Thursday 11/15

Philosophical Investigations, 547-610

Discussion Questions

First Question: What is the Point?

Consider Wittgenstein's conclusion:

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.

What examples of the distinction Wittgenstein has in mind here can be given qua games? Languages? (Note that we need specific, concrete examples to tie this distinction down.)

Second Question: The Soft Science

What point is Wittgenstein driving home in his discussion of psychology and physics?

571. Misleading parallel: psychology treats of processes in the psychical sphere, as does physics in the physical.

Seeing, hearing, thinking, feeling, willing, are not the subject of psychology in the same sense as that in which the movements of bodies, the phenomena of electricity etc., are the subject of physics. You can see this from the fact that the physicist sees, hears, thinks about, and informs us of these phenomena, and the psychologist observes the external reactions (the behaviour) of the subject.

Third Question: Believing

How might the following distinction best be illustrated and explained?

587. Does it make sense to ask "How do you know that you believe?"—and is the answer: "I know it by introspection"?

In some cases it will be possible to say some such thing, in most not.

It makes sense to ask: "Do I really love her, or am I only pretending to myself?" and the process of introspection is the calling up of memories; of imagined possible situations, and of the feelings that one would have if . . . .

Fourth Question: The Philosophical Diet

What kinds of examples can you give to help elucidate his claim at 593 that "[a] main cause of philosophical disease—a one-sided diet: one nourishes one's thinking with only one kind of example."

Fifth Question: When Words Fail Us

Does the feeling that we sometimes lack the words to adequately express our ideas undermine Wittgenstein's insistence that meaning is use? Consider his take on it:

610. Describe the aroma of coffee.—Why can't it be done? Do we lack the words? And for what are words lacking?—But how do we get the idea that such a description must after ail be possible? Have you ever felt the lack of such a description? Have you tried to describe the aroma and not succeeded?

(I should like to say: "These notes say something glorious, but I do not know what." These notes are a powerful gesture, but I cannot put anything side by side with it that will serve as an explanation. A grave nod. James: "Our vocabulary is inadequate." Then why don't we introduce a new one? What would have to be the case for us to be able to?)