Hauptli’s Lecture Supplement on Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations


Part I Sections 241-End


     Copyright © 2012 Bruce W. Hauptli


IX. The Private Language Argument:[1] [243-315]


243 We can encourage ourselves, give ourselves orders, obey, blame and punish ourselves, “but could we also imagine a language in which a person could write down or give vocal expression to his inner experiences—his feelings, moods, and the rest—for his private use?—Well, can’t we do so in our ordinary language?—But that is not what I mean.  The individual words of this language are to refer to what can only be known to the person speaking; to his immediate private sensations.  So another person cannot understand the language. 


Note what is in question here: a language which refers to inner experiences and has only a private use.  In his “Private Language Argument,” P.M.S. Hacker maintains that this sort of language is supposed to be: “a putative language, the individual words of which refer to what can (apparently) be known only by the speaker, i.e., to his immediate private sensations or, to use the empiricist jargon, to the ‘ideas’ in his mind.  It has been a presupposition of the mainstream of modern philosophy, empiricist, rationalist, and Kantian alike, or representational idealism no less that of pure idealism, and of contemporary representationalism that the languages we all speak are such private languages, that the foundations of language no less than the foundations of knowledge lie in private experience.”[2] 


In his Bertrand Russell: The Spirit of Solitude 1872-1921, Ray Monk maintains that: “...in the view that Russell advances in these lectures [that is, his “Lectures on Logical Atomism”], psychology implicitly provides the foundations even for logic itself, or at least for a part of it.  For, although, in Russell’s conception, logic analyses the formal features of the world rather than those of language, nevertheless it is to some degree interested in analysing the structure of propositions, if only to investigate whether or not their form faithfully reflects the form of the facts they describe.  Russell’s theory of descriptions was an investigation of that sort, leading to the conclusion that the definite descriptions of ordinary language disguise the logical structure of the facts they describe and ought, if logical veracity is our chief aim, to be replaced by a new, more logically correct, form of symbolism.  In theory such a process of replacing misleading linguistic forms by those that, as it were wear their logical structure on their sleeve, would terminate in the construction of a logically perfect language.  The syntax, the grammar, of this language would mirror the logical structure of the world so perfectly that it would be impossible to say anything nonsensical in it: every possible proposition in the language would describe a possible fact in the world. 

  Attached to the last word of this paragraph, Monk offers the following footnote: The vocabulary of such a language, as Russell describes it, would, however, make it completely unusable: each particular in the world would have its own name, which—given that particulars are unique to an individual perspective—means that every word would be private to just one person....This conception of a logically perfect, essentially private language forms the target of Wittgenstein’s famous ‘Private Language Argument’ in Philosophical Investigations.[3] 


Cf., I, 344: “Would it be imaginable that people should never speak an audible language, but still say things to themselves in the imagination?....Our criterion for someone’s saying something to himself is that what he tells us and the rest of his behavior; and we only say that someone speaks to himself if in the ordinary sense of the words, he can speak. 


-244 How do words refer to sensations?  One possibility: “...words are connected with the primitive, the natural, expressions of the sensations and used in their place....the verbal expression of pain replaces the crying and does not describe it.” 


--Note that he doesn’t say this is the only possible way that words refer to sensations! 


246 In what sense are my sensations private?  “If we are using the word ‘to know’ as it is normally used (and how else are we to use it?), then other people very often know when I am in pain....Other people cannot be said to learn of my sensations only from my behavior,—for I cannot be said to learn of them.  I have them.  The truth is: It makes sense to say about other people that they doubt whether I am in pain; but not to say it about myself.” 


248 “The proposition ‘Sensations are private’ is comparable to: ‘One plays patience [solitaire] by oneself’.” 


250 Why can’t a dog simulate pain?  “...the surroundings which are necessary...are missing.” 


251 “‘I can’t imagine the opposite’...these words are a defense against something whose form makes it look like an empirical proposition, but which is really a grammatical one.” 


253 Of “another person can’t have my pains,” Wittgenstein asks: “what counts as a criterion of identity here? 


-“...one does not define a criterion of identity by emphatic stressing of the word ‘this’.” 


-256 “Now, what about the language which describes my inner experiences and which only I myself can understand?  How do I use words to stand for my sensations?  As we ordinarily do?  Then are my words for sensations tied up with my natural expressions of sensation?  In that case my language is not a ‘private’ one.  Someone else might understand it as well as I.—But suppose I didn’t have any natural expression for sensation, but only had the sensation?  And now I simply associate names with sensations and use these names in descriptions.—” 


257-258 In this passage Wittgenstein wrestles with the notion of a “private language:”[4] 


“What would it be like if human beings shewed no outward signs of pain....” 


-“Then it would be impossible to teach a child the use of the word ‘toothache’.” 


“Well, let’s assume the child is a genius and itself invents a name for the sensation!” 


-“But then, of course, he couldn’t make himself understood when he used the word.” 


So does he understand the name, without being able to explain its meaning to anyone?” 


-“But what does it mean to say that he has ‘named his pain’?—How has he done this naming....And whatever he did, what was its purpose?—When one says “He gave a name to his sensation” one forgets that a great deal of stage-setting in the language is presupposed if the mere act of naming is to make sense.  And when we speak of someone’s having given a name to pain, what is presupposed is the existence of the grammar of the word “pain”: it shews the post where the new word is stationed.” 


258 Diary Case: “...“I impress it on myself” can only mean: this process brings it about that I remember the connexion right in the future.  But in the present case I have no criterion of correctness.  One would like to say: whatever is going to seem right to me is right.  And that only means that here we can’t talk about ‘right’. 


-260 The notation in a diary has no function! 


-261 What reason have we for saying that the sign is a sign for a sensation?  ‘But surely it is a sign for something, surely s/he has something!’  “...in the end when one is doing philosophy one gets to the point where one would just like to emit an inarticulate sound.—But such a sound is an expression only as it occurs in a particular language-game, which should now be described.” 


265 Imagine a “dictionary” table in the imagination. 


-“But justification consists in appealing to something independent....if the mental image of the time-table could not itself be tested for correctness, how could it confirm the correctness of the first memory?”  Buying several copies of the same newspaper for confirmation of a headline. 


-268 “Why can’t my right hand give my left hand money?” 


272 “The essential thing about private experience is really not that each person possesses his own exemplar, but that nobody knows whether other people also have this or something else.  The assumption would thus be possible—though unverifiable—that one section of mankind had one sensation of red and another section another.” 


275 “Look at the blue of the sky and say to yourself “How blue the sky is!”-When you do it spontaneously—without philosophical intentions—the idea never crosses your mind that this impression of colour belongs only to you.  And you have no hesitation in exclaiming that to someone else.  And if you point at anything as you say the words you point at the sky.  I am saying: you have not the feeling of pointing-into-yourself, which often accompanies ‘naming the sensation’ when one is thinking about ‘private language’.” 


