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title: Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations : A Guide


author: Wilson, Brendan.
publisher: Edinburgh University Press
isbn10 | asin: 0748610596
print isbn13: 9780748610594
ebook isbn13: 9780585069821
language: English
subject  Wittgenstein, Ludwig,--1889-1951.--Philosophische
Untersuchungen, Language and languages--Philosophy,
Philosophy, Wittgenstein, Ludwig,--1889-1951.--
Philosophische Untersuchungen. English.
publication date: 1998
lcc: B3376.W563.P53282 1998eb
ddc: 192
subject: Wittgenstein, Ludwig,--1889-1951.--Philosophische
Untersuchungen, Language and languages--Philosophy,
Philosophy, Wittgenstein, Ludwig,--1889-1951.--
Philosophische Untersuchungen. English.

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Page iii

Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations


A Guide

Brendan Wilson

Edinburgh University Press


 

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To my parents
©Brendan Wilson, 1998
Edinburgh University Press
22 George Square, Edinburgh
Typeset in 11 on 13pt Goudy Old Style by Hewer Text Ltd, Edinburgh, and printed and bound in Great Britain
by the Cromwell Press Ltd, Trowbridge, Wiltshire
A CIP record for this book is available from the British Library
ISBN 0 7486 1059 6
The right of Brendan Wilson to be identified as author of this work has been asserted in accordance with
the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
 

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Contents

Preface
Summarises the main argument of the present book, and explains three unusual
features of its method. 1
A Private Language
Argues that a private language is one based on inner ostensive definition, and that the
concept is important in semantics and in epistemology [Saussure, Lakoff, Russell]. 7
The Consequences Argument
Discusses PI 268, 270 etc., interpreting them as based not on memory-scepticism, but
on an argument by analogy. 14
The Stage-setting Argument
Discusses PI 257, 302 etc., on the ascending hierarchy from correlating to naming to
describing. 16
The Practice Argument
Discusses PI 198202 etc., on Wittgenstein's claim that a custom or practice is
necessary for language use [Blackburn, Malcolm, Johnston, Hacker]. 17
The Interpretation Argument
Discusses PI 2067 etc., on the claim that we could not interpret a private language as
a language. 24
The Identification Argument
Discusses PI 288 etc., on whether it is possible, for us or for the putative private
language user (PLU), to err in identifying a sensation [Rorty]. 26

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The Verificationist Argument


Discusses PI 258, 265 etc., arguing
1 that there is no verificationist support in PI for the Practice or Interpretation
Arguments;
2 that there is a new argument against a private language which, though based on the
possibility of verification, does not commit Wittgenstein to a prescriptive connection
between verification and meaning;
3 that there are definite, general connections made in PI between verification and
meaning, but that these are not prescriptive and correspondingly do not provide
arguments against a private language
[Johnston, Blackburn, Ayer]. 30
The Beetle-in-the-box Argument
Discusses PI 293 etc., contrasting two interpretations of Wittgenstein's parable
[Hacker]. 42
The Use Argument
Discusses PI 43, 138, 374 etc., on Wittgenstein's definition of meaning as use and its
corollary, that a sentence without an ordinary use has no genuine meaning [Dummett,
Kenny, Rundle, Stern, Feyerabend]. 45
Interim Results
Summarises the preceding sections as arguing, not that a private language is
impossible, but that we have no clear concept of what a private language would be. 56
The Post-308 Project
Argues that the Private Language Argument merely introduces the larger project
(which occupies PI 308693) of showing in detail that we do not understand the picture
of the inner on which the concept of a private language is based. 59
The Improvement Argument
Discusses PI 294, 308 etc., on whether we have any concept of what it would be to
know an introspectible entity better. 62
The Interruption Argument
Discusses PI 328, 6337, on what it means to interrupt a train of thought. 63

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The Speed of Thought Argument


Discusses PI 31821 etc., on Wittgenstein's claim that a 'lightning-like' thought is
abbreviated, not accelerated. Also examines the role of introspection in PI,
concluding that introspective evidence is essential to Wittgenstein's philosophical
method. 64
The Pre-existence Argument
Discusses PI 3345, 662 etc., on whether thinking/meaning must precede
thoughtful/meaningful speech. 71
The Co-existence Argument
Discusses PI 3302, 501 etc., on whether thinking/meaning must accompany
thoughtful/meaningful speech. 73
The Description Argument
Discusses PI 577, 582, 585 etc., on what it means to describe a state of mind. This
leads into a discussion of avowal and criterionless assertion [Malcolm]. 75
The Pointing Argument
Discusses PI 382, 411, 66972 etc., on the analogy between pointing and inner
ostension. 80
The Hypostasis Argument
Discusses PI 595601 etc., on Wittgenstein's reductio argument against the hypostasis
of unconscious inner processes as uncontrollable. Also discusses PI 18592 as a
related argument against hypostasis [Pinker]. 83
The Connection Argument
Falls into three parts, discussing Wittgenstein's remarks on
1 connections between inner entities/processes and (a) other inner entities/processes,
(b) the self;
2 connections between inner entities/processes and action (also examining the
concept of a criterion);
3 connections between inner entities/processes and outer objects [Glock, Hacker, the
Hintikkas, Sterelny, Davidson, Searle, Fodor]. 88
The Structure of PI
Gives an overview of PI, based on the preceding sections. 120
Conclusion
Assesses the success of the post-308 project as explained above, arguing that on the
interpretation offered, PI can be seen to be

 
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not only unified and accessible, but also sharply relevant to contemporary concerns
[Langacker]. 123
Appendix: The Rule-following Considerations
Discusses PI 54, 814, 185219 etc., on following a rule. Argues that Wittgenstein
does not attack a private language on the grounds that the PLU could not follow a
private rule, because he does not believe that language must be rule-governed to be
meaningful. Also offers an alternative explanation of the particular 'resonance' of the
rule-following considerations [Budd]. 134
Bibliography 146
Index 150

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Preface
When someone hears a word and understands it, what happens in the heater's mind? Does a mental process occur,
perhaps unconsciously, that constitutes the heater's understanding, or is essential for it? And do the speaker's words
have meaning because of something that exists or happens in the speaker's mind? These are the central questions of
Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations.
One set of answers to these questions stems from a classical picture of language that Wittgenstein finds, for
example, in Augustine. This picture has three main elements:
1. that naming is the fundamental or essential function of language;
2. that the meaning of a name is the thing it stands for (its bearer);
3. that understanding a name is a matter of mentally associating the name with its hearer.
In addition to its common-sense appeal, this picture promised to satisfy the Fregean requirement (which
Wittgenstein's early work had whole-heartedly endorsed) that any proposition that has a meaning must have an
exact meaning. If a proposition can be analysed, eventually, into a concatenation of names, each of which means
the thing it directly stands for, then the meaning of the proposition as a whole will be absolutely precise.
The Investigations rejects all this, providing in the process an alternative approach to the questions set out above.
Wittgenstein argues against the new Fregean employment for the classical picture, that natural language
propositions contain ineliminable areas of vagueness and, in spite of this, function perfectly well. Against naming
as the essence of language, he argues that language has many functions, and that the urge to reduce these to one is
a mistake. There is no single essence of language, just as there is no
 

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single definition of the word 'game'. (Wittgenstein's anti-essentialist arguments also undermine the notion of
analysis, the means by which determinacy of sense was to have been revealed.) Against element (2)a referential
theory of meaninghe concedes that we explain the meaning of the name by pointing to its bearer, but shows that
reifying the meaning, and identifying it with the bearer, is absurd.
Element (3), however, is more difficult. It can survive the demise of (1) and (2), and is in any case a more
adaptable and more deeply rooted error than they were. Wittgenstein accordingly devotes the rest of the
Investigations (from PI 138 on) to this third element.
Now it is widely supposed that the centrepiece of Wittgenstein's case against (3) is the famous Private Language
Argument, and my first task is therefore to look in detail at this many-stranded argument (found in the remarks
from PI 243308). The Private Language Argument is often interpreted as aimed at establishing the second premiss
in an overall structure like this:
1. If meaning and understanding are essentially mental, then it should be possible to have or imagine an
entirely private language.
2. But an entirely private language is impossible.
3. So meaning and understanding are not essentially mental.
If we carefully unpick the various strands of the Private Language Argument, however, three possible objectives
can be discerned. These are, first, that we (observers) would not be able to recognise private signmaking or sign-
using as a language. Second, that someone whose putative 'language' arose from private mental decisions or acts of
thought would not in fact possess certain abilities necessary for language use. And third, that the idea of a mental
act or object is radically unclear and so cannot help explain language use. I argue that this third claim is
fundamental. The 'decisive movement in the conjuring trick', the false assumption shared by behaviourist and
dualist alike, is that we understand what it means to say that someone has something before his consciousness, or
present to her introspection (PI 308). And correspondingly, the fundamental failing of the classical picture of
understanding as mental association is that we have no concept of mental association clear enough to provide an
explanatory account of understanding (or meaning).
But if this is correct, then the real work begins (rather than ending, as is usually thought) around PI 308. The
Private Language Argument clarifies the objective which the remainder of the Investigations is to pursue. For, if
the aim is to show that we do not understand the classical picture in spite of
 

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its long history and common-sense appeal, this obviously requires considerable argument. So how could it be
shown that we do not really understand something we think we do understand? Wittgenstein's method is to take the
applications of the picture of inner objects, one by one, and bring us to see that expressions which should
according to the picture be meaningful, are in fact impossible to employ in any normal situation. At PI 328, for
example, he asks, 'Suppose someone takes a measurement in the middle of a train of thought: has he interrupted
the thought if he says nothing to himself during the measuring?' At PI 330, he writes, 'Say: "Yes, this pen is blunt.
Oh well, it'll do." First, thinking it; then, without thought; then just think the thought without words.' If thinking is
an inner process, then the question about interruption and the instructions about separating the process of thinking
from the process of speaking ought to make sense. But in fact they seem at least puzzling. By means of these and
many other arguments, together constituting what I call the 'post-308 project', Wittgenstein attempted to question
the intelligibility of the picture of inner objects, and in that way, complete what the Private Language Argument
began.
At this point of transition (PI 308) we have the clearest emergence of what seems to me a fundamental idea for an
understanding of PI. Wittgenstein talks in PI 308 of the 'analogy which was to make us understand our thoughts'
and says that en route to the philosophical problem of mental processes and behaviourism, this analogy 'falls to
pieces'. The analogy, I take it, is between inner and outer. We model mental states and processesin a vague and
opportunistic wayon the physical states and processes we see around us and, using this analogy, understand the
inner well enough for all ordinary purposes. The analogy serves us well and we are not to think of rejecting it (as
the behaviourist does). Unfortunately we are strongly inclined to feel dissatisfied with its vagueness and
opportunism, and to try to 'improve' on its ordinary function in language. Subjected to this wellmeaning rigour, the
analogy falls to pieces, leaving us without even the understanding of the mental with which we began. Thus, for
Wittgenstein, the attempt to put mental states and processes to work in a theory of meaning and understanding
destroys, and can be shown to destroy, the intelligibility of all 'improved' talk about the mental.
There are four prima facie problems for this project. In the first place, it is Wittgenstein's own view that an
inability to answer certain questions or use certain expressions, which should in theory make sense, is perfectly
normal. Even a word like 'chair' does not come with rules for use in every possible situation (PI 80). This is one
aspect of the ineliminable vagueness of language mentioned above. Second, Wittgenstein himself emphasises
 

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the pervasiveness of the inner objects picture. It suggests itself to us in many ordinary contexts. It has an
established base in ordinary and not merely philosophical, usage (see, for example, PI 423). How, then, could it be
unintelligible? Third, Wittgenstein admits genuine differences in experience in many cases. He accepts, for
example, that there is a difference between thinking before one speaks and merely speaking (see, for example, PI
332, PI II.xi.183). And this (I argue) is essential to his philosophical method: introspection, along with ordinary
language use, is a crucial source of philosophical evidence for Wittgenstein. But aren't these admitted 'differences
in experience' the mental acts and decisions that constitute the inner objects picture (PI 358)? Finally, it might be
suggested (following Duhem) that the picture could be made meaningful, not by inheriting its meaning from
everyday speech, but by playing a certain role in a developed scientific or philosophical theory. Wittgenstein's
arguments seem to neglect this possibility.
I argue that these prima facie objections can be met, but I believe they have sufficient force to show that
Wittgenstein's arguments do not rule out explanation by introspectible objects as impossible to understand.
Explanations, for example, of experimental reaction times as resulting from introspective consultation of images
cannot be dismissed a priori as meaningless. The lesson of the Investigations is not that we have or ought to look
for a principled or conclusive refutation of such explanations. Wittgenstein's achievement is rather to have
defamiliarised the (improved) picture of inner objects, to the point where that picture will be used in scientific
explanations only as a last resort.
The claim that a private language is impossible (as in premiss 2 above) is dramatic and controversial, and so is the
claim that the concept of a private language is impossible to understand. But Wittgenstein's view of the nature of
philosophy better suits the more modest and realistic claim that our grasp of the concept of a mental act or object
has, as a matter of simple fact, given and describable limits (PI 1268). By reminding us of these limits, in uniquely
persuasive and insightful ways, Wittgenstein's work casts important light on language and the mind, light that the
dramatic claims can only scatter and diffuse.
Three methodological points are in order. The first concerns Part II of the Philosophical Investigations, and
particularly section xi. The length and importance of this section are such that I find it convenient to number the
remarks composing it, in the same way that the remarks in Part I are numbered. It may be helpful to pencil in
numbers alongside the remarks of this section. Here are some reference points:

I shall call the following figure . . . 8


'Now I am seeing this . . .' 20

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If I saw the duck-rabbit . . . 27


The very expression which . . . 35
Imagine the duck-rabbit . . . 42
The concept of 'seeing' . . . 50
(And yet my impression . . . 63
'To me it is an animal . . . 84
'Fine shades of behaviour.' 102
It is only if someone can do . . . 116
The colour of the visual impression . . . 137
When I pronounce this word . . . 156
But doesn't the word that occurs . . . 187
If a lion could talk . . . 218
One judges the length . . . 229
'The genuineness of an expression . . . 248

The second methodological point concerns the layout of the present book. Wittgenstein's insights have of course
given rise to a huge amount of secondary material, which any writer must engage with, not only to acknowledge
debts and differing views, but also to define in greater detail his or her reaction to the primary text. On the other
hand, the present book is intended primarily to explain what Wittgenstein said, and some readers may wish to skip
some of the more specialised secondary discussion. Rather than use end notes for the secondary discussion, which
condemns the reader to a great deal of wearisome turning back and forth, I have adopted a normal layout for what
I have to say about Wittgenstein, with an unusual indented position for discussion of critics and commentators.
The third and most important methodological point concerns the reliability of sources. I shall take it that PI
represents the later Wittgenstein's most considered statement and relegate other sources to a purely corroborative
role. I shall make it my policy to be rather wary of using them even to 'throw light' on Wittgenstein's intentions in
PI.
Let me try to be clear about this. I do not for a moment deny that anyone wishing to understand PI must be
familiar with the other selections of material now available to us. Peter Hacker's excellent discussion of
Wittgenstein's evolving response to solipsism (in Insight and Illusion) is only one example of the potential value of
other sources. There is also no doubt that these other sourcesand particularly Wittgenstein's writings on
mathematics and epistemologydeserve independent study. But there are dangers here too. For one thing, we know
that Wittgenstein cared very deeply about style, and in particular about paring away anything superfluous, anything
not exactly right (see for example Ray Monk's The Duty of
 

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Genius, p. 480f.). The resulting concentration and purity of his style are in some danger of dilution, it seems to me,
from our natural interest in the other material.
And there is a second, more serious danger, of taking as Wittgenstein's considered view, lines of thought that he
pursued in a more or less exploratory spirit. Some very radical ideas about causality, for example, appear in the
collection published as Zettel (see 608f.). It is the editors' opinion that Wittgenstein was probably 'fairly satisfied'
with these remarks and that he 'intended to weave [them] into finished work if places for them should appear'.
There is a difficult question, therefore, about the extent to which our interpretation of PI should incorporate these
relevant and striking remarks. In fact, I think these and other remarks on causality do help us to see a certain cluster
of ideas in PI (discussed below as the Plasticity of Thought). But it also seems to me important that Wittgenstein
chose to omit these radical ideas about causality from PI (PI 158, for example, is much more moderate). He might
have eventually included them in a reworked and expanded version of what is now Part II, but the fact is that they
were available for inclusion before he ended work on Part II and they were not included (see David Stem's article
'The Availability of Wittgenstein's Philosophy' for more on these uncertainties, and for a different view of the
primacy of PI). Lacking any indication to the contrary, I think our safest course in an exegesis of PI is to regard
these remarks as exploratory and nothing more.
The third danger of an over-enthusiastic use of external evidence is that we shall, unwittingly, create the
impression that the later Wittgenstein left only a morass of notes, open to endless re-interpretation. I hope to show
(on the basis of internal evidence alone) that, on the contrary, he left us a masterpiece, albeit one that is still
seriously misunderstood.
I am indebted to Hidé Ishiguro and Akiko Tsukamoto for helpful comments on a late draft, to Colin Lyas for a
perceptive reader's report, and to Yoshiki Nishimura for his tenacious defence of cognitive linguistics.
e-mail: brendan@boz.c.u-tokyo.ac.jp
 

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A Private Language
What is a private language and why is it important? A private language is one whose words become meaningful as
a result of an inner definition or inner association of sign and concept. One plausible example would be our
language for sensations. At PI 258, Wittgenstein asks how we might give ourselves an ostensive definition of a
sensation-word. Of course a person cannot point to a sensation in the ordinary sense. But perhaps 'I speak, or write
the sign down, and at the same time 1 concentrate my attention on the sensationand so, as it were, point to it
inwardly'. At PI 262, he says that 'if you have given yourself a private definition of a word, then you must inwardly
undertake to use the word in such-and-such a way'.
It is this inward pointing or inward undertaking that is essential to a private language. At PI 243, Wittgenstein
introduces the idea of a private language as one that refers to an individual's immediate private sensations. And at
PI 256, he refines this by stipulating that the sensations referred to should be ones that have no natural expressions
(to rule out the possibility that the private language really becomes meaningful by means of these natural
expressions). But it is important to realise that the sub-language referring to sensations is offered only as one
possible example of a private language. In fact, any part of language that becomes meaningful as a result of an
inner act of ostension or an inner definition, counts as private (because no one else can directly check this
meaning-conferring act or definition PI 272). If, for example, all my furniture-terms were to become meaningful
for me as a result of an inner act of association between sounds or written signs (as I perceive them) and concepts
or mental images, then 'table' and 'chair' would be just as private to me as 'tickle' or 'twinge' might be. The case of
sensations that lack any natural expression merely sharpens the general issue, because inward pointing as a way of
giving meaning is at its most plausible there.
Why is this idea of a private language important? Primarily, because it forms a very appealing theory of meaning
and understanding. In fact, once
 

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we begin to ask questions like, 'What is involved in a person learning the meaning of a word?', 'What happens
when someone understands something?', 'How does a speaker mean a particular person by a name that several
people share?', it seems almost no more than common sense to return answers that depend on the idea of a private
language. Someone knows the meaning of a word, we are very tempted to suppose, when he or she knows which
idea 'goes with' that word. Lacking the right idea, the hearer or reader does not understand, 'has no idea'. We are
able to mean a particular person by the name 'Mary', for example, because we have an idea of that particular Mary
in mind: we associate the sound or written sign 'Mary' with an idea of that particular person. And so on.
This kind of theory not only seems like common sense, it also promises to help solve some more specific problems.
A proper name is often associated with a unique individual, for example 'Bucephalus' with a particular horse. And
we may be prepared to accept it as a basic fact about human beings that they have the ability to associate signs with
individual things. But many words, to be used meaningfully or understood, must be associated with indefinitely
many things. The word 'horse', for example, cannot be used properly or understood if it is associated in a learner's
mind with only one thing (a kind of mistake sometimes made by small children). How, then, do we move from the
primitive ability to associate signs with specific things, to the ability, which it seems we must have, to associate
signs with indefinitely many things, most of which we have never seen or heard of?. John Locke's answer was that
we create and employ a special kind of idea, which has all the unique identifying characteristics of particular
individuals left out. By associating the sound 'horse' with this de-particularised or abstract general idea, we are
able to use and understand the word 'horse' in the way we do.
Locke's account essentially follows that of Peter Abelard, over 500 years earlier, and Wittgenstein traces the
underlying outlook a further 700 years back, to Augustine (PI 1). Far from being of merely historical interest,
however, its appeal continues undimmed into the present.
Ferdinand de Saussure is widely regarded as the father of modern linguistics. His distinctions between synchronic
and diachronic studies, between langue and parole, between signification and value have profoundly influenced
developments in twentieth-century linguistics. To what extent, then, did he subscribe to a Lockean ideational
theory of meaning?
In essence, I think it is fair to say that he accepted such a theory. In the Course in General Linguistics we find,
'The linguistic sign unites, not a thing and a name, but a concept and a sound-image' (p. 66). And Saussure's model
of communication is exactly as one would expect: when A communicates with B, the process of communication
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where mental facts (concepts) are associated with representations of the linguistic sounds (sound-images)
that are used for their expression. A given concept unlocks a corresponding sound-image in the brain; this
purely psychological phenomenon is followed in turn by a physiological process: the brain transmits an
impulse corresponding to the image to the organs used in producing sounds. Then the sound waves travel
from the mouth of A to the ear of B: a purely physical process. Next, the circuit continues in B, but the
order is reversed . . . (pp. 1112).
Saussure seems to have been aware, however, of the lurking difficulties of this apparently common-sense model.
He writes (or is reported as saying): 'If I state simply that a word signifies something when I have in mind the
associating of a sound-image with a concept, I am making a statement that may suggest what actually happens, but
by no means am I expressing the linguistic fact in its essence and fullness' (p. 117). And in three main ways,
Saussure tried to qualify the basic Lockean model.
First, he resists the claim that we have concepts prior to language, awaiting linguistic expression. He says,
'Psychologically our thoughtapart from its expression in wordsis only a shapeless and indistinct mass . . . There are
no pre-existing ideas, and nothing is distinct before the appearance of language' (pp. 11112).
Second, he regards the association between a word and a concept as less important in determining the word's
meaning than the word's place in a system of related words which, as it were, act together to parcel out the
available semantic space. The value of a word 'is not fixed so long as one simply states that it can be 'exchanged'
for a given concept, i.e. that it has this or that signification: one must also compare it with similar values, with
other words that stand in opposition to it' (p. 115). The same thing applies to concepts. 'Concepts are purely
differential and defined not by their positive content hut negatively by their relations with the other terms of the
system. Their most precise characteristic is in being what the others are not' (p. 117). Thus:
to consider a term as simply the union of a certain sound with a certain concept is grossly misleading . . . it
would mean assuming that one can start from the terms and construct the system by adding them together
when, on the contrary, it is from the interdependent whole that one must start and through analysis obtain
its elements (p. 113).
This is a clear statement of holism avant la lettre.
Third (and in a striking anticipation of the Wittgensteinian arguments we shall be looking at), Saussure insists on
the social nature of language. He
 

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says, 'the social fact alone can create a linguistic system. The community is necessary if values that owe their
existence solely to usage and general acceptance are to be set up; by himself the individual is incapable of fixing a
single value' (p. 113).
Saussure, then, is by no means an unthinking adherent of the Lockean approach, but an adherent he is nevertheless.
Let's move forward some eighty years and consider a more up-to-date manifestation of the same approach. There
are of course various conflicting wends and schools within contemporary linguistics, but one whose star appears to
be currently on the rise is cognitive linguistics. A representative example is George Lakoff's 1987 book about
categorisation, Women, Fire and Dangerous Things. Lakoff's book documents various types of categorisation,
using evidence from different languages, and his main goal is to develop theories capable of accounting for this
variety. This is a far more detailed project than anything Locke attempted regarding general terms, but if we
examine the basic ideas of these theories, we find a form of explanation that would have been entirely congenial to
Locke.
Lakoff's theories involve things he calls 'cognitive models'. He sees predecessors for this notion in Marvin
Minsky's 'frames' and Hilary Putnam's 'stereotypes', which he characterises as 'idealized mental representation[s] of
a normal case'. He writes, 'What was right about the Putnam-Minsky approaches was that they used cognitive
models. Their problem was that their concept of a cognitive model was too restricted . . . I believe that a general
notion of cognitive model of the sort characterized in this book will be able to account for categorization
phenomena in general' (pp. 11617).
Lakoff defines a cognitive model as a complex concept that structures a mental space, formed from basic-level and
image-schematic concepts (see p. 281). Defining these in turn, he tells us that mental spaces 'are conceptual in
nature. They have no ontological status outside of the mind' (p. 282). Basic-level concepts are such concepts as
CAT and MAT, and Lakoff explains sentence understanding in terms of them. He writes:
It is possible to have a direct understanding of the proverbial The cat is on the mat, since CAT and MAT
are basic-level concepts (presumably with associated mental images) and ON is composed of three
kinesthetic image schemas: ABOVE, CONTACT, and SUPPORT' (p. 293).
Basic-level concepts are also implicated in perception and recognition according to Lakoff: 'The mental image
associated with your basic-level concept of CAT can accord with your perception of the overall shape of a cat' (p.
293), enabling you to recognise it as a cat.
 

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This leaves image schemas, and mental images. 'Image schemas are relatively simple structures that constantly
recur in our everyday bodily experience: CONTAINERS, PATHS, LINKS, FORCES, BALANCE and in various
orientations and relations: UPDOWN, FRONTBACK, PARTWHOLE, CENTERPERIPHERY etc.' (p. 267). Image
schemas 'are kinesthetic in nature, that is, they have to do with the sense of spatial locations, movement, shape etc,
independent of any particular sensory modality' (p. 445). In the same way, a mental image is not necessarily visual:
'We also have auditory images, olfactory images, and images of how forces act on us' (p. 444). These images 'are
not nearly as detailed as perceptions', and may or may not represent particular individuals. An image of a cup, for
example, 'may or may not be of a specific cup'. Lakoff believes that 'Most people are capable of forming non-
specific images' (p. 446). He also holds that such images 'are used to understand even the simplest, most
straightforward sentences' such as 'John hit a ball' (p. 453), because the phrase 'hit a ball' has 'an associated
conventional image that characterizes the normal case, and with no further modification we assume that the normal
case holds' (p. 453). So images are more abstract than perceptions, and image schemas are more abstract again:
they 'cannot be directly visualized in the way a rich image can be . . . In this respect, they are much like Kant's
'schema' for a triangle, which Kant conceived of as fitting equilateral, isosceles, acute and obtuse triangles without
being rich enough in detail to be visualizable as any particular one' (p. 453).
In precisely the same respect, they seem to be very direct descendants of Locke's abstract general ideas. Locke
wrote (in a famous passage seized on by Berkeley),
general ideas are fictions and contrivances of the mind that carry difficulty with them, and do not so easily
offer themselves as we are apt to imagine. For example, does it not require some pains and skill to form the
general idea of a triangle (which is yet none of the most abstract, comprehensive and difficult); for it must
be neither oblique nor rectangle, neither equilateral, equicrural, nor scalenon; but all and none of these at
once. (Essay on Human Understanding IV.vii. 9. For Berkeley's attack on abstract general ideas, see his
Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge sections 620.)
This has been a very brisk sketch of Lakoff's long and detailed book, intended only to bring out its explanatory
strategy. We categorise in the ways we do, according to Lakoff, because we individually possess certain cognitive
models. These models show considerable agreement from person to person. There are people who say they don't
have any image for the idiom spill the beans, for example, but they probably 'have an unconscious image' (p. 449).
It is this 'remarkable' degree of mental uniformity that
 

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allows members of the same language group to understand sentences in the same way.
Lakoff says that 'The ideas about cognitive models that we will be making use of have developed within cognitive
linguistics' and gives a number of well-known sources for them (p. 68), so we may take these Lockean ideas to be
characteristic of at least one important strand within contemporary linguistics. (In what follows, I shall use the term
'Lockean' as a catch-all for the kind of view Wittgenstein wants to attack. I do not mean to imply that the historical
John Locke explicitly held all the views I shall describe as Lockean).
So the idea of a private language is important because of its continuing popularity in theories of meaning and
understanding. For Lakoff, categoryterms become meaningful because language-users individually associate them
with entities that are mental, that have no existence outside the language-user's mind. But if, as Wittgenstein
argues, there is something fundamentally wrong with this mental conferring of meaning, we shall have to re-think
either the questions that gave rise to it, or the answers that made use of it. It is important, however, for another,
epistemological, reason too.
Descartes thought it good scientific method to doubt whatever could be doubted and proceed to build up knowledge
on the basis of those certainties that remained. In recommending this method, however, he raised a sceptical demon
that has since proved rather harder to exorcise than Descartes himself hoped.
Descartes held that it is possible to doubt the existence of the external world and other people. He thought it also
possible to doubt even the existence of his own body, because all experience might be a dream. It was not possible,
however, to doubt that he was thinking, while doing so. Even the thought, 'Perhaps I am not really thinking now', is
a thought, and so the very doubt shows itself to be false. Building on this indubitable basis, Descartes argued that if
there is a thought, there must be a thinking thing. He claimed that this thing can be assured that God exists (from
its own existence, from the immediately perceived fact that it is not the source of its own existence, and from the a
priori principle that whatever exists must have some source of its existence). And if God exists, the thinking thing
can be assured that most of its natural beliefs are true, or at least rectifiable with the means at its disposal (because
God could not be a deceiver). But all these reconstructive steps can plausibly be challenged, and what remains, it
seems, is a scepticism from which there is no rational escape.
Notice, however, that Descartes' initial, radical doubt depends on the idea of a private language. Even if no one else
existed, even if the external world and my own body did not exist, still, Descartes assumes, it would be possible to
use language meaningfully. I could still say 'Cogito ergo sum'
 

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inwardly, to myself. Thus, if there is something ill-conceived or impossible in the notion of a private language, we
should resist Descartes' invitation to radical doubt. Doubt as radical as that would not be a useful antidote to
superstition, as Descartes believed, but in itself a kind of philosophical superstition.
For a twentieth-century example of the epistemological relevance of the idea of a private language, we can look to
the ambitious phenomenalist program set out in Russell's 1914 essay 'The Relation of Sense-Data to Physics'.
Russell there envisaged an explanation of the common-sense notion of a thing, and of the scientific notion of
matter, which would reveal them to be logical constructions, ideally out of the actual sense-data of a solitary
individual. This reductionist program would yield an ontology without physical objects or matter, and therefore
with the twin epistemological advantages of economy and resistance to scepticism. Its basic entities would be
sense-data, and, in the course of explaining what these are, Russell argued that the sense-data perceived by
different people are often closely similar, 'so similar that the same words can be used to denote them, without
which communication with others concerning sensible objects would be impossible. But, in spite of this similarity,
it would seem that some difference always arises from difference in the point of view. Thus each person, so far as
his sense-data are concerned, lives in a private world.' Russell's phenomenalism, then, brings with it the concept of
language as something made meaningful by a correlation between words and sense-data, and therefore made
publicly usable by an assumed similarity between the sense-data of different speakers. If this idea of language is
untenable, Russell's project (even if successful) would seem only to exchange a scepticism about the external world
for a more fundamental scepticism about our ability to use language meaningfully.
In PI, Wittgenstein concentrates on the first set of issues (of meaning and understanding), deliberately avoiding the
issues of knowledge and scepticism, and I shall naturally do the same. It is important to realise that the Private
Language Argument has a potential relevance beyond the problems of meaning and understanding, but it is also
important to deal with the epistemological issues separately. Let's turn, then, to Wittgenstein's arguments against a
private language. What's wrong with the idea of conferring or grasping meaning as a result of inner ostensions, or
inner decisions?
I believe there are eight main arguments in PI attacking the idea of a private language. This number is a little
arbitrary, because, as will emerge, the arguments overlap, and are given very different degrees of prominence. I
propose to begin with those least prominent and least interwoven with the rest.
 

