Tuesday 11/06

Philosophical Investigations, 351-400

Discussion Questions

First Question: Thinking about Thinking

At 327 and following Wittgenstein asks and considers various answers to the question, "what is thinking?". What is thinking, does he think? What is thinking, do you think?

Second Question: Thinking Before Words

Wittgenstein takes William James to task for his use of the case of Mr. Ballard at 342. What is the case, what did James take it to show, and how does Wittgenstein respond?

Third Question: Thinking about Numbers

We sometimes perform a calculation in our heads. (Indeed, a colleague once laughed at me for using a calculator to tally scores on an exam--still stings.) Surely tallying scores in ones head is thinking, no? Wittgenstein takes this apparent counterexample up at 364, 365, and 366 (&ff), at which point his imaginary interrogator asks, pointedly, "Is a sum in the head less real than a sum on paper?" What is Wittgenstein's response? Does it suffice?

Fourth Question: Say Again?

Using carefully wrought examples, would someone please unpack 367: "The mental picture is the picture which is described when someone describes what he imagines"? What point is Wittgenstein making here?

Fifth Question: Learning English

At 381 Wittgenstein responds, "How do I know that this colour is red?—It would be an answer to say: "I have learnt English"." At 384 he asserts, "You learned the concept 'pain' when you learned language." What point is he making in these passages?

Sixth Question: Understanding

Consider 396: "It is no more essential to the understanding of a proposition that one should imagine anything in connexion with it, than that one should make a sketch from it." What then is understanding?