-278 “‘I know how the colour green looks to me’—surely that makes sense!—Certainly: what use of the proposition are you thinking of?” 


-279 “Imagine someone saying: ‘But I know how tall I am!’ and laying his hand on top of his head to prove it.” 


281 “‘But doesn’t what you say come to this: that there is no pain, for example, without pain-behavior?”—It comes to this: only of a living human being and what resembles (behaves like) a living human being can one say: it has sensations....” 


-283-284 Trying to imagine stones as having pains. 


-286 “What sort of issue is: Is it the body that feels pain?—How is it to be decided?” 


-288 “I need a criterion of identity for the sensation and then the possibility of error also exists.” 


291 “What we call ‘descriptions’ are instruments for particular uses.  Think of a machine-drawing, a cross-section, an elevation with measurements, which an engineer has before him.  Thinking of a description as a word-picture of the facts has something misleading about it; one tends to think only of such pictures as hang on our walls; which seem simply to portray how a thing looks, what it is like....” 


292 “Don’t always think that you read off what you say from the facts; that you portray these in words according to rules.  For even so you would have to apply the rule in the particular case without guidance.” 


293 Beetle in the Box: “The thing in the box has no place in the language-game at all; not even as a something: for the box might even be empty.—No, one can ‘divide through’ by the thing in the box; it cancels out, whatever it is. 

  That is to say: if we construe the grammar of the expression of sensation on the model of ‘object and designation’ the object drops out of consideration as irrelevant. 


This is not a behavioristic passage.  Cf., 286, 302, 304, and 307! 


Cf., 398: “...if as a matter of logic you exclude other people’s having something, it looses its sense to say that you have it.”  The visual room has no owner! 


295 “‘I know...only from my own case’—what kind of proposition is this meant to be at all?  An experiential one?  No—A grammatical one?” 


302 “If one has to imagine someone else’s pain on the model of one’s own, this is none too easy a thing to do; for I have to imagine pain which I do not feel on the model of the pain which I do feel.  That is, what I have to do is not simply to make a transition in imagination from one place of pain to another.  As, from pain in the hand to pain in the arm.  For I am to imagine that I feel pain in some region of his body.... 

  Pain-behavior can point to a painful place—but the subject of pain is the person who gives it expression.” 


-303 If we say that we can only believe that others are in pain, we indicate that we are making a decision about how we will use our words.  But, “just try—in a real case—to doubt someone else’s fear or pain.” 


304 “‘But you will surely admit that there is a difference between pain-behavior accompanied by pain and pain-behavior without any pain?’—Admit it?  What greater difference could there be?—‘And yet you again and again reach the conclusion that the sensation itself is a nothing.’—Not at all.  It is not a something, but not a nothing either!  The conclusion was only that a nothing would serve just as well as a something about which nothing could be said.[5]  We have only rejected the grammar which tries to force itself on us here. 

  The paradox disappears only if we make a radical break with the idea that language always functions in one way, always serves the same purpose: to convey thoughts—which may be about houses, pains, good and evil, or anything else you please.” 


Cf.: 293, 307, 308, and 363. 


305 “The impression that we wanted to deny something arises from our setting our faces against the picture of the ‘inner process.’  What we deny is that the picture of the inner process gives us the correct idea of the word ‘to remember’.” 


-Cf., 308.  I believe that sections 305, 244, and 264 (when combined with it) clearly require that we recognize that it is not the “mental processes” which are suspect, but, rather, the philosophers’ talk about them.[6] 


307 Are you really a behaviorist in disguise?  “If I do speak of a fiction, then it is of a grammatical fiction.” 


308 “How does the philosophical problem about mental processes and states and about behaviorism arise?—The first step is the one that altogether escapes notice.  We talk of processes and states and leave their nature undecided.  Sometime perhaps we shall know more about them—we think.  But that is just what commits us to a particular way of looking at the matter.  For we have a definite concept of what it means to learn to know a process better....” 


Cf., 363: “One would like to say ‘Telling brings it about that he knows that I am in pain; it produces this mental phenomenon; everything else is inessential to the telling.’  As for what this queer phenomenon of knowledge is—there is time enough for that.  Mental processes just are queer.  (It is as if one said: ‘The clock tells us the time.  What time is, is not yet settled.  And as for what one tells the time for—that doesn’t come in here.’)” 


309 “What is your aim in philosophy?—to shew the fly the way out of the fly-bottle.” 


Well, is his aim only therapy, or is it also the advancement of (and defeat of) some specific theses? 


Go to Appendix on the Private Language Argument. 


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


316 “In order to get clear about the meaning of the word ‘think’ we watch ourselves while we think; what we observe will be what the word means!—But this word is not used like that.  (It would be as if without knowing how to play chess, I were to try and make out what the word ‘mate’ meant by close observation of the last move of some game of chess).” 


It is not the observation of internal processes which is important here, instead it is the study of intersubjective, public, conventional factors. 


317 “Misleading parallel: the expression of pain is a cry—the expression of thought, a proposition. 

  As if the purpose of the proposition were to convey to one person how it is with another: only, so to speak, in his thinking part and not in his stomach.” 


318 In general, we do not seem to believe that thought is separate from the expression of thought—as we talk or write (normally), we don’t say, for example, that we think faster than we speak/write. 


321 “‘What happens when a man suddenly understands?’—The question is badly framed.  If it is a question about the meaning of the expression ‘sudden understanding’, the answer is not to point to a process that we give this name to.—The question might mean: what are the tokens of sudden understanding; what are its characteristic psychical accompaniments?” 


-322 “...what criterion of identity do we fix for their occurrence?” 


324 Regarding my certainty about my ability to complete a series—I would be as surprised that I couldn’t do it as I would be to find a book hanging in mid-air unaided: “...we don’t need any grounds for this certainty either.  What could justify the certainty better than success?” 


-Of course, this is just what the discussion above from sections 211-242 [“At some point reasons give out”] was concerned to argue. 


-325 “‘The certainty that I shall be able to go on after I have had this experience—seen the formula, for instance,—is simply based on induction.’  What does this mean?—‘The certainty that the fire will burn me is based on induction.’  Does that mean that I argue to myself: ‘Fire has always burned me, so it will happen now too.’  Or is the previous experience the cause of my certainty, not its ground?  Whether the earlier experience is the cause of my certainty depends on the system of hypotheses, of natural laws, in which we are considering the phenomenon of certainty. 

  Is our confidence justified?—what people accept as a justification—is shewn by how they think and live.” 


329 “When I think in language, there aren’t ‘meanings’ going through my mind in addition to the verbal expressions; the language is itself the vehicle of thought.” 


-330 “Is thinking a kind of speaking?....Say ‘Yes, this pen is blunt.  Oh well, it’ll do.’  First thinking it, then without thought; then just think the thought without words....”