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The Consequences Argument


Wittgenstein comments at PI 268 that my right hand cannot give my left hand money, because 'the further practical
consequences would not be those of a gift'. He goes on to draw an analogy with a private definition of a word,
(explained, again, as someone saying the word to himself and at the same time directing his attention to, or
concentrating on, a sensation). This private definition is not a real definition, presumably, because it does not have
the further practical consequences of a definition. But why is it impossible for a private definition to have practical
consequences?
Wittgenstein argues at PI 270 that the mark'S' (which someone writes in a diary to record the occurrence of a
certain sensation), even allowing for the sake of argument that it could really be meaningful, could not have a
genuine, practical use. PI 270 begins by trying to imagine a use for this private sign 'S'. For example, 'I discover
that whenever I have a particular sensation a manometer shews that my blood-pressure rises. So I shall be able to
say that my blood-pressure is rising without using any apparatus. This is a useful result.'
Wittgenstein here allows that I can correlate the sensation and the manometer reading. The next sentences of PI 270
seem to take this back, however. Wittgenstein writes, 'And now it seems quite indifferent whether I have
recognized the sensation right or not. Let us suppose I regularly identify it wrong, it does not matter in the least.
And that alone shews that the hypothesis that I make a mistake is mere show.'
But why does it not matter if I identify the sensation wrong? Wouldn't misidentifying the sensation lead me to
make mistakes about my blood-pressuremistakes which I could discover and correct by using the manometer? I
think to myself, 'There's S again . . . my blood-pressure must be high'. I decide to check with the manometer and
find that my blood-pressure is normal. 'So it can't have been S after all,' I decide. Misidentifying a different
sensation as S has led me to make a mistake which I then correct.
Some commentators think that Wittgenstein's point in this difficult section is that an individual's memory,
unsupported by public confirmation deriving from the natural expressions of sensations, would not be reliable
enough to allow regular reidentification of any sensation. On this view, a private definition could not have
practical consequences because the giver of the definition could not subsequently be sure that he or she
remembered it correctly. Thus, at PI 271, we are invited to imagine 'a person whose memory could not retain what
the word ''pain" meant'.
But it seems that this memory-doubt would apply as powerfully to the correlation between sensations and
manometer-readings (which Wittgenstein
 

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seemed prepared to accept as possible), as to the correlation between sensations and utterances of 'S'. The memory-
doubt would not be limited to private definition but would apply to any correlation involving sensations that do not
have natural expressions. And this seems implausible. The taste of mint has no natural expressions (unlike the taste
of lemon, for example). But couldn't a solitary island-dweller correlate that taste with leaves of a certain size, shape
and colour, so that he or she would know what taste to expect on later occasions? Would the taste of a banana be a
complete surprise every time?
It seems to me that an alternative reading of PI 270 is possible. Identifying the sensation right does not matter, as a
guide to the state of my blood-pressure, because the manometer-reading always, or almost always, takes
precedence. As above, if the manometer reads normal, my reaction will be to withdraw the claim that the sensation
I experienced was S. Identifying the sensation correctly does not matter in the sense that I have a much better
method of finding out when my blood-pressure is high. The apparent usefulness of the correlation between the
sensation and my blood-pressure really depends entirely on the genuine correlation between the manometer-
readings and my blood-pressure. We might say that the sensation/blood-pressure correlation has no practical
consequences of its own. And the parallel would be that a private definition (correlating the sensation and the sign
'S') could have no practical consequences that did not depend on some better, and public, method of determining
the meaning of 'S'. In this way, the private definition would be an unreal gift: it would not give meaning to the
sign. It would be entirely parasitic on the meaning the sign acquires in other ways.
Interpreted in this way, PI 270 is an (extremely compressed) argument by analogy. There is an analogy, it is
claimed, between the sensation/blood-pressure correlation and the sensation/sign correlation. Just as the state of my
blood-pressure needs some other, primary test (the manometer), so the meaning of the sign needs to be determined
in some other, primary way. But, as with any argument from analogy, it is always possible for the intended victim
of the argument simply to deny the analogy. The state of my blood-pressure, it might be said, is a publicly
observable fact, regarding which I have no special authority. But what I mean when I say or write 'S', a Lockean
might contend, is not a publicly observable fact. On the contrary, it's something that only I know, unless I choose
to explain it to others. Thus the state of my blood-pressure is properly determined by a public test, but the meaning
of my sign is determined entirely from within.
It might also be argued that, even in the public case, Wittgenstein underestimates the potential contribution of the
sensation/blood-pressure correlation. If I am confident that it really was S I just experienced, couldn't
 

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I at least sometimes doubt the manometer-reading? It may be true that if I correctly claim that manometer #I is
faulty (on the basis of my confidence that it was S I experienced), the correctness of my claim is demonstrated by
reference, eventually, to other manometers. But even so, claims based on my recognising my sensation correctly
can at least occasionally override claims based on manometer-readings. This makes Wittgenstein's claim that it is
'quite indifferent' whether I have recognised the sensation correctly look overstated. Even if we grant the analogy,
then, it seems that a claim (about the meaning of a sign) based on a private definition might occasionally override
claims based on such public facts as natural expressions of sensation. And that would seem to be sufficient to
qualify as a 'practical consequence' of the private definition.
We have spent rather a long time on PI 270 and our conclusion is that it does not give us compelling reasons to
suppose that a private definition could not have the practical consequences of a genuine definition. Wittgenstein
presents many other reasons for regarding the idea of a private definition with suspicion, and we shall examine
them in due course. But the direct claim that a private definition would not do the practical work of a definition has
not so far been made out.

The Stage-setting Argument


We dealt in the last section with a privately established correlation between a sensation and utterances of a sign.
Let's now suppose that such a correlation could indeed be made, would it be a genuinely linguistic phenomenon?
Would it really confer meaning on the sign? Wouldn't it simply be a disconnected piece of knowledge, to the effect
that this always goes with that? In the Stage-setting Argument, Wittgenstein explores the idea that there is a gap
between knowing a correlation and possessing a definition.
At PI 257 he says that 'a great deal of stage-setting in the language is presupposed if the mere act of naming is to
make sense'. 'Naming' here means something more than merely correlating a thing and a sign (because that kind of
correlation seems possible without language). Merely to make a connection between a sensation and a sign would
not yet be to understand that sign as a name. On the other hand, naming and ostensively defining are themselves
only preliminary moves in a language-game, not fully fledged language activities like describing (see the end of PI
49). So there is a kind of ascending linguistic hierarchymerely correlating, then naming and defining, then
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PI 302 help to explain what Wittgenstein means by the 'stage-setting' necessary for naming. He says there that 'an
ostensive definition explains the usethe meaningof the word when the overall role of the word in language is clear'.
This seems to suggest that a private language user (PLU) could not define 'S' or use 'S' as a name, unless he or she
already had a language and a clear role in it for 'S'. Privately established correlations could not be the basis of a
language, because they could count as definitions only for someone who already has a language.
These distinctions provide an argument against a private language, however, only if it is in some way especially
difficult for the PLU to acquire the necessary stage-setting, to make the step up from correlating to defining. At PI
262, however, Wittgenstein himself canvasses the possibility that the PLU might invent the technique of using the
word, or find it ready-made, and given more recent developments, we would have to consider the possibility that
the syntax and even the semantics of the word might be innate. These seem to be ways in which the PLU could in
theory acquire the stage-setting necessary to move from merely correlating to genuinely naming and defining.
Another problem for the Stage-setting Argument is that the cross-over between merely correlating and really
naming is hard to define in the ordinary acquisition of language too. The young child seems first merely to
correlate (for example, a toy car with the sound 'car'), then gradually to use the correlated sign in simple language-
games such as requesting, then explicitly to ask for and give names. Why should the PLU not begin in the same
way with privately established correlations, gradually using them, for example, as aides-mémoire (as Hobbes and
Locke thought) or to express decisions, and eventually in explicit (inner) definitions? If the young child progresses
gradually and seamlessly from correlation to definition (as seems to be the case), why should the PLU not do the
same?
The next argument we shall look at is regarded by many commentators as crucial, because it seems to highlight this
difference between normal language acquisition within a language group, and the isolated situation of the PLU.

The Practice Argument


Wittgenstein says (PI 199) that a person could not obey a rule 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
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so on.To obey a rule, to make a report, to give an order, to play a game of chess, are customs (uses,
institutions).
In the same way (PI 198), 'a person goes by a sign-post only in so far as there exists a regular use of sign-posts, a
custom'.
Suppose a traveller came to a crossroads, noticed an arrow shape burned into a tree (burned accidentally by
lightning, let's suppose, there being no institution of arrows or road-signs in this society) and took the road that
happened to be in the direction indicated by the 'arrow'. We can also suppose that whatever might go through our
minds when we follow a roadsign also goes through the traveller's mind. Is the traveller guided by the arrow?
Wittgenstein's answer is no. If we were to see this little episode (not knowing that the traveller's society is so
different from ours), we would say he was guided by it. But because there is no custom of following arrowshaped
signs in the traveller's society, we would be wrong (see PI 200).
Wittgenstein's point is that 'the appropriate mental accompaniments' (a phrase from PI 200), plus the appropriate
behaviour (narrowly construed), do not constitute following a rule, making a chess move, being guided by a sign-
post. There must also be a practice in each case, to which the behaviour in question conforms or belongs.
Granting for the time being that a sign can be meaningful only in the context of a practice of using it, how does it
follow that a private language is impossible? If there has to be a practice, why should it not be my practice? Why
does it have to be a social practice? At this point, Wittgenstein seems to depend on the argument that a language
user cannot be the only arbiter of the correctness of his own usage. PI 202 reads,
And hence also '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.
In other words, it must be possible to describe a situation in which the putative follower of a rule says, 'Well, I
thought I was following the rule correctly, but now I see I wasn't,' and Wittgenstein believes that for the PLU, no
such situation can be described. Why not? I shall try to answer this question in the section on the Verificationist
Argument, but for the moment, let's see what some commentators on Wittgenstein say about the connection
between practices and a social setting.
Simon Blackburn (in his book Spreading the Word) describes the Practice Argument as 'the heart of the
famous anti-private language argument' (pp. 834), though he eventually finds it inconclusive.
 

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Blackburn takes Dummett's example of the born Robinson Crusoe who 'evolves a technique for solving a Rubik's
cube washed onto his island' to show that a solitary individual could have a practice or technique and could follow
rules. He considers Kripke's compromise (that we can indeed regard a born Crusoe as having a practice, but that
we can cio so only by 'taking him into our community'). Blackburn says, 'it is not clear what this means, nor
whether it gives the community any particular prominence in the creation of meaning . . . The problem Crusoe
poses is that he does have a practice (follows a rule) regardless of how we or anybody else think of him. Of
course, Kripke is right that when we say this we apply our own criteria for rule-following to him; it is our
judgment that he is following a rule. But this does not bring our community or any community far enough into the
picture. It would be our judgment that an island has a tree on it. But whether an island has a tree on it is quite
independent of how we or any community describe it, or even of whether any community exists to describe it' (pp.
845). Blackburn concludes, 'The problem with Crusoe shows that we must not fall into the common trap of simply
equating practice with public practice, if the notion is to give us the heartland of meaning. It will need arguing that,
contrary to appearance, the practice of isolated individuals cannot count' (P. 85). This seems to me perfectly and
importantly correct. It takes us, as I suggested in the main text, towards the claim that an individual cannot be the
only arbiter of the correctness of his or her own usage.
But consider Norman Malcolm's view of the 'trap' of equating practice with social practice. Malcolm cites Colin
McGinn's claim that 'Wittgenstein does use 'custom' and 'practice' to suggest the idea of a multiplicity, but it is a
multiplicity of instances of rule following not of persons who follow the rules' (p. 171 of Malcolm's book
Wittgenstein: Nothing is Hidden). McGinn believes that it would be 'clearly wrong' to hold that a multiplicity of
persons is required for there to be rule-following, and that it is a mistake to attribute this thesis to Wittgenstein (as
Kripke does, at least in the sense that we have to take the putative rule-follower 'into our community', whatever
that means exactly).
Malcolm says, 'I agree with Kripke's "social" interpretation. McGinn's "individualistic" interpretation would do
away with much of what is novel and important in Wittgenstein's post-Tractatus thinking'. In fact, Malcolm goes
further than Kripke, holding that Wittgenstein's claim is that the actual presence of a multiplicity of persons is
necessary if a person is to have thoughts, devise a system of signs, set down rules of action for his own guidance
and so on. Malcolm concedes that this may seem
 

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surprising, may outrage philosophers' intuitions, but he argues that k is Wittgenstein's view (pp. 1725), and that it is
correct (pp. 1758).
Malcolm makes a persuasive case for some sort of close connection in PI between the pre-existence of a
community and abilities to intend or to follow a rule or to calculate or to use language. Wittgenstein often does say
that we could not have these abilities without pre-existing customs and institutions. For example, (cited by
Malcolm), he says at PI 337, 'If the technique of the game of chess did not exist, I could not intend to play a game
of chess', and it seems dear that he regards the actual community of chess-players as necessary for the existence of
the technique.
But there are two steps here: the existence of the community is necessary for the existence of the technique, which
is in turn necessary for the existence of the intention. I suppose the latter step expresses a logical necessity (I
logically cannot intend to play a specific game which has not yet been invented). But the former necessity is the
important one, and the question is whether it is conceptual or merely empirical for Wittgenstein. If it is merely
empirical, then there could conceivably be a practice or institution pursued by a solitary individual (upon which
concepts, intentions and thoughts could then be built). Malcolm naturally moves to argue that for Wittgenstein the
necessity is conceptual. He quotes PI 226, as follows,
'Does it make sense to say that people generally agree in their judgements of colour? What would it be like for
them not to?One man would say a flower was red which another called blue, and so on.But what right should we
have to call these people's words "red" and "blue" our colour words?'
Malcolm continues, 'Thus, it can be misleading to say that people 'generally agree' in their applications of colour-
wordsfor that makes it look as if they could widely disagree. But overwhelming agreement is internal to the
concept of employing names of colours: so much so that without it the words could not be called 'names of colours'
(p. 174).
Malcolm's claim is that without agreement (and again it is fairly clear that Wittgenstein has agreement between a
multiplicity of persons in mind), there could be no such thing as naming a colour. This conflates the two steps,
however. If there was no agreement and no institution of naming colours, then an individual could not name
colours. But first, even if there was no institution of naming colours, a person could (logically) do something that
would eventually give rise to that institution (as a person could play a game that eventually was recognisable as an
ancestor of chess). Otherwise no institution could ever get off the ground. Secondly, it is not clear from the passage
quoted that, for Wittgenstein, general agreement is 'internal' to the existence of the institution. On the contrary, the
 

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passage seems to question out right to talk meaningfully about general agreement and a fortiori, our right to regard
it as internal to anything (see also PI 227). Furthermore, the claim that colour terms which were subject to
considerable disagreement would not be our colour terms would at best imply that a private language is not a
public language. And finally, the quotation (PI II.xi.237) continues by emphasising that there are 'differences of
degree' here. Judgments of colour would become gradually less recognisable to us as they became more subject to
disagreement. PI II.xi.238 repeats the point for mathematics: increasing disagreement among mathematicians
would lead to a form of mathematics increasingly 'different from ours'. This gradualist point about increasing
disagreement does not seem to support the kind of strong implication Malcolm wants, from the absence of both
agreement and disagreement to the impossibility of anything we could recognise as a practice.
In his later article 'Wittgenstein on Language and Rules', Malcolm cites evidence from outside of PI which
supports his view more clearly than the passage just discussed (see, for example, Remarks on the Foundations of
Mathematics 342). Further evidence is assembled by John Cook (in his book Wittgenstein's Metaphysics, pp.
297309), from notes written for, or taken during, lectures in the mid-1930s, k seems to me, however, at best unsafe
and at worst unfair to place reliance on these early, indirect and exploratory sources. Remarks on the Foundations
of Mathematics III.67 clearly draws back from Malcolm's claim, and Wittgenstein's mature and considered
statements in PI do not support it.
Many of our practices have of course arisen from our social existence, and it is obvious that Wittgenstein regards
this as an important fact (PI 2402, PI II.xi.232). It also seems plausible to suppose that some of our practices, such
as gift-giving, are essentially social (PI 268). But that is not to say that for Wittgenstein, a preexisting social fabric
is essential to any practice, such as eating mushrooms for lunch or solving a Rubik cube, or even to any genuinely
linguistic practice.
Then is Malcolm's argument that any practice must be public convincing in its own right? He claims that a mere
regularity in behaviour (a dog howling only when there is a full moon for example), is not in itself rule-following,
and that McGinn's Romulus, who makes a mark in the sand and thereafter regularly goes in one direction along the
beach rather than the other, exhibits only a regularity in behaviour. McGinn's description of this scenario as
'making an arrow', 'undertaking to follow it in one direction rather than another', 'intending that it should guide his
actions in the future', 'following his rule' and so on, illegitimately reads rule-
 

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following into mere regularity. Malcolm concludes, 'In real life we have criteria for saying of someone that he is
following a rule, or that he thinks he is following a rule. This is because the idea of a rule is embedded in an
environment of teaching, testing, correctingwithin a community where there is an agreement in acting in the way
that is called "following the rule". To withdraw that environment is to withdraw the concept of following a rule' (p.
178).
The trouble with this argument is that in real life the difference between mere regularity and genuine rule-
following is not at all easy to define. One crucial factor in making the distinction is clearly some kind of richness
and apt variation of response, and there is no doubt that this richness and variation emerge, in the ordinary case,
most clearly in interaction with others. Another factor is explicitly normative behaviour from the putative rule-
follower. But do we have an argument to show that a sufficient degree of richness and variation, or sufficiently
explicit normative behaviour, could not possibly emerge without interaction with others? I don't think so.
In the article mentioned above, Malcolm supports his claim that there can be no practice without other people by
reference to two other claims. He says, first, that for Wittgenstein, 'following a rule is fundamental to language' (p.
169). And second, he claims that 'there must be a use of a sign that is independent of what an individual speaker
does with it' (p. 171). I discuss these ideas below, the first in the Appendix, the second in the section on the
Verificationist Argument (eventually rejecting both).
(For a quite different line of argument leading to the conclusion that actual interaction with others is necessary if
an individual is to use language meaningfully, see Donald Davidson's article 'The Second Person'.)
My conclusion in the main text was that the Practice Argument at most shows only that something describable as a
practice is necessary for meaningful use of language. It remains to show that this practice must be public. I think
that Wittgenstein's attempts to show this led into the other arguments we shall consider, and so, like Blackburn, I
regard the Practice Argument taken by itself as inconclusive.
Paul Johnston's discussion (in his book Rethinking the Inner) shows clearly how the Practice Argument leads into
the Verificationist Argument. He writes, 'the first stage of Wittgenstein's argument is to stress that an ostensive
definition only makes sense where there are rules for using the sample it introduces and hence where there is a
practice of using that sample. In the case of the private linguist, however, there are neither rules nor a practice . . .
The real problem, however, is not simply that [the private linguist] fails
 

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to lay down rules but that in principle she could not do so. This is because the concept of a rule only makes sense
where there is a practice of following the rule and a practice is necessarily public, something which more than one
person might in principle engage in. Contingently there may be only one person in the practice and its rules may
be known to her alone [denied above by Malcolm] but unless others can in principle learn the rules, there is no
basis for saying that the individual is following a rule rather than just doing what seems right to her at the time.
The point is that, without publicly checkable procedures, she cannot distinguish between following the rule and
merely thinking she is following the rule. Since this is so, all her supposed private rule-following can amount to is
doing whatever seems right to her at the time. By contrast, where we can properly speak of rule-following, there
are established ways of determining whether or nor something is in accordance with the rule . . . As Wittgenstein
puts it in his lectures,
"Nothing I can cio in myself can make it a rule. Perhaps if I concentrated my attention, I'd sooner learn some sort
of rule. But if it were a private rule it would have to be public. Being a rule means being an instrument that is
checkable, and by an agreed technique" (WLPP, p. 247)' (pp. 1920).
Johnston's central claim is that we cannot call a regularity in behaviour a practice unless it is something we might
ourselves participate in, at least 'in principle'. This means that the procedures for determining whether a given piece
of behaviour is in accordance with the practice have to be accessible to us, at least in principle. But a practice that
was based on inner ostensive definition would not satisfy this minimum condition: we could not in principle have
access to the sample on which the 'definition' was supposed to be based. And so k would be in principle impossible
for us to say whether a given inscription of 'S', for example, conformed with the 'practice'.
If an awkward customer now simply asserts, first, that there can be a practice which is not based on procedures for
determining correctness (which a person pursues, as Wittgenstein says, blindly, PI 219), and second, that even if
we would not recognise it as a practice it might still be one, the dependence of this argument on some form of
verificationism becomes clear. But we shall take up these questions again in the section on the Verificationist
Argument and in the Appendix. For the time being, our conclusion is Peter Hacker's, that 'Wittgenstein's discussion
of following rules . . . was designed to show that it only makes sense to talk of following a rule in the context of a
practicea behavioural regularityinformed by normative activities (e.g. using the formulation of a
 

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rule as the standard of correctness, rectifying mistakes, justifying action by reference to a rule). Such
practices, with us, are typically shared, although they need not always be . . . as Wittgenstein's numerous
discussions of Robinson Crusoe, solitary cavemen, etc. demonstrate, there is no conceptual incoherence in
imagining a person following a rule in an asocial context' (in Wittgenstein: Meaning and Mind, Vol. 3, Part
1, p. 4).

The Interpretation Argument


At H 206, Wittgenstein says:
Suppose you came as an explorer into an unknown country with a language quite strange to you. In what
circumstances would you say that the people there gave orders, understood them, obeyed them, rebelled
against them, and so on?
The common behaviour of mankind is the system of reference by means of which we interpret an unknown
language.
It follows (PI 207) that, without a degree of regularity, of correlation between utterance and action, there is nothing
in the situation we can call a language. 'There is not enough regularity for us to call it ''language".' But in the case
of someone who occasionally writes 'S' in a diary, no such regularity would be discoverable, and therefore a private
language would not be a language.
Wittgenstein takes the argument further: we can interpret utterance as language only if we can recognise the
putative speaker's overall behaviour, only if we can assimilate it to kinds of behaviour with which we are familiar.
Thus (PI 250), we would not recognise any of a dog's behaviour as simulating pain because 'the surroundings
which are necessary for this behaviour to be real simulation are missing'. Wittgenstein goes so far as to say that we
could recognise behaviour as seeing, hearing, taking notice, observing, being awake and so on, only in human
beings and in things that resemble them (PI 281). When he says (PI 283), 'Only of what behaves like a human
being can one say that it has pains', the point is that the first step in attributing a mental life or a language to some
system is a seeing of its behaviour as the kind of behaviour with which we are familiar. A fly might behave
similarly enough for us to ascribe pain to it (PI 284), but even a higher animal, Wittgenstein believes, does not
behave similarly enough for us to ascribe language to it. Thus, 'We do not say that possibly a dog talks to itself (PI
357), and famously, 'If a lion could talk, we could not understand him' (PI II.xi.218).
 

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This argument raises two questions about the PLU: would there be sufficient correlation between utterance and
surrounding behaviour, and would that behaviour be sufficiently human, for us to ascribe a language to him or her
or it? The situation is complicated by the fact that, if the private language model is to be interesting, we are all
private language users, displaying exactly the right degree of correlation between utterance and behaviour, along
with paradigmatically human behaviour. We should ask, therefore, whether, in that area of language use which is
supposed to be private, positive answers to the two questions above can be given, If we imagine this area as
discrete and isolable, as, for example, a matter of making certain entries in a diary, it seems plausible to return a
negative answer at least to the first question. The PLU's utterance (writing the sign 'S', for example) does not seem
to correlate with anything in behaviour, as far as we can tell. The requirement of sufficient humanity is more
holistic, a matter of overall form of life, and it therefore seems guaranteed. But if we imagine the area of allegedly
private language use to underlie our use of public language, rather than existing separately from it, it becomes
much less clear that sufficient correlation would be absent. If a piece of private language use underlies every piece
of public language use (and this is after all the essential interest of the idea), and if the latter is sufficiently
correlated with behaviour, (as guaranteed by the fact that we do use language), it seems that private language use
would correlate equally well.
There is a more general problem with the Interpretation Argument. The most it could show is that, if there were a
private language, we could not recognise or interpret it as a language in the way that we recognise and interpret
public languages. But why should this be the only way to recognise and interpret something as a language? Fodor's
claim (in The Language of Thought) is that Mentalese is a necessary hypothesis at a much higher level of
explanation than that envisaged in PI 206, and that it can be interpreted through the public utterances it gives
meaning to. It deserves to be called a language, in spite of these disanalogies with public language, because of the
fundamental semantic analogies of reference and aptness for truth.
And there is the still more general problem that, even if the conditions that apply to the recognition and
interpretation of public language (in the 'radical translation' context described in PI 206) could be shown to apply
to any recognition and interpretation of language, it would only follow that if there were a private language, we
could not recognise or interpret it. To reach the further conclusion that there could be no such thing as a private
language seems, again, to require some fairly strong verificationist premiss.
 

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The Identification Argument


Wittgenstein says that in a private language, a criterion of identity for my sensation would be needed. At PI 288 we
have, 'if I assume the abrogation of the normal language-game with the expression of a sensation, I need a
criterion of identity for the sensation; and then the possibility of error also exists'. Perhaps Wittgenstein's reasoning
here is that the use of a sign in a private language must be based on inner ostensive definition, which, like any
other ostensive definition, can always be variously interpreted (PI 28 and elsewhere). If the use of a sign in a
private language is controlled by an ostensive definition, one part of the definition must provide a sample
('sensations like this'), and this sample functions as a criterion of type-identity for future sensations. But, if I use a
sample to make a judgment about which sensation I am experiencing, a possibility of misidentification must exist.
Against this, Wittgenstein wants to emphasise how little our actual talk about sensations depends on using criteria.
At PI 377, he says that I have no criterion for the sameness of two of my images, or for the redness of an image. At
PI 290, he says I do not identify my sensation by criteria, which means that in a sense, I use the word for that
sensation without justification (PI 289).
Perhaps this is why Wittgenstein advises us to 'get rid of the idea of the private object in this way: assume it
constantly changes, but that you do not notice the change because your memory constantly deceives you' (PI II.xi.
106). The point is that we have no place for this hypothesis in our ordinary talk about sensations, but that if the
private object model of sensation language were correct, we would have. And further that it is in some way an
empty or pointless hypothesis, or perhaps, like the inverted spectrum hypothesis mentioned at PI 272, 'unverifiable'.
But the kind of double, constant, error mentioned here introduces distracting and unnecessary connotations of
scepticism. Let us concentrate on the simpler case of a single error of misidentification: if the private language
model distinctively makes this possible, it will, at the limit, make the sceptical scenario possible too.
So, I experience a certain sensation. I believe it to be a sensation of a certain type. And I am wrong. There now
seem to be two parts to the Identification Argument: first, that this case, (entailed as possible by the private
language model of sensation language), is not in fact a possibility we allow in actual sensation language, and
second, that we are right not to allow it, because it is a wheel that turns nothing else (PI 271), that is, because it
makes no difference to anything else we want to do with sensation language.
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It is certainly possible for us to mistake the causal provenance of a sensation, and this sometimes bears closely on
the question of what type of sensation it is. I might, if blindfolded and led to expect a sensation of heat, mistake a
sensation of cold for one of heat. I might mistake a sensation of hunger, if I am fasting for example, for a sensation
of inflow of grace. I might mistake a thrill of triumph for a twinge of sympathy. So is there some more purely
phenomenological, 'narrow' way of specifying the type of sensation I have, such that at this purer level of
description, I cannot be mistaken?
Suppose I say that I have a sensation as if of heat. If it turns out that the sensation was produced by something
cold, I do not have to withdraw my description as mistaken. But my description still depends on a belief which
could be mistakenthe belief that sensations of this kind are generally produced by heat. Suppose that, as a novice
wine-taster, I have been introduced to a few examples of wines made from Cabernet grapes. I am given a new
wine to taste, and, hoping to protect myself from error, I say that it tastes as if it is a Cabernet wine. But suppose
the Cabernet wines I have tasted so far have been atypical, so that my idea of the 'Cabernet taste' is quite wrong.
As I begin to discover this, I will want to withdraw my 'as if' description. And if I try to protect my description
even further, by saying that the sample I was given to taste, tasted as if it was what I take to be a Cabernet wine,
this is uninformative to exactly the degree that it is safe from error. If what I take to be a Cabernet taste bears no
relation to what really is a Cabernet taste, my description tells other wine-tasters nothing.
Of course, the sensation produced by heat seems so strongly confirmed that it is easy to overlook that there is a real
possibility of error here. But suppose doctors discovered tomorrow that I had a rare nervous condition involving
various distinctive symptoms such as progressive loss of visual or aural discrimination. Fortunately there is a
simple curewonder drug Dwhich supplies some chemical normally produced by the body but absent in my case. D,
however, changes my perception of heat. Heat now seems to me to include a prickly feeling. The doctors tell me
my previous sensations of heat were affected by the same kind of dulling that became obvious in my other senses.
In such a case, I will want to withdraw previous descriptions in which I said a sensation was as if of heat. It
conveys the information I want to convey only on the assumption that my sensation of heat is the same as my
listener's. If I have reason to believe that my sensation is abnormal, I have to take back the attempts to explain
which were based on assumed similarity.
But are there not forms of description that do not depend on even very general beliefs about causal provenance? If
I describe a pain as dull, perhaps that gets its sense from terms like 'sharp' or 'stabbing', which obviously depend on
causal provenance. If I describe a wine as rough, or a perfume as
 

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overpowering, or a painting as striking, or a melody as sweet, these too are all descriptions based on causal
provenance. So suppose I simply say my sensation is a pain. Is this not a case of pure type-identification, and is it
not infallible? Tickles and itches have the same immediacy of natural expression and the same apparent
infallibility. If I say I have a sensation that makes me want to wince and get away, or laugh and wriggle, or
scratch, that seems to type the sensation and to admit no possibility of error.
One problem with this is that a private language deals with sensations that have no natural expression (PI 256). Is
there any way to type such sensations narrowly enough to produce the same apparent infallibility? Would type-
identification by intrinsic qualities allow error in the case of a private, but not in the case of normal public
language? Suppose I identify a pain as varying regularly in intensity. This can surely become a criterion that I
might apply on future occasions, for example if a doctor asks me if this is the same pain I had yesterday. And it
seems that I can in normal usage make a mistake. I might say it's the same pain as before, then experience another
pain which seems to me more like yesterday's. I might say, 'No wait a minute . . . that's yesterday's again now . . .
the one I had a moment ago is different . . . its troughs are practically painless, whereas yesterday's kind of pain
had a kind of bearable discomfort as its minimum'.
We have considered three methods of identifying sensations: by causal provenance, by natural expression, and by
intrinsic qualities. The first and third allow scope for error in the normal case. Only the second seems a candidate
for the Identification Argument (that the private language model of sensation language would create scope for error
where none in fact exists). But if the private language of sensations applies only to sensations which have no
natural expressions, then it begins to look as if the Identification Argument simply rules out identification by
natural expression, in the definition of a private language, then blames the private language model for lacking it.
An answer to this complaint is that the exclusion of sensations with natural expressions is, as I suggested above,
only a useful heuristic device. It is not part of the definition of a private language. What makes a language private
is the fact that it is based on an inner ostensive definition, or an inner resolution. So the Identification Argument
essentially claims that this inner definition or resolution adds a criterion for the judgment 'I have sensation S' which
is not in fact applied in that kind of judgment. That is, the PLU is someone who inwardly resolves to use the word
'pain' for sensations like this (a sample that he or she keeps in memory). When in future the PLU is considering
whether to say 'I have a pain', he or she must first answer the question 'Is what I have now sufficiently like what I
had then?' Wittgenstein's argument, by contrast, is that no such question normally applies before we say 'I have a
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So far, we have accepted that identification based on natural expressions is infallible. If I say I have the kind of
sensation that makes me want to scratch, it's the fact that I can't be wrong about wanting to scratch that makes my
identification error-proof. But can't I make a mistake about what kind of sensation it is that makes me want to
scratch? Suppose I have, unknown to myself, some kind of nervous disease that makes me feel as if my skin is
itchy at the least irritation. Suppose someone pricks my hand with a pin, without my seeing. I say I have an itch in
my hand. If the circumstances were now revealed to me, would I want to withdraw the description? I don't think
there is any clear answer to this question: I might insist, 'Well it was an itchafter all it made me feel like
scratching', or I might say, 'It made me feel like scratching only because of this diseaseit wasn't really an itch after
all'. The more important it is to me to avoid misunderstanding, to communicate, the more likely I would be to take
this second line.
And what is meant by saying that I can't be wrong about wanting to scratch? That I feel an inclination to scratch
and I cannot be mistaken about my inclinations? If feeling an inclination is a matter of my awareness of some kind
of sensation that has in the past led to scratching, then it is as liable to error as identification by causal provenance
(because it is identification by causal outcome). If it is merely a conviction that, if I do not inhibit the action, I shall
now spontaneously scratch, then of course I could be wrong about that too. It might turn out that I do not scratch. If
it is a feeling of dissatisfaction that I am not now scratching, well, is it really impossible to mistake the reason for
my dissatisfaction? And is it really impossible to mistake a feeling of unfocused irritation or boredom for a feeling
of dissatisfaction?
We are entering here on questions too large to deal with in the present context. I do not claim to have shown that
error is possible even in the case of identifying a sensation by its natural expressions. But I do think it is fair to say
that the converse has not been demonstrated either. Indeed, if identification by natural expressions is ruled out (to
maintain parity with the private language model, where it has been ruled out for heuristic purposes), the prospects
for demonstrating the impossibility of error look poor.
The Identification Argument in its present form depends on the impossibility of error. But it is not at all easy to
establish that misidentification error really is impossible in the normal case. It might be interesting to develop a
form of the Identification Argument which does not use the impossibility of error to show that no criterion (of
type-identity) is used when I say what kind of sensation I have. But in PI, Wittgenstein depends on the
impossibility of error, and this makes the Identification Argument in its present form uncompelling.
Wittgenstein's claim that I cannot be said to know I am in pain also depends on the impossibility of error, which
can be grammatically re-described as the
 

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'senselessness of doubt' (PI 2467, 679; II.xi. 198202, 206, 21920, 224). This senselessness-of-doubt doctrine is a
major influence on Wittgenstein's later philosophy, and we shall return to it. For the time being, my claim is that it
has not been shown to apply to normal sensation language, so that the Identification Argument fails.
Richard Rorty, in his article 'Wittgenstein, Privileged Access and Incommunicability' writes, 'It is not too
much to say that certain interpreters of Wittgenstein have argued as follows: "We can make mistakes when
we identify, but not when we express feelings. There are no mistaken pain-reports. Therefore pain-reports
are expressions of feeling, rather than identifications of particulars." So put, the argument is to say the least
of it, an obvious petitio. To get a good argument we need to argue that no analysis of "identifying a
particular" which [permits infallible identification]will be adequate. But I do not think that any interpreter
of Wittgenstein has offered such an argument.'
Rorty later argues in the same vein that no good reason has been given to show that knowledge could not be
infallible tooit is simply assumed that what we cannot be said to doubt, we cannot be said to know. This
being so, it is open to us, Rorty argues, to regard pains and so on as objects of knowledge, infallibly
identified by the sufferer, and avoid any philosophically unwelcome consequences by holding that pains are
private only in the sense of being unsharable and accessible in a unique way to the sufferer, not in the sense
of being unknowable to anyone else or incommunicable. This is to suggest that I can know I am in pain and
so can someone else, but that my knowledge is 'incorrigible' whereas the other person's knowledge is not,
because I have a method of access to my pain that prevents mistakes. This approach, too, would tend to
undermine the Identification Argument because, if the impossibility of error stems from a special directness
of access, there seems no reason why the PLU should not enjoy its advantages too. But as will be clear
from the main text, I think it is wrong to accept the 'incorrigibility' of the sufferer's knowledge of his or her
own pain.
In the same article, Rorty also accuses Wittgenstein of 'confusing the kernel of truth in a verificationist theory of
meaningfulness with a stronger, false, theory about meaning' (p. 301n). And this is the topic of our next section.

