.E.M. Anscome (N.Y.: Macmillan, published posthumously in 1953).  References to Part I are indicated by section numbers, and references to Part II are indicated by the appropriate page.  Emphasis is added to various passages without notice. 

[2] Cf., Ludwig Wittgenstein, The Blue and Brown Books (N.Y.: Harper and Row, 1958 [posthumously]). 

[3] The German text discusses Nothung, the sword of Siegfried in Siegfried by Richard Wagner [1876]--the third of the four operas in his The Ring of Neibelugen series.  Anscome’s substitution of Excalibur is not quite sensible here—the discussion of the sword being broken into pieces is centrally important to the story in Seigfried, but has little place in the story of Excalibur. 

[4] Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus [1921 in German, 1922 English translation], trans. D.F. Pears and B.F. McGuinness (London: Routledge, 1961).  All further citations to the Tractatus in these lecture notes will be identified by “Tractatus” and the relevant section number. 

[5] Cf., Hanna Pitkin, Wittgenstein and Justice: On the Significance of Ludwig Wittgenstein for Social and Political Thought (Berkeley: Univ. of California, 1972), p. 84 (footnote). 

[6] Cf., James Bogen, “Wittgenstein and Skepticism,” Philosophical Review v. 83 (1974), pp. 364-373. 

[7] Michael Williams, Groundless Belief: An Essay on the Possibility of Epistemology (New Haven: Yale U.P., 1977). 

[8] John Searle, The Construction of Social Reality (N.Y.: Free Press, 1995), p. 86. 

[9] For more information about, and a picture of, the standard meter, go to:

http://www.mel.nist.gov/div821/museum/length.htm . 

[10] Cf., Ludwig Wittgenstein, Notebooks 1914-1916, eds. G.H. von Wright and G.E.M. Anscombe, trans. G.E.M. Anscombe (Oxford: Blackwell, 1961). 

[11] Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Grammar, ed. Rush Rhees, trans. Anthony Kenny (Berkeley: Univ. of California, 1974). 

[12] Robert Fogelin, Pyrrhonistic Reflections On Knowledge and Justification (N.Y.: Oxford U.P., 1994), p. 220. 

[13] Ibid.  Emphasis added to passage. 

[14] Ludwig Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, ed. G.H. von Wright, trans. Peter Winch (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago, 1980), p. 7. 

[15] John Searle, The Construction of Social Reality, op. cit., p.103. 

[16] Hilary Putnam, Renewing Philosophy (Cambridge: Harvard U.P., 1992), p. 167. 

[17] John Cook, Wittgenstein’s Metaphysics (Cambridge: Cambridge U.P., 1994), p. 95. 

[18] David Pears, The False Prison v. 2 (Oxford: Oxford U.P., 1988), p. 224. 

[19] Cf., Ludwig Wittgenstein, On Certainty, eds. G.E.M. Anscome and G.H. von Wright, trans. G.E.M. Anscome and D. Paul (London: Blackwell, 1969).  See also James Bogen, “Wittgenstein and Skepticism,” op. cit.; and Michael Williams, Groundless Belief, op. cit; and my The Reasonableness of Reason: Explaining Rationality Naturalistically (Chicago: Open Court, 1995)—esp., sections 23 and 26-29. 

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