-334 “‘So you really wanted to say....’—We use this phrase in order to lead someone from one form of expression to another.  One is tempted to use the following picture: what he really ‘wanted to say’, what he ‘meant’ was already present somewhere in his mind even before we gave it expression.” 


-335 He considers cases of writing letters and translating where we are “searching for the right word”—in some of them, it seems that the thought is already there, but not in all such cases! 


336 “A French politician once wrote that it was a peculiarity of the French language that in it words occur in the order in which one thinks them.” 


337 “But didn’t I already intend the whole construction of the sentence (for example) at its beginning?  So surely it already existed in my mind before I said it out loud!—If it was in my mind, still it would not normally be there in some different word order.  But here we are constructing a misleading picture of ‘intending’, that is, of the use of this word.  An intention is embedded in its situation, in human customs and institutions.  If the technique of the game of chess did not exist, I could not intend to play a game of chess.  In so far as I do intend the construction of a sentence in advance, that is made possible by the fact that I can speak the language in question.” 


342 Case of Mr. Ballard: “Ballard writes: “It was during those delightful rides, some two or three years before my initiation into the rudiments of written language, that I began to ask myself the question: how came the world into being?”—Are you sure-one would like to ask—that this is the correct translation of your wordless thought into words?....” 


344 “Would it be imaginable that people should never speak an audible language, but still say things to themselves in the imagination?....Our criterion for someone’s saying something to himself is that what he tells us and the rest of his behavior; and we only say that someone speaks to himself if in the ordinary sense of the words, he can speak.  And we do not say it of a parrot, or of a gramophone.” 


345 “‘What sometimes happens might always happen.’  What kind of proposition is that?  It is like the following: If ‘F(a)’ makes sense ‘(x)F(x)’ makes sense....Orders are sometimes not obeyed.  But what would it be like if no orders were ever obeyed?  The concept ‘order’ would have lost its purpose.” 


Note that this remark provides an understanding of how a Wittgensteinian would respond to Descartes’ skeptical arguments (both the dreaming and the evil genius hypotheses). 


346 “But couldn’t we imagine God’s suddenly giving a parrot understanding, and its now saying things to itself?—But here it is an important fact that I imagined a deity in order to imagine this.” 


348 “‘These deaf-mutes have learned only a gesture-language, but each of them talks to himself inwardly in a vocal language.’—Now, don’t you understand that?—But how do I know whether I understand it?!—What can I do with this information (if it is such)?  The whole idea of understanding smells fishy here.  I do not know whether I am to say I understand it or don’t understand it.  I might answer “It’s an English sentence; apparently quite in order—that is, until one wants to do something with it; it has a connection with other sentences which makes it difficult for us to say that nobody really knows what it tells us; but everyone who has not become calloused by doing philosophy notices that there is something wrong here.” 


350 Five o’clock on the sun passage: “In exactly the same way it is no explanation to say; the supposition that he has a pain is simply the supposition that he has the same as I.  For that part of the grammar is quite clear to me: that is, that one will say that the stove has the same experiences as I, if one says: it is in pain and I am in pain.” 


351 “Yet we go on wanting to say: ‘Pain is pain—whether he has it, or I have it; and however I come to know whether he has a pain or not.’—I might agree.—And when you ask me ‘Don’t you know, then, what I mean when I say that the stove is in pain?’—I can reply: These words may lead me to have all sorts of images; but their usefulness goes no further.” 


-Application of 5 o’clock on the sun, application of ‘above and below’ to the earth. 


-Consider the case of the “water diviner” in the Blue Book, pp. 9-10. 


352 Regarding “either it is in the mind or it isn’t:” “The law of excluded middle says here: It must either look like this, or like that.  So it really—and this is a truism—says nothing at all, but gives us a picture.  And the problem ought now to be: does reality accord with the picture or not?....Here saying ‘There is no third possibility’ or ‘But there can’t be a third possibility!’—expresses our inability to turn our eyes away from this picture: a picture and its solution, while all the time we feel that it is not so. 

  Similarly when it is said ‘Either he has this experience, or not’—what primarily occurs to us is a picture which by itself seems to make the sense of the expression unmistakable: ‘Now you know what is in question’—we should like to say. And that is precisely what it does not tell him.” 


355 “The point here is not that our sense-impressions can lie, but that we understand their language.  (And this language like any other is founded on convention.) 


357 “...it only makes sense because I do behave in this way.—Then it is not because I mean it that it makes sense?” 


359 “Could a machine think?—Could it be in pain?Well, is the human body to be called such a machine?  It surely comes as close as possible to being such a machine.” 


360 But surely a machine can’t think!  “Is that an empirical statement?  No.”  (Make sure you look at 359 here!) 


-“Look at the word “to think” as a tool.” 


-361 “The chair is thinking to itself:..... 



363 “I should like to say: you regard it much too much as a matter of course that one can tell anything to anyone.  That is to say: we are so much accustomed to communication through language, in conversation, that it looks to us as if the whole point of communication lay in this: someone else grasps the sense of my words—which is something mental: he as it were takes it into his own mind.  If he then does something further with it as well, that is no part of the immediate purpose of language. 

  One would like to say ‘Telling brings it about that he knows that I am in pain; it produces this mental phenomenon; everything else is inessential to the telling.’  As for what this queer phenomenon of knowledge is—there is time enough for that.  Mental processes just are queer.  (It is as if one said: ‘The clock tells us the time.  What time is, is not yet settled.  And as for what one tells the time for—that doesn’t come in here.’)” 


-Cf., 308. 


364 Is calculating in the head like calculating on paper? 


-368 Impressionistic pictures painted from descriptions can, after all, be like the objects described. 


-370 “One ought to ask, not what images are or what happens when one imagines anything, but how the word ‘imagination’ is used.  But that does not mean that I want to talk only about words.  For the question as to the nature of the imagination is as much about the word ‘imagination’ as my question is.  And I am only saying that this question is not to be decided—neither for the person who does the imagining, nor for anyone else—by pointing; nor yet by a description of any process.  The first question also asks for a word to be explained; but it makes us expect a wrong kind of answer.” 


377 “What is the criterion for the sameness of two images?—What is the criterion for the redness of an image?  For me when it is someone else’s image: what he says and does.  For myself when it is my image: nothing.  And what goes for ‘red’ also goes for ‘same’.” 


378 “...if I need a justification for using a word, it must also be one for someone else.” 


381 “How do I know that this is colour is red?—it would be an answer to say: ‘I have learnt English’.” 


382 “At these words I form this image.  How can I justify this?  Has anyone shewn me the image of the colour blue and told me that this is the image of blue? 

  What is the meaning of the words: ‘This image’?  How does one point to an image?  How does one point twice to the same image?” 


383 “We are not analysing a phenomenon (e.g. thought) but a concept (e.g. that of thinking), and therefore the use of a word.  So it may look as if what we were doing were Nominalism.” 


385 Calculating only in the head—a tribe which does this.  We need a criterion of correctness and an understanding of the circumstances (what would it be like?). 