The Verificationist Argument


In this section, I want to do three things. First, to ask whether we can find in PI any verificationist support for the
arguments we have already considered.
 

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Second, to consider whether there is any new verificationist argument against a private language. And third, to try
to determine the extent to which verificationism in general is important in PI.
We have seen two points in the arguments so far at which a verificationist premiss of some sort would be useful.
First, in the Practice Argument, it would allow us to show that a practice could not be unique to a single individual.
The verificationist premiss we would need here would assert that, if a particular action cannot be verified as
conforming with a rule, definition or decision, then there is no sense to the claim that it does in fact conform. The
premiss would also specify whether the verifying test would have to be possible for other people to perform in fact
or in principle, or indeed whether it would actually have to be performed, at least occasionally. Second, in the
Interpretation Argument, a similar verificationist premiss would allow us to argue that behaviour which we could
not interpret or recognise as linguistic, could not intelligibly be supposed to be linguistic. So, does Wittgenstein in
PI accept any premiss of this kind?
At PI 258, Wittgenstein rejects the claim that a PLU (private language user) could establish a connection between a
sign and a sensation, (by a concentrating of the attention), because in the private language case, there will be no
test of the user's impression that a certain sign is the correct one for a given sensation. He says, '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' (contrast Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics VI.47).
At PI 265, he argues that one memory impression (such as a memory image of a time-table) could not confirm
another unless it could itself be tested for correctness by appeal to 'something independent'. He says that the process
of checking 'has got to produce a memory which is actually correct. 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?'
So far, Wittgenstein has not said that lack of an independent test makes a statement meaningless, only that it
disqualifies the statement from being right or wrong. And this is just as well, because Wittgenstein himself holds
that we can talk meaningfully without justification. At PI 289 he says, 'To use a word without a justification does
not mean to use it without right' (see also, for example, PI 377 on criterionless self-ascription).
So what makes the difference between the PLU's lack of justification and our normal, unjustified self-ascription of
sensations? The PLU has an impression that a certain sensation is S, which Wittgenstein seems to attack as
impossible to check for correctness. But at PI 377, I recognise that an image is the same as another, without using
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If Wittgenstein's point is only that where there is no justification there is no question of right and wrong, then there
is no conflict here because, in the normal case of criterionless self-ascription, there is no question of right and
wrong (Wittgenstein believes). If I say, 'I have a pain', other people cannot normally say 'You're wrong' (or 'You're
right'). I myself cannot wonder 'Am I wrong?' or 'Am I right?' (according to Wittgenstein's senselessness-of-doubt
doctrine). But if his point is the stronger, verificationist point that where there is no justification, there is no
meaning, then there is a prima facie contradiction. If a distinction between 'seems to me' and 'really is' is essential
for meaningful language use in the private case, how does it apply in the case of normal self-ascription?
The answer to this question which is best supported in the text, turns on the difference in the learning situation. In
the normal case, we learned to use sensation language in a social context. Our early uses were corrected and
approved by others. We gradually established ourselves in their eyes as competent users of sensation language.
'How do I know that this colour is red?It would be an answer to say: "I have learnt English" (PI 381). I have
proved my competence with 'red', or 'looks the same' as part of the process of learning a language. The PLU,
however, has not proved and cannot prove his competence in the use of 'S'.
But if this difference in learning histories is advanced as showing how the PLU's utterances are meaningless while
our normal self-ascriptions are meaningful, the claim made against the PLU would have to be, not that verification
would be impossible in any specific case, but that the PLU's whole history and form of life would be such as to
make it impossible for us to ascribe language to him or her. But this is the Interpretation Argument. The
verificationist premiss, far from supporting the Interpretation Argument, reduces to it.
There is also the fact that Wittgenstein's challenges to the PLU (in PI 258 and PI 265) do seem to turn on the
possibility of testing specific utterances for correctness. This suggests that Wittgenstein did not intend to connect
testing and justification in any prescriptive way with meaning, but only with objectivity. In other words, when he
says (in PI 258) that the absence of a criterion of correctness, or of a distinction between seeming right to me and
being right, 'only means that here we can't talk about "right", perhaps that is exactly what he means. The absence of
the criterion or distinction only implies that we can't talk about right and wrong: it doesn't mean we can't
meaningfully talk.
Let me try to sum up the argument so far: a prescriptive connection between testing and meaning would strengthen
the Practice and the Interpretation Arguments. And Wittgenstein certainly does claim that the PLU could not
perform certain kinds of test. But he also holds that our self-ascriptions of sensations are not normally based on
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connects primarily with objectivity (as I suggest) then there is no problem here, but if testing connects in a
prescriptive way with meaning, then we need to avoid the consequence that our normal self-ascriptions are
meaningless. The most natural way to avoid this consequence is to present the normal language user as radically
different from the PLU in terms of learning history and general language competence. But this is in effect to
reiterate the Interpretation Argument not strengthen it. Nor does it do much to strengthen the Practice Argument,
because an argument is now needed to show that a born Crusoe's learning history and form of life are so different
from the norm as to constitute no justification of current use. But this is exactly the question we had before,
whether 'practice' requires a multiplicity of people or a multiplicity of instances only.
And there is another problem for our initial idea of supporting the Practice and the Interpretation Arguments. The
verificationist premiss they require concerns others' ability to verify that the PLU's utterance conforms to a practice
or belongs to a language. But the problems Wittgenstein raises in PI 258 and PI 265 concern the PLU's own ability
to verify this. How should we explain this discrepancy? Why is it important to Wittgenstein to show that the PLU
could not verify later utterances as conforming to an inner definition or resolution?
The point is, I suggest, not to produce a verificationist supplement to the Practice and Interpretation Arguments,
but to bring forward a separate Verificationist Argument. The basic idea under attack in the Private Language
Argument is that language becomes meaningful by means of inner definitions or resolutions. If this idea were
correct, then for the PLU to know that a given word 'S' means the same now as it meant yesterday, it would be
necessary to be able to check any present utterance against the original definition or resolution. If the PLU could
not make this check, he or she could not know what 'S' now means.
This Verificationist Argument need not claim that, if the PLU cannot verify that a present utterance of 'S' conforms
to the original inner definition or resolution, then he or she cannot attach any sense to the claim that it does or does
not conform. That is, it is not verificationist in the sense of rigidly connecting testing and meaning. It merely says
that if knowing the meaning of 'S' is a matter of knowing the original definition, then not knowing whether a
present utterance of 'S' conforms to the original definition is not knowing the meaning of 'S'. The claim that 'S' does
conform is intelligible (for all this argument says to the contrary), but the PLU can't determine whether it's true.
Why can't the PLU determine that a present utterance of 'S' conforms to the original inner definition or resolution?
Surely he or she can just
 

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remember that original meaning-giving act. But when do we say that someone has remembered something? At the
minimum, when he or she has a certain impression or belief and when things really were as the impression or
belief asserts. To say that someone has remembered, we seem to need some kind of correspondence between belief
and reality. But if the 'reality' in question is an inner definition or resolution, this idea of correspondence seems to
be in danger of evaporating.
Let's take an example. Suppose I try to remember a person's face. I call up a mental image. And I may be quite
confident that I have remembered the face successfully. Still, what it means to say that I have used an image to
remember is, at least in part, that if I now saw the person in the flesh, or a photograph or realistic drawing, I would
feel that there was some kind of fit or correspondence between my image and the reality. But now suppose that on
a later occasion I try to remember that image. On Monday I see N; on Wednesday I call up a mental image of N's
face; on Friday I try to remember, not N's face, but the image I had of it on Wednesday. I think it is possible to
remember certain things about the image, for example, that it was as if seen from the left and above, or that in my
image the face had a certain expression. But it also seems true to say that comparing Friday's image of
Wednesday's image with Wednesday's image is in some way more tenuous or marginal than comparing
Wednesday's image with Monday's reality. And now suppose that all our comparisons, in some field, are between
mental images. Suppose we never have a real thing, photograph or drawing to serve as a paradigm. Would we
apply the concept of remembering to that field?
For the PLU, all meaning would be based on inner definitions and resolutions. There would be no external,
objective reality to serve as a paradigm in remembering the meaning of a word. Perhaps it is not so clear, then, that
the PLU could 'just remember' the original meaning-giving act. The problem is neither that the PLU's memory is
not reliable, nor that the claim that a present utterance of 'S' conforms to the inner definition is unverifiable and
therefore meaningless, though both these interpretations have been widely canvassed. The problem is that certain
empirical conditions necessary for the applicability of the concept of remembering might be absent.
Two general points need to be made about this argument: first, that as an interpretation of PI 258 and PI 265, it is
distinctly adventurous. It is, in my opinion, the best argument derivable from those sections (and see also PI 56).
Second, the argument is at best suggestive. A great deal of work would need to be done to show in any strict way
that a PLU could not be said to remember the inner definitions and resolutions which confer meaning. Wittgenstein
does not attempt this in PI, and I shall not attempt it here.
 

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It will be obvious that, in all this, I have been trying to show that what Wittgenstein says can be plausibly
interpreted without committing him to a rigid or prescriptive connection between testing and meaning. Specifically,
I have wanted to avoid committing him to the claim that any statement which cannot be tested cannot be
meaningful. There are three reasons for preferring this line of interpretation. The first is that Wittgenstein holds that
self-ascription of sensations is meaningful and not typically subject to testing. The second is that a rigid or
prescriptive connection seems to lead to behaviourism, and I don't think PI is behaviourist. The third is that
Wittgenstein wanted to stress in PI the variety of language-games and resist the temptation to fit them all into one
Procrustean bed (see, for example, PI II.xi.226).
This explains why I avoid the second of the two 'widely canvassed' interpretations mentioned above. Why should
we avoid the first? I argued above (p. 14) that Wittgenstein accepts the common sense view that we can correlate a
sensation which has no natural expression with something public (for example, the taste of mint with a leaf of a
certain shape, size and colour). Making the correlation involves remembering its terms (within the normal limits of
human memory) and so Wittgenstein's argument cannot turn on any special weakness of, or scepticism about,
memory. It would also be inappropriate, and less effective polemically, for the argument to depend on an empirical
hypothesis about how many memory errors we would make in a given situation (see, for example, PI 232 and PI
251 on the grammatical/empirical distinction). And finally, the invitation to imagine a person whose memory could
not retain what the word 'pain' means (which seems to support the memory-sceptical interpretation) is issued by an
interlocutor and immediately criticised by Wittgenstein as empty, if the person's use of the word is unaffected (PI
271).
Rejecting these widely canvassed alternatives, then, let's pursue the Verificationist Argument a little further. The
concept of memory is applicable in the taste-of-mint case because, if I happen to forget the taste of that kind of
leaf, I can simply eat another one and, as we say, 'refresh my memory'. If the PLU forgets his or her sign-sensation
correlation, by contrast, no comparable refreshment seems to be possible, and so the concept of memory (in this
sphere) withers.
This concedes that if a causal connection could be set up between the PLU's signs and sensationsby conditioned
reflexes for examplethen the concept of memory would apply after all. To refresh his or her memory of the
sensation correlated with a given sign, the PLU would simply say or write the word, and because of the
conditioned reflex, the sensation would occur. As far as the Verificationist Argument goes, therefore, a conditioned
private language (or, as in Fodor's The Language of Thought, ch. 2, one which is innately specified) would be
possible, because the sign-sensation
 

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correlation would in these cases be as objective as the leaf-taste correlation. In fact, if Wittgenstein does accept that
we could correlate a sensation which lacks natural expressions, not only with its cause (such as a leaf) but with its
effects (such as manometer readings, see PI 270), then a causal connection from sensation to sign would be
sufficient for language. And it is a weakness of the argument, correspondingly, that we do not have any clear
distinction between these causal connections and the kind of vocabulary-learning children ordinarily perform.
Let me now move away from the specific Verificationist Argument outlined above, and try to explain the more
general role of verificationism in PI. In what follows, I shall distinguish three different varieties of verificationism,
say how far Wittgenstein is committed to each, and consider whether any of these more general verificationist
tendencies provides an argument proving the impossibility of a private language.
Classical empiricism, from Hobbes to Russell, agreed on one thing: that whatever cannot, by definition, have been
learned when a concept was learned, cannot be part of the content or legitimate meaning of that concept.
Empiricists who agreed on nothing else, agreed that only what we could have learned could belong to the content
of a given concept. This is why the rejection of innate ideas was so important to empiricismthe empiricist's
fundamental method of determining the legitimacy of a concept requires the assumption that the legitimate content
of a concept is fixed by the possibilities of the learning experience. The same doctrine set many of the central
problems of empiricism: in case after case, we seem to operate with more content than we could possibly have
learned.
Wittgenstein belongs very firmly to this tradition. At PI 77, he advises, 'In such a difficulty [as that of trying to
understand a concept] always ask yourself: How did we learn the meaning of this word ('good' for instance)? From
what sort of examples? in what language-games?' As this quotation also indicates, the very concept of a language-
game is connected in Wittgenstein's mind with a situation in which some language is being learned. A language-
game is 'one of those games by means of which children learn their native language' (PI 7).
At PI 179, we find, 'Think how we learn to use the expressions ''Now I know how to go on", "Now I can go on"
and others; in what family of language-games we learn their use.' Or at PI II.x. 1, 'How did we ever come to use
such an expression as "I believe . . ."? Did we at some time become aware of a phenomenon (of belief)? Did we
observe ourselves and other people and so discover belief?' The application of this method of conceptual
clarification to our talk about sensations occurs explicitly, for example at PI 244:
 

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don't we talk about sensations every day, and give them names? But how is the connexion between the
name and the thing named set up? This question is the same as: how does a human being learn the meaning
of the names of sensations?of the word 'pain' for example?
(Wittgenstein's answer to this questionthat talk about sensations must replace some natural expression of the
sensation, a conclusion reiterated at PI 256will be considered later; see p. 76f.)
Now does this viewenshrined in the dictum that the meaning of a word is what is explained by the explanation of
the meaning (PI 560)provide an argument against the concept of a private language?
PI 2578 build on the idea that the meaning is what is explained in explanations of the meaning, arguing that the
PLU could not explain the meaning of his words to anyone else, and that he could not define them for anyone else.
No one else could learn this 'language', the argument seems to be, and therefore it has no meaning, (because
meaning is what we learn when we learn what a word means).
This argument seems too easy a victory. The 'we' in 'we learn' simply begs the question if it assumes that meaning
is what we learn from one another, as social creatures.
Wittgenstein's emphasis on the conceptual importance of the learning situation clearly tends to locate meaning in
something public, in the social teaching of language or the playing of communal language-games. Here is another
example:
What is it like to say something to oneself; what happens here?How am I to explain it? Well, only as you
might teach someone the meaning of the expression 'to say something to oneself'. And certainly we learn
the meaning of that as children.Only no one is going to say that the person who teaches it to us tells us
'what takes place' (PI 361).
Thus, what is learned when we learn how to use this expression, is not which inner experience makes the claim
true. As an argument, however, this is weak. The Lockean can concede that my teacher does not point out which
inner experience makes the claim true. But that is because he or she cannot point at what is private to me.
Nevertheless, I learn the meaning of the expression (the Lockean may insist) by identifying within myself that
inner experience which, as it were, my teacher would point at if it were possible (PI 362).
It may seem that turning to the situation in which a concept is learned as a method of understanding the concept is,
in itself, hardly worth calling verificationist. But the implication is clear that, in many cases, one main component
in learning the meaning of a sentence will be learning how to
 

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verify and falsify it. Thus, at PI II.xi.229, Wittgenstein says, 'What "determining the length" means is not learned
by learning what length and determining are; the meaning of the word "length" is learnt by learning, among other
things, what it is to determine length'. A person knows what 'This is 20 em long' means if, among other things, he
or she knows (has learned) how to find out if it really is 20 cm long.
This brings us to the second general verificationist tendency in PI. Wittgenstein claimed, as we have just seen, that
someone who understands the concept 'length', must be in possession of a procedure for determining lengths.
Understanding is powerfully connected, for Wittgenstein, with possession of a method of verification.
At PI 1, for example, Wittgenstein points out that the important thing for the success of the shopping-by-paper-slip
game is the shopkeeper's possession of procedures for applying 'five' and 'red' and 'apples'. He has to know how to
find out which things are apples, which among them are red, how many of them make five. Lacking appropriate
procedures, the shopkeeper is not merely debarred from talking about right and wrong: he does not understand.
The meaning of the message on the slip of paper is lost on him. In this case, knowing how to test a statement (such
as 'Here are five apples') is an essential part of understanding its meaning.
It does not follow, however, that for each and every term, a person must have a procedure, or group of procedures,
for finding out if particular uses are correct. Nor does it follow that all cases which do involve a procedure must
involve the same kind of procedure. The procedure involved in judging a motive, for example, may be very
different from that involved in determining a length (deliberately juxtaposed by Wittgenstein at PI II.xi.228, and
see PI II.xi.242f. on 'imponderable evidence').
Wittgenstein stresses the importance of the learning situation for conceptual content, and connects understanding
with procedures for determining correctness, and in these two senses PI might be described as verificationist. But
the term 'procedure' is to be understood so flexibly that it does not amount to a prescriptive connection between
testing or justification and meaning. We are never to lose sight of 'the prodigious diversity' of language-games (PI
II.xi.226). In some cases, knowing how to test a hypothesis will be essential to an understanding of it, and the
method of testing will be one way to reveal its meaning. This is verificationist. But we cannot therefore demand or
expect that every claim or hypothesis should be testable according to some predetermined formula or model. In this
sense PI is not verificationist. We cannot demand, for example, that the procedure used for determining the
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Here I take issue with Paul Johnston, whose interpretation of the Private Language Argument turns on the demand
for an independent test of correctness. He writes (Rethinking the Inner, p. 4),
'Lacking an independent standard, the individual's self-assessment is an empty charade. Since she has no means of
distinguishing what seems right to her from what is right, the notion of accuracy, and hence that of translation [of
thoughts into words] cannot get a grip. But if this is so, why doesn't this problem arise whenever anyone translates
anything? The answer is that the existence of a public practice provides a context within which seeming right and
being right are distinguished. Within the practice, there are rules of translation and procedures for checking
whether or not these rules have been correctly applied. It is the existence of these rules and procedures which
allows a distinction between accurate and inaccurate translation and so justifies our claim to be translating as
opposed to simply setting down whatever feels right at the time.
The thrust of this argument is to refute the idea that the individual's expression of her thoughts is the translation or
representation of a private process inside her. It also undermines the very notion of private inner events. The reason
for this is that, if the individual's statements cannot be seen as reports, the only possible means of access to the
supposed inner events has been ruled out. Since neither we nor she can distinguish between her believing a certain
event took place and that event actually taking place, the notion of these events as independently existing
occurrences is undermined. In fact, the only thing that plays a role in the language-game, and hence the only thing
that can matter to us, is what the individual says or is inclined to say.'
For Johnston, an independent check is one confirmable by someone else. But in this case, it is a straightforward
matter of definition that there cannot be an independent check on inner events, and behaviourism (so long as we
persist with a distinction between 'inner' and 'outer') is the inevitable consequence: 'the only thing that can matter to
us is what the individual says or is inclined to say'. Johnston claims that his Wittgenstein is not a behaviourist, and
it is true that he is not an analytical behaviourist.
Johnston's Wittgenstein does not believe that any limited or specifiable repertoire of behaviour could exhaust the
meaning of a psychological term. But it seems to me that, on Johnston's view, Wittgenstein is committed to a kind
of behaviourism. Basically, the reason is that if we can speak meaningfully only about what others can check, then
the meaning of our present psychological talk must be cashed out in terms of overt behaviour. When I say 'He is in
pain' I must mean 'He is inclined to speak and behave in such-and-such
 

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ways' (where 'such-and-such' is understood widely, to include his entire form of life).
I shall argue later (from various directions; see below, pp. 50f., 65f., 101f.) that PI is not behavioutist, even in this
wider sense. But if that is correct and if the demand that every meaningful utterance should be confirmable by
others leads to behaviourism, then we had better not ascribe that degree of verificationism to Wittgenstein. This
also implies that the corresponding verificationist supplement to the Practice Argument is not available. We cannot
argue that if an action conforms to a practice it must be independently verifiable as doing so.
This is Simon Blackburn's conclusion too. He writes, 'If Wittgenstein is allowed to use the verification principle, be
is well placed to attack the idea that there is a distinction [between genuinely following a rule and being under the
illusion that one is following it]. For anything the subject does or experiences at a moment, or himself says, is
compatible with each hypothesis. And the public is in no position to tell which is true either. No third person can
tell whether the later sensations are really like the first, or really different . . .
What is much more doubtful is whether Wittgenstein can reach this conclusion without relying on a verificarionist
step. Many writers suppose he can [Blackburn cites Kenny and Peacocke as examples]. They think that the
challenge to say what makes the difference, in the private case, has its own force. It is not just a question of how
we might tell which one is true, but of whether we have any conception of what would make one of them true. The
challenge is to state this, and it is alleged that the would-be private linguist has no answer' (p. 98).
The trouble is, Blackburn says, that this same challenge (to say what makes it true that someone is following a rule)
is as difficult to meet in the case of public language. He concludes that although 'the anti-private language
argument is inconclusive, it does a tremendous service in the theory of knowledge. It entirely subverts the idea that
our knowledge of our own meanings, derived from the acquaintances we have with our own mental lives, is a
privileged, immediate, knowledge, beyond which lies only scepticridden insecurity' (p. 103).
On my view, the challenge to say what makes the difference requires more clarity about what sort of procedure will
be accepted. Wittgenstein does not specify any kind of canonical procedure, or require it universally, and for these
reasons the challenge has no force. As he says at PI 353, 'Asking whether and how a proposition can be verified is
only a particular way of asking "How d'you mean?"' It's only one possible route into some difficult concept, not a
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The point to bear in mind, to repeat it, is that for Wittgenstein there are meaningful utterances which are not
necessarily associated with any independent procedure specific to that utterance. Normal self-ascription of
sensations provides a kind of legitimising analogue of the PLU's judgments about meaning. Now, it might be
possible to argue that the analogy is not genuinely legitimising, perhaps by showing that criterionless uses are in
some way parasitic on criterial ones. Johnston's discussion above suggests this, holding that the existence of a
public practice establishes a distinction between seeming right and being right, which can then be applied to
criterionless self-ascription. To pursue this in detail would take us too far from PI, but the general problem for this
strategy is to show that a distinction which is merely available from the criterial contexts is genuinely applicable in
the criterionless context. The mere fact that we use the same sound 'pain' in 'He is in pain' and 'I am in pain' is no
guarantee that whatever makes it meaningful in the first case will carry over into the second.
It also seems to me mistaken (exegetically) to apply the 'seems right to me/is right' distinction to criterionless self-
ascription. Wittgenstein does not hold that that distinction must apply in any meaningful use of language.
We have seen that it is often, but not invariably, true for Wittgenstein, that a person who knows the meaning of a
word must possess some sort of procedure for determining the correctness of particular uses of it. The words in
italics limit the influence of what we might call procedural verificationism in PI (and rule out any argument from
procedural verificationism to the impossibility of a private language). Turning now to its third and strongest,
phenomenalistic form, verificationism is in fact a crucial target in PI. For Wittgenstein, it is never true that the
meaning of a word is the experiential result of applying test procedures. It may be, for example, that I do not
understand the word 'red' if I do not know that an appropriate procedure for determining whether something is red
is 'look and see'. But it is definitely not Wittgenstein's view that the meaning of the word 'red' is the visual
impression I receive when I employ this procedure.
A. J. Ayer's book Ludwig Wittgenstein maintains an unrepentant phenomenalism about meaning. He writes,
'I decline to take what [Wittgenstein] repeatedly indicates as the all-important first step, the rejection of the
idea of the private ostensive definition. As I hinted earlier on when I tried to rebut Wittgenstein's general
argument against the possibility of a private language, I think that he is misled by his use of the word
"private". An object like a tea-cup is said to be public because there is sufficient agreement in the reports of
different observers on a series of occasions to give us a motive for saying that they perceive the same tea-
cup. In the case of a headache this motive is
 

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lacking, and therefore we say that headaches are private. Nevertheless, in both cases, the meaning which
any one of us attaches to the word is "cashed", to echo William James, in terms of his own experience'. Air
correctly remarks, 'This last point is repeatedly contested throughout the Investigations, either directly or by
implication' (p. 80). But his conclusion is robust: 'In view of the overall failure of Wittgenstein's campaign
against private languages, I think that the advantage rests with the sense-datum theorist' (p. 86).
I have been trying to explain how far Wittgenstein wanted to go along the path from the learning-situation
verificationism of classical empiricism to the phenomenalism of the 1930s, and to assess what force verificationism
in PI might have against a private language. My conclusion has been that Wittgenstein strongly identifies with the
classical emphasis on the learning situation as a guide to conceptual content, that he accepts the general importance
of procedures for determining correctness of use (while resisting the temptation to devise a canonical procedure
and apply it to all cases), and that he rejects and indeed takes as his target the phenomenalism of the 1930s.
Interpreting the learning situation in the social way Wittgenstein does is certainly incompatible with the private
language model of learning and understanding, but it does not in itself provide arguments against the latter.
Stressing the general importance of procedures for determining correctness might suggest that a language entirely
lacking in such procedures would be impossible, but there is no worked-out argument in PI to this effect. I return
therefore to the Verificationist Argument presented above (turning on the applicability of the concept of
remembering) as, in my view, the best of various possible 'verificationist' arguments. If the concept of memory
would really not be applicable (in the absence of any external paradigm), then two things follow. First, if knowing
the meaning of a term depends on remembering the original inner act of definition (as the private language model
asserts), then the PLU would not know the meaning of any of his or her terms. And second, the PLU would lack
the conceptual resources to say 'I thought I was following the rule correctly but now I see I wasn't', providing
roundabout support after all for the Practice Argument (see p. 18 above).

The Beetle-in-the-box Argument


On the private language model of meaning, we each know from our own experience of pain what 'pain' means,
because it is our experience which makes the word meaningful. At PI 293, Wittgenstein argues that it would
 

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then be possible for the experience everyone calls pain to be quite different. The individual's experience would be
like a beetle hidden in a box that no one else could open: different people's beetles might be quite different.
Similarly, at PI 272 he says, 'The assumption would thus be possible thoughunverifiablethat one section of
mankind had one sensation of red and another section another'.
Wittgenstein does not say that the hypothesis of inner variation is meaningless. He says that, assuming the sign in
question had a use in a public language, it 'would not be used as a name of a thing' (PI 293). This supports the
view that Wittgenstein connects independent testing with objectivity not meaning. Lacking a procedure
independent of the speaker's impression for telling whether his or her use of a term is correct on a particular
occasion, I would regard it, not as meaningless, but as an utterance to which I cannot apply 'right' and 'wrong'. I
could not, therefore, construe it as a name of a thing because, where something has been named, the question must
arise whether the object in question really is one of the things so named. Thus, even if the term 'beetle' has a
meaning for the people in PI 293, it nevertheless does not function as a name, and it is not the thing in the box
which makes the term meaningful. Thus, on the present interpretation of the Beetle-in-the-box Argument, it would
follow from the private language model that our actual sensation language could not be construed on the model of
object and designation (though this of course is exactly how the private language model does construe it). The
private language model turns out to be self-defeating.
This interpretation of PI 293 reads rather a lot between the lines. In the text, Wittgenstein moves directly from the
possibility of inner variationwhich he says could even occur within a single individual over timeto the impossibility
of using the term as a name. A simpler way of reaching this conclusion (giving rise to an alternative interpretation
of PI 293) would be a premiss to the effect that we cannot use a term as a name if we cannot know whether the
object 'named' is present. The familiar Lockean reply to this is that an individual can know, for example, that
others are feeling pain. I know it on the basis of an analogy between their outward behaviour and my own outward
behaviour when I feel pain. And it is true that at the beginning of PI 293 Wittgenstein tries to pre-empt this style of
argument, asking, 'how can I generalise the one case so irresponsibly?' But this solitary question hardly constitutes
a refutation of an argument which many people do in fact find attractive. Why did Wittgenstein not say more
against it? I surmise that Wittgenstein's intention is to avoid discussing the argument from analogy, because the
argument and the implied objection ('You can't generalise to others' inner experiences on the single basis of your
own') already embody the mistake which is Wittgenstein's real target.
 

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If the simpler interpretation places too much reliance on an unargued rejection of the argument from analogy,
however, the more speculative interpretation relies on the claim that there could be no possibility of mis-naming a
sensation. But the Lockean has a reply to this too: that the speaker could mis-name his or her sensation, but we'd
never know (unless the speaker realised and told us). The only answer to this seems to be a stronger connection
between testing and meaning than I think Wittgenstein would accept.
Peter Hacker cites the interesting case of a stage mnemonist whose method was to place the various objects
called out to him by the audience at different points along an imaginary street. He would then imagine
himself walking along the street and recite the objects in the order in which he 'saw' them. He explained an
omission in one performance as having arisen because he had placed a milk bottle (one of the objects called
out by the audience) against an imaginary door which happened to be painted white, so that when he
imagined himself walking along the street again, he failed to notice the white milk bottle against the white
door. Hacker says, 'This makes no sense. (What would be the criteria for its being there, even though he did
not "notice" it?)' Meaning and Mind, Vol. 3, Part 1 p. 192n.
My sympathies here are with the mnemonist. I think his story does make sense (because, even if it is an
excuse, it would be a poor one if it were senseless). Hacker has, I think, slipped over into legislating for
ordinary use rather than describing it (PI 124) because he accepts that a statement like 'There was a milk
bottle in front of the white door' can be meaningful only if there is some independent procedure for
confirming it.
In fact, we often accept the speaker's later sincere assertion as a sufficient criterion of an earlier mistake,
even when the topic is something inner. In Muriel Spark's A Far Cry from Kensington, the main character,
Mrs Hawkins, has a practice/follows a rule of repeating the angelus to herself every day at midday. Now in
an outward repetition of the prayer someone might make a mistake, fail to notice at the time, notice a few
minutes later and self-correct. Why should this sequence of events become impossible if the repetition is
inward? But if it is possible, then we have a situation in which Mrs Hawkins might say, 'Well, I thought I
was following the rule correctly, but now I realise I wasn't', even though her mistake is not one that could
be independently verified, at least in any 'direct' way. She is the only arbiter of the correctness of her
practice in a sense analogous to the sense in which the only observer of an event is the only arbiter of what
happened, that is, in a sense which retains a distinction between its seeming right and being right.
 

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The Use Argument


Wittgenstein, as we have seen, accepts that possessing a procedure for determining correctness is often an
important part of knowing how to use a word. We also saw Wittgenstein's suggestion that questions about meaning
can (in most cases) be rephrased as questions about use. At PI 1, he said that in the shopping-by-paper-slip
language-game, we are not naturally inclined to ask about the meaning of the sign 'five'. What is at issue is how the
sign is used. Wittgenstein generalises this point at PI 43: 'For a large class of casesthough not for allin which we
employ the word "meaning" it can be defined thus: the meaning of a word is its use in the language.' We must now
ask whether this concept of meaning provides an argument against its rival, the private language view of meaning,
and as a necessary preliminary, we have to discover what exactly is meant by defining meaning as use.
There is no mistaking the importance Wittgenstein attaches to the perspective shift from meanings to uses. It is the
major theme of the early parts of PI (see below p. 120), and in fact, the immediate cause of the whole concern with
the 'inner' (the remote cause being the Augustinian notion of mental grasp, see PI 1, PI 6). At PI 138, Wittgenstein
considers a number of objections to the account he has been developing of meaning as use, objections which turn
on what appear to be the inner experiences of understanding meaning.
But can't the meaning of a word that I understand fit the sense of a sentence that I understand? Or the
meaning of one word fit the meaning of another?Of course, if the meaning is the use we make of the word,
it makes no sense to speak of such 'fitting'. But we understand the meaning of a word when we hear or say
it; we grasp it in a flash, and what we grasp in this way is surely something different from the 'use' which is
extended in time!
Up to this point, Wittgenstein has been advancing the Use theory as preferable to various rival accounts of
meaning. From this point on, the question is whether it can be reconciled with the things we feel we want to say
about our experience of using language. Following PI 138, it becomes necessary for Wittgenstein to show that
meaning and understanding do not consist in any experience of 'fitness' or mental act of 'grasping', in short, to
reach the conclusion asserted at PI 454, 'The arrow points, [and in general, a sign "comes to life", PI 432], 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.'
I have been making free with the phrase 'the Use theory of meaning', and anyone who has read PI will, very
properly, object to the term 'theory'.
 

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What Wittgenstein says about meaning as use is not intended as a theory in any constructive sense but as a
corrective, specifically, a corrective to referential and mentalistic theories. We need to be reminded that it is use we
look to in order to decide whether someone knows the meaning of a word or sentence, because we are so strongly
tempted to erect grand theories of meaning and understanding, on the basis of a limited diet of reference-favouring
or mentalism-favouring examples.
Michael Dummett takes a very different view of the Use theory (in his article 'What Does the Appeal to Use
Do for the Theory of Meaning?'), as follows . . .
'Our language many sentences for which we know no procedure, even in principle, which will put us in a
position to assert or deny that sentence, at least with full justification. Indeed, for many such sentences, we
have no ground for supposing that there necessarily exists any means whereby we could recognize the
sentence as true or as false, even means of which we have no effective method of availing ourselves. Hence
a notion of truth for such a sentence, taken as subject to the principle of bivalence, cannot be equated with
the existence of a means of justifying an assertion of it . . . More importantly, a speaker's knowledge of the
condition which must, in general, hold for the sentence to be true cannot be taken to consist in his ability to
recognize it as true whenever those conditions obtain under which it may be so recognized, and as false
when it may be recognized as false, since, by hypothesis, it may be true even in the absence of any such
conditions, and he must know the condition for it to be true in those cases also. Therefore, if meaning is
use, that is, if the knowledge in which a speaker's understanding of a sentence consists must be capable of
being fully manifested by his linguistic practice, it appears that a model of meaning in terms of a
knowledge of truth-conditions is possible only if we construe truth in such a way that the principle of
bivalence fails; and this means, in effect, some notion of truth under which the truth of a sentence implies
the possibility, in principle, of our recognizing its truth. It is hard to swallow such a conclusion, because it
has profound metaphysical repercussions: it means that we cannot operate, in general, with a picture of our
language as bearing a sense that enables us to talk about a determinate, objective reality which renders what
we say determinately true or false independently of whether we have the means to recognize its truth or
falsity. On the other hand, if the identification of meaning with use does not impose on a theory of meaning
the constraints I have suggested, I for one find it difficult to see how it can impose any constraints
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Dummett's argument runs . . . many sentences must be either true or false (granting bivalence) which are
neither clearly assertible nor clearly deniable, either in theory or in practice. Knowing what would make a
sentence true cannot, therefore, be explained in general as an ability to recognise it as true in practice
(because we can have the former without the latter). Now the account of meaning as use implies that what
we know when we understand a sentence can be fully manifested in practice. But if this knowledge (in
which our understanding of a sentence consists) is entirely or principally a knowledge of what would make
the sentence true, then to be fully manifestable in practice, 'true' must be taken in a sense that does not
reach beyond our real ability to recognise sentences as true in practice. One result is that the principle of
bivalence must be rejected, and there are other 'profound metaphysical repercussions' (the whole anti-realist
program). If, on the other hand, the identification of meaning with use doesn't imply this, it has no positive
relevance at all for the theory of meaning.
I think the correct response to this complex and interesting argument is that the appeal to use has no
positive relevance for a theory of meaningit really is a corrective. Dummett characterises the theory of
meaning as expressing 'not only what a speaker must know in order to know the language, but in what his
having that knowledge consists, that is, what constitutes a manifestation of it' (p. 148). On this view, there
is a special body of knowledge, which constitutes a speaker's understanding of a sentence and which can be
'manifested' in linguistic practice (see PI 14654). This body of knowledge is sufficiently mysterious to
provoke the attentions of theorists of meaning, who set themselves to explain its contents and its ways of
revealing itself. Understanding a sentence consists, on this view, in possession of a special body of
knowledge that can be made manifest in actual use of the sentence or, for example, in the theorists'
theories. Now this is not an identification of meaning with use, as Dummett claimed: it's an identification
of meaning with special knowledge which, on particular occasions, gives rise to use.
And let's ask what form this special knowledge might take. Suppose it is knowledge of pairings of
sentences and situations, for example, knowledge that the sentence 'The cat is sitting on the mat' pairs with
a certain kind of situation. If this knowledge is to constitute understanding the meaning of 'The cat is sitting
on the mat' it cannot take that understanding for granted. At some basic level of analysis it must consist of
pairings of sounds with things. But not real sounds or things of course, concepts or representations of
sounds with concepts or representations of things. Now, where is
 

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this slide towards Saussurean pairings of concepts and sound-images, in fact, towards inner ostensive
definition, to be halted?
Another point is that Dummett, like Chomsky, accepts that the task is to explain knowing-how in terms of
knowing-that (cashing out ability to use in terms of knowledge of truth or assertibility-conditions). This
seems to me a profoundly anti-Wittgensteinian assumption, and it is therefore surprising to find Anthony
Kenny seeming to concede it without demur. In his book The Legacy of Wittgenstein, he writes that he 'has
no quarrel with the idea that in using language we display [Chomskyan] tacit knowledge, operating rules
and principles that cannot in the normal way be brought to conscious formulation' (p. 137). Kenny insists
that 'knowing a language is an ability', but if he concedes that this ability (or group of abilities) depends in
turn on unconscious rule-following, then it is at least misleading to say that 'to know a language just is to
have the ability' (p. 138), insofar as the word 'just' suggests that we can rest content at this level of
explanation. Kenny's argument (against Chomsky) that one could not be said to know a language without
having the ability to use it seems to me marginalised if that ability in turn consists in tacit knowledge.
Kenny later suggests, however, that possessing tacit knowledge is in fact a case of possessing abilities:
'When we ask what rules or principles we employ in performing these [language processing] tasks, we are
asking what sub-abilities we are exercising when we exercise the ability to use language' (p. 146). This may
indeed restore knowing-how to a more basic position than knowing-that, but it is difficult to be confident
that a hypostasis of sub-abilities would be more acceptable to Wittgenstein than the hypostasis of tacit
knowledge (see below, p. 83f., and the Appendix for more on Wittgenstein's attitude to the unconscious).
What does it mean to describe the Use theory as a corrective (pace Dummett) rather than a theory proper?
Wittgenstein's Use theory of meaning is a corrective rather than a theory, first, because it is not supposed to be
universally applicable, and second, because it is not supposed to explain meaning. It is supposed to pre-empt the
absurd theories we invent in our search for an explanation which is universally applicable.
This also means, I think, that we do not have to worry about the kinds of counter-examples canvassed by
Bede Rundle (in his book Wittgenstein and Contemporary Theory of Language, chapters 1 and 2). Rundle
recognises this, saying, 'In so far as Wittgenstein's aim is therapeutic, to wean us off our illusions, to
remove intellectual cramp, it may be of no account that, as has emerged throughout these first two chapters,
 

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meaning and use are not exact equivalents' (p. 38). Rundle goes on to claim, however, that the weaker
thesis that meaning is determined by use, when it attempts to cash out 'use' in specific cases of explaining
the meaning of a word, will find itself forced to 'restrict use by appeal to just the kinds of semantic notion
that the shift from meaning might have been thought to dispense with' (p. 38), so that the essential
Augustinian contention'that what use determines is primarily an association of word and thing'returns by a
back door.
But a therapy is no more intended systematically to generate explanations of particular word-meanings than
to say what meaning is. We can of course give particular explanations as the need arises in real life, without
supposing that we need some general account of what we can and cannot mention in doing so. On
Wittgenstein's view, that kind of general account is just another doomed attempt to fit the variety of real life
into a single, theoretical mould. The Use theory is not a theory in this sense either.
So the Use theory is a collection of reminders assembled for a specific purpose (PI 127). It serves to remind us that
what we are actually interested in when we talk about someone learning, teaching or understanding the meaning of
a word or sentence is how the word or sentence is used. And it reminds us of this to show that meanings are not to
be reified whether in a concrete, mental or abstract realm. But it very much remains to say how these reminders
prevent us, or deter us, from supposing that a person's use of a word or sentence is the outward sign of some
enabling inner state or process. Certainly we are interested in how the person uses the word or sentence. But how
does that fact rule out or tell against overt use as a product of inner grasp?
So far, I have been trying to explain what Wittgenstein means by claiming that meaning can, at least in many
cases, be defined as use. If We grant Wittgenstein's claim, the converse is that a form of words which has no use
has no meaning (see PI 96). Any new form of words deserves a suspicious reception, because it is not so far dear
how it is to be used, or therefore, what it means. To take a slightly more complex case, a word or expression which
does have an established use, but which is now being pressed into an additional, novel use, cannot inherit or import
the intelligibility of its established use for the benefit of its new, and for the Use theory, suspect use. The Use
Argument (to come to it at last) is that the private language model of meaning and understanding has no ordinary
or reputable use, and therefore no real meaning. As he says at PI 116, 'When philosophers use a word . . . one must
always ask oneself.' is the word ever actually used in this way in the language-game which is its original home?'
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a statement without practical applications is not genuinely a meaningful statement.
This surprising claim has wide repercussions throughout PI and, by now exploring its implications for
behaviourism, we can not only clarify Wittgenstein's position on that thorny topic, but see in detail how the Use
Argument is applied. What follows, therefore, may look like a digression, but it is at the same time an explanation,
by example, of how the Use Argument works.
Wittgenstein calls the Lockean view, in all its richness, a 'picture'a picture of thinking, intending, understanding
and meaning as inner processes which only the thinker can really or directly know about. It is a kind of
fundamental model that generates many specific idioms and ways of thinking.
At PI 374, Wittgenstein says, surprisingly, 'the best that I can propose is that we should yield to the temptation to
use this picture, but then investigate how the application of the picture goes' (see also PI 4224 and Remarks on the
Philosophy of Psychology, vol. 2, 668). I take this to mean two thingsfirst, that the picture is too well entrenched
for us to think of rejecting it outright (as the behaviourist tries to do), and second, that our only possible strategy of
resistance to it is to examine its consequences piecemeal.
Wittgenstein goes on to say that the Lockean picture makes it seem 'As if there really were an object, from which I
derive its description, but I were unable to show it to anyone' (PI 374). This 'as if indicates that Wittgenstein holds
(1) that there is no object, (except in the harmless sense in which to say there is an object, for example, 'I have an
idea', is to say that I am thinking of something); (2) that when I tell what I am thinking, I am not describing or
reporting an object, (except in the harmless sense in which to say for example 'In my idea of it, the house has a
garden all round' is to say 'I would like the house to have a garden all round'); (3) that there is no privileged access,
(except in the harmless sense in which to say 'Only I can know my experience' is to say 'The doubt which exists
for other people doesn't exist for me' PI II.xi.198f).
We are therefore to combine use of the picture with a renewed sensitivity to its real applications in ordinary
language. Wittgenstein does not want to stop us talking about inner objects which other people cannot know, or
about descriptions of them, as long as we are careful only to mean the harmless things listed above, only the things
with established uses. This allows him to deny that he is a behaviourist; his aim is to prevent us summoning up the
objects the existence of which the behaviourist then goes on to deny. We are permitted to say, for example, that
there is a difference between pain-behaviour accompanied by and not accompanied by pain (PI 304) as long as we
mean this in the harmless sense that there is a difference between genuine and simulated pain. We
 

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are to be careful not to be misled by the word 'accompanied' into believing in something a behaviourist would have
to reject. That is not how 'accompanied' is used in this context.
The point, at its most general, is that 'Private objects exist' might mean two things: either that we can think,
imagine, mean and so on (harmless); or that there are real entities that only one person can possibly know about,
existing in a queer kind of location to which only one person has access (the harmful, quasi-philosophical thesis
rejected by behaviourism). If the sentence 'Private objects do not exist' is taken to deny the first of these, it 'looks
as if we had denied mental processes. And naturally we don't want to deny them' (PI 308).
But suppose it is taken to deny the second, does Wittgenstein endorse it? In other words, does Wittgenstein support
a form of behaviourism which makes the above distinction explicit, which is careful to negate only the quasi-
philosophical thesis? At PI 305, Wittgenstein takes a cautious line with this question.
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 use
of the word 'to remember'. We say that this picture with its ramifications stands in the way of our seeing the
use of the word as it is.
Here, he does not say that the quasi-philosophical thesis is false (that the private objects it asserts do not exist). He
merely says that our normal use of such words as 'remember' does not involve, and is not to be understood in terms
of, such private objects. Private objects are no part of what 'to remember' means.
Here and elsewhere, Wittgenstein hesitates to say that the quasi-philosophical thesis is false, because that would be
to give it too much credit for intelligibility. Before we could say 'Private objects do not exist' (understood as
denying the quasi-philosophical thesis), we would have to understand what private objects would be if they did
exist (see PI 339). The assumption that we understand this, shared by the dualist and the behaviourist, is what
Wittgenstein calls 'the decisive movement in the conjuring trick' (PI 308). That it is a piece of trickery is shown by
the fact that 'Private objects do/do not exist' has no established use and therefore, according to the Use Argument,
no genuine meaning.
Thus, Wittgenstein often gives expression to our (quasi-philosophical) wish to say that there is something there, but
always with a question mark over its meaning. PI 296 is typical.
Yes, but there is something there all the same accompanying my cry of pain. And it is on account of that
that I utter it. And this something is what is
 

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importantand frightful'.Only whom are we informing of this? And on what occasion?
The question is, when would anyone actually use the claim 'There is something there'? If the claim fails the test of
use, it has as yet no meaning. And if it is used only in another way (to suggest that someone is concealing an
emotion for example), this use does not legitimise the proposed Lockean interpretation. At PI 298, he goes so far
as to say definitely that 'This is the important thing' gives no information, but this is unusual. PI 348 represents his
more cautious view . . .
'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 (flit 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.
Wittgenstein is not claiming that the quasi-philosophical thesis (and therefore its denial) is gibberish. At PI 348 he
points out that the thesis is grammatically well formed and that it has the usual kinds of logical connection with
other sentences. In addition, it may well stimulate certain pictures and connections in the imagination (PI II.iv.5, PI
351, PI 515). At the same time, however, when we try to imagine really using any of these forms of words (other
than in their harmless senses, PI 349) we are at a loss. They pass the normal grammatical and logical tests for
meaningfulness, but fail the (crucial) test of use.
At PI 398, he says that the words 'Only I have got TINS' serve no purpose, but then goes further, claiming that, 'if
as a matter of logic you exclude other people's having something, it loses its sense to say that you have it'. The
conclusion is again that the Lockean claim has no meaning, but here it is supported by a thesis about the need for a
usable negation of the claim. PI 416 reverts to the more direct style of argument: 'Whom do I really inform, if I
say, ''I have consciousness"? What is the purpose of saying this to myself . . .?' (assuming I do not have one of the
harmless senses in mind, for example to 'tell someone who believes I am in a faint "I am conscious again" and so
on').
Wittgenstein's point is that these claims' ability to function (to be used) in philosophical arguments is somehow
attenuated or spurious because they have no base of ordinary or genuine usage. It is like a logic game in which we
are told that anything which is stimp cannot be gloob and that all trugs are stimp (these obviously being terms that
have no ordinary use). In the game, we have to draw certain conclusions from these and
 

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other premisses. If we now come across a player of the game misguidedly searching real cupboards and drawers for
something gloob, our most helpful advice will not be 'Don't bother checking the trugs'. What we ought to say is,
'You know, "gloob" is just a made-up word. It has no real application in ordinary life.' In the same way, the term
'private' (in the quasi-philosophical sense) has no real use in ordinary life. Just as we cannot discover empirically
either that there exists or does not exist something gloob, so we cannot say either that there does or that there does
not exist something 'private'. We do not understand either term well enough for these claims to be available.
So the statements which go to make up the picture of an inner realm, Wittgenstein claims, have no real meaning.
Unfortunately, however, they retain an appearance or outer shell of meaningfulness. They have become rather like
the statements in the logic gamecatalysts to the imagination perhaps, grammatically regular, logically interrelated,
and yet in real terms, pointless. We do not know what it would be for a private object to exist because we have no
ordinary use for the term. In our ordinary practical use, to say' "There has just taken place in me the mental process
of remembering . . ." means nothing more than: "I have just remembered . . ."' (PI 306 and see also PI 427).
Wittgenstein's view, then, is that the quasi-philosophical thesis is (to coin a phrase) practically meaningless. One
symptom of this lack of practical meaning is the fact that we have no idea what a more detailed description of a
private object would be like:
If you admit that you haven't any notion what kind of thing it might be that he has before himthen what
leads you into saying, in spite of that, that he has something before him? Isn't it as if I were to say of
someone: 'He has something. But I don't know whether it is money, or debts, or an empty till' (PI 294).
It isn't false to say 'He has something' in such a case, and it isn't gibberish. But it is practically meaningless.
David Stern provides an excellent summary of the development and importance of practical
meaninglessness for Wittgenstein, (see his book Wittgenstein on Mind and Language, pp. 1731), and points
out some of its consequences. The most difficult question, however, is: how are we to recognise practical
meaninglessness? If unverifiability is too rigidly programmatic as the test, mere unfamiliarity seems too
conservative. Unimaginability is ruled out at PI 216 and PI 396. So what if someone honestly takes
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The Use Argument, then, claims that expressions such as 'He has something' or 'No one else can have this' may be
perfectly meaningful when used in some ordinary way, but practically meaningless when used in the quasi-
philosophical way. PI 278 captures this strategy in a nutshell:' "I know how the colour green looks to me"surely
that makes sense! Certainly: what use of the proposition are you thinking of?' (see also for example PI 396).
Now, if the private language model (and behaviourism) depends on the quasi-philosophical interpretation of talk
about private objects and mental activities, this gives us reason, not so much to reject a private language as
impossible, as to regard the model as practically meaningless too. It is a mistake to dismiss it as impossible
because that gives it too much credit for intelligibility. The Use Argument, finally, also has a de-motivating effect:
if we have no practical use for the private language model, we have no practical need of it.
Wittgenstein has made a number of shrewd and striking points against our tendency to take it for granted that we
understand the private language model, that we understand what is in dispute between the dualist and the
behaviourist, that we understand what private objects and inner actions are. But there are problems too.
For one thing, there is a tension here between two doubtfully compatible lines of argument: on the one hand, that
the private objects picture, unless harmlessly used to talk about remembering, imagining, thinking and so on, is
practically meaningless because it lacks any ordinary use; but on the other, that it does indeed suggest various
applications and correspond to various experiences in ordinary life. If talk about private objects is constantly
suggesting itself to us in everyday situations, if, as he says at PI 423, the picture 'forces itself on us at every turn',
how can it be correct to say that it is practically meaningless because we don't know how to apply it? Is
Wittgenstein not compelled to say that there is something wrong with these everyday applications? And isn't what's
wrong with them the fact that they give rise to philosophical problems (see PI 693)? But this seems an entirely ad
hoc way of distinguishing ordinary uses which do confer meaning from those which don't.
Paul Feyerabend made a rather similar point in his 1955 review of the Investigations (in The Philosophical
Review). He wrote, 'one may ask why Wittgenstein tries to eliminate theory T [essentialism about meaning],
which certainly must be regarded as a form of life if we look at the way in which it is used by its adherents.
Nevertheless Wittgenstein tries to eliminate this theory as well as other philosophical theories. But this
attempt can only be justified by assuming that there is a difference between using a sign (playing a
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according to theory T. The procedures which are connected with theory T are supposed not to be taken as
parts of a language-game: they constitute a sham-game which is to be destroyed.'
Feyerabend suggests that Wittgenstein was in fact still held captive by the Tractatus doctrine that
philosophy must be something that 'stands above or below, not beside the natural sciences' (T 4.111).
On my view, Wittgenstein wants to alert us to the possibility of a new kind of failure to which
philosophical and other theories are vulnerable: not falsehood or self-contradiction, and not the
unverifiability of the positivists, but a kind of bleaching out, or loss of reality, or pointlessness, which I
have called practical meaninglessness. And the first problem is not that this new possibility of failure might
rule out theories which previously seemed plausible, at least to their adherents. The problem is that there are
non-philosophical, everyday, locutions and experiences which, on Wittgenstein's own view, seem to support
the theory he wants to reject as practically meaningless.
A second problem is that, even if the inner is simply not very important for what we normally want to say about
meaning and understanding, still, for non-ordinary purposes, as far as Wittgenstein's reminders go, it might be
exactly what we need. What non-ordinary purposes could require a private language? The obvious answer to this
question is that a scientific account of natural language use or acquisition might require a private language. It
might be that use and the ability to use could be satisfactorily explained in a developed psychological theory only
as outcomes of some unified inner structure, whether introspectible or not, which would qualify as a private
language. It also seems reasonable to ask what the point of all our usage is, though that is not a question we
ordinarily ask. Hobbes, for example, says that words exist to serve as marks or signs of ideas, in answer to this
question about the point of the whole exercise (Leviathan chap. 4). If Wittgenstein holds that these non-ordinary
questions are somehow not legitimate, we are owed some argument for this.
A third problem with the Use Argument is that it might be criticised as question-begging. If meaning can be
defined as use, then, if there is no use for a form of words, it has no meaning. But for the Lockean, meaning is not
use. It is the inner state which enables outward use. In the absence of arguments to demonstrate that meaning can
be defined as use, the Lockean can accept with equanimity that there is no ordinary use, or even no use at all, for a
form of words.
To sum up: the identification of meaning with use is intended as a corrective, but its converse leads Wittgenstein to
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behaviourism are both based on expressions (such as 'There is something there' or 'Only I have got this') which are
not in fact used in the ways they suppose. Because (according to this converse reading of the Use theory) an
expression which has no normal use has as yet no meaning, the dualistic picture and the behaviouristic rejection of
it are neither true nor false but (practically) meaningless. This argument, to put it mildly, needs to be supported in
various ways. We need some independent reason to believe that lack of use indicates meaninglessness, and to
justify the priority given to ordinary use over technical uses. We also need to reconcile Wittgenstein's claim that
the dualistic picture has no normal use with his claim that it constantly suggests itself to us in ordinary language,
and (for this and other reasons) it would be good to have some general method of testing for lack of practical
meaning.
As presented above, the Use Argument is question-begging. But the cumulative force of Wittgenstein's individual
points remains. The question now is whether these points and others could persuade us that, although the picture of
inner acts and objects is used (in the harmless senses) in ordinary speech, it cannot be pushed beyond its normal
boundaries into dualistic explanation and the behaviouristic rejection of it. The very large task of marshalling these
points to meet the problems raised above and persuade us that doctrines as familiar as dualism and behaviourism
are, in the most important sense, meaningless will occupy the rest of this book. We may therefore take this
opportunity to review our progress so far.

Interim Results
We have now looked at eight distinguishable strands within the Private Language Argument, and the single most
important point to notice about them is that they do not all tend towards the same conclusion.
Some appear to emphasise that nothing which other people would find worth calling a language could emerge from
inner definitions or resolutions. The Interpretation Argument held that there would not be enough regularity in
what the PLU does to allow us to describe his or her performances as linguistic. The Practice Argument claimed
that we could not see such performances as belonging to a practice, and so could not properly describe them as
being guided by a sign, making a report, following a rule, giving an order etc. The PLU's performances would be,
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wouldn't call it a language. And yet the Lockean set out precisely to explain what we do call language.
A possible Lockean response to this line of attack would be to invoke a linguistic version of the argument from
analogy: the PLU's tics are intelligible to me as a language because I have the same tics. But, if my discussions of
the Interpretation and Practice Arguments are correct, the Lockean need not fall back on this response. The
arguments do not establish their conclusion.
Other arguments try to bring out the strangeness of the PLU's situation. We tend unthinkingly to grant the PLU
various conceptual resources which, Wittgenstein argues, would be extremely problematic. The Stage-setting
Argument pointed out that much more is involved in naming or defining than we tend to think. The Consequences
Argument suggested that a private definition could not do the real work of a definition, without some public
method of determining meaning. The Verificationist Argument claimed that, without an external paradigm, there
would be a conceptual problem about assuming that the PLU would be able to remember the original definition or
resolution. The conclusion of these arguments is: the PLU can't do it all alone.
Of these three arguments, the most persuasive is the Verificationist Argument. Yet the version of it that I sketched
is far from clearly stated or worked out in PI. It is therefore unsafe to place any considerable interpretative weight
on it.
Then there are arguments which claim that we do not really understand the concept of a private language.
According to the Identification Argument, the private language model would involve a possibility of identification
error, which (allegedly) does not make sense. The Beetle-in-the-box Argument, at least on one interpretation,
inferred a complementary possibility of naming error. And again, according to Wittgenstein's senselessness of
doubt doctrine, this is a possibility we cannot really make sense of. The Use Argument, too, as presented above,
holds that the private language model is meaningless because it has no base in ordinary usage. The conclusion of
these arguments is: the whole idea of a private language is a piece of nonsense.
I suggested above that the Identification and Beetle Arguments are inconclusive and that the Use Argument is
question-begging. But even more important than their individual success or failure is their direction. The majority
view is that Wittgenstein's aim in the Private Language Argument is to show that a private language is impossible.
And it is true that the first two groups of arguments can be seen in this light: the first group showing that it is
impossible from our perspective, and the second group showing that it is impossible from the PLU's perspective
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third group sets out not to show that a private language is impossible but to show that it does not even qualify as a
meaningful hypothesis. These two aims are not strictly incompatible because the kind of (practical)
meaninglessness Wittgenstein has in mind permits the drawing of inferences from the meaningless proposition or
model (as from 'All trugs are stimp'). But if, as I believe, Wittgenstein's fundamental aim is to show the private
language model to be meaningless, it would be misleading to let the majority view go unchallenged. He wants to
show that we do not really understand this model (although it is advanced as clarifying meaning and understanding
in language). He does not primarily want to show that the model could not in practice or in principle be realised.
And correspondingly, the arguments of the first two groups are better seen as urging that terms, such as 'language'
or 'remember', depend for their normal meaning on their normal (public) context. We lose our purchase on the
meaning of such terms when we try to apply them outside their normal context, just as we lose our sense of what
might be meant by a phrase as ordinary as 'It's five o'clock' if we change the context a little and say 'It's five
o'clock on the sun' (PI 350 and see PI 349).
It may seem surprising to claim that the PLA is not intended to show that the expression 'private language' is like
the expression 'round square' (in expressing a logical impossibility), but like an expression such as 'stimp trug' (in
having at best a stipulative meaning). The real justification of this claim is the interpretation of PI as a whole to
which it leads, but perhaps I should mention some preliminary advantages here.
In the first place, the present view accounts for the inconclusiveness of many of the arguments we have looked at
(complained of, for example, by A. C. Grayling in his book Wittgenstein, p. 118 and elsewhere). Again and again, I
have had to conclude that such-and-such an argument does not establish such-and-such a conclusion, or that the
premisses which would be necessary for that conclusion are not present in the text. But there is a very good reason
for what might (wrongly) appear to be a lack of rigour in Wittgenstein's arguments. To draw up strict arguments we
would have to pretend to understand the target better than we do. Our tendency, reacting against the Lockean
model, is to say 'Thinking is not an incorporeal process which lends life and sense to speaking' (PI 339). But this is
already to give the notion of an incorporeal process too much credit for intelligibility, and producing strict
arguments to prove that thinking is not an incorporeal process would only reinforce that presumption of
intelligibility. We should rather ask:
how 'not an incorporeal process'? Am I acquainted with incorporeal processes, then, only thinking is not
one of them? No; I called the expression
 

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'incorporeal process' to my aid in my embarrassment when I was trying to explain the meaning of the word
'thinking' in a primitive way (PI 339).
On Wittgenstein's view, the idea of an incorporeal process has not even enough meaning to qualify as a myth
(compare Zettel 642).
The majority view is that between PI 243 and PI 308 or thereabouts, Wittgenstein argues that a private language is
impossible. An alternative view (advanced by Fogelin and Kripke) is that this same conclusion has already been
reached at PI 202, by way of the remarks on rule-following. We shall consider this view in the Appendix. But, on
the interpretation suggested here, to say a private language is impossible is, for Wittgenstein, to give it too much
credit for intelligibility. The first advantage of this interpretation is that it explains why Wittgenstein did not try to
pursue the arguments of PI 243308 in more detail: to do so would only reinforce the error he means to attack.
Another merit is consistency with Wittgenstein's concept of philosophy as advancing no theses with which anyone
would disagree (PI 128). If one thing is certain, it is that people have disagreed about whether or not a private
language is impossible. A third advantage derives from the interpretation of the Identification, Beetle and Use
Arguments. These are most naturally taken as indicating that the expression 'private language' is meaningless, not
that it signifies a logical impossibility.
The present interpretation, finally, makes better sense of the relation between PI 243308 and the remainder of PI.
On the majority and on the alternative views, the post-308 sections can come to seem unfocusedindividually
brilliant perhaps, but lacking in any clear tendency or structure. k is even possible for an interpretation of PI (like
Marie McGinn's Wittgenstein and the Philosophical Investigations) to neglect the last 380 sections of Part One
almost entirely. On the interpretation suggested here, however, PI 243308 is a target-finding exercise, not the
decisive battle, in Wittgenstein's struggle against the Lockean. Inconclusive in itself (and necessarily so), the
Private Language Argument functions to introduce two questions which dominate the rest of PL First, can it be
shown that we do not really understand the private language model? And second, if we do not understand it, why
does it have such a powerful hold over us? It is to these questions we now turn.