386 Is he expressing a lack of confidence in his ability to imagine?  “But I do have confidence in myself—I say without hesitation that I have done this sum in my head, have imagined this colour.  The difficulty is not that I doubt whether I really imagined anything red.  But it is this: that we should be able, just like that, to point out or describe the colour we have imagined, that the translation of the image into reality presents no difficulty at all.  Are they then so alike that one might mix them up?—But I can also recognize a man from a drawing straight off.—Well, but can I ask: ‘What does a correct image of this colour look like?’ or ‘What sort of thing is it?’; can I learn this?” 


391 “I can perhaps...imagine...that each of the people whom I see in the street is in frightful pain, but is artfully concealing it.  And it is important that I have to imagine an artful concealment here....” 


396 “It is no more essential to the understanding of a proposition that one should imagine anything in connection with it, than that one should make a sketch from it.” 


398 “‘But when I imagine something, or even actually see objects, I have got something which my neighbour has not.’—I understand you.  You want to look about you and say: ‘At any rate only I have got THIS.’—What are these words for?  They serve no purpose....If as a matter of logic you exclude other people’s having something, it looses its sense to say that you have it.” 


-Who owns “your” visual room?  [visual field is not owned in the sense that rooms are owned!]  Who owns the farmhouse in an imaginary picture? 


-Cf., 293 (the beetle in the box). 


-402 “When...we disapprove of the expressions of ordinary language (which are after all performing their office), we have got a picture in our heads which conflicts with the picture of our ordinary way of speaking.” 


-403 “If I were to reserve the word ‘pain’ solely for what I had hitherto called ‘my pain’, and others ‘L.W.’s pain’, I should do other people no injustice, so long as a notation were provided in which the loss of the word ‘pain’ in other connections were somehow supplied.  Other people would still be pitied, treated by doctors, and so on.  It would, of course, be no objection to this mode of expression to say: ‘But look here, other people have just the same as you!’ 

  But what should I gain from this new kind of account?  Nothing.” 


XI. On Personal Identity: [404-414]


404 ““When I say ‘I am in pain’, I do not point to a person who is in pain, since in a certain sense I have no idea who is.”  And this can be given a justification.  For the main point is: I did not say that such-and-such a person was in pain, but “I am.....”  Now in saying this I don’t name any person.  Just as I don’t name anyone when I groan with pain.  Though someone else sees who is in pain from the groaning. 

  What does it mean to show who is in pain?  It means, for example, to know which man in this room is in pain: for instance, that it is the one who is sitting over there, or the one who is standing in that corner, the tall one over there with the fair hair, and so on—What am I getting at?  At the fact that there is a great variety of criteria for personal ‘identity’. 

  Now which of them determines my saying that ‘I’ am in pain?  None.” 


410 ‘I’ is not the name of a person, nor ‘here’ of a place, and ‘this’ is not a name.  But they are connected with names.  Names are explained by means of them.  It is also true that it is characteristic of physics not to use these words.” 


411 Consider how the following questions can be applied, and how settled:

                   (1) "Are these books my books?" 

                   (2) "Is this foot my foot?" 

                   (3) "Is this body my body?" 

                   (4) "Is this sensation my sensation?" 

Each of these questions has practical (non-philosophical) applications." 


412 “The feeling of an unbridgeable gulf between consciousness and brain-processes: how does it come about that this does not come into the considerations of our ordinary life?” 


-Wittgenstein notes that paradoxical character of statements like “Certainly, this is not produced by a brain-process” is a result of taking statements totally out of context. 


-“But what can it mean to speak of “turning my attention on my own consciousness”?  This is surely the queerest thing there could be! 


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


415 “What we are supplying are really remarks on the natural history of human beings; we are not contributing curiosities however, but observations which no one has doubted, but which have escaped remark only because they are always before our eyes.” 


416 “Whom do I really inform, if I say “I have consciousness”?  What is the purpose of saying this to myself, and how can another person understand me?—Now, expressions like “I see,” “I hear”, “I am conscious” really have their uses.  I tell a doctor “Now I am hearing with this ear again”, or I tell someone who believes I am in a faint “I am conscious again”, and so on.” 


417 “Do I observe myself, then, and perceive that I am seeing or conscious?  And why talk about observation at all?  Why not simply say ‘I perceive I am conscious’?—But don’t the words ‘I perceive’ here shew that I am attending to my consciousness?—which is ordinarily not the case.—If so, then the sentence ‘I perceive I am conscious’ does not say that I am conscious, but that my attention is disposed in such-and-such a way. 

  But isn’t it a particular experience that occasions my saying ‘I am conscious again’?—What experience?  In what situations do we say it?” 


418 “Is my having consciousness a fact of experience? 

  But doesn’t one say that a man has consciousness, and that a tree or a stone does not?” 


-420 “But can’t I imagine that the people around me are automata, lack consciousness, even thought they behave in the same way as usual?.... 

  Seeing a living human being as an automaton is analogous to seeing one figure as a limiting case or variant of another; the cross-pieces of a window as a swastika, for example.” 


--Cf.,  II, xi, pp. 190-209 (esp., pps. 194, 200, and 208-209). 


421 ‘“Look at the sentence as an instrument, and at its sense as its employment.” 


422 “What am I believing when I believe that men have souls?  What am I believing in, when I believe that this substance contains two carbon rings?  In both cases there is a picture in the foreground, but the sense lies far in the background; that is the application of the picture is not easy to survey. 


428 “‘This queer thing, thought’—but it does not strike us as queer when we are thinking.  Thought does not strike us as mysterious while we are thinking, but only when we say, as it were retrospectively: ‘How was that possible?’  How was it possible for thought to deal with the very object itself?  We feel as if by means of it we had caught reality in our net.” 


432 Every sign by itself seems dead.  What gives it life?  In use they are alive.  Is life breathed into it there—Or is the use its life? 


435 How do sentences represent—”...nothing is concealed.”  


-442 Seeing someone about to fire a gun and saying “I expect a report.”  What is this like? 


-444 Expecting someone.  What is it like? 


-449 “‘But mustn’t I know what it would be like if I were in pain?’—We fail to get away from the idea that using a sentence involves imagining something for every word. 

  We do not realize that we calculate, operate, with words, and in the course of time translate them sometimes into one picture, sometimes into another.—It is as if one were to believe that a written order for a cow which someone is to hand over to me always had to be accompanied by an image of a cow, if the order was not to lose its meaning.” 


453 Anyone who perceived my expectation would necessarily have a direct perception of what was being expected.  That is to say, he would not have to infer it from the process he perceived!—But to say that someone perceives an expectation makes no sense.  Unless indeed it means, for example, that he perceives the expression of an expectation.  To say of an expectant person that he perceives his expectation instead of saying he expects, would be an idiotic distortion of the expression.” 