The Post-308 Project


How could it possibly be shown that we do not understand what we believe we do understand? Wittgenstein raises
this question at PI 334 and in the sections following PI 511. He insists that
 

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It is not every sentence-like formation that we know how to do something with, not every technique has an
application in our life; and when we are tempted in philosophy to count some quite useless thing as a
proposition, that is often because we have not considered its application sufficiently (PI 520).
Wittgenstein's method, therefore, is to show that the sentence-like formations stemming from the Lockean picture
of an inner realm do not in fact have application in our life. In the case of mathematics, a single proof may 'lead us
to say that we cannot imagine something which we believed we could imagine' (PI 517), such as the trisection of
the angle (PI 334). Unfortunately, no single proof can be expected in the present case: the picture gives rise to
many apparently intelligible propositions, and indeed, many of these propositions are intelligible, as long as they
are used in their normal way. In place of a single proof, then, Wittgenstein discusses many specific sentence-like
formations from the Lockean picture, aiming to show that where they do have a use in real life, it is not their
predicted Lockean use.
Is this the question-begging Use Argument again? No, because it does not require, as an unargued premiss, the
equation of meaning with use. I said above that the Lockean can accept with equanimity the lack of any real use
for a proposition. For the Lockean, what makes the proposition meaningful is a mental state, which might occur
regardless of use. But it is also true, on the Lockean view, that the point of meaning is use: we have language in
order to use it (to remember our own thoughts and to communicate them to others). If a proposition has no real use,
the Lockean is under some obligation to explain why not. Why is it, for example, that propositions like 'I am here'
or 'A rose is red in the dark too' (PI 515), understood in their philosophical senses, have no ordinary use? Are they
too technical or abstract, too far from everyday, mundane concerns? But 'A rose is red in the dark too' contains no
technical or abstract terms. And a proposition like 'If you bring this rose into the light you'll see that it's red' (which
ought to be equally technical or abstract) certainly does have a normal use. If Wittgenstein can show that the
Lockean picture suffers from a characteristic and pervasive lack of use, it becomes difficult for the Lockean to
produce a convincing explanation of the fact. And the Wittgensteinian explanationthat these useless propositions
are, in some important sense, meaninglessbecomes correspondingly plausible.
The attempt to argue this is cumulative and (because it is an argument to the best explanation) persuasive rather
than demonstrative. But it is not question-begging.
 

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So far, I have characterised Wittgenstein's project in the post-308 sections of PI in such a way as to show that that
project arises from, yet does not presuppose, the Use theory of meaning. The post-308 project assumes that lack of
any real use is a surprising fact, something that requires an explanation: it does not assume that lack of any real use
in itself shows meaninglessness. I wanted to characterise the project in this way, partly to bring out its continuity
with the early sections of PI (which are concerned with the central importance of use), and partly to pre-empt the
mistaken view that, because the Lockean grounds use in inner grasp, showing lack of use misses the point.
There is, however, another, simpler way to characterise the project. Why, if we do not genuinely understand the
Lockean picture, do we have such a strong, pre-theoretical conviction that we do understand it? The source of this
conviction, Wittgenstein believes, is the analogy between inner and outer. We feel that we understand ordinary
outer objects and processes very well, and after all, thoughts and thinking are like these (only existing and
occurring in 'inner space'). This analogy, or 'misleading parallel' (PI 571), has been 'absorbed into the forms of our
language' (PI 112), making it inescapable. The alternative characterisation of Wittgenstein's post-308 project is that
it is an attempt to show in detail how 'the analogy which was to make us understand our thoughts fails to pieces'
(PI 308). Wittgenstein's aim is to show that the inner/outer analogy is so imperfect, so beset with puzzles and
disanalogies, that it cannot give us an understanding of the Lockean picture.
Is this really the same project? Yes it is, because Wittgenstein's way of showing that the analogy falls to pieces is
to show that many sentence-like formations which on the Lockean view ought to have a use, have no use; and that
many others which ought to be used in a particular way, are only used in a different way. Again, it is the same
because the burden on the Lockean is the same. To explain why these sentence-like formations do not have any, or
the expected, use would also be to explain what enables us to understand the picture. If the Lockean claims, for
example, that the sentence-like formations have no ordinary use because they are highly theoretical, that points to
their role in the theory (rather than the inner/ outer analogy) as enabling us to understand them. We might say that,
at the tactical level, Wittgenstein's project is to show lack of use: at the strategic level, it is to attack the analogy.
As was the case with the Private Language Argument, Wittgenstein in fact advances several arguments, some
relatively brief and self-contained, some highly ramified. As I did before, I shall begin with the arguments which
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The Improvement Argument


We have already seen Wittgenstein claim that we 'haven't any notion what kind of thing it might be that he has
before him' PI 294. PI 308 takes up the same idea:
We talk of processes and states and leave their nature undecided. Sometime perhaps we shall know more
about themwe 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.
Wittgenstein's point is that we know how to recognise an improvement in our knowledge of outer processes, like
ozone depletion or car manufacture. But we don't have any idea of what would count as an improvement in our
knowledge of 'processes' like rehearsing a speech or calculating a result in one's head. To put the point in linguistic
terms, we don't have any normal use for sentence-like formations such as 'Now I know better what happens in me
when I calculate in my head'.
A more familiar view, however, would be that we do indeed have a sufficient grasp of what a mental process is to
understand what knowing it better would be like. Wundt's programme was based on training subjects to introspect
more accurately so as to find out in more detail about their mental processes. Other accounts (going back to
Hobbes) look to neurophysiology for a better understanding of mental processes, assuming that mental processes
are sufficiently well understood to be identifiable with neural ones, on at least a token-token basis. (Eliminative
accounts, by contrast, regard the neural as displacing the mental, at least in theory). According to these more
familiar views, a scientist might very well want to say, at the conclusion of a series of introspectionist or
neurophysiological experiments, 'Now I know better what happens in me when I calculate in my head'.
A different reaction to Wittgenstein's claim might be to agree that we don't have any normal use for that sentence-
like formation, simply because we always know perfectly well what happens in us when a mental process occurs.
'Now I know better what happens in me when I calculate in my head' is strange, it might be said, in exactly the
same way that 'Now I know my name is N' is strange.
Wittgenstein attacks this second reaction at PI 311 (I cannot exhibit my own mental processes to myself) and PI
350 (even if I could exhibit them to myself, that would not help me understand what a mental process is supposed
to be in someone else). But there is no argument specifically to
 

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show that we do not understand what an improvement in our knowledge of a mental process would be: this lack of
understanding is supposed to be something we intuitively recognise.
Faced with this disagreement over how well we understand what a mental process is (we understand it not at
all/well enough to begin scientific research/with the greatest possible intimacy), how can we proceed? Two points
can be made: first, that if the post-308 project is successful as a whole, that will support Wittgenstein's contention
that there is a radical failure in our grasp of what a mental process is, and second, that the very existence of this
disagreement tends to tell in Wittgenstein's favour. We do not find this kind of disagreement regarding outer
processesno one has qualms about the usability of a proposition like 'Now I know better what happens in a tree
when it sheds its leaves'. The disagreement itself is at least a disanalogy between inner and outer processes.

The Interruption Argument


If thinking is a mental process and mental processes are like outer processes, it should always be possible to ask
whether the process is continuing or has been interrupted. At PI 328, Wittgenstein challenges this: 'Suppose
someone takes a measurement in the middle of a train of thought; has he interrupted the thought if he says nothing
to himself during the measuring?'
Suppose a carpenter is making a set of shelves. Perhaps there is a problem about how many shelves to fit into the
available space. The carpenter is thinking about this problem while preparing tools and materials. He or she rattles
a box of screws to get a rough idea how many are left. Does this interrupt the process of thinking about how many
shelves to make? There seems to be no clear answer to the question at this point: the answer depends on what
happens next. If the carpenter says, inwardly or outwardly, 'Now what was I thinking about?' and remembers or
fails to remember, then we say the process has been interrupted. But if the carpenter simply continues imagining
different arrangements of shelves, we say there has been no interruption.
What this brings out is that we say a process of thought has been interrupted when the thinker reacts as if there has
been an interruption. We don't look to what happens at the time of the interruption, we look to what happens later.
In the case of an outer process, too, we might look to what happens later but, in this case, we take the later event as
evidence of what happened at the time of the interruption. In the case of the inner process, what happens later
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Suppose, immediately after rattling the box of screws, the carpenter begins thinking about what colour to paint the
shelves (with no sense of an interruption in his or her train of thought). Has rattling the box of screws interrupted
the carpenter's train of thought or merely coincided with a change in it? Have we any way to settle this question?
If not, this is a serious disanalogy with the outer case. In the case of an outer process, we know rather well how to
settle this kind of question.
To put the point in linguistic terms: the Lockean picture leads us to expect one kind of use for a proposition like
'Rattling the box interrupted the carpenter's train of thought' (a use which connects with identifiable changes
occurring in the process from the moment of, and as a causal result of, the interruption). In fact, although we do
have a use for such propositions, it is not the use the Lockean picture anticipates.
PI 6337 explore a related feature of an interrupted train of thought. When someone continues after an interruption,
or knows how they would have continued, this is not based (Wittgenstein claims) on any persisting causal
influence from the pre-interruption segment of the train of thought. Rather, it is 'like following out a line of thought
from brief notes' (PI 634). I do not read off what I was going to say 'from some other process which took place
then and which I remember' (PI 637). But in the case of an outer process, knowing how the process would have
continued had it not been interrupted is a matter of reading off from the pre-interruption segment. There is
therefore a disanalogy between inner and outer processes concerning our knowledge of pre- and post-interruption
segments (and we will have more to say about such questions of knowledge below; see pp. 935).

The Speed of Thought Argument


If thinking is a process, to be understood on the model of an outer process, it should be possible to imagine the
process speeded up or slowed down. And we do indeed talk about thinking quickly or slowly. 'So it is natural to ask
if the same thing happens in lightning-like thoughtonly extremely acceleratedas when we talk and ''think while we
talk" ' (PI 318).
Wittgenstein's answer to this natural question is that 'I can see or understand a whole thought in a flash in exactly
the sense in which I can make a note of it in a few words or a few pencilled dashes' (PI 319). He goes on to
suggest in PI 320 that 'The lightning-like thought may be connected with the spoken thought as the algebraic
formula is with the sequence of numbers which I work out from it'. These remarks appear to
 

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deny that the lightning-like thought is a speeded-up version of the same thought at normal speed: rather it is like a
meaningful abbreviation. And this would be another disanalogy with outer processes. When a clock runs fast, it
does not leave out some of the steps it considers less important, or symbolise its normal operation in a form which
is quicker to work with.
But there is a danger in this argument, the danger of merely substituting one kind of inner process for another.
Wittgenstein moves immediately to defuse this danger. At PI 321 he writes, '"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 Lockean error is not an error
about the details of the mental process which goes on in us when we suddenly understand or have a lightning-like
thought. The Lockean error is to suppose that expressions such as 'sudden understanding' can be made meaningful
or explained by reference to mental processes of whatever sort.
This introduces a rather serious problem of interpretation, for what are we to make now of the remarks in PI 31920
which seemed to contrast the speeded-up thought with the abbreviated thought? There, Wittgenstein seemed to
claim precisely that the Lockean was wrong about the details of the mental process involved in lightning-like
thought. But that seems to imply that we can talk intelligibly about mental processes and, if we introspect
carefully, arrive at truths about them.
Before I explain how we might try to reconcile PI 31920 with PI 321, I ought to stress that Wittgenstein does not
say in PI 31920 that a lightning-like thought is a note or formula of a longer thought. He merely suggests these as
analogies. Still, PI 31920 do at least create the impression (which will recur more powerfully elsewhere) that
Wittgenstein arrives at these analogies as a result of an inward examination more accurate than anything the
Lockean achieved.
There are three main ways to bring Wittgenstein's apparent use of introspection into line with his attack on the
intelligibility of the Lockean picture. The first is to read the apparent use of introspection as part of a dialectic of
self-correction. We saw this self-correction occur within PI 339 (first, a superficial response to the Lockean
picture, then the correct response) and PI 31821 have something of the same appearance. Perhaps PI 319 and 320
set out a first, superficial response, the more deafly to correct it with PI 321. Unfortunately, there is little
independent evidence to recommend this view (no interlocutor's quotation marks, no explicit reference to the
putatively mistaken first reaction), and in other cases, as we shall see in a moment, it is hard to suppose that the
apparent use of introspection is for purposes of self-correction.
 

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The second option is to interpret Wittgenstein's apparent use of introspection as a kind of shorthand for what are
really claims about the usability of linguistic expressions. The claim that a lightning-like thought is abbreviated
rather than accelerated, on this view, is to be interpreted as the claim that we have no normal use for a sentence-
like formation such as 'I had the same thought as before, only faster'. By contrast, we do have a use for
propositions like 'I ran over the main topics of my speech in my head'. As will be obvious from this example, it is
far quicker and easier to make the point in substantive rather than meta-linguistic terms. Wittgenstein speaks so
often in substantive mode, on this view, for the sake of ease of exposition.
This is an attractive and plausible line in many cases. But there are two problems with it. The first problem is that
there are a number of passages where Wittgenstein talks in substantive mode and seems to mean it. Let me give
some examples. At PI 645 we read:
'For a moment I meant to . . .' That is, I had a particular feeling, an inner experience; and I remember
it.And now remember quite precisely! Then the inner experience of intending seems to vanish again.
Instead one remembers thoughts, feelings, movements, and also connections with earlier situations.
Here Wittgenstein certainly appears to demand a more conscientious kind of introspection, rather than attention to
what we might normally say. At PI 648 there is the same demand: 'What does my memory shew me; what does it
bring before my mind?' There is no indication in the text that this question is anything other than genuine.
Wittgenstein's point is that what we really remember in such cases is something less than we are inclined to think
we remember, that 'What I see in my memory allows no conclusion as to my feelings' (PI 651). This seems to
require that at least some such memories can be accurate. At PI 607, he writes, 'The picture of a special
atmosphere [surrounding a sentence and part of understanding it] forced itself upon me; I can see it quite clear
before meso long, that is, as I do not look at what my memory tells me really happened'. Once again, it seems that
by remembering what really happened in me when I understood the sentence, (for example that 'I was thinking
about my breakfast and wondering whether it would be late today'), I can see that no special atmosphere was
involved. Other examples can be found at PI 635 and PI 677.
Many of Wittgenstein's other arguments seem to depend in the same way on what we really remember. When I
carefully remember what went through my mind while teaching the child to add 2, I realise that I did not think
'After 1000, the next number should be 1002' (PI 186). When I remember what went through my mind when I was
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than the one that eventually occurred, I realise that no representation of a louder bang occurred in my imagination
(PI 442). When I try to 'attend to the way the sound of a letter comes' to me when I read it, I find (if I attend
carefully) that there is no special or distinctive way (PI 166). It's hard to see any natural way to take these recta-
linguistically. On Wittgenstein's view we do have a use for 'I thought to myself "When you get to 1000, write 1002
next"', and for 'I imagined a very loud bang but the actual explosion was disappointing'. The question Wittgenstein
is interested in is: what did you in fact think to yourself, imagine etc.? And that seems to accept the substantive
mode as legitimate.
Finally, and in addition to these argumentative uses of introspection, there are quite explicit admissions of mental
pictures and sounds. PI 6 concedes that it may be the purpose of a word to bring a picture of the object before the
bearer's mind, so that 'Uttering a word is like striking a note on the keyboard of the imagination' (see also PI 37).
The important point is that the mental image so produced does not constitute the hearer's understanding of the
word. Just as a brake-lever is only a brake-lever in conjunction with a certain mechanism, so the image, separated
from its context, 'may be anything, or nothing' (PI 6). Again, at PI 165 Wittgenstein says, apparently in propria
persona, 'if I so much as look at a German printed word, there occurs a peculiar process, that of hearing the sound
inwardly'. This happens, but does not constitute reading the word, 'for the sounds of words may occur to me while
I am looking at printed words, but that does not mean that I have read them'. And many other examples could be
given.
The second problem with the meta-linguistic interpretation is that it rules out a certain natural kind of explanation.
If the substantive mode is to be reinterpreted in meta-linguistic terms, what we experience cannot explain why we
say the things we say. To take a new example: at PI II.xi. 147 Wittgenstein writes, 'Seeing an aspect and imagining
are subject to the will. There is such an order as "Imagine this", and also: "Now see the figure like this"; but not:
''Now see this leaf as green".' This neatly encapsulates the move from substantive to meta-linguistic mode (see also
PI II.xi.62). If, as the present interpretation holds, the second sentence paraphrases the first, then the first no longer
explains the second. Why can we order someone, for example, to see the double cross as a white cross on a black
background? A natural explanation is that we all know that we can at will see it either this way of as a black cross
on a white background. But on the present interpretation, to say that we can do this just is to say, inter alia, that we
have a use for that kind of order. In the speed of thought case, why do we say 'I ran over the topics in my head' but
not 'I had the same thought, only faster'? The natural answer is that the first corresponds to our experience
 

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and the second does not. But it is a consequence of the meta-linguistic interpretation that this natural answer
merely restates the question. There are (I think unreliable) indications that Wittgenstein may have accepted this
consequence, and certainly, some commentators are ready to accept it on his behalf. Perhaps we do simply have to
accept that this language-game is played, without resorting to the kind of explanation I described above as natural
(PI II.xi.51). But this is without doubt a startling departure from common sense, of the kind Wittgenstein thought
philosophy should not involve (PI 128, 599).
Let's turn to the third way of reconciling Wittgenstein's apparent use of introspection with his attack on the
Lockean picture. The third option is to interpret Wittgenstein's use of the substantive mode as genuine (not as
something he self-corrects, and not as something we should reinterpret meta-linguistically), but then to find a
difference between Wittgenstein's and the Lockean's use or interpretation of introspection. Struck by the above
emphasis on memory, for example, we might say that, for Wittgenstein, introspection is always retrospection. But
PI 586 and PI 587 (among others) present cases of contemporaneous self-observation/introspection. Of again,
struck by Wittgenstein's emphasis on the unreliability of our memory-reports, we might say that, for Wittgenstein
(as for Saussure), what we introspect is formless, vague, or plastic to interpretation (a view developed in Malcolm
Budd's book Witegenseein's Philosophy of Psychology, see p. 28f., p. 76, p. 128f.). This seems to be suggested by
PI 366, where Wittgenstein rejects the idea of a mapping between a calculation I perform in my head and one I
perform on paper, of at PI 656, where he invites us to regard the wish we seem to introspect as just a way of
regarding the language-game of 'telling a wish'. And of course, at PI II.xi. 175 we have, 'If God had looked into
our minds he would not have been able to see there whom we were speaking of'. But Wittgenstein also emphasises
that we can remember accurately, as we saw above, and our dependence on contextual knowledge for purposes of
interpretation (see PI II.xi. 174) applies also to outer processes, such as a coronation (PI 584).
What difference, then, can we find between Wittgensteinian and Lock' can introspection? The obvious answer to
this question isthe difference which will be brought out by the post-308 project. The third line of interpretation
concedes an analogy between inner and outer because, in both cases, we can properly speak of remembering what
happened. To that extent, the analogy works. But how much follows from this? I said above that remembering
seems to involve a concept of things really having been as they are believed to have been. It would follow that
inner and outer processes must really take place. But it does not follow that 'really taking place' means the same
thing in the two cases. To say that someone really felt
 

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remorse, for example, might be to say something about the authenticity of the emotion, not, as in the case of an
outer process taking place, something about its dimensionality or causal efficacy (and see PI 306 on remembering).
On this interpretation, then, Wittgenstein and the Lockean both see an analogy between inner and outer processes
and both really do use introspection. But for the Lockean, the analogy is much closer than it is for Wittgenstein,
and introspection is correspondingly modelled more closely on perception. Accepting the analogy as dose, the
Lockean thinks he can do certain things with inner processesuse them in certain sorts of explanationwhile
Wittgenstein regards these uses as spurious. The nature of Wittgenstein's disagreement with the Lockean, in short,
is that if the analogy is complete or close, certain ways of speaking about inner processes are meaningful: if it is
partial or distant, they are not (PI II.xi. 192). At PI 76, Wittgenstein says, 'If someone were to draw a sharp
boundary [around a concept] I could not acknowledge it as the one I too always wanted to draw, or had drawn in
my mind. For I did not want to draw one at all.' The Lockean believes that working out the details of the
inner/outer analogy will lead to a better understanding of the innera natural enough belief because the analogy
gives us the understanding we have. Wittgenstein argues, however, that working out the details produces only
nonsense. The Lockean insists on sharpening an analogy which Wittgenstein insists on leaving as it is.
Leaving the analogy as it is, it should be noted in passing, is not at all a passive or easy matter. Given our almost
irresistible tendency to overextend the analogy, we have to work hard to remind ourselves 'not only of similarities,
but also of dissimilarities' (PI 130). This demands an extended and purposive course of argument, as provided by
the post-308 project.
Returning to the question of introspection, one problem with the third line of interpretation is that it diverges from,
of adds to, Wittgenstein's stated aim of investigating the applications of the picture (PI 374, PI 4234). In the same
way, the analogy which was going to make us understand our thoughts cannot strictly be said to 'fall apart': rather,
it shrinks dramatically. I think these points have to be accepted. Wittgenstein's tactic is not only to show anomalies
of use. In pursuit of disanalogies between inner and outer, he also points out anomalies of experience.
Another problem is that the balance of scholarly opinion is that Wittgenstein did not rely on introspection. Malcolm
Budd, for example, writes, 'At the heart of Wittgenstein's philosophy of psychology is his rejection of introspection
as a means of obtaining information about everyday psychological concepts' (p. 164).
Wittgenstein certainly wanted to stress the limitations of introspection. It does not produce knowledge, at least in
the case of sensations (PI 246, PI II.xi.200f.; but contrast PI 5867). It does not produce an understanding of
 

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concepts (PI 314, PI II.xi. 187; PI II.xiii.2). k is in some cases not at all clear even what introspection is supposed
to be (PI 41214, but contrast PI 677). It depends very much on the whole context (PI 63563). But the weight of
evidence seems to me to favour the view that, for Wittgenstein, within these limits, introspection can indeed give
us information, and even information about psychological concepts. At PI 677, for example, introspection reveals
or confirms that there are differences of degree in the concepts of 'meaning it' or 'thinking of someone'. At the very
minimum, introspection can give us the important negative information that certain concepts are applicable in the
absence of any specifiable introspectible process (see, for example, PI 140).
The disadvantages of this line of interpretation, then, seem to me supportable. Let me now point out an advantage.
When discussing the Use Argument, I suggested three objections to it: that there are uses for the inner objects
picture in everyday life, that the picture could legitimately be used in non-ordinary (for example, scientific)
contexts, and that the argument was question-begging. I have tried to respond to the third objection already. A
preliminary answer to the second is that the inner objects picture cannot bring any explanatory power to a theory to
the extent that it derives its meaning from its role in the theory. The present interpretation allows us now to answer
the first objection, too. The analogy does exist, and the picture really is used in everyday life. Wittgenstein's project
is not to show that any and all talk about the inner is meaningless, only that it becomes meaningless when pushed,
as the Lockean pushes it, beyond its everyday role. Just as the searcher after something gloob took the term out of
its proper context and, by doing so, created an impossible task, so the Lockean misinterprets our normal talk about
the inner by extending it beyond its normal boundaries (PI 194 end). This too creates an infinitely elusive object
(see PI 195 on the danger of transferring a sentence into 'a different language-game . . . from the one in which we
actually use it', and PI II.xi.234 on the way assimilating inner to outer 'makes this object into a chimera').
Another advantage, in my view, is that Wittgenstein's use of introspection reinforces PI's incompatibility with
behaviourism. The defining issue for behaviourism, historically and logically, is the validity of introspection and,
for Wittgenstein, introspection as we ordinarily understand it is unproblematic.
How, then, does the present interpretation square PI 31920 with PI 321? PI 31920, as suggested initially, claim that
a lightning-like thought is (typically) abbreviated rather than speeded up (see also PI 634). This is exactly what it
appears to be, a claim about experience, based on introspection. PI 321 does two things: it warns against the
assumption that sudden understanding is something that happens, in any sense close to the sense in which an outer
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any process as explaining the meaning of the phrase 'sudden understanding'. As Wittgenstein says at PI 316, what I
observe in myself when I think does not help clarify the meaning of the word 'think' (see also PI 314). So PI 31920
use introspection to establish a disanalogy between inner and outer processesto think quickly is not to have a
speeded-up thought. PI 321 states by contrast what introspection cannot be used to do. It cannot explain what it
means in general for an inner process to happen, and it cannot explain the meaning of a phrase like 'sudden
understanding'.

The Pre. existence Argument


According to the Lockean picture, a process of thought is something independent of the process of revealing the
thought, by speaking, humming, drawing a picture etc. Just as a hidden process of metamorphosis precedes the
emergence of the butterfly, so a hidden process of thought precedes the emergence of (thoughtful) speech. At PI
334, Wittgenstein says, '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'.
Consistently with the third line of interpretation outlined above, Wittgenstein does not attack this picture as
meaningless or false. On the contrary, he says, 'This picture is more or less appropriate in different cases' (PI 335).
The analogy between inner and outer is workable, in that we can properly say that the thought happened or was in
the thinker's mind before it was expressed, in at least some cases. Wittgenstein's criticism of the picture is for its
tendency to over-extend: we are too much 'inclined to extend the comparison' (PI 73). He writes,
can't all sorts of things happen here?I surrender to a mood and the expression comes. Of a picture occurs to
me and I try to describe it. Of an English expression occurs to me and I try to hit on the corresponding
German one. Or I make a gesture, and ask myself: What words correspond to this gesture? And so on (PI
335).
Thoughtful speech might have been preceded, not by an inner rehearsal of act of grammatical construction, but by
a mood, a picture, a phrase from another language, a gesture etc. The Lockean exaggeration of the analogy,
however, wrongly makes it seem that a speaker's meaning or intention must always pre-exist. It also makes it seem
as if we should be able to say in more
 

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detail what its pre-existing consists in (contrary to the Improvement Argument). Wittgenstein ends PI 335 with a
rhetorical challenge to this assumptionwhat can we really say 'to the question: "What did the thought consist in, as
it existed before its expression?" '?
The Pre-existence Argument, then, is not about an anomaly of use. We do have a use for expressions like 'I
thought out what I wanted to say beforehand'. It claims that the Lockean picture predicts experiences that we do not
in fact have. The Lockean picture makes these false predictions because it exaggerates, or sharpens, or forces, the
analogy between inner and outer.
There is another factor encouraging us to infer past experiences where none really happened, and the PI 600s are
largely devoted to exploring it. In many cases we use an apparently categorical past tense, which seems justified by
nothing outer. The Lockean inference is that it must be justified by something inner. Here are some examples. 'One
can now say that the words "I wanted N to come to me" describe the state of my mind at that time; and again one
may not say so' (PI 662). For the Lockean, 'I wanted . . .' is made true by the state of my mind at that time, just as
'The tree was in full leaf' is made true by the state of the tree at that time. For Wittgenstein, the analogy is not so
prescriptive: we are not compelled to interpret 'I wanted . . .' as the Lockean does. At PI 602 Wittgenstein writes,
'Asked "Did you recognise your desk when you entered your room this morning?"I should no doubt say
"Certainly? And yet it would be misleading to say that an act of recognition had taken place' (see also PI 6034, PI
596, PI 598). As before, it is correct to say 'I recognised . . .' (at least if someone asks me). But if we look at what
our memory tells us really happened, we will probably find no act of recognition. The truth of the past tense
statement does not depend on the occurrence at that time of something inner.
At PI 692 we have, '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'. Once again, the past tense expression is not made correct by anything we retrospect. In
fact, it is a disguised past tense conditional, roughly equivalent to 'If I had been asked, I would have told the learner
to write 1002' and so on (PI 187). Even if retrospection does reveal an experience, that experience is significant
only in its total context (PI 663). (Other past tense examples can be found at PI 633f.'I was going to say . . .'; PI
642f.'I hated . . .'; PI 663'I meant him'; PI 676f.'I meant this'; PI 687'I thought of him').
The Lockean sharpening of the analogy encourages a quasi-causal interpretation of inner processes. Outer
processes have causal efficacy. (Indeed, a definitional connection between real existence and causal efficacy goes
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at least to Plato's Sophist, 247e, where it trumps the Theory of Forms), It follows by the analogy that inner
processes must, in some similar sense, produce and be produced too. So if the inner process is a productive factor
in the emergence of thoughtful speech, it must always occur, just as the process of metamorphosis must always
occur if the butterfly is to emerge. But on the contrary, Wittgenstein argues, it is a disanalogy between inner and
outer processes that the inner process need not occur.

The Co-existence Argument


The Lockean picture of thinking as an independent process suggests that it exists either before of alongside
speaking. As Wittgenstein says, thinking 'seems to be an accompaniment of speech. A process, which may
accompany something else, or can go on by itself' (PI 330). Wittgenstein's response is that it is sometimes correct to
say that a mental process accompanies thoughtful speech of action ('we sometimes call it "thinking" to accompany
a sentence by a mental process', PI 332). But someone might speak of act thoughtfully without any mental process
going on (and the thought involved could be a highly abstract one such as 'If two magnitudes are equal to a third,
they are equal to one another' of a very practical one such as 'Yes, this pen is blunt. Oh well, it'll do', PI 330). So
the mental process is not always there. And even when it does occur, it isn't that occurrence which makes it correct
to say that the person is thinking ('that accompaniment is not what we mean by a "thought" ', PI 332).
This shows that the mental process is unlike an outer process, because it may or may not be present in any given
case of thinking, and because it isn't what we intend to name. 'Metamorphosis' names the process that occurs in the
chrysalis, hut 'thinking' does not name the process that occurs, when it does occur, in the mind.
Wittgenstein adds a point best seen as meta-linguistic. Consider the command 'Say a sentence and think it; say it
with understanding.And now do not say it and just do what you accompanied it with when you said it with
understanding!' (PI 332). For the Lockean, this sort of command ought to have a use. In fact, we hardly know what
might be meant by a command like 'Just perform the accompaniment which occurred when you understood the
sentence'. (The point is complicated, however. We do have a use for 'Just think itdon't say it', and, as Wittgenstein
points out, for 'Don't sing the tune, but repeat its expression'. And there are accompaniments typical of thoughtful
speechsee PI II.xi.183; PI II.xi.196). At least in
 

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the case of understanding, then, the Lockean picture tends to propose what is merely a command-like formation as
a legitimate command. Now, why is this command-like formation not used in real life? For the Lockean, because
we simply aren't interested, normally, in the inner process of understanding independent of its outward
manifestations. For Wittgenstein, because the formation is meaningless. The inner/outer analogy is not close
enough to render it intelligible.
As he did with the past tense, Wittgenstein discusses many further examples of present tense expressions we might
misinterpret as naming a coexisting mental process (concentrated this time in the PI 500s). PI 507f.'I mean . . .'; PI
536f.'I read this face as . . .'; PI 545'I hope . . .'; PI 547f.'I deny . . .'; PI 577'I am expecting . . .'; PI 578'I believe . .
.'; PI 588'I am revolving the decision . . .'; PI 592'I intend . . .'. (There are, of course, other examples outside of the
PI 500s; for example, 'I am afraid' in PI II.ix.) Throughout these discussions Wittgenstein emphasises the
variability of what might go through a person's mind (see, for example, PI 576) and the context-dependence of
whatever does go through it (PI 583 etc.). He also points out odd formations which, on the Lockean view, ought to
be usable. For example 'Does the same negation occur in: "Iron does not melt at a hundred degrees Centigrade"
and "Twice two is not five"?' (PI 551 and see also PI II.xi. 162f.).
A nice example of Wittgenstein's talent for bringing out the strangeness of formations accepted by the Lockean
occurs at PI 501: ' "The purpose of language is to express thoughts."So presumably the purpose of every sentence
is to express a thought. Then what thought is expressed, for example, by the sentence "It's raining"?' On the
Lockean view, the idiom 'expressing a thought' ought to be usable for every sentence. In fact, its use in real life is
quite different, to request or introduce an explanation of the meaning of some particularly difficult sentence.
At PI 1578, Wittgenstein presents a related attack on thinking as a coexisting process, which we might call the
First Word Argument. He claims that when a beginner is learning to read, the question 'Which was the first word
he really read?' makes no sense (unless we provide a stipulative definition of 'first', such as the first of the first
series of fifty correct words). If some co-existing process constitutes reading, however, then the question certainly
does make sense. It means 'Which was the first word accompanied by the constitutive process?'
To this argument the Lockean can reply in various ways. One way is by claiming that the question is normally not
asked, not because it has no sense, but because only the reader (who is probably too young or inexperienced to be
reliable) could answer it. It might also be said that
 

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we are not usually interested in whether a particular word was really read. Our interest is in whether, and how
well, a learner can read. Another reply is to claim that the constitutive process may not be all-or-nothing, so that
the question has no definite answer because the process may be partially or confusedly present.
All these responses press for a clearer account of what it is for the question to 'make no sense' (as opposed to being
impractically difficult or uninteresting). But if the conclusions of the sections on the Verificationist and Use
Arguments are correct, no such account is present in PI. I therefore regard the First Word Argument as an
overstatement or dramatisation of the Co-existence Argument.
If we should try to sum up the point of the Pre-existence and Co-existence Arguments, it would be this. The
Lockean interprets the past- and present-tense statements examined by Wittgenstein as reports of inner processes.
Because inner processes are, for the Lockean, closely analogous to outer ones, they are naturally reported in much
the same way. Wittgenstein shows in great detail, however, that there is often nothing to report, and that when there
is, it is not that alone which makes the 'report' correct. Furthermore, there are many unusable 'reports' which ought
to be possible on the Lockean view ('Report the thought you had as it existed before you expressed it', 'Report the
thought you meant to express by "It's raining"' and so on). But if the role of reporting is so different for inner
processes, this is a very striking disanalogy with outer processes.

The Description Argument


If the role of reporting is so different, we would expect the same to be true of describing. This would also follow
from the claim that we haven't really any idea what an inner process or object might be, and from the Improvement
Argument (see PI 2901). Wittgenstein gives several examples of sentences the Lockean interprets as descriptions,
pointing out how different they are from descriptions of outer objects and processes. At PI 17981, he discusses
'Now I know how to go on', stressing (as above) that it is possible that 'nothing at all occurred in B's mind', and that
even if a mental process did occur, it is not that alone which justifies the claim. This means it would be 'quite
misleading' to call these words a description of a mental state.
PI 577 and PI 585 contrast two ways of taking a sentence like 'I am expecting him'. If it means something like 'I am
not thinking about him but I would be surprised if he didn't show up', then it is not a description of a
 

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state of mind. If it means' "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'. So we do sometimes describe our state of mind, but the Lockean
sharpening of the analogy makes it seem as if this is what we do in all such cases. If someone, however, expecting
an explosion for example, 'whispers "It'll go off now", instead of saying "I expect an explosion any moment'', still
his words do not describe a feeling; although they and their tone may be a manifestation of his feeling' (PI 582).
A particular case in which we are not describingthe case of avowal or expression (Äusserung)has attracted a lot of
attention. At PI II.ix, for example, Wittgenstein asks 'Are the words "I am afraid" a description of a state of mind?'
His answer is that these words might be many different things, in some cases a description of my state of mind, in
others a cry of complaint of a confession. He concludes, 'if "I am afraid" is not always something like a cry of
complaint and yet sometimes is, then why should it always be a description of a state of mind?' (see also PI 585).
Again, 'the criteria for the truth of the confession that I thought such-and-such are not the criteria for the true
description of a process' (PI II.xi.210). As always, it is the Lockean over-extension of the analogy (the move from
sometimes-like to always-is) that Wittgenstein rejects.
Some commentators think that avowal is in some sense typical or particularly revealing of first-person
psychological statements in general. Paul Johnston, for example, emphasises that 'this type of statement has
a quite different grammar from that of a description' (p. 12f., p. 127f.).
Norman Malcolm (Wittgenstein: Nothing is Hidden, p. 142) says, 'In likening the utterance "I'm in pain" to
a cry of pain, Wittgenstein was not declaring that it is a cry of pain. He was pointing out a similarity that,
once seen, helped him to be freed from the foregoing tangle of misleading, confusing or nonsensical ideas
[that I know that I am in pain by inwardly observing myself].'
The point of drawing this analogy, according to Malcolm, is to show that 'I'm in pain', though it can be true
or false (unlike a cry, which is genuine or pretended), is not made true or false by any comparison against
reality. One does not apply psychological predicates to oneself on the basis of criteria, and this 'undermines
the notion that first-person psychological utterances are compared with reality' (p. 144). Thus, 'If one
doesn't employ the predicates in accordance with any criteria, then one is not trying to determine whether
the predicates fit either inner mental states or outer behaviour. If, in addition, one does not use the subject
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determine whether the predicate is true of some particular person or thing' (p. 147). Malcolm describes this
as a 'decisive refutation of the notion that one somehow compares these sentences with how things are, and
of the connected notions that one verifies, or perceives, or observes, or knows, that they are true, or false'.
Malcolm rightly points out that, for Wittgenstein, 'He is in pain', too, 'can be an expression of concern of
anguish' (Zettel 5405). Here too, what we say functions as a replacement for more primitive expressive
behaviour (of tending and treating). But this extension to a case in which (on his account, p. 143) we do
apply criteria surely shows that the distinction between expressive and descriptive uses of a sentence will at
best be an intuitive way into the important distinction, which is that between an utterance made on the basis
of criteria and one made, as it were, immediately. For Wittgenstein, in any case, the distinction between
describing and expressing seems to be a matter of the surroundings and the extent to which the speaker is
caught up in the experience (see PI 5856). There seems to be no class of sentences which are only used
expressively (PI II.ix.7, 13, 1719). Criterionless first-person ascriptions such as 'My present image is red'
(PI 377f.), for example, are not readily understood as expressive.
To put it briefly, we have three disjunctions: between expressive and descriptive uses, between criterionless
and criterion-employing uses, and between first-person and second/third-person psychological ascriptions.
The second disjunction matches the third much better than the first does, and accordingly, seems to offer
more hope of casting light on the third.
The crucial question, then, is how we are to understand criterionless utterance. This obviously depends on
what we take Wittgenstein to have meant by the term 'criterion', a matter of some debate. On p. 99f. below,
I explain a criterion as any one of many logically co-suffcient conditions for an utterance, usable on
particular occasions as a crucial test (taking the other co-sufficient conditions, of a sufficient number of
them, to be satisfied). If this account is correct, a criterionless utterance might be either one that has no
logically co-sufficient conditions, or one not in fact preceded by any crucial test. But an utterance which
lacks co-sufficient conditions would be logically isolated. N's utterance 'I am in pain' would have no
connection, for example, with N's present wants or N's history as a human being. If this is untenable, a
criterionless utterance, for Wittgenstein, must be one not in fact preceded by a crucial test to justify the
utterance.
Our question now is whether Wittgenstein believed that there is a set of utterances classified by content
(such as first-person psychological ascriptions) which are never made on the basis of a crucial
 

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test. I argued above (in the section on the Identification Argument) that Wittgenstein overstates the
impossibility of error, and a natural corollary of this overstatement is a rejection of testing, for, where a test
is applied, the tester could conceivably make a mistake about its application or its outcome. Wittgenstein
also clearly states that some introspective judgments are criterionless (PI 377f). On the other hand,
introspection for Wittgenstein is at least sometimes a difficult process, a matter of self-examination,
something which the person can get wrong (see the section on the Speed of Thought Argument above and
p. 80f. below). Someone who is asking himself 'Do I really love her?', for example, may call up imaginary
situations, in which imagined responses could serve as criteria of real love (PI 587).
I suggest that our most reasonable course, lacking decisive textual evidence, is to suppose that Wittgenstein
held that some but not all first-person psychological ascriptions (those concerning sensations, for example)
could involve a crucial test only in abnormal circumstances (such as a case in which the person concerned
has reason to suspect some kind of neurological malfunction). If I have to take regular supplements of
wonder drug D, for example (see above, p. 27), then I might treat the time elapsed since my last dose as a
crucial test even of a judgment like 'I feel hot' (because my regular dose might last six hours, say, before
the normalising effect begins to wear off). Self-ascription of sensations would be criterionless, then, in the
sense that no criterion would normally be applied as a crucial test justifying the ascription.
If all this is correct, avowals would not only be relegated to pointing the way towards criterionless
utterance, but criterionless utterance would itself apply only to some first-person inner 'reports' or
'descriptions', and only under normal (rather than all possible) circumstances. Furthermore, second- and
third-person psychological ascriptions would, on many occasions, be criterionless too, as would many non-
psychological utterances. The judgment that another person is in pain, for example, might be made without
applying any crucial test. As Wittgenstein suggests, it, too, can be beyond intelligible doubt ('the words
becoming quite meaningless' PI 420, but contrast PI II. xi.198, 201). In short, the match even between the
second and third disjunctions is far from perfect.
Now, the concept of an avowal can be put to various uses. It might be invoked, for example, to answer the
question 'What makes a sentence like "I am in pain" meaningful?' Such a sentence is not made meaningful,
it might be said, by the ability of the word 'pain' to designate an object, but by the ability of the sentence as
a whole to replace the natural expressions of pain. Used in this way, a perfect match between the
avowal/description and the first/second- or
 

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third-person disjunctions may not be necessary. But other problems loom. Even if we allow that the concept
could explain how terms for sensations which have a natural expression become meaningful, other
sensations and other mental processes would seem to fall outside its scope. What about all the sensations
(and other mental states and processes) that do not have natural expressions?
And how far does the concept of an avowal (Äusserung) really help in the case of sensations that do have a
natural expression/Do we understand the relation between the natural behavioural expression and the
experience, on which the explanatory value of the concept is predicated? What is the relation, for example,
between the twinge of toothache and the wince that expresses it? Does the wince correlate with the twinge?
Or constitute it? Or neither? Until we understand how to respond to these questions, the fact that in one
case the behavioural output is learned (speech) and in another case unlearned (natural expression), seems to
me relatively unimportant. For Wittgenstein himself, the natural expressions of a sensation seem only to
help explain how sensation-language is in fact introduced (PI 244, PI 257). The concept of an avowal does
not generate a theory of the meaning of sensation-language.
I now want to leave the question of avowals to discuss Malcolm's interpretation of the PLA (quoted above).
This begins from the criterionless nature of first-person psychological ascriptions (as does Budd's, see
Appendix). According to Malcolm, the absence of criteria, and the non-referring nature of 'I' in these
contexts, show that such ascriptions are not made true by any comparison against reality. And this in turn
shows that we cio not observe or know our inner states. Furthermore, it shows where dualism and
behaviourism err. Both regard 'I am in pain' as being compared against reality to test its truth. But 'if one
doesn't employ the predicates in accordance with any criteria, then one is not trying to determine whether
the predicates fit either inner mental states or outer behaviour' (p. 147).
I have already suggested that it is not easy to be certain what Wittgenstein would say about a criterionless
class of sentences. For Wittgenstein, I suggest, there are criterionless utterances (cases in which no
difficulty prompts us to apply a crucial test), but not ctiterionless classes of utterances, if, as above, the
principle of classification is content-based. Thus, first-person psychological ascriptions might involve the
application of criteria (though they typically do not), and second- or third-person psychological ascriptions
might not. In fact, even a non-psychological sentence like 'The book's on the desk' would not normally
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Criteria would normally be used only, for example, if the speaker was for some reason uncertain that the
object really was a book of a desk. Nevertheless, this is a paradigmatic case of 'comparison with reality'.
What makes the sentence true (whether criteria are put into use in a particular case or not) is the book's
really being on the desk. For these reasons, I would question Malcolm's notion of a criterionless, content-
based class of sentences, and the connection he sees between it and the notion of a fit with reality.
Another problem for Malcolm's account is to explain what does make 'I am in pain' true, if it is not anything
that can be described as a 'comparison with reality'. Malcolm is surely correct to point out that 'I am in pain'
(unlike a groan) can have a truth-value, but then it seems reasonable to inquire what makes it true or false
in a given case. Malcolm's account protests against the object-designation model of the truth or falsehood
of 'I am in pain', but supplies no alternative.
To sum up: neither the concept of an avowal nor that of criterionless utterance holds much promise, it seems to me,
as alternatives to the object-designation model. Wittgenstein's aim is not to uproot that model and replace it with
something better, but to reveal it as an exaggeration of our ordinary, harmless analogy between inner and outer.

The Pointing Argument


At PI 382 Wittgenstein asks, '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?' Then at PI 411 he takes up the question 'Is this sensation my
sensation?' He says this question has a 'practical (non-philosophical) application', but unfortunately he doesn't say
what it is. Perhaps he has in mind the case in which someone wonders whether a certain sensation, such as a thrill
of triumph, is really authentic. If this is correct, the question means something like 'Has this sensation been
produced in me only by peer-suggestion of abnormal circumstances?' Wittgenstein's comment on the question is:
Which sensation does one mean by 'this' one? That is: how is one using the demonstrative pronoun here?
Certainly otherwise than in, say, the first example! ['Are these books my books?'] Here confusion occurs
because one imagines that by directing one's attention to a sensation one is pointing to it.
The inward pointing which, at PI 258, could not establish a definition, is in fact not a kind of pointing at all (see
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pointing, to accept that the demonstrative pronoun functions in 'this sensation' as it does in 'this book', is a further
Lockean exaggeration of the inner/outer analogy.
At PI 66972 Wittgenstein gives an interesting argument to show that we cannot point to a sensation by directing
our attention to it. He accepts that we can point to something by looking or listening in a particular, receptive way.
And it is by analogy with this outer 'pointing-by-looking' that we think we can point to a sensation by directing our
attention on to it. But if we 'look or listen inwardly' in the same receptive way, then the something we point to by
that method 'is not the sensation which we get by means of it' (PI 672). Rather, 'Listening [inwardly] as it were
looks for an auditory impression and hence can't point to it, but only to the place where it is looking for it' (PI 671).
This argument (of PI 66972) appears to assume that we can point to something public only by looking or listening
expectantly, waiting for the thing to appear. But we can also point by looking or listening intently, to something
that is already present. If we can concentrate intently on a sensation, at least this degree of analogy between inner
and outer pointing-by-attending would hold. So, is it possible, according to Wittgenstein, to concentrate intently on
a sensation?
Wittgenstein discusses a similar kind of kind of concentration (on the colour or shape of something) at PI 336. He
makes two by-now-familiar pointsthat many different things may happen when a person directs his or her attention
to the colour or the shape of something, and that 'it isn't these things by themselves that make us say someone is
attending to the shape, the colour, and so on' (PI 33). So it is possible, on Wittgenstein's view, to point to the colour
or shape of an object, or to point to a piece in a game as a piece in a game (PI 35). It is also possible to pronounce
one image to be the same as another (PI 377). I can say, for example, whether two dreams I had on successive
nights contained the same images. Why then does Wittgeno stein seem to suggest that we cannot point to an image
(see also PI 2759, PI 311, PI 380, PI II. xi,22)?
This is another claim which is best taken meta-linguistically. As appeared in PI 411, Wittgenstein wants to contrast
the uses of the demonstrative pronoun as it applies to inner and outer processes. In the second half of PI 38
Wittgenstein says (in the manner of so-called causal theories of naming), that 'it is precisely characteristic of a
name that it is defined by means of the demonstrative expression "That is N" (or "That is called 'N' ").' In the case
of outer processes and objects, the demonstrative pronoun has this important role. It introduces the term into use.
The primary disanalogy with the inner demonstrative is that we did not learn how to use, for
 

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example, colourowords, by an inward pointing with the attention (PI 3612). The teacher points at some outer blue
thing, or someone in pain, and says, 'That's blue', 'That's what it's like to be in pain'.
There are other disanalogies between inner and outer demonstratives. The whole purpose of a demonstrative in
normal use is to draw the attention of others to something they can see or hear. But in the inner case, this purpose
is, on the Lockean view, necessarily defeated (PI 398, PI 453, PI 571).
PI 379 concedes that there are normal uses for a statement like 'First I am aware of it as this; and then I remember
what it is called'. A certain kind of poet, or someone who has taken an hallucinatory drug, might say this to express
a raw, pre-verbal experience of something. But the Lockean, in a typical piece of over-extension, wants to apply
the statement to every case of perception, and to make the thing perceived something inner. The expected Lockean
use is not the statement's real use.
What about a statement like 'So this is love'? 'This' here can be used to refer to going places together, making
plans, giving things up for the other person and so on. But it also has a use in which 'this' refers to a set of feelings
and emotionseuphoria, recurring memories or images, and so on. In this second use, the person in love seems to
point to these feelings and emotions as explaining the word 'love'. In rather the same way, people say things like
'You can't understand what depression is until you've felt it yourself', and someone who begins to experience
feelings of despair, inability to cope and so on, might very well say to themselves, 'So this is depression'. Don't
these cases substantiate the Lockean use?
Suppose someone had exactly the same feelings and emotions as the person in love, but unconnected with any
outer events or behaviour, and for only one second (PI 583, PI II.i). In this case, it would not be correct to say 'So
this is love'. So even in its second use, it is not the feelings and emotions by themselves that count. It is also
noticeable that, in these cases (of love and depression), it is not a single sensation which is referred to, but a whole
cast of aspect of experience. Are there any cases in which we say 'So this is . . .' when 'this' refers to a single
sensation?
We can surely say 'So this is the taste of ouzo', 'So this is the smell of a skunk' and so on, wanting to impress on
ourselves a sensation we may not easily experience again. Here we seem to direct our attention on to a sensation, at
least in the sense of setting aside distractions. And when we suddenly remember a face or some notes from a
melody, we may concentrate on it, perhaps to remember whose face it is or the rest of the melody, before the
memory fades. In cases like this (which could occur, disconnectedly, for a second), can't we say 'Whose face is
this?' intending to refer to the memory image (see PI II.iii)?
 

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It seems to me that PI 66972 overstates the disanalogy between inner and outer demonstratives: in both cases there
is an 'anti-distraction' use for the demonstrative. But Wittgenstein is dearly right to say that serious disanalogies do
exist. The kind of pointing-with-the-attention which we have now admitted, is not used to introduce terms into use
or to draw the attention of other people to something. And it is not so much a matter of singling out an identifiable
particular as of setting aside possible sources of distraction.

The Hypostasis Argument


I said above that the Lockean tends to give a quasi-causal or efficacious role to inner states and processes. The
inner rehearsal, the calculation done in the head, the inwardly examined image, make a difference to the outer
performance, (in the same sort of way that outer processes make a difference to outer events). So if we later
observe a similar outer performance, it seems natural to suppose that some similar inner process led up to it. And if
the person concerned denies experiencing any such inner process, then the process must have occurred
unconsciously.
This hypostasis of unconscious inner processes is very natural, given the extension of the inner/outer analogy to
efficacy. Examples range from Freudian unconscious desires to Chomskyan tacit knowledge of generative
grammatical rules. But hypostasis also provides the Lockean with replies to some of the points Wittgenstein has
been making.
Why is there disagreement over how well we understand inner processes? Because these processes are sometimes
fully conscious, sometimes partly conscious, and sometimes entirely unconscious. Why do we determine whether a
process of thinking has been interrupted by the way the person reacts after the interruption? Because in many
cases, the process is a theoretical entity, hypostasised to explain later behaviour. Why does a lightning-like thought
seem to be abbreviated rather than speeded-up? Because the apparently missing parts of the process occur
unconsciously. Why does it seem that we sometimes speak thoughtfully without any inner pre-existing or co-
existing process? Because in these cases the processes occur unconsciously. Why is there a difference between the
cases Wittgenstein concedes as describing one's state of mind, and the cases he refuses to accept? Because in the
former cases the process is conscious, in the latter cases it is unconscious. (I do not, of course, present these replies
as complete or conclusive, but to discuss them further would take us too far from the text).
 

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It is important to distinguish two kinds of hypostasis before discussing Wittgenstein's Hypostasis Argument
(Wittgenstein outlines this distinction at PI 156, PI 1589 and PI 427). The Lockean kind of hypostasis holds that
processes like those which are sometimes conscious, sometimes occur unconsciously. Someone learning a foreign
language, for example, might consciously apply an explicit grammatical rule in order to form an interrogative. But
the learner forms interrogatives in his or her native language, too. The Lockean view is that a similar rule must
have been applied. The rule for the speaker's native language, however, is so familiar, so deeply ingrained, that its
application is unconscious. Lockean hypostasis does not concern brain-processes of which we are never (without
the help of neurological equipment) conscious: it concerns processes like those we sometimes introspect.
The Hypostasis Argument is a kind of reductio ad absurdum, resting on the idea that once we begin to hypostasise
unconscious processes, we won't be able to stop. PI 595 points out that we sometimes have a feeling that a certain
sentence in a certain situation is unnatural (rather as native speakers are held to have intuitions about
grammaticality, see PI 542). Wittgenstein asks, 'Are we to say that there is a particular feeling accompanying the
utterance of every sentence when we say it naturally?' Are all grammatical sentences accompanied by (mostly
unconscious) intuitions of grammaticality? There seems to be no very convincing reason for the Lockean to say
'No'. But to say 'Yes' seems rather profligate with theoretical entities (see also PI 171).
PI 596 gives another example. We sometimes feel an object to be strange, or out of place, or unfamiliar. Are we to
say that an unfamiliar object, which we notice but do not consciously feel to be unfamiliar, nevertheless makes an
unconscious 'impression of unfamiliarity' on us? And are we to say that 'every object, which we know well and
which does not seem strange to us, gives us a feeling of familiarity'?
Another example occurs at PI 600: 'Does everything that we do not find conspicuous make an impression of
inconspicuousness? Does what is ordinary always make the impression of ordinariness?' Another example follows
at PI 6023, concerning recognition (and see also PI 448, where the recognition of a sensation is suggested by the
interlocutof as necessary for the sensation-word to have meaning).
PI 601 is particularly interesting. Wittgenstein says 'When I talk about this table,am I remembering that this object
is called a "table"?' Here, we are not interested in a brain-process that might be described at a higher level as
information-retrieval. Our question concerns an inner process. When someone wants to talk about an object in a
foreign language, there is sometimes a conscious process of remembering. And when we waant to refer
 

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to something unusual in our native language we sometimes become conscious of some kind of process of
remembering: 'Oh there's a "ph" in it . . . and it's some kind of -itis . . . like that Egyptian queen . . . got it!
Nephritis'. The behavioural ouput from this inner process, on the Lockean view, is successful use of the word
'nephritis'. But when I say 'The book's on the table' I successfully use the word 'table'. Is this successful use also
output from an inner process of remembering, which happens so quickly or easily that I do not become conscious
of it? The reductio argument mobilises the common sense reaction that in a case like this, I do not remember that
the object is a table, I know it is.
Let me give an example from linguistics. Steven Pinker (in his article 'Rules of Language') writes as
follows: 'Verbs intuitively perceived as derived from nouns or adjectives are always regular [in their
pasttense form], even if similar or identical to an irregular verb. Thus one says grandstanded, not
grandstood; flied out in baseball (from a fly ball), not flew out; high-sticked in hockey, not high-stuck. The
explanation is that irregularity consists of a linkage between two word roots, the atomic sound-meaning
pairings stored in the mental lexicon; it is not a link between two words or sound patterns directly. High-
stuck sounds silly because the verb is tacitly perceived as being based on a noun root (hockey) stick, and
noun roots cannot be listed in the lexicon as having any past-tense form (the past tense of a noun makes no
sense semantically), let alone an irregular one. Because its root is not the verb stick there is no data pathway
by which stuck can be made available; to obtain a past-tense form, the speaker must apply the regular rule,
which serves as the default.'
The thing to be explained, for Pinker, is why we say 'He highsticked the umpire' rather than 'He high-stuck
the umpire'. The explanation suggested is that we unconsciously interpret, or recognise, or perceive the verb
'to high-stick' as derived from the noun 'stick'. But 'stick', understood as a noun, obviously has no past
tense. So when we look for a past tense for the verb 'to high-stick', we default to the normal 'Add -ed' rule
for past tenses in English. This kind of explanation depends on hypostasising an unconscious perception or
recognition like the conscious perception or recognition of wordfunction we sometimes have. Pinker's use
of the expression 'data pathway' holds out the promise of a neural level of explanation, but the explanation
offered is primarily psychological.
The Hypostasis Argument would ask where this unconscious parsing is supposed to stop. When we produce
an irregular past tense form normally (such as go-went), have we tacitly perceived it as based on a verb
root? Do we tacitly perceive verbs such as 'to cut',
 

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'to bite' or 'to drink' (which have a corresponding noun but also an irregular past tense) as not based on the
noun? What about regular verbs like 'to table', 'to telephone', 'to knife'? Are these regular because we tacitly
perceive them as noun-based (and default) or because we tacitly perceive them as verb-based, along with 'to
melt' or 'to complain'? And are children and pre-literate communities, who have never had the conscious
experience of perceiving a word as noun-based or verb-based, supposed to be capable of the same tacit
experiences as us? They can certainly produce the same past tense forms.
We could generate many other questions about unconscious parsing, or about Lakoff's unconscious images.
The natural conclusion is that hypostasis of unconscious inner processes seems to create a lot more
theoretical trouble than it's worth.
In present research into memory or visual recognition, the focus of explanatory optimism is very much neural,
rather than Lockean. The general tendency is to suppose that any mental process hypostasised by a theory will turn
out to be identical to some brain process. Pinker says that this expectation is 'as fundamental to cognitive science as
the cell doctrine is to biology and plate tectonics is to geology' (The Language Instinct, p. 78). But this is, of
course, an area of intense philosophical controversy. A typetype identity theorist (or someone like Honderich) can
expect neural explanations to coincide with, and so substantiate, psychological ones. Functionalists such as Putnam,
on the other hand, hold that we cannot expect to find genuine explanations of human behaviour at the neural level
(see his article 'Philosophy and Our Mental Life' and PI II.xi.139). Psychological explanations, on this account, are
the only ones we have. Eliminativists, on the contrary, believe that 'folk psychology' will, at least in theory,
eventually disappear altogether from explanations of human behaviour. Then there are those, such as Searle, who
regard the semantic and subjective as irreducibly real (whatever this means exactly). A guide to PI is not the place
to say more about this debate. But perhaps we can at least say this. If researchers are converging on the view that
hypostasised unconscious processes are not finally satisfactory, that they stand in need of a further, neural, level of
explanation, then Wittgenstein is in fact winning the argument against causal explanation based on the inner.
To sum up: if inner processes are like outer processes, then they can continue to operate when no one is conscious
of them. But the hypostasis of unconscious inner processes, once begun, seems uncontrollable. As before, the
inner/outer analogy must not be pushed too far.
This seems to me a rather powerful argument, but the hypostasis of unconscious mental entities and processes is
such an essential element in
 

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the modern Lockean case, that Wittgenstein provides several arguments against it. We will discuss some of these
later (see Appendix), but one development of the Hypostasis Argument can be considered now.
PI 185-92 discuss the case of a pupil who seems to understand the order 'Add 2' but who, on continuing the series
past 1000, begins to write '1004 . . . 1008 . . . 1012 . . .' The pupil's teacher naturally insists that he meant the pupil
to write '1002 . . . 1004 . . . 1006 . . .' Wittgenstein asks, 'did you also mean that he should write 1868 after 1866,
and 100036 after 100034 and so onan infinite number of such propositions?' (PI 186).
The Lockean's first inclination is to understand 'meaning the pupil to write 1002' on the model of an explicitly
considered case. Suppose the teacher thinks, in the early stages of teaching the rule, 'I wonder if the pupil will
continue properly into two-digit numbers? Well, after 8, I will be looking to see if the pupil writes 10'. Here, the
teacher explicitly thinks about a particular transition and explicitly expects a particular number. Is there is a
similar, but unconscious, mental process that underlies the teacher's claim to have meant the pupil to write '1002'
after '1000'? The obvious problem is that there would have to be an infinite number of these unconscious mental
processes.
The Lockean may reply that the mental process which underlies the claim to have meant '1002' after '1000' is one
of consulting some general schema or formula. The teacher may have in mind an algebraic formula (PI 146) or a
general instruction such as that the pupil 'should write the next but one number' (PI 186). The trouble with this
reply is that the pupil, too, might mentally, or even overtly, consult the formula or general instruction, and still
write '1004', or mean another pupil to write '1004' (PI 73) Merely consulting the formula or instruction, mentally or
otherwise, obviously does not guarantee that the consulter will understand it (PI 152). Consulting by itself,
therefore, does not explain the teacher's claim to have meant '1002'. Something more is needed to bridge the gap
between consulting and understanding, and on the Lockean view, it seems this would have to involve a realisation
that the formula or general instruction requires '1002' after '1000'. If the mental alternatives are something general
or something specific (as they are for Langacker, for example; see below, p. 126), and if something general will
always leave a gap between consultation and understanding, then meaning for the Lockean must be ultimately
based on something specific. This brings us back to specific mental acts for each step in the series.
Can the Lockean avoid an infinity of these mental acts by holding that 'I meant you to write 1002' is a misleading
past tense, which does not mean 'I derived the value 1002 at that time' but 'I would have derived the value 1002 if
the question had arisen at that time'?
 

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Wittgenstein accepts this 'translation' (PI 187) but does not regard it as solving the Lockean's problem. The
Lockean still lacks an account of the teacher's understanding of the formula or instruction at that time. In virtue of
what mental state or process would the teacher have derived that value if asked at that time? Consultation of a
general formula or instruction, again, is not enough. Wittgenstein goes on to discuss two possible accounts: first,
that the formula or instruction itself determines how it is to be applied (shifting from a Lockean to a Platonic
theory), and second, that the way the formula or instruction is meant determines this (returning us to the original
question of what explains its being meant in one way rather than another).
Thus, either the Lockean provides an impossible account of the mental basis of someone's understanding a rule
such as 'Add 2', or ultimately, no account at all. It follows that hypostasis, once begun, is uncontrollable, not only
in the sense that all manner of superfluous processes are generated, but also in the sense that at least some kinds of
understanding would require an infinite number of unconscious mental steps.