454 A pointing arrow: →  “The arrow points only in the application that a living being makes of it.

  This pointing is not a hocus-pocus which can be performed only by the soul.” 


464 My aim is: to teach you to pass from a piece of disguised nonsense to something that is patent nonsense. 


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


466 ‘“What does man think for?  What use is it?—Why does he make boilers according to calculations and not leave the thickness of their walls to chance?...But as we are not interested in causes,—we shall say: human beings do in fact think: this, for instance, is how they proceed when they make a boiler.” 


467 “Does man think, then, because he has found that thinking pays?—Because he thinks it advantageous to think? 

  (Does he bring his children up because he has found it pays?)” 


468 “What would shew why he thinks?” 


469 “And yet one can say that thinking has been found to pay.  That there are fewer boiler explosions than formerly, now that we no longer go by feeling in deciding the thickness of the walls....” 


470 “So we do sometimes think because it has been found to pay?” 


472 “The character of the belief in the uniformity of nature can perhaps be seen most clearly in the case in which we fear what we expect.  Nothing could induce me to put my hand into a flame—although after all it is only in the past that I have burnt myself.” 


-474 “I shall get burnt if I put my hand in the fire: that is certainty.  That is to say; here we see the meaning of certainty.  (What it amounts to, not just the meaning of the word ‘certainty’.)” 


-477 “‘Why do you believe that you will burn yourself on the hot-plate?’—Have you reasons for this belief; and do you need reasons? 


479 “The question: “On what grounds do you believe this?” might mean: “From what are you now deducing it (have you just deduced it)”?  But it might also mean: “What grounds can you produce for this assumption on thinking it over?”” 


480 “This sort of statement about the past is simply what we call a ground for assuming that this will happen in the future.—And if you are surprised at our playing such a game I refer you to the effect of a past experience (to the fact that a burnt child fears the fire).” 


481 “If anyone said that information about the past could not convince him that something would happen in the future, I should not understand him.  One might ask him: What do you expect to be told, then?  What sort of information do you call a ground for such a belief?  What do you call “conviction”?  In what kind of way do you expect to be convinced?—If these are not grounds, then what are grounds?—If you say that these are not grounds, then you must surely be able to state what must be the case for us to have the right to say that there are grounds for our assumption. 

  For note: here grounds are not propositions which logically imply what is believed. 

  Not that one can say; less is needed for belief than for knowledge.—For the question here is not one of approximation to logical inference.” 


-485 Justification by experience comes to an end.  If it did not it would not be justification.” 


-486 “Does it follow from the sense impressions which I get that there is a chair over there?—How can a proposition follow from sense-impressions?  Well, does it follow from the propositions which describe the sense-impressions?  No.—But don’t I infer that a chair is there from sense-data?—I make no inference!—and yet I sometimes do.  I see a photograph for example, and say “There must have been a chair over there” or again “From what I can see here I infer that there is a chair over there.”  That is an inference; but not one belonging to logic.  An inference is a transition to an assertion; and so also to the behavior that corresponds to the assertion.  ‘I draw the consequences’ not only in words, but also in action. 

  Was I justified in drawing these consequences?  What is called a justification here?—How is the word “justification” used?  Describe language-games.  From these you will also be able to see the importance of being justified. 


-491 “Not: “without language we could not communicate with one another”—but for sure: without language we cannot influence other people in such-and-such ways; cannot build roads and machines, etc.  And also: without the use of speech and writing people could not communicate.” 


495 “...I can direct a man who has learned only German, only by using the German language.  (For here I am looking at learning German as adjusting a mechanism to respond to a certain kind of influence; and it may be all one to us whether someone else has learned the language, or was perhaps from birth constituted to react to sentences in German like a normal person who has learned German). 


496 ‘“Grammar does not tell us how language must be constructed in order to fulfill its purpose, in order to have such-and-such an effect on human beings.  It only describes and in no way explains the use of signs.” 


Cf.: 119, 124, 128, 309, 599, p. 230; as well as 24, 291, 499. 


498 “Bring me sugar,” “Bring me milk,” and “Milk me sugar”.  Regarding the latter: “...if its effect is that the other person stares at me and gapes, I don’t on that account call it the order to stare and gape, even if that was precisely the effect I wanted to produce.” 


-499 “To say ‘This combination of words makes no sense’ excludes it from the sphere of language and thereby bounds the domain of language.  But when one draws a boundary it may be for various kinds of reason.  If I surround an area with a fence or a line or otherwise, the purpose may be to prevent someone from getting in or out; but it may also be part of a game and the players be supposed, say, to jump over the boundary; or it may shew where the property of one man ends and that of another begins; and so on.  So if I draw a boundary line that is not yet to say what I am drawing it for.” 


--Note the difference this marks with the Tractatus—there he discussed the bounds of sense (and talked about the limits of language), but his purpose was different, and the boundaries were different also.  Reflect upon the differences here. 


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


501 “‘The purpose of language is to express thoughts’:”


508 Using ‘abcd’ instead of ‘the weather is fine’. 


510 “Make the following experiment: say ‘It’s cold here’ and mean ‘Its warm here’.  Can you do it?—And what are you doing as you do it?  And is there only one way of doing it?” 


513 “Consider the following form of expression: ‘The number of pages in my book is equal to a root of the equation x3+2x-1=0.’ Or ‘I have n friends and n2+2n+2=0”.  Does this sentence make sense?  This cannot be seen immediately.  This example shews how it is that something can look like a sentence which we understand and yet yield no sense). 

  (This throws light on the concepts ‘understanding’ and ‘meaning’.) 


518 “Socrates to Theaetetus: ‘And if someone thinks mustn’t he think something?’—Th: ‘Yes, he must.’—Soc: ‘And if he thinks something, mustn’t it be something real?’—Th: ‘Apparently.’ 

  And mustn’t someone who is painting be painting something—and someone who is painting something be painting something real!—Well, tell me what the object of painting is; the picture of a man (e.g.) or the man that the picture portrays?” 


521 “Compare ‘logically possible’ with ‘chemically possible.’  One might perhaps call a combination chemically possible if a formula with the right valencies existed (e.g. H-O-O-O-H).  Of course such a combination need not exist; but even the formula HO2 cannot have less than no combination corresponding to it in reality.” 


522 “If we compare a proposition to a picture, we must think whether we are comparing it to a portrait (a historical representation) or to a genre-picture.  And both comparisons have point. 

  When I look at a genre-picture, it ‘tells’ me something, even though I don’t believe (imagine) for a moment that the people I see in it really exist, or that there have really been people in that situation.  But suppose I ask: ‘What does it tell me, then?’” 


XV. Understanding and Context: [525-655]


525 “‘After he had said this, he left her as he did the day before.’—Do I understand this sentence?  Do I understand it just as I should if I heard it in the course of a narrative?  If it were set down in isolation I should say, I don’t know what it’s about.  But all the same I should know how this sentence might perhaps be used; I could myself invent a context for it. 

  (A multitude of familiar paths lead off from those words in every direction).” 


527 “Understanding a sentence is much more akin to understanding a theme in music than one may think.  What I mean is that understanding a sentence lies nearer than one thinks to what is ordinarily called understanding a musical theme.” 


-528 “It would be possible to imagine people who had something not quite unlike a language: a play of sounds, without vocabulary or grammar.  (‘Speaking with tongues’.) 


-529 “‘But what would the meaning of the sounds be in such a case?’—What is it in music?  Though I don’t at all wish to say that this language of a play of sounds would have to be compared to music.” 


531 “We speak of understanding a sentence in the sense in which it can be replaced by another which says the same; but also in the sense in which it cannot be replaced by any other.  (Any more than one musical theme can be replaced by another.) 

  In the one case the thought in the sentence is something common to different sentences; in the other, something that is expressed only by these words in these positions.  (Understanding a poem.)” 


532 “Then has ‘understanding’ two different meanings here?—I would rather say that these kinds of use of ‘understanding’ make up its meaning, make up my concept of understanding.” 


536-539 Interpreting looks on faces. 


-539 “I see a picture which represents a smiling face.  What do I do if I take the smile now as a kind one, now as malicious?  Don’t I often imagine it with a spatial and temporal context which is one either of kindness or malice?  Thus I might supply the picture with the fancy that the smiler was smiling down on a child at play, or again on the suffering of an enemy. 

  This is in no way altered by the fact that I can also take the at first sight gracious situation and interpret it differently by putting it into a wider context.—If no special circumstances reverse my interpretation I shall conceive a particular smile as kind, call it a ‘kind’ one, react correspondingly.” 


540 Suppose someone speaks in tongues and then interprets what he has said.  Didn’t he understand his/her sentences? 


-541 What would such an understanding consist in? 


-542 “‘But the point is, the words felt to him like the words of a language he knew well.’—Yes: a criterion for that is that he later said just that.  And now do not say: ‘The feel of the words in a language we know is of a quite particular kind.”” 


545 “But when one says ‘I hope he’ll come’—doesn’t the feeling give the word ‘hope’ its meaning?  (And what about the sentence ‘I do not hope for his coming any longer’?)  The feeling does perhaps give the word ‘hope’ its special ring; that is, it is expressed in that ring.—If the feeling gives the word its meaning, then here ‘meaning’ means point.  But why is the feeling the point?” 


547 If negation seems to be a ‘mental activity’ try negating something and watch for the activity. 


548 “What is the difference between the two processes: wishing that something should happen—and wishing that the same thing should not happen? 

  If we want to represent it pictorially, we shall treat the picture of the event in various ways: cross it out, put a line round it, and so on.  But this strikes us as a crude method of expression.  In word-language indeed we use the sign ‘not’.  But this is like a clumsy expedient.  We think that in thought it is arranged differently.” 


549 ‘The sign ‘not’ is the occasion for us to do something very complicated and special.’ 


551 “‘Does the same negation occur in : ‘Iron does not melt at a hundred degrees Centigrade’ and ‘Twice two is not five’?’  Is this to be decided by introspection; by trying to see what we are thinking as we utter the two sentences?” 


There cannot be a question whether these or other rules are the correct ones for the use of ‘not’.  (I mean, whether they accord with its meaning.)  For without these rules the word has as yet no meaning; and if we change the rules, it now has another meaning (or none), and in that case we may just as well change the word too.” 


552 Does ‘one’ mean the same thing in each use? 


-553 When used as a measure and as a number? 


554 “We can easily imagine human beings with a ‘more primitive’ logic, in which something corresponding to our negation is applied only to certain sorts of sentence; perhaps to such as do not themselves contain any negation.  It would be possible to negate the proposition ‘He is going into the house,’ but a negation of the negative proposition would be meaningless, or would count only as a repetition of the negation.  Think of means of expressing negation different from ours: by pitch of one’s voice, for instance.  What would a double negation be like there?” 


-556 Another game with double negation—two words which function the same singularly but where used doubly one negates the negation and the other strengthens the original negation (not).  Do the words mean the same thing or not: three different possible answers. 


557 “...the meaning of the brackets lies in the technique of applying them.” 


558 Does the ‘is’ in ‘The rose is red’ have a different meaning from that in ‘Twice two is four’? 


559 “One would like to speak of the function of a word in this sentence.  As if the sentence were a mechanism in which the word had a particular function.  But what does this function consist in?  How does it come to light?  For there isn’t anything hidden—don’t we see the whole sentence?  The function must come out in the operating of the word.” 


563 “Let us say that the meaning of a piece is its role in the game.—Now let it be decided by lot which of the players gets white before any game of chess begins.  To this end one player holds a king in each closed fist while the other chooses one of the two hands at random.  Will it be counted as part of the role of the king in chess that it is used to draw lots in this way?” 


564 “So I am inclined to distinguish between the essential and the inessential in a game too.  The game, one would like to say, has not only rules but also a point.” 


569 “Language is an instrument.  Its concepts are instruments.  Now perhaps one thinks that it can make no great difference which concepts we employ.  As, after all, it is possible to do physics in feet and inches as well as in meters and centimetres, the difference is merely one of convenience.  But even this is not true if, for instance, calculations in some system of measurement demand more time and trouble than it is possible for us to give them.” 


580 An ‘inner process’ stands in need of outward criteria. 


581 “An expectation is embedded in a situation, from which it arises.  The expectation of an explosion may, for example, arise from a situation in which an explosion is to be expected. 


583 “‘But you talk as if I weren’t really expecting, hoping, now—as I thought I was.  As if what were happening now had no deep significance.’—What does it mean to say ‘What is happening now has significance’ or ‘has deep significance’?  What is a deep feeling?  Could someone have a feeling of ardent love or hope for the space of one second—no matter what preceded or followed this second?—What is happening now has significance—in these surroundings.  The surroundings give it its importance.  And the word ‘hope’ refers to a phenomenon of human life.  (A smiling mouth smiles only in a human face).” 


-584 Cut a moment out of a coronation proceeding and you can radically reinterpret it. 


-585 “When someone says ‘I hope he’ll come’—is this a report about his state of mind, or a manifestation of his hope?—I can, for example, say it to myself.  And surely I am not giving myself a report.  It may be a sigh; but it need not.  If I tell someone ‘I can’t keep my mind on my work today; I keep on thinking of his coming’—this will be called a description of my state of mind.” 


-586 The point is; what lead up to these words?” 


592 “‘But when you said ‘I intend to go away’, you surely mean it!  Here again it is just is the mental act of meaning that gives the sentence life.  If you merely repeat the sentence after someone else, say in order to mock his way of speaking, then you say it without this act of meaning.’—When we are doing philosophy it can sometimes look like that.  But let us think out various different situations and conversations, and the ways in which that sentence will be uttered in them.—‘I always discover a mental undertone; perhaps not always the same one.’  And was there no undertone when you repeated the sentence to someone else?  And how is the ‘undertone’ to be separated from the rest of the experience of speaking?” 


593 “A main cause of philosophical disease—a one-sided diet: one nourishes one’s thinking with only one kind of example.” 


604 “It is easy to have a false picture of the process called ‘recognizing’; as if recognizing always consisted in comparing two impressions with one another.  It is as if I carried a picture of an object with me and used it to perform an identification of an object as the one represented by the picture.  Our memory seems to us to be the agent of such a comparison, by preserving a picture of what has been seen before, or by allowing us to look into the past (as if down a spy-glass).” 


607 Judging the time and the circumstances which surround this sort of activity: “But isn’t the idea accompanied by a feeling of conviction and doesn’t that mean that it accords with an inner clock?—No, I don’t read the time off from any clock; there is a feeling of conviction inasmuch as I say a time to myself without feeling any doubt, with calm assurance.—But doesn’t something click as I say this time?—Not that I know of….” 


-Cf., II vi (p. 181): “The meaning of a word is not the experience one has in hearing or saying it, and the sense of the sentence is not a complex of such experiences.” 


613 “‘Willing’ is not the name of an action; and so not the name of any voluntary action either.  And my use of a wrong expression came from our wanting to think of willing as an immediate non-causal bringing about....” 


618 “One imagines the willing subject here as something without any mass (and without any inertia); as a motor which has no inertia in itself to overcome.  And so it is only mover, not moved.  That is: One can say ‘I will, but my body does not obey me’—but not: ‘My will does not obey me.’  (Augustine). 

  But in the sense in which I cannot fail to will, I cannot try to will either.” 


631 “‘I am going to take two powders now, and in half-an-hour I shall be sick.’—It explains nothing to say that in the first case I am the agent, and in the second merely the observer.  Or that in the first case I see the causal connection from inside, in the second from the outside.  And much else to the same effect. 

  Nor is it to the point to say that a prediction of the first kind is no more infallible than one of the second. 

  It was not on the ground of observations of my behavior that I said I was going to take two powders.  The antecedents of this proposition were different.  I mean the thoughts, actions and so on which led up to it.  And it can only mislead you to say: ‘The only essential presupposition of your utterance was just your decision.’” 


635 “‘I was going to say....’—You remember various details.  But not even all of them together shew your intention.  It is as if a snapshot of a scene had been taken, but only a few scattered details of it were to be seen: here a hand, there a bit of a fact, or a hat—the rest is dark.  And now it is as if we knew quite certainly what the whole picture represented.  As if I could read the darkness.” 


638 “How does it come about that in spite of this I am inclined to see an interpretation in saying ‘For a moment I was going to deceive him’? 

  ‘How can you be certain that for the space of a moment you were going to deceive him?  Weren’t your actions and thoughts much too rudimentary?’ 

  For can’t the evidence be too scanty?  Yes, when one follows it up it seems extraordinarily scanty; but isn’t this because one is taking no account of the history of this evidence?  Certain antecedents were necessary for me to have had a momentary intention of pretending to someone else that I was unwell. 

  If someone says ‘For a moment....’ is he really only describing a momentary process?” 


648 “‘I no longer remember the words I used, but I remember my intention precisely; I meant my words to quiet him.’  What does my memory shew me; what does it bring before my mind? Suppose it did nothing but suggest those words to me!—and perhaps others which fill out the picture still more exactly.—(‘I don’t remember my words any more, but I certainly remember the spirit.’).” 


-650 “We say a dog is afraid his master will beat him; but not, he is afraid his master will beat him to-morrow.  Why not?” 


654 ‘“Our mistake is to look for an explanation where we ought to look at what happens as a ‘proto-phenomenon’.  That is, where we ought to have said: this language-game is played.” 


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


656 “What is the purpose of telling someone that a time ago I had such-and-such a wish?—Look on the language-game as the primary thing.  And look on the feelings, etc., as you look on a way of regarding the language-game, as interpretation. 

  It might be asked: how did human beings ever come to make the verbal utterances which we call reports of past wishes or past intentions?” 


663 “If I say “I meant him” very likely a picture comes to my mind, perhaps of how I looked at him, etc.; but the picture is only like an illustration to a story.  From it alone it would mostly be impossible to conclude anything at all; only when one knows the story does one know the significance of the picture.” 


665 Saying “abracadabra” and meaning “toothache.” 


666 “Imagine that you were in pain and were simultaneously hearing a nearby piano being tuned.  You say ‘It’ll soon stop.’  It certainly makes quite a difference whether you mean the pain or the piano-tuning!—Of course; but what does this difference consist in?  I admit, in many cases some direction of the attention will correspond to your meaning one thing or another, just as a look often does, or a gesture, or a way of shutting one’s eyes which might be called “looking into oneself”.” 


669 “One can refer to an object when speaking by pointing to it.  Here pointing is a part of the language-game.  And now it seems to us as if one spoke of a sensation by directing one’s attention to it.  But where is the analogy?  It evidently lies in the fact that one can point to a thing by looking or listening. 

  But in certain circumstances, even pointing to the object one is thinking about may be quite inessential to the language-game, to one’s thought.” 


-670 “Imagine you were telephoning someone and you said to him: ‘This table is too tall’, and you pointed to the table.  What is the role of pointing here?  Can I say: I mean the table in question by pointing to it?  What is this pointing for, and what are these words and whatever else may accompany them for?” 


671 “And what do I point to by the inner activity of listening?  To the sound that comes to my ears, and to the silence when I hear nothing? 

  Listening as it were looks for an auditory impression and hence can’t point to it, but only to the place where it is looking of it.” 


673 “The mental attitude doesn’t ‘accompany’ what is said in the sense in which a gesture accompanies it.  (As a man can travel alone, and yet be accompanied by my good wishes; or as a room can be empty, and yet full of light).” 


675 “‘Tell me, what was going on in you when you uttered the words....?’—The answer to this is not: ‘I was meaning....’!” 


678 “What does this act of meaning (the pain, or the piano-tuning) consist in?  No answer comes—for the answers which at first sight suggest themselves are of no use.—“And yet at the time I meant the one thing and not the other.”  Yes,—now you have only repeated with emphasis something which no one has contradicted anyway.” 


679 “‘But can you doubt that you meant this?’—no, but neither can I be certain of it, know it.” 


683 “I draw a head.  You ask ‘Whom is that supposed to represent?’—I: ‘It’s supposed to be N.’  You: ‘But it doesn’t look like him; if anything, it’s rather like M.’—When I said it represented N—was I establishing a connection or reporting one?  And what connection did exist?” 


-Cf., II iii (p. 177).


-684 “What is there in favor of saying that my words describe an existing connection?  Well, they relate to various things which didn’t simply make their appearance with the words.  They say, for example, that I should have given a particular answer then, if I had been asked.  And even if this is only conditional, still it does say something about the past.” 


686 “‘Of course I meant B; I didn’t think of A at all!’  ‘I wanted B to come to me, so as to....”—All this points to a wider context.”


692 “Is it correct for someone to say: ‘When I gave you this rule, I meant you to....in this case’?  Even if he did not think of this case at all as he gave the rule?  Of course it is correct.  For ‘to mean it’ did not mean: to think of it.  But now the problem is: how are we to judge whether someone meant such-and-such?—the fact that he has, for example, mastered a particular technique in arithmetic and algebra, and that he taught someone else the expansion of a series in the usual way, is such a criterion.” 


693 “‘When I teach someone the formation of the series....I surely mean him to write....at the hundredth place.’—Quite right; you mean it.  And evidently without necessarily even thinking of it.  This shews you how different the grammar of the verb ‘to mean’ is from that of ‘to think’.  And nothing is more wrong-headed than calling meaning a mental activity!  Unless, that is, one is setting out to produce confusion.  (It would also be possible to speak of an activity of butter when it rises in price, and if no problems are produced by this it is harmless.)” 


(end of Part I)


XVII. An Appendix on the Private Language Argument:


David Pears offers an excellent treatment of the “private language argument” in his The False Prison v. 2, Chapters 13-15 (esp. pp. 333-336, 344-346, and 420-422).  He asks: “why does Wittgenstein claim that there must be a distinct step from seeming right to being right, if the performance is going to count as speaking a language?  And if sensation-language is completely detached from the external world, what exactly is the crucial loss it suffers?”[7] 


     Pears answers these question as follows:


speaking a language, unlike writhing in pain, is an artificial accomplishment with standards of correctness which have to be learned and maintained.  Neither of these accomplishments would be possible if the material on which people practised did not give them any indication of success or failure.  Imagine, for example, trying to become a good marksman on a rifle-range where you were the only person who ever saw your target, and even you only glimpsed it down the sights of your rifle before you fired and never again.  In such circumstances there would be no point in pulling the trigger....[8] 


...someone who can never discover what he is in fact doing will not be in a position to maintain any proficiency at doing it, and will never be in a position to learn to do it, or even to try to do it.[9] 


     Elaborating upon the marksman example, Pears maintains:


...nobody could ever tell you the pattern of your shots, and you yourself could only glimpse the target down the sights of your rifle before you fired.  In this case there is no need to choose one of the two deprivations as the crucial one rather than the other.  For each of them could be made good without the other, and it would not matter which one was made good, because either one would be enough by itself to allow you to learn to shoot accurately.[10] 


Because the two resources available on an ordinary rifle-range are independent of one another, it is not unusual for a marksman to shoot alone and verify the pattern of his own shots.  But could the intelligent wolf-child set up his language alone, and check the regularity of his use of words on standard physical objects?[11] 


Pears asks “Why so much emphasis on activity, practice and use?”[12] and offers this answer:


...‘This way of looking at language is the best corrective for a bad habit of thought which is endemic in Western philosophy—the inveterate tendency to narrow down the mind’s access to reality, constricting it to point-to-point contact.’  The treatment of names in the Tractatus was a clear example of this habit of thought.[13] 


     Pears goes on to discuss Wittgenstein’s “motor roller” example from the Remarks on the Philosophy of Psychology:


the example of the motor roller with the motor in the cylinder is actually far better and deeper than I have explained.  For when someone showed me the construction I saw at once that it could not function, since one could roll the cylinder from the outside even when the ‘motor’ was not running, but this I did not see, that it was a rigid construction and not a machine at all.  And here there is a close analogy with the private ostensive definition.  For here too there is, so to speak, a direct and an indirect way of gaining insight into the impossibility.[14] 


     Pears explains the example as follows:


...there are two ways of appreciating its uselessness.  One way is to see that, whatever the piston and cylinder are doing inside the drum of the roller, it produces no effect at the point where the drum is in contact with the ground—there is not tractive effort.  This must be the indirect way of discovering that this motor-roller is a bad buy.  The other way—the direct way—is to look inside the drum and see that, in fact, the piston and cylinder are not doing anything because they are held rigidly in place like machine-parts in a Picasso sculpture. 

  The application of this mechanical analogy to the private language argument is interesting.  The indirect way of appreciating what is wrong with the private use of a word is to see that the user is not getting any purchase on the surface presented to him by the external world.  Whatever he is doing with the word, it produces no effect at the interface between his body and his environment.  There is no physical test of the correctness of what he is doing and the world slides by without his would-be practice engaging with it. 

  The direct way is to look inside his mind and see that he is not really doing anything.  He may seem to have set up a practice, because he does produce the word in the presence of a sensation, but point-to-point contact is not enough.  A practice can be established only when there is an acknowledged connection between a sequence of attempts and a sequence of independently checkable achievements.  No skill can be acquired and maintained without a viable criterion of success independent of the fact that the attempt has been made—if there were no such criterion, what would have been attempted? 

  The structure of the private language argument is indicated very clearly by Wittgenstein’s mechanical analogy.  Two things, which ought to keep a certain independence of one another—what is done as it is for the doer, and what is done as the successful achievement—are collapsed together, and the result is that, in the sense of ‘doing’ in which doing is a practice, noting is done.  The same structure is exemplified in a somewhat different way in the argument developed in Philosophical Investigations against Platonizing accounts of rule-following....”[15] 


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

[1] An Appendix which discusses David Pears’ treatment of the private language argument follows below. 

[2] P.M.S. Hacker, “Private Language Argument,” in A Companion to Epistemology, ed. Jonathan Dancy and Ernest Sosa (Oxford: Blackwell, 1992), pp. 368-374, pp. 368-369. 

[3] Ray Monk, Bertrand Russell: The Spirit of Solitude 1872-1921 (N.Y.: Free Press, 1996), p. 518. 

[4] I have broken the paragraph up to concentrate our attention upon the argument here. 

[5] Note that this passage has implications for the “saying-showing” doctrine (at least if it is supposed to contend that, say, simples are ineffable). 

[6] Of course, if this comment by this philosopher is to avoid the very fate that Wittgenstein seems to believe is the fate of philosophers, we will have to recognize that one can not place too much emphasis upon either ‘mental’ or ‘processes’!  Cf., section 308.

[7] Cf., David Pears, The False Prison v. 2, op. cit., esp. p. 333. 

[8] Ibid. 

[9] Ibid. 

[10] Ibid., p. 334. 

[11] Ibid. 

[12] Ibid., p. 420. 

[13] Ibid., p. 421. 

[14] Ludwig Wittgenstein, Remarks on the Philosophy of Psychology v. 1, ed. G.E.M. Anscome and G.H. von Wright, trans. G.E.M. Anscome (London: Blackwell, 1980), section 397. 

[15] David Pears, The False Prison v. 2, op. cit., pp. 421-422.  Cf., pp. 333-336 and 344-346. 

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