The Connection Argument


Wittgenstein's last and most difficult group of arguments against overextending the analogy concerns the kinds of
connection an inner object or process has: firstly, to other inner objects and processes; secondly, to behaviour-in-
context or action, and thirdly, to outer objects and processes. His general strategy is to argue that these connections
are not like, and not to be understood on the model of, connections between outer objects such as causal
connections. This is a particularly rich, nuanced and elusive topic in PI, and any attempt to deal with it in a
systematic way will be controversial. For a diagram summarising the rather complex discussion which follows, see
below, p. 119.
Inner/Inner Connections. The most natural place to start would be with the association of ideas. This causal
connection between ideas was advanced by Hume as the fundamental principle of the then-new science of
psychology, the principle that would do for the study of human nature what Newton's concept of gravity had done
for the science of motion. It is surprising, then, that Wittgenstein says so little about it. The classical empiricists'
reification of ideas (on which associationism depends) is obviously an important example of the sharpening of the
analogy which Wittgenstein wants to attack, but he chooses not to attack it on this particular terrain. Thus, the
 

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PLA (PI 2568) casts doubt on an individual's ability to set up voluntarily an association between ideas, but Hume's
associationism is not of this voluntary kind (cf. the weakness referred to above in the Verificationist Argument). PI
640 may suggest that the connection we sometimes see between thoughts is the result of later interpretation. But in
general, Wittgenstein avoids explicitly discussing associationism in PI.
On the other hand, Wittgenstein has a lot to say about the connection between inner objects and processes and that
other inner entity, the mind or self. If inner objects are like outer ones, they ought to stand to persons in similar
ways. In particular, we might expect that, just as persons can perceive, possess or know about outer objects such as
tables and chairs, so inner objects can be perceived, possessed, or known about by the inner analogues of persons.
But in these three expectations, Wittgenstein argues, we are mistaken.
Locke held that the mind directly perceives its own ideas, not the external objects those ideas represent. At PI 453,
Wittgenstein says:
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 that he expects, would be an idiotic distortion of the expression.
PI 417 backs this up. There are occasions when we want to say 'I am conscious again' (as in PI 416), but these are
not occasions on which I have perceived my consciousness. And if I want to say, 'I perceive I am conscious' (to
'shew that I am attending to my consciousness') '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' (PI 417).
But this last sentence raises a problem. If 'I perceive my consciousness' is allowable, why should we not allow 'I
perceive my expectation' too? Does PI 453 only rule out 'I perceive my expectation' as a way of saying 'I expect . .
.'? If so, this would also explain why Wittgenstein objects in PI 417 that the sentence 'does not say that I am
conscious', a remark that is otherwise difficult to interpret. But on this account, it is possible for someone to
perceive his or her inner states (and what this means is that his or her attention is disposed in such-and-such a
way). The inner/outer analogy would then hold, to the extent that we can be said to perceive both.
It is all too easy to read PI 417 and PI 453 as completely damning perception of one's own consciousness or
expectations (leading us back towards the view that Wittgenstein rejected introspection). A more careful reading
reveals, however, that Wittgenstein here accepts that we can direct
 

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our attention on to our own states of consciousness. The disanalogy lies rather in the perception-independence of
the thing perceived. The first three remarks of PI II.ix give further examples of self-observation (concerning pain
and grief). But they also point out that if this directing of the attention on to our grief changes it, or is even a
precondition of its existence, then perceiving the inner is not like perceiving the outer.
It might be said in reply that perceiving an electron changes it irrevocably, but this raises questions too large to
consider here. It might also be argued that directing our attention on to our own grief does not change it, but
merely reveals more about it. And, of course, if inner processes can be unconscious, then they need not be
perceived in order to exist (and in any case, they need not be perceived in Wittgenstein's sense of being the focus
of special attention).
Hans-Johann Glock writes (in his Wittgenstein Dictionary, p. 176), 'For most mental phenomena, it does
not even make sense to suppose that their subject misperceives them or mistakes them for something else.
The possibility of a gap between its seeming to be so and its being so which characterizes perception is
absent.' In similar vein, he says (p. 308), 'There is no such thing as recognizing or perceiving the sensationit
does not make sense to say ''From observing myself I can tell that I am in agony".'
Does it make sense to suppose that someone misperceives or mistakes his or her own state of mind? Can
one tell one's state of mind by self-observation? Wittgenstein's explicit answer to these questions isyes. 'The
exclamation "I'm longing to see him!" may be called an act of expecting. But I can utter the same words as
the result of self-observation, and then they might mean: "So, after all that has happened, I am still longing
to see him".' In this case (PI 586), someone discovers his true state of mind, somewhat to his surprise, by
self-observation. The following section, PI 587, discusses belief and love.
'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 . . .'
In all these cases the possibility of a gap between its seeming to be so and being so is surely present. So if
this characterises perception, we would seem to have perception. These are not cases of sensation,
 

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however, though sensations may be importantly involved in all of them. Is Glock right to say that it does
not make sense to say 'From observing myself I can tell that I am in agony'?
Later on p. 308, Glock comments on various arguments intended to show that one can be in doubt or in
ignorance of one's own sensations. He writes, for example, 'we say things like "While I was running, I
didn't feel the pain". But we might as well say "While I was running, it didn't hurt", and one could not reply
"It did, but you failed to notice".'
I wonder if this is true. Suppose our runner has a large blister on one foot, of a sort that would normally be
very painful to run on. The runner's trainer asks from the side if he or she wants to stop. Obviously
surprised, the runner says 'Of course not!' Suppose the trainer can see the runner's face, drawn and pale as if
with pain. The trainer can see the runner clearly favouring one foot, almost limping. But the runner's mind
is fixed so absolutely on the race that foot, face and stride have been banished from consciousness.
Now suppose the race has been video-taped and trainer and runner are watching it together some time later.
Couldn't the trainer say 'The foot was obviously hurting you by this stagethat's why I asked if you wanted to
stop. But you were completely oblivious to the pain.' (That is, it did hurt, but you failed to notice.) And
couldn't the runner reply, 'Looking at myself on the tape, I can see I was in agony'?
This is past tense of course. So suppose the trainer shows the runner part of the tape on instant play-back,
while the runner is still running. Can't the runner say, 'Good grief! Do I look like that? I must be in
agony!'? It's hard to believe that a runner who said this would make the trainer gape and stare, and to that
extent, it's hard to accept Glock's claim that 'I see I am in agony' does not make sense.
This question can be argued further, but perhaps we can already see that perception is not a clear source of
disanalogies between self-to-inner and person-to-outer. (The Lockean concedes or insists that other people cannot
directly perceive my inner states, and this is obviously a disanalogy with outer objects. Wittgenstein's aim,
however, is to show that the disanalogies run much deeper than the Lockean already thinks.)
Let's move on, therefore, to possession. As we saw above, PI 411 concedes a practical application for the question
'Is this sensation my sensation?' I suggested (in the absence of an explanation in the text) that possession might be
understood to signify authenticity. But Wittgenstein insists that possession, in the sense that applies to outer
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be used of inner ones (see PI 398, quoted above). I cannot lay claim to something no one could take from me. In
the same way, to say 'I have an idea' is normally to say that I have thought of something, not that an idea belongs
to me.
It might be said in reply that 'to have' has not one but a wide range of senses in outer applications. A person might
have a right to appeal and a litigious disposition, but neither can be said to belong to the person. A town might
have a unique history and genuine charm, but neither is transferable to other towns. Does Wittgenstein's possession
disanalogy depend on an unnatural sharpening of the normal uses of 'to have'?
It seems to me that the general analogy between inner and outer possession is closer than Wittgenstein admits. Not
only are there nontransferable senses of outer possession, there are transferable senses of inner possession. We talk
about intellectual property rights, for example: if a software technique, or story concept, or musical theme was N's
idea, then N has rights analogous to rights in solid, transferable property. An idea can belong to someone, and the
very same idea might have belonged, or ownership might be transferred, to someone else. It should also be said
that the Lockean need not equate 'having' with 'possessing', so that any arguments which depend on strict
possession (that the Lockean interprets 'I have an idea' as laying claim to it) miss the point.
But perhaps a specific disanalogy remains: when we say that the 'same' idea might have been had by someone else,
we mean qualitative identity, while it is the Lockean conception of inner objects and processes as having numerical
identity that Wittgenstein most wants to attack (see PI 253). If it is logically impossible for someone else to have
numerically the same thing, then 'it loses its sense to say that you have it' (PI 398). But this seems to be an
overstatement. Another town could not have this particular history, and yet it isn't senseless to say that this town
has a proud or turbulent or interesting history.
So perhaps Wittgenstein's point can best be put like this: the Lockean assimilates inner objects and processes to
outer ones by allowing them numerical identity, and by holding that they are contingently related to minds (in the
sense that my mind or self would still be what it is if I had not received a particular visual impression V). But the
Lockean also regards V as inalienableno one else could have the relation to V that I do in fact have (though others
can have V-like impressions of their own). But we seem to have no outer analogue of this conjunction of numerical
identity, contingency, and inalienability. The reason another town cannot have this town's history is that this town
is the town it is because it had that historyin other words, the relation is not contingent. We cannot claim to
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What about potential outer analogues like a smile or a death? We say someone has a nice or friendly or enigmatic
smile. But no one else could have N's smile because that particular smile would not be the smile it is if smiled by
someone else. The smile is inalienably N's smile because it is identified as the smile it is by reference to N (so
inalienability occurs because the relation is not contingent). We say someone had a good or sad or painful death.
Could someone else have had that very death? There is a sense in which this is possible, as when A steps on the
mine or drinks the poisoned drink which would have killed B. In this case, the relation to a person is contingent,
but there is no inalienability. But we sometimes regard a death as the event it is in part because of the person
involved. In this case, the death is inalienable hut the relation is not contingent.
Let's grant, then, that there is no outer analogue which combines numerical identity, contingent relation and
inalienability. How damaging is this to the Lockean? Can't the Lockean reply that we understand these features
individually (by outer analogues or by definitions) and that the mental just is unique in combining all three? Glock
believes that Wittgenstein can deploy a bipolarity principle at this point (p. 308). But what plausible principle
would rule out only inner 'having'? A principle such as 'One cannot claim to contingently have something one
cannot transfer to someone else' seems to be false: one can contingently have a good friend or an eccentric sense of
humour without these being transferable. Glock's suggestion is 'that one can only own what one could lack' (p.
307). But this depends on strict possession (while the Lockean only needs 'having'). And what about one's own
body, or one's 'personal space'? Are these outer things not owned in such a way that they cannot be lacked?
Finally, even if a plausible principle can be devised, can the Lockean not fairly reply that it applies only to the
outer, that the inner is, of course, unique? Or argue that the self-to-experiences relation is after all not contingent,
perhaps because the self is nothing more than the totality of experiences 'it' has?
To sum up: it seems to me that Wittgenstein's comments on perception and possession do not take us beyond what
the Lockean already admits (or insists on) as disanalogies between inner and outer. HIS comments on knowledge
of the inner, however, are more extensive and more radical.
The Lockean holds that I can know my own inner states (excepting the unconscious ones of course) while, by
contrast, others can only infer or guess at them. Wittgenstein rejects this root and branch, arguing that I cannot be
said to know my own inner states, while others can know them with the greatest certainty (PI 246, PI II.xi.206).
'I know I am in pain' does have normal uses, Wittgenstein accepts (PI 2478, 409, 441, PI II.xi.224), but none of
these is analogous to 'I know Pisa
 

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is in Italy'. The Lockean misreads 'I know I am in pain' as analogous to knowledge-claims about outer objects (PI
II.xi.202). Or, to put it the other way round, the Lockean over-extension of the inner/outer analogy produces a
sentence-like formation that does not in real life have the use the Lockean predicts for it.
Let's distinguish four uses of the fact-related kind of 'I know . . .'. I just know there are more (such as this
'pessimistic' use) but perhaps these are the main ones. There is a 'concessionary' use, as in 'I know I promised to be
on time, but . . .'. Second, there is an 'indignant' use, as in 'I know what it says, thank you very much'. There is also
an 'emphatic' use, as in 'Where is it? I know I had it yesterday'. Finally, there is an 'informing' use, as in 'I know
who killed the archdeacon. It was . . .' In these cases, 'I know . . .' can be roughly translated as 'I concede . . .', 'I
don't need to be told . . .', 'I feel certain . . .' and 'I can reveal . . .' respectively. On the Lockean view, inner states,
objects and processes ought to be prime candidates for the third and fourth uses. But in fact, only the first and
second uses of 'I know I am in pain' are possible. In the same way, the Lockean predicts a use for 'I cannot really
know if N is in pain' which it does not have (PI II.xi.215, 221). I would say 'I cannot really know . . .' if, for
example, N was injured some days ago, but our telephone link has broken down and I haven't heard what N's
condition is now. On the Lockean view, I ought to say 'I cannot really know . . .' even if N is obviously in pain
before me.
These new anomalies of use (which the Lockean tries to explain as our reluctance to state the obvious) are
unfortunately entangled with an argument which I think is unnecessary and misleading. Wittgenstein clearly
accepts an argument like . . .
1 It makes sense to say 'I know . . .' only where it also makes sense to say 'I doubt . . .', 'I believe . . .', 'I
suspect . . .' and so on (PI II.xi.2012).
2 But 'I doubt whether I am in pain' is senseless (PI 408, PI II.xi.198, 201).
3 So 'I know I am in pain' is senseless (PI II.xi.200, 219) (unless it is used to mean 2 above, PI 247).
This argument is unnecessary because the anomalies of use are clear without it. And it is misleading because it
reinforces the claim, made at PI 679, that the senselessness of doubt also applies to speaker's meaning. This drives
a wedge between meaning and understanding because it is, of course, possible to doubt whether one understands
something. What I mean becomes something I can authoritatively pronounce on.
Why does Wittgenstein insist on the senselessness of 'I know I am in pain' when its abnormality (compared with
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use) is sufficient to show the disanalogy between inner and outer? I suspect that this is a resurgence of the Use
Argument: a sentence-like formation which has no real use has no real meaning. 'I doubt whether I am in pain' has
no real use, therefore it and any other sentence-like formations semantically linked to it are meaningless. If this is
correct, then the above argument (13) is not only unnecessary and misleading, but also question-begging.
An alternative view (see for example, Peter Hacker's Wittgenstein's Place in Twentieth-Century Analytic
Philosophy, pp. 2467) is that the argument is a rejoinder to the Lockean explanation. On the Lockean view,
it is merely otiose to say 'I know I am in pain' in the third and fourth uses. Wittgenstein therefore needs
some argument to show that the third and fourth uses are more than just pragmatically inappropriate, that
they are in fact senseless. This is entirely plausible as a motive for the argument of 13, but it does little to
dispel the above reservations about it. Hacker concedes that the argument requires 'elaboration, refinement
and careful qualification'. My own feeling is that, when the necessary detail is in place, the argument has
little persuasive force.
We have now reached this point: the Lockean concedes that we do not in fact say 'I know I am in pain' (in the third
and fourth uses) or 'I doubt whether I am in pain', but explains this as normal reluctance to assert what everyone
already accepts. We don't normally assert 'I know I am breathing' either. For Wittgenstein, on the other hand, we
don't have any use for these forms of words, because doubt and knowledge are radically out of place. 'I know I am
in pain' would be as misconceived as 'I know ouch!'
Which explanation of the anomalies of use surrounding knowledge of the inner is to be preferred? Essentially, this
turns on whether we can properly sharpen the inner/outer analogy. If we can, then pains are inner objects or
processes the existence of which can be known or doubted. If we cannot, then the whole model of knower and
object known breaks down. But if this is correct, then these anomalies of use depend on the success of the post-308
project. They are, as it were, second-line arguments in that project, reinforcements that can be deployed if the
front-line arguments succeed. In the absence of clear and convincing arguments against the Lockean explanation of
the anomalies of use surrounding knowledge ('We don't say that because everyone takes it for granted'), these
anomalies do not help to show that sharpening the inner/outer analogy is a mistake: rather, they help to show what
follows if sharpening the analogy is a mistake.
There remains one other disanalogy arising from the discussion of self-toinner connections. The 'I' in 'I am in pain'
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not analogous to the 'I' in 'I have a broken leg' or 'I was born in Cadiz'. The latter 'I' refers to a person: the former
does not refer at all (PI 398410, 413, and see also PI II.ix.910, PI II.x. 1823). Wittgenstein writes, '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' (PI 404). This,
however, is an interlocutor's remark, and it also contains the warning phrase 'in a certain sense'. In his own person,
Wittgenstein wants to make two points: first, that I do not have to apply any criteria of personal identity to say that
I am in pain, and second, that in the expressive use of the sentence, T does not even name a person. ' "I" is not the
name of a person, nor "here" of a place, and "this" is not a name' (PI 410; and see also PI 404). That is, if 'I am in
pain' can be used purely expressively, then it may not even be part of the speaker's intention to distinguish himself
from others (PI 406). When someone groans with pain, they do not necessarily intend to draw attention to
themselves. In this expressive use, therefore, 'I' is not used to refer (and so is not used as a name).
How damaging are these two points to the Lockean view? The 'absence of criteria' point is, it seems to me,
unproblematic for the Lockean. The Lockean can simply say that, of course, that which is at the centre of all my
thoughts and sensations does not need to be discriminated from the various items traversing the periphery.
Alternatively, the Lockean can opt (like Hume or, perhaps, like the Wittgenstein of the early 1930s) for a
noownership view, in which the self is identified with the stream of inner experiences. On this account, there
would naturally be no separate criteria of identity for the self. And thirdly, the Lockean might try to uphold the
inner/outer analogy by arguing that even in 'outer' uses (such as 'I have broken my leg'), I do not identify myself by
criteria.
The 'not a name' point (assuming that Wittgenstein means that 'I' is not necessarily used with the intention of
drawing attention to myself), depends heavily on purely expressive uses. In many other cases, 'I' clearly is used to
draw attention to myself: (1) 'I have an ideal'when everyone else is stumped; (2) 'I am in pain'in response to the
doctor's 'Who should I treat first?'; (3) 'I am afraid'in response to the sergeant's 'Any man here frightened?'; and so
on. Thus the disanalogy would apply between expressive and other uses, not between inner and outer. Outer uses
such as 'I've done it!' or 'I'm Oklahoma bound!' could also be expressive, equivalent to 'Hooray!' or 'On to
Oklahoma!' In these uses 'I' seems to be non-referring.
To put it briefly, the non-referring 'I' thesis seems to have a weaker and a stronger component. The weaker claim
(that we do not use criteria to identify the 'I' in inner uses) seems generally too weak to damage the Lockean. The
stronger claim (that 'I' in its inner uses does not refer)
 

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inherits a certain vagueness about what the word 'refer' means and seems generally too strong to be plausible. It
might be plausible for expressive uses, but the expressive/descriptive distinction is not at all co-extensive with the
inner/outer distinction. Though I want to stress that (here as elsewhere) the question can be pursued at greater
length, I conclude that Wittgenstein's discussion of the non-referring uses of 'I' does not contribute a new argument
to the post-308 project. It serves to supplement, not substantiate, that project. We can therefore move on, from
inner-to-inner connections, to the more difficult question of the connections between the inner and behaviour-in-
context.
Inner/Action Connections. Wittgenstein's claim about the relationship between what happens in someone's mind
and what they do, at its most general, is that the relationship is not evidential. If the Lockean is right, someone
else's outward behaviour is evidence for me of what is going on in his or her mind. And the decisions, intentions
and so on which occur in my mind are evidence for me of what I am going to do. But, according to Wittgenstein,
even if there are evidential connections on occasion, they are far from being as frequent or paradigmatic as the
Lockean predicts.
Suppose I say 'The sky looks threatening' (an example from PI Il.v). Is this to be understood as 'The sky is now
filled with dark clouds, andsince dark clouds generally correlate with rainI have evidence that it will soon rain'?
Wittgenstein wants to suggest that this analysis (description + generalisation + hypothesis) may falsify actual usage
of the original sentence. He asks,
Should we ever really express ourselves like this: 'Naturally, I am presupposing that [dark clouds generally
correlate with rain]'?Or do we not do so only because the other person already knows that?
Doesn't a presupposition imply a doubt? And doubt may be entirely lacking. Doubting has an end (PI
II.v.67).
We can take this point about the absence of doubt in two ways: either it recapitulates the point, considered above,
that the Lockean predicts a use for 'I know . . .' or 'I presuppose . . .' or 'I doubt . . .' which is, in fact, extremely
abnormal, or else it goes further, to suggest that a sentence like 'The sky looks threatening' contains no suppressed
inference at all. It is this stronger claim which seems to be made at PI II.v.4 . . .
A doctor asks: 'How is he feeling?' The nurse says: 'He is groaning'. A report on his behaviour. But need
there be any question for them whether the groaning is really genuine, is really the expression of anything?
Might they not, for example, draw the conclusion 'If he groans, we must give him more analgesic'without
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which they put the description of behaviour? (see also PI 310, PI 421, and for a more explicit statement
Zettel 225).
It is certainly possible to use 'He is groaning' sympathetically. In this use, no inference is drawn to the patient's
inner statethe statement is, as it were, already infused with the attitude that he has a soul/is not an automaton (see
PI II.iv and PI 420). No further inferential work is needed to achieve what the speaker wants to achieve. And the
word 'attitude' suggests a new reason for suspecting the Lockean's inferential analysis. The alleged conclusion is
not a hypothesis at all, but an attitude (PI II.iv. 14, and see PI 310). Suppose it were to be claimed then, that
descriptions like 'He is groaning' are typically or fundamentally 'attitude-bearing', and that the non-sympathetic use
(in which the description really does serve as evidence) is a specialised or secondary use. If this could be proved,
the Lockean would be misrepresenting an exceptional as a standard use. Furthermore, in this exceptional,
nonsympathetic use, 'He is groaning' would serve, not as evidence for the presence of processes or entities that
cannot be observed directly, but as a reason for not witholding the normal attitude.
Wittgenstein does suggest that the case in which behaviour and pain have to be distinguished, the case in which
someone pretends to be in pain, is highly atypical. PI II.xi.2534 describe it as 'a very special pattern' and point out
that 'A child has much to learn before it can pretend' (see also PI 2495O).
So let's grant, at least for the sake of argument, that there is a noninferential, attitude-bearing use of 'He is groaning'
which, in some (at least developmental) sense, is basic. Much more needs to be said to reach and to clarify this
conclusion, of course, but perhaps it is not implausible. It is damaging to the Lockean, however, only if taking the
non-attitude-bearing, secondary kind of use as standard is a mistake. The Lockean might concede that children
learn 'Noddy's crying!' as an expression of sympathy, but insist that, when children learn about pretence, they need
a language capable of distinguishing tears from pain.
Wittgenstein and the Lockean can agree, then, that there is a noninferential (expressive) and an inferential
(descriptive) use of, for example, 'He is groaning'. The question between them now is: how are we to understand
the descriptive use? For the Lockean, we infer to an inner object or process understood on the model of outer
objects and processes (and the presence of this inner object or process in turn makes the emotional response or
action appropriate). For Wittgenstein, the descriptive use occurs in the exceptional case where someone's natural
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is pending. It functions as a reminder of the appropriateness of that reaction. And what makes the reaction
appropriate is our natural tendency to comfort someone in distress, not a complicated and shaky inference to the
existence of an unwelcome intruder in the victim's mental life.
It seems to me, however, that the 'absence of doubt' point does not lend strong support to Wittgenstein's view. The
Lockean can plausibly claim that we do not say 'Naturally I am presupposing that groans generally correlate with
pain' only because this is too widely accepted to be worth saying. The absence of doubt indicates a supremely
confident inference, not (except in the expressive case) no inference at all. Wittgenstein might well reject this
Lockean claim on the grounds that the lack of a use for the above 'presupposition' implies lack of meaning (as
opposed to a meaning too obvious or familiar to be worth making explicit), but I have already explained why this
direct form of the Use Argument achieves nothing. And so it seems that the non-inferential point, like the
anomalies of use surrounding knowledge, is best seen as building on the arguments against sharpening the
inner/outer distinction, rather than adding to them directly.
The non-inferential point also seems rather limited. k may be true of pain, but how true is it of belief, intention,
memory, recognition, thinking, understanding, reading and so on? There certainly are attitude-bearing reports in
these cases, too, but they seem rarer and less fundamental.
So far, we have been discussing Wittgenstein's claim that the relationship between behaviour-in-context and the
behaver's state of mind is not evidential. Let's now consider his positive claim that the relationship is criterial (PI
344, 367, 3767, 385, 509, 542, 5723, 591). What does this mean? A criterion (I suggest) is a co-sufficient
condition, that is, a condition which, taken in conjunction with other conditions, defines the behaver's state of mind
(see Blue Book p.25: to give the criterion, for example, of angina, is 'a loose way of stating the definition of
"angina" '). The fact that someone says 'I feel depressed' is not evidence for a Lockean inner state of depression.
Rather, saying 'I feel depressed', along with a lot of other things, is what it means for someone to feel depressed. A
symptom of depression, by contrast, is an empirically discovered correlate of depression (which may quickly be
adopted as a criterion), such as abnormal serotonin levels.
Peter Hacker's early book Insight and Illusion adopts a very different view of criteria, describing the
relation between a criterion and what it is a criterion for, as 'a fundamental semantic relation unrecognised
by classical logic . . . weaker than entailment but stronger than inductive evidence' (p. 293). Hacker argues
in that book that Wittgenstein intended to develop a criterial semantics (to replace
 

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the truth-conditional semantics of the Tractatus), and that the Private Language Argument fundamentally
depends on this criterial semantics, as indeed does Wittgenstein's stance on behaviourism and dualism. This
last claim is pursued in an article written jointly with Gordon Baker, entitled 'The Grammar of Psychology',
which holds that, while the behaviourist errs by regarding the relation between behaviour and inner state as
one of entailment, the mentalist errs in the opposite direction by regarding the relation as merely inductive.
In fact, they argue, 'The nexus is neither inductive nor entailment, but criterial', where a criterion is
'noninductive evidence supporting a judgement'.
Hacker is admirably frank about the problems for this interpretation, including the lack of clear textual
evidence for it, the implication that the meaning of a term such as 'angina' changes when a new criterion
(such as the presence of a certain bacillus) is used, the implication that the Law of the Excluded Middle has
to be jettisoned, and the problem of saving sense for utterances Wittgenstein held to be criterionless. There
is also the problem that this interpretation attributes to Wittgenstein a systematic theory of meaning (see the
section on the Use Argument above). I propose to say nothing further about these problems, however,
because the chief interpretative merit of the account of criteria just sketched, I think, is that it unifies in a
plausible and exciting way various strands in Wittgenstein's later thinking; in particular, the fundamental
rejection of the Tractatus, the Private Language Argument and the critique of behaviourism and mentalism.
It supplies an interpretative key that shows how these various strands derive from a single idea, the idea of
a revolutionary new criterial relation determining meaning.
If, therefore, we could provide an alternative interpretative key of equal power, which does not bring in its
train problems as severe as those above, then, whatever its merits as an independent philosophical thesis,
the criterial semantics account would lose much of its appeal as a piece of exegesis (and it is in fact rejected
by Hackeralong with the view I adopt of criteria as logically co-sufficient conditionsin his more recent
Meaning and Mind, see Vol. 3, Part 1, p. 243f.). Now my claim, of course, is that Wittgenstein's attack on
the Lockean sharpening of the naturally and properly vague inner/ outer analogy provides an alternative
key of exactly this kind, unproblematic yet exegetically powerful. We have already seen its consequences
for our perspective on the PLA, and we are currently discovering the light it can shed on the post-308
sections of PI. We shall see before long that it can also be used to analyse Wittgenstein's rejection of the
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criterial semantics interpretation in detail, I hope to replace it with something better.
Persevering, then, with the account of criteria as logically co-sufficient conditions, we have to take note of four
complications. First, saying 'I feel depressed' is obviously not a necessary condition of feeling depressed. Second,
the other co-sufficient conditions that have to be present to make saying 'I feel depressed' a criterion, are
enormously various and complex (PI 5834). They include the behaver's whole form of life (if the behaver had
arrived from another planet the day before, but was otherwise indistinguishable from a normal human being, we
would not regard the utterance 'I feel depressed' as a criterion of this creature's feeling depressed). They also
include the particular language-game within which the utterance occurs (so that, if it occurs as part of a
performance of a play, it is not criterial for the actor's state of mind). Third, the status of an indicator (as criterion
or mere symptom) is often subject to change and indeterminacy. The criterion of a disease can change very readily
as new facts are discovered (PI 354), and the criterion of a syndrome may be specifiable only as 'some or most of
the following symptoms . . .' (PI 79, 87). Finally, it is possible to fix on one criterion and (taking it for granted that
all the other co-sufficient conditions, or a sufficient number of them, are in place) use that single criterion as a
crucial test. On my account (see above, p. 76f.), to describe an utterance as criterionless is to say that no such
crucial test was in fact performed, not that there are no co-sufficient conditions defining the utterance.
In spite of these complexities, Wittgenstein's point is simple: when someone says 'I feel depressed', this is best
understood, not as a report, description or effect (and therefore causal indicator) of an inner state, but as part of
what it means to talk about a depressed state of mind. To say that someone is depressed just is to say that such-
and-such co-sufficient conditions obtain, (where 'such-and-such' indicates that we are able to give various
examples of the conditionsto rectify various possible misunderstandingsbut no complete listing of them). The
utterance is part of a whole context which exemplifies the kind of context that defines depression. It does not stand
to an identifiable inner state as sign to object signified.
Perhaps this sounds like behaviourism, but it is in fact pre-behaviourist. It does not accept the meaningfulness of
Lockean inner entities, then deny their existence: it attempts to describe our actual use of terms like 'depression'
without accepting the Lockean picture of it. Then what is the difference between the cases in which someone says
'I feel depressed' genuinely and mendaciously? Here we employ the pictureat a vague, pre-Lockean levelof an
inner process (PI 4234, PI II.iv.8). The
 

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difference, we say, is that the truthful speaker feels something, has an inner condition, which the mendacious
speaker does not. But according to Wittgenstein, it is now very important that we rest content with this façon de
parler (PI II.xi.79). We must not try to sharpen the inner/outer analogy beyond its actual, vague, employment. We
must not, like savages hearing civilised speech, take it literally (PI 194 end).
Perhaps I can summarise this point and at the same time explain a difficult remark. Merrill and Jaakko
Hintikka (in their book Investigating Wittgenstein, pp. 26970) cite PI 297: 'Of course, if water boils in a pot,
steam comes out of the pot and also pictured steam comes out of the pictured pot. But what if one insisted
on saying that there must also be something boiling in the picture of the pot?' They say that this has become
'one of the favourite passages of those who think that Wittgenstein is trying to exorcise private objects (acts,
experiences etc.) altogether'. The passage does seem on the face of it to attack the suggestion that there is
something boiling in the pictured pot, and by analogy, to undermine the claim (madeby an interlocutorin PI
296) that there is something real in a person behind the cry of pain. It therefore seems to support a
behaviourist interpretation like Cook's (see his book Wittgenstein's Metaphysics, p. 121f.) or (as I claim)
Johnston's.
The Hintikkas continue: 'We are now in a position to see that the accepted interpretation of this passage is
precisely the wrong way round . . . Wittgenstein is not suggesting that the actual private experience (the
analogue to the real water boiling in the actual kettle) must fall out of the semantical picture, but that a part
of its alleged one-to-one representation or ''picture" (pictured water boiling in the pictured kettle) is
redundant . . . The point of the analogy is thus to criticize the simple object-label model of our language of
private experiences . . . It does not tell at all against the reality of private experiences . . .' According to this
view of him, for Wittgenstein 'there really are private experiences, and there really are expressions naming
them and referring to them' (p. 247). His point is that the sensation 'can only be spoken of by some public
[and logical, not contingent] correlate' (p. 263). Thus, his target is Cartesian semantics, not Cartesian
metaphysics. Metaphysically, Wittgenstein is a Cartesian (see p. 265, and for a similar interpretation, Alan
Donagan's article 'Wittgenstein on Sensation').
For the behaviourist interpretation, the points of analogy are:
pictured pot . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . body
pictured steam . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . behaviour
pictured contents . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . inner experiences.For the Hintikkas, however, the analogues are:
real pot . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . body
 

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real steam . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . behaviour
real contents . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . inner experiences, and the corresponding picture components stand
for talk about these.
Both of these interpretations accept the question 'What is in the pictured pot?' as legitimate, and both agree
that the answer to it is 'Nothing'. But Wittgenstein's claim, on my view, is that the analogy which does and
must exist between the real and the pictured scene does not legitimize that question. In real life, we simply
don't ask it, any more than we ask how many children Lady Macbeth had (PI 365 and the end of PI 398 are
relevant). Having said that, there are of course pictures in which we are supposed to infer to something
hiddenin de Witte's Woman Playing the Virginals, we may be supposed to infer a hidden lover. But when
looking at the painting we do not ask, 'And are there strings inside the virginals?', 'Is there a caged bird in
the next room?', 'Is there a baker's which docs wonderful bagels half a mile down the road?' These
questions are just not part of the game, perhaps because, as the Hypostasis Argument suggests, they could
be multiplied indefinitely.
What we see from these representational analogies is that any analogy can peter out very suddenly in
certain directions, without damage to its overall function. The analogy between picture-scene and real scene
certainly exists, but it does not legitimise questions about the picture-scene analogous to legitimate
questions about the real scene. In the same way, the analogy between inner and outer should be allowed to
peter out exactly where it does: in real life, we simply do not ask if inner experiences exist.
I therefore regard this admittedly difficult remark (PI 297) as confirming the overall tendency of the post-
308 project. Wittgenstein was not a behaviourist, not a dualist, not something in between (see Baker and
Hacker's article 'The Grammar of Psychology'), and not someone who ultimately avoided the issue (see
Robert Fogelin's book Wittgenstein, p. 197f.). The question which generates these alternatives is: what is the
relation between overt behaviour and inner states? And for Wittgenstein, to ask this is to ask a question not
licensed by the inner/outer analogy as we ordinarily use it, to step off the playing-field we know, to ask
'what did Hamlet like for breakfast?'
On my view, then, to say that the relationship between behaviour and psychological ascriptions is criterial is only
intended to remind us of the real vagueness, fluidity and context-dependence of that relationship. But if this is
correct, the criterial point, too, depends on, and does not independently support, the post-308 project. Or, to put it
another way, the criterial point aims to provide an alternative to the Lockean sharpening of the analogy. It does not
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Let's turn now from the observer to the agent point of view. What connections hold between my own mental states
and processes and my own actions?
From a Lockean perspective, planning, intending, calculating the consequences, deciding and so on are inner
processes that lead up to and produce the outer action in the same way that computational/electronic processes
produce a movement in a robot arm. One natural extension of this popular analogy is that an agent knows in
advance what his or her body is likely to do by monitoring and inferring inductively from these computational
processes.
Wittgenstein certainly wants to say that a person's ability to predict his or her future actions (conceded at PI
II.xi.220, and distinguished from knowledge in the section just before) is not inferential. At PI II.x.16 he says:
'One feels conviction within oneself, one doesn't infer it from one's own words or their tone.'What is true
here is: one does not infer one's own conviction from one's own words; nor yet the actions which arise
from that conviction (see also PI 6312, 638).
But then how am I able to predict what I will do? What enables me to do this? Is the inner conviction only an
interpretation I put on my primitive ability to predict? PI 637 seems to deny this:
'I know exactly what I was going to say!' And yet I did not say it.And yet I don't read it off from some
other process which took place then and which I remember.
Nor am I interpreting that situation and its antecedents. For I don't consider them and don't judge them (see
also PI 634).
On the other hand, PI 656 seems to advocate it:
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 (see also PI 490 and compare Zettel 27).
Whatever the role of interpretation might be, Wittgenstein does seem to want to regard the ability to predict as
primitive, a mere given. It is specifically in the context of this discussion of a person's ability to say what he or she
meant to do, or was going to say, or wanted, that Wittgenstein says, 'Our mistake is to look for an explanation
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ought to look at what happens as a "proto-phenomenon". That is, where we ought to have said: this language-
game is played' (PI 654). PI 655 reinforces the point: 'The question is not one of explaining our language-game by
means of experiences, but of noting a language-game.' In this much-quoted remark it is important to notice the
phrase 'by means of experiences'. PI 632 explicitly allows that 'a physiological investigation' could be conducted to
determine whether the utterance of an intention is a cause and the action that fulfils the intention is its effect.
Wittgenstein's point is that trying to explain the primitive ability by means of the inner is a mistake. The ability is
primitive relative to experiences.
Debate over the necessity for explanations at this inner level continues. It is perhaps the fundamental question for
cognitive science in general, one outcrop being Fodor and Pylyshyn's systematicity challenge to connectionism and
the ensuing literature. Rather than pursue that question here, we should ask: what does Wittgenstein say in PI to
show that I do not infer my future actions from my present intentions?
Here it is possible to devise an argument from the absence of justification (resembling the argument from the
absence of doubt that there is no inference involved in certain uses of 'He is groaning'). It might plausibly be
suggested, for example, that we do not ask someone who says 'I am going to take two powders now' (PI 631) to
justify their belief, and that if we did, it would be no justification to say, 'I have recently noted an intention of mine
to that effect'. It would follow that, in at least one sense, no inference has taken place. This argument seems to
underlie PI 3245, PI 4601 and PI 48690. It may also explain why Wittgenstein discusses the justification of
inductive belief at PI 46697. According to the Lockean, my belief that I will take two powders is to be understood
on the model of my inductive belief that such-and-such powders will make me sick. The tendency of the PI 46697
discussion, however, is to suggest that there are senses in which even typical inductive beliefs are not justified by
any inference. My belief that the fire will burn me may not be (a) logically implied by any set of propositions, or
(b) the result of any inference I did in fact perform. I simply find myself afraid of the fire and I can, if asked,
produce a hundred reasons, 'each drowning the voice of the others' (PI 478).
The PI 46697 discussion, therefore, does not lead towards a disanalogy between inductive beliefs and an agent's
beliefs about his or her future actions (PI 324). Instead, it challenges the Lockean understanding of ordinary
inductive belief. And at this point we leave it, as raising questions too large (and too far removed from our present
concerns) to deal with here.
Returning to the 'absence of justification' argument, we can respond, as we did above, to the 'absence of doubt'
argument. The Lockean can reply that no
 

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explicit justification occurs in normal speech because it is universally conceded that the agent has access to
evidence (his or her intentions) which is not directly available to anyone else. This reply is attacked by the post-308
project as a whole, and the 'absence of justification' argument is therefore best seen as developing an alternative to
the Lockean view, rather than as attacking it directly. If explaining one's intentions is not a matter of describing a
process (PI II.xi.210), and so not a matter of filling in a causal background to an action, then why do we do it? (PI
656). The 'absence of justification' argument is perhaps a preliminary contribution to this question.
At PI 6278 there is an 'absence of surprise' argument. Suppose I am explaining gravity to a child. I let a pebble fall,
saying, 'And see! It moves towards the centre of the Earth.' Wittgenstein argues that, for the Lockean, there ought
to be this same 'And see!' for me (at least sometimes) about my own actions. But 'this "and see!" however, is
precisely what does not belong here. I do not say "See, my arm is going up!" when I raise it' (PI 627). In short, it is
always possible to re-confirm even very well-established inductive beliefs. But there seems to be nothing
corresponding to this re-confirmation in the case of action. So an agent's ability to predict a future action is not
inductive.
Now, there certainly is an experience of trying to perform an action and being surprised or relieved at success.
Someone might very well try to move an injured arm and be delighted to see that the arm moves. But is this really
a case of doing A and finding that B (its usual concomitant) still follows?At PI 614, Wittgenstein says, 'When I
raise my arm "voluntarily" I do not use any instrument to bring the movement about. My wish is not such an
instrument either.' In the same way, ' "Willing" is not the name of an action' (PI 613). This is consistent with
Wittgenstein's general view of the mental, and obviously, interpreting wishing or willing as causes of action is part
of the Lockean sharpening of the inner/outer analogy. But there do not seem to be any arguments in what
Wittgenstein says about the will which add to the case he makes against over-extending the analogy. As above,
Wittgenstein is drawing out the implications of that case, assuming that it succeeds.
Can we supplement Wittgenstein's comments on willing with such arguments? Wittgenstein claims that not
all actions involve trying (PI 616, 6223, PI II.xi. 13, 94). Glock considers the Lockean counterclaim that we
do not speak of trying in easy cases because 'it would be too obvious to be worth stating. But [this] position
does not accord with the linguistic facts. It is committed to the mystifying claim that it is less obvious (and
hence more worth saying) that I am trying to when my ing involves an effort. Moreover, if an
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situation in which Graf is effortlessly applying her forehand, one would not respond "No need to tell me, I
can see that she is". Rather, one would react to the statement as a misapplication of a word: "What do you
mean 'She's trying', can't you see how effortlessly she is playing?"' (p. 389).
The 'Graf argument' repeats the fact that we do not speak of trying in cases that seem easy. Glock is right to
say that this is so ingrained that we would regard it as misapplying the word (or as a joke) rather than as
merely de trop. But the Lockean can accept this (and/or question the implied distinction between 'merely
irrelevant' and 'meaningless', between pragmatics and semantics). Speaking with the vulgar, we 'try' only in
cases where the effort is visible. But thinking with the wise (the Lockean contends), we realise that the
same kind of inner process occurs in all voluntary actions. The most natural way to express this realisation
is to say something we might ordinarily condemn as nonsense. Four hundred years after the realisation that
the sun does not rise, we would still regard it as bizarre to point to the morning sun and say 'The sun has
not risen'.
Glock's other argument (that it is mystifying to claim that trying is more obvious when we don't see any
effort than when we do) turns on two kinds of obviousness. Something may be obvious either because it is
highly visible or because it is part of the background, either because it is impossible to ignore or because it
is taken for granted. The Lockean counter-claim would be mystifying only if it held that unconscious
tryings, wishes and volitions were obvious in the first sense, that is, salient. But this is clearly not the
Lockean point. For the Lockean, it is worth remarking on trying which is salient because it is often a sign
that the agent may fail (with consequences which may interest us). But we have no reason to remark on that
kind of trying which is part of the background (like breathing or focusing) to all the things we do readily
and without trouble.
It may, of course, be possible to supplement Wittgenstein's comments on willing in other ways. But in a
guide to PI, we should probably now return to the text.
In the text, it seems to me that Wittgenstein, having defined inference as 'a transition to an assertion' (PI 486), relies
mainly on introspection (rather than the arguments from the absence of justification or surprise) to show that no
such transition occurs in a statement like 'I am going to take two powders'. This invites the reply that the transition
occurs unconsciously, and so depends on the acceptability of hypostasis (discussed above).
Inner/Outer Connections. We come now to the last and most difficult strand in the Connection Argument,
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mental entities and processes and their objects or targets in external reality. Here we face not only the intrinsic
difficulty of the topic, but particular difficulties in teasing out what Wittgenstein has to say about it. We have to
deal with two main casesperceiving, and what we might call projecting. When someone sees a face, or thinks of
one, what mental components (if any) are involved, and how do they connect with the real face?
Pressing the implications of models of perception has, historically, been one of the main sources of the body/mind
distinction. Aristotle's basic model of perception likens it to an impression made in wax. The wax takes on the form
but not the matter of the seal or signet ring, and it is able to do so because it has no intrinsic form of its own. Thus,
if knowing is like perceiving, he argues, that which knows must have no intrinsic form. And because of this it is
implausible to suppose that that which knows is part of, or mixed with, the body (De Anima 3.4).
A more recent model of perception is the camera obscura. Locke, for example, talks of the 'dark closet' of the
mind. Pressing this analogy leads to questions about the mental 'screen' on which our visual images are thrown. It
cannot be the retina because the retinal image occurs, as Descartes confirmed, in a dissected eye without
consciousness. The visual image must therefore occur somewhere deeper in the system. The analogy also leads us
to suppose that the image will resemble the original, or at least (if inverted for example) be part-for-part projectible
on to the original. And, of course, there are questions about the 'viewer' of these deeper, private images. The
astronomer or tourist watches in the camera obscurabut who watches in the dark closet of the mind? (For more on
this, see, for example, Anthony Kenny's article 'The Homunculus Fallacy').
Against this pressing of analogies, Wittgenstein holds that a picture in ordinary languageof perception for
exampleis not a theory-constitutive metaphor in science. It functions to generate idioms, and idioms are not
hypotheses. In ordinary language, we shift without care or scruple from one picture to another (PI 449). And that,
says Wittgenstein, is perfectly all right. There is 'perfect order even in the vaguest sentence' (PI 98). The pictures
only become incompatible, or individually misleading, if sharpened. And so the mistake is to over-extend, to take a
vague analogy more seriously than it was ever meant (see PI II.v.8).
PI 398401 give a perceptual example of this general fault. Someone sitting in a room may want to say that, in
addition to the objective room, there is a roomas-it-appears-to-him, a 'visual room'. This, Wittgenstein allows, is
unproblematic. It may even be interesting or profound. But it 'is a new way of looking at things. As if you had
invented a new way of painting . . . ' (PI 401). It is not a discovery, not a new object, not an additional ghostly
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In the same way, PI 2759 allow that there is a use for talk about visual impressions that belong to one person alone
(see PI 277). But we are not to think of these literally as impressions, as new, membrane-like objects (PI 276).
Talk about visual impressions is used for an experience of rapt attention or immersion in, for example, a colour.
An impression is not another kind of thing one looks at (PI 275,398). When something 'makes a deep impression'
on you, there isn't anything it makes the impression in.
Wittgenstein says that the long discussion of seeing an aspect is important because of its relation to experiencing
the meaning of a word (PI II.xi. 126, 152). It is also relevant to the effect of mathematical proof (see for example
Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics III.46f., IV.30, 50, VI.6). But another function of the discussion is to
illustrate the complexity, and the happily unresolved vaguenesses of relations between the two language-games of
sense-impressions and physical objects. For example, if a visual impression is understood as an inner object (PI
II.xi.224) then it ought to be possible to say when its place has been taken by a different object (PI II.xi. 1921).
And it ought to be possible to refer to it directly, not merely as "the impression I have when . . . " (PI II.xi.7,
developing the Pointing Argument). But, in fact, the criterion of the visual experience is the very flexible set of
representations we make of it (PI II.xi.367, 64). Thus, in the case of seeing an aspect, when some representations
do not change (a drawn copy, for examplePI II.xi.22) and others do (a description or comparison for examplePI
II.xi.312), we are unable to say whether the visual impression is the same or different. And this does not show that
ordinary language is defective (PI II.xi.501). What it shows is that the original assimilation of the language of
visual impressions to the language of physical objects (the Lockean sharpening of the analogy) was a mistake.
We might call this the Countability Argument: according to the Lockean, we should be able to say very readily
whether the visual impression someone has on seeing the duck-rabbit as a duck is the same as the visual
impression involved in seeing it as a rabbit. It's easy, after all, to say whether it's the same drawing. But this
predicted question does not in fact arise, and if it did, it would have no answer.
The same thing occurs in the case of failure of recognition (PI II.xi.314). When I look at something without
recognising it, then recognise it, does my visual impression change? If the Lockean is correct, it should be easy to
answer this questionI simply inspect my impression and say. But in fact, the question has no place in normal talk
about how things look to me, and it therefore has no answer (unless we now stipulate one).
Perhaps the best Lockean response to this argument is to say that the experiences cited (aspect-dawning,
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sual. For this reason (the Lockean can suggest) we find the counting questions unfamiliar, and the introspection
required to answer them difficult. But this is not very plausible. These 'dawning-experiences' are not
introspectively elusive. On the contrary, they are rather dramatic and impressive. The problem is not having or
introspecting the experience: the problem is that we have no idea how to count the number of visual impressions
involved. We simply don't extend the inner/outer analogy which we do usein the direction of countability.
Now If this is correct, it should be apparent in ordinary vision, too. And surely it is. When you were reading the
line above, how many visual impressions did you have? By all means read it again. Were there the same number of
impressions this time? There's just no answer to these questions, short of some stipulative definition of 'visual
impression' (see PI 157).
So what is wrong with giving a definition of the term? Don't sciences often make pre-scientific notions more
precise? Of course they do, for example in cases where our existing way of answering a question is insufficiently
exact, or limited by context, or liable to give inconsistent results, or based on false assumptions. But in the present
case, we have no way of answering the question at all. This means that the definition cannot claim to improve our
existing concept. It is entirely stipulative. And this in turn means that the new concept created by the definition
cannot inherit any explanatory potential from existing use. But a large part of the appeal of Lockean attempts at
explanation in psychology and linguistics is precisely their claim to be based on ordinary common-sense ideas and
explanations.
Kim Sterelny's article 'The Imagery Debate' explores this and other reasons for doubting the explanatory
value of a developed pictorialist theory like Kosslyn's. Sterelny writes, 'Pictorialism moves from the thesis
that we have pictures in the head to the thesis that we have something like pictures in the head. But this
weakening may not preserve the explanatory power of pictorialism. That power may depend covertly on the
naive thesis: the view that we have real pictures in the head'.
It seems to me that the explanatory power of Kosslyn's theory does not depend in any essential way on
naive pictorialism. In their article 'Imagery, Propositions and the Form of Internal Representations', Kosslyn
and Pomerantz say that images as they understand the term do not have size, colour, orientation, or
presumably shape. Rather, 'the representations that compose the image register size [and the rest] in the
same way that the corresponding representations evoked during perception register size'. Does this clear
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reaction times. Why does it take longer to identify a target figure as the same shape as an original figure
when the rotational angle between them is greater? One explanation certainly would be naive: the subject
rotates a picture in his or her head. But it seems possible to answer the question without invoking 'pictures-
in-the-head'. The subject's brain goes through a series of states like the series of states it goes through when
a real object is rotated in the visual field. To get to state 10 (corresponding, let's say, to the original figure +
100 degrees clockwise), the brain must go through states 1 to 9 first. It is the fact that the brain has to go
through more states to reach 10 which explains the longer reaction time. If we are now asked why the brain
has to go through these extra states, a Lockean answer would be, 'Because those states are the neurological
implementation of rotating a picture in one's head'. A non-Lockean answer would continue in neurological
style. We might say, for example, that when we learn as young children to predict where a rotating object
will end up at a given moment, and how it will look when it gets there, we do so through experience of real-
world objects that rotate through all the intervening degrees. The brain's prediction system for rotation
therefore becomes habituated to the intervening states corresponding to these intervening degrees, just as a
parallel distributed network becomes habituated to frequently recurring patterns. So even when the
prediction system is used in the absence of real-world rotation, there is a high probability that the
intervening states will be excited. And when one of these intervening states is excited, the person will have
an experience more or less like the experience of seeing a realworld object at that stage of rotation, and will
be more or less disposed to make a verbal report similar to the report they would make of the real-world
object. (If we are now tempted to ask 'What is an experience? Do experiences exist?', this is a temptation
that the post-308 project enables us to overcome).
To the extent that Kosslyn's theory is or can be made neurological, then, it is non-Lockean. And to the same
extent, it escapes the arguments of the post-308 project. Those arguments are directed against the Lockean
misuse of ordinary language concepts.
The crucial question now is whether an extended concept (derived perhaps from an ordinary language
homonym such as 'image' or 'desire') can be sufficiently well defined to lead us in any reliable way towards
neurological explanations. And the tendency of the post-308 project is to suggest that, rather than an
empirical identity relation between well-defined Lockean and neurological entities or processes, we are
likely to see a kind of 'definitional slide'. The process of defining a given Lockean entity will depend on
giving it more and more of a neurological character, so that the Lockean
 

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explanation loses any distinctive empirical content, and therefore any helpfulness, it might have had.
Wittgenstein raises the countability problem, of the nature of our criteria for the identity of mental entities, in the
context of visual impressions, meanings, (see PI 551f.), and pains, (see PI 253), but it can readily be extended.
Suppose a genie appears and offers me three wishes. My first wish is to live forever, and I decide to keep the other
two wishes in reserve. Years pass and I discover that, like Swift's Struldbruggs, I am going to live forever but in an
increasingly senile and decrepit state. I summon the genie and wish for eternal youth. Hey presto. I now have what
I wanted in the first place.
The basic presupposition of this little story is that we can count wishes. I am allowed three, and the genie can tick
them off one by one. But the story also undermines this idea. When I decide to keep the other two wishes in
reserve, that does not count as a wish that the genie should wait for them. When I summon the genie, that does not
count as a wish that the genie should appear. And when I wish for eternal youth, though it is my second wish, it is
not a new wish: it's the thing I wanted in the first place but didn't specify properly. Nor does wishing for eternal
youth specify it properly. I am also taking for granted freedom from disease, air that does not choke me, water that
is good to drink, an earth-like setting, food, pleasant companions, and so on without obvious limit. Now, when I
recognise a new aspect of a wish in this way, do I thereby have a new wish? Some of our criteria indicate a new
wish, others indicate the same wish as before.
It begins to look, in short, as if wishes may be like visual impressions, countable at most in the sense of being
qualitatively, not quantitatively different. But if the Countability Argument can be extended to desires (and beliefs?
) then any attempt to causally explain behaviour in these terms must in effect stipulate a sense for them. In such a
theory, a 'desire' is not what we normally mean by a wish, want or desire. And in this case, as above, the theory
inherits no explanatory power from our common-sense explanations of action in terms of what the agent wanted.
Now, if a new concept ('desire') really does enhance our ability to predict and to causally explain, then the fact that
it was inspired by the ordinary concept of a desire, and even the fact that in its early days it traded on this ancestry
to gain credibility, is irrelevant. The important fact about it is that it works. On the other hand, trading on a certain
ancestry for the sake of content, not credibility, is a problem, if it turns out on closer examination that that ancestry
is fake (being a fabricated extension of the inner/outer analogy).
 

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The Countability Argument has some interesting family relations. Donald Davidson has argued, famously,
that explanatory generalisations involving intentional concepts cannot genuinely be quantiffed (see, for
example, his article 'Philosophy as Psychology'). But Davidson also believes that ordinary explanations of
action in terms of the agent's beliefs and desires are causal (sharpening the analogy). Beliefs and desires
must therefore have a neurological or other materialistic description, under which quantifiable laws linking
them to actions (materialistically described) can be found.
The Countability Argument suggests, on the contrary, that desires and beliefs cannot literally be causes and
cannot literally be token-token identical with brain states, because they cannot literally be counted. (There
is, of course, a large literature on the question of mental causation. For one attempt to limit and dilute the
causal role of reasons, see Jaegwon Kim's article 'Explanatory Exclusion and the Problem of Mental
Causation'.)
Another modern descendant is John Searle's Connection Principle (see his book The Rediscovery of Mind,
pp. 15273). Searle argues that the only way we can make sense of unconscious beliefs, rules, schemas and
so on as identifiable and hence causally available particulars, is to regard them as neurophysiological states
and processes which tend to produce conscious beliefs, rules etc. It follows that deeply unconscious
structures (which cannot become conscious) do not exist: 'there are no deep unconscious intentional states'
(p. 162). Searle also argues that 'there could not be any factual substance to the question: Do [Freudian]
unconscious mental states exist?' (p. 167). But his central point is that deeply unconscious mental states and
processes could be identifiable as particulars only if they are not mental at all, but neural.
The Countability Argument claims that, for mental states in general, we do not in fact have clear criteria for
identification. Searle's Connection Principle is at once stronger (holding that we cannot possibly devise such
criteria) and more limited (applying only to deeply unconscious mental states).
It is interesting, thirdly, that Fodor reads Putnam's Twin Earth problem as a kind of countability argument
(see his book Psychosemantics, pp. 29f.). On this interpretation, the problem is that propositional attitudes,
such as beliefs and desires about water, can be identified only by reference to their relational properties
(their relations to water). Genuinely scientific entities, by contrast, can be identified non-relationally (p.
31f.). Fodor's response is to argue that propositional attitudes can after all be identified non-relationally, but
he has to concede that the resulting content is so narrow as to be 'radically inexpressible' (p. 50). Thus
beliefs and desires, even on
 

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the account of one of their principal defenders, can only be used in causal explanation at the cost of being
reduced to a 'Je ne sais quoi'. Importing these terms into a scientific theory divorces them completely from
their common sense meaning, and therefore from their common sense explanatory power.
To sum up: the connection between something seen and the inner perception (such as a visual impression) is not
closely analogous to the connection between an outer object and a representation (such as a drawing) of it. The
disanalogy Wittgenstein concentrates on concerns the criteria of identity of the inner perception. A visual
impression is not a new membranelike object because it cannot be counted in the way a membrane-like object
could be counted. This has implications for the Lockean use of such concepts as 'visual impression' or 'image' (or,
generalising more widely, 'desire' or 'belief') in causal explanation. It implies that these concepts will have to be
fundamentally re-defined to be used in a scientific theory, and this weakens their claims (a) to bring any genuine
explanatory power from common sense to the theory, and (b) to lead reliably towards neural explanations (because
the re-definition will in all probability turn on the very neural discoveries the concepts were supposed to facilitate).
Moving on to 'projection', the final sub-division of the Connection Argument, we should first of all explain what
we mean by the term. Projection names a group of phenomena in which someone seems to establish a connection
between something inner and certain outer states of affairs, this connection being essential to the inner state. On
this view, understanding a rule, for example, essentially involves projecting it on to various actions which thereby
count as following it. And this projection is (a) performed in or by the mind, and (b) essential to the rule's being the
rule it is. In the same way, a person's understanding of an order or intention is projected forwards on to the actions
that will count as obeying or fulfilling it. My understanding of a proposition is projected on to those states of affairs
that will thereby count as making it true or assertible. My wish contains or involves a projection on to the states of
affairs that will satisfy the wish. (The idea of projection derives from the Tractatus; see, for example, Anscombe's
An Introduction to Wittgenstein's Tractatus, pp. 6872. In that context, projection is necessary to explain what
actually establishes the correlation between propositional elements and metaphysically basic objectsthis correlation
being necessary at some deep level of analysis to explain how sense can be determinate).
Something similar seems to be true of imagination. My image of the face of de Gaulle, for example, is not merely
a phenomenological state or a
 

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matrix in the visual buffer, but 'comes with' a projection on to a real face. And it is this projection that transforms
the phenomenological state or matrix into an image of that face. I might have the very same phenomenological
state or matrix, but if de Gaulle had never lived, or if I had been brought up by wolves and never seen a human
face, or if I were the victim of any of various brain lesions, it would not have meaning for me as an image of the
face of de Gaulle.
In general, then, what gives the image/rule/order/proposition/wish meaning for me, it seems, is the connection I
establish with reality by projecting. In this sense, meaning depends on what happens in my mind, a mental process
that I might introspect. It is projection which bridges the gap between consultation and understanding (see p. 87
above). Both the teacher of the rule 'Add 2' and the deviant learner consult the rule but only the teacher projects it
on to the right numbers.
The notion of projection thus promises to explain what makes language meaningful, what makes meaning exact,
and what makes a particular proposition true, by explaining how thought reaches out to reality. Thinking 'makes
contact' with the world by means of a mentally established correspondence between propositions, wishes, images,
or their elements, and trees, food, bodies, or their elements. This mental establishing of correspondences is, as we
saw above, the main target of the Private Language Arguments. But, as we also saw, those arguments serve only to
lead into the post-308 project.
Though the Tractatus manages to be almost as reticent about it as about the elements it connects, projection was
fundamental to Logical Atomism. The later Wittgenstein's rejection of the Tractatus can be approached, therefore,
through what PI tells us about this element-for-element correlation. Now, on the one hand, Wittgenstein wants to
stress (as Descartes did in reply to Hobbes) that understanding or taking up an attitude to an image involves
something more than merely having the image (PI 13941 esp. note b, PI 213; and see Hilary Putnam's Reason,
Truth and History, ch. 1). But, on the other, he wants to attack the notion of projection: we cannot establish an
element-for-element correspondence between the inner and the outer, for several reasons. First, the inner/outer
analogy, as we actually use it, does not give us an understanding of what this correspondence would be (PI 366).
Second, there is no absolute or 'given' notion either of an element or of projection (PI 86; PI 468). These notions
are relative to specific, practical aims and purposes. What's more, even if we could establish such a
correspondence, it would not explain the 'harmony' between thought and reality (PI 389, PI 691, PI II.iii. l). There
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impossibility of error in what a thought or sketch is about that no correspondence could explain. Wittgenstein also
claims, finally, that the appearance of a precise correspondence between a thought and the situation it is about
(which seems to support the idea of element-forelement projection) is a grammatical illusion, created by the fact
that we can use the same form of words to specify both (PI 445, PI 4589).
The majority view of Wittgenstein is that the 'something more' which makes the mere image meaningful, is use
(see, for example, PI 190). The magic ingredient cannot be an interpretation, because the interpretation too would
have to have meaning for me, requiring another interpretation and so on ad infinitum (PI 198). So it is because I
use the phenomenological state or matrix as I might use a drawing or photograph of a face (referring to it to
answer questions and so on) that it has meaning for me as a face, or a human face, or the face of de Gaulle.
This is correct as far as it goes. But what enables me to use the image in this way? On the majority view, I can use
the image as I do because of a certain complex training I have received and because I have a normal human nature.
This reply draws back from the kind of inner explanation offered by the projection story: we are definitely not to
say that the effect of this training on my human nature is that I come to be able to project the image on to outer
states of affairs. But why should we not say this? There is at least a temptation or tendency to lean on some form
of behaviourism at this point.
On my account, Wittgenstein rejects point-for-point correspondence essentially because it is a sharpening of an
idea we do normally and properly accept, the idea that there is, in these cases, some vague kind of match or
correspondence between the inner and the outer. He accepts the common sense explanation of use that we have a
primitive ability to 'see' this match, and with it, the vague, common sense, inner kind of explanation. The majority
view limits itself to training and human nature from a (very natural) fear that to go beyond this will open the door
to dualism. But we do in fact talk about inner/outer correspondences ('It's just the way I pictured it!') and
Wittgenstein's aim is, not to sweep this out of sight as a dangerous embarrassment, but to acknowledge it without
being seduced by it. We are to use the picture but in a way that is faithful to its real applications (PI 374). We do
understand the inner by analogy with the outer, but we do not use that analogy in the systematic or precise way the
dualist recommends. In particular, we do not extend our vague notion of inner/outer correspondences into the
precise, quasi-mathematical idea of element-for-element projection. Only in this way, I believe, can we develop an
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sistent with the post-308 project, and which avoids any tendency to lean on behaviourism.
Wittgenstein's philosophical problem is to respond to the Tractatus' notion of projection, and underlying that, to
address the questions the notion of projection promised to explain. The exegetical problem is to reconcile two
accounts of the 'something more' required to make a merely phenomenological or neurological image or inner
voice genuinely meaningful. The two accounts present in PI are:
1 The Use/Training/Nature account, as sketched above.
2 The Plasticity account, which holds that thinking must be brought into the account of what makes an
image/rule/proposition meaningful for a person (contradicting the majority account that use, training and
human nature give a sufficient account). A. clear example occurs at PI 179: 'The words ''Now I know how
to go on" were correctly used when he thought of the formula: that is, given such circumstances as that he
had learned algebra, had used such formulae before'. Wittgenstein seems to qualify this introduction of
thinking by arguing that it is too formless or plastic to license the idea of element-for-element projection. I
gave some references for this Plasticity account above (p. 68) and in the Introduction. Further hints can be
found at PI 386, 389, and PI 6814. PI 386 and 389 suggest that any method of projection from thought to
reality would create scope for a kind of error that does not in fact exist. But PI 6814 take a more cautious
view.
The Use and Plasticity accounts can best be reconciled, with each other and with the rest of the post-308 project, if
Wittgenstein's fundamental claim is that the idea of element-for-element projection misuses (by sharpening) an
analogy we do legitimately employ. If this is correct, thought does correspond to reality, but in some vague and
not-to-besharpened sense. The crucial mistake is to suppose that something more detailed can, and should, be said
about this 'correspondence' (for example, that it consists in a one-for-one correlation of elements). In this way,
thinking can be brought into the account of the 'something more' that makes an inert sign meaningful (avoiding the
tendency to behaviourism), but without elevating thinking into an essence or sine qua non.
On this view, Wittgenstein's point is not so much that this necessary element of thought itself is formless (as
Saussure insisted). Rather, our way of talking about it functions (successfully) without raising the question of its
having form. The Plasticity account refers, not to a positive feature of thought, but to a negative feature of our way
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It is the same fact which explains some celebrated paradoxes. Because our way of talking about thought does not
raise the question of its having form or lacking it, Wittgenstein can say (in substantive mode) that thought is
'neither "articulated" nor "non-articulated'" (PI II.xi. 171). In the same way, a sensation is 'not a something, but not
a nothing either!' (PI 304). 'Something' and 'nothing' are categories from the outer that can be applied to the inner
only by forcing the analogy. It is a mistake to approach what we say about the inner expecting the analogy to work
out systematically. It doesn't and that's OK. I might add that to say that our understanding of the inner is based on
the inner/outer analogy is not to say, as Johnston does, that our talk about the inner is metaphorical (p. 99 and
elsewhere). That view, as I suggested above, seems behaviourist. Our talk about the Iron Curtain, for example, is
metaphorical, and no one supposes that there was a real iron curtain across Europe.
An interesting consequence of Wittgenstein's rejection of element-forelement projection is that we don't need a
theory of truth, for example, because any such theory would begin from an attempt to explain the correspondence
between a true belief and its 'corresponding' reality in more detail. This would be to press the inner/outer analogy
in a new direction (relative to our actual use of it). And pressing the analogy in this direction, as Logical Atomism
did, produces nonsense. We cannot simply see that it produces nonsense, however, or 'prove' it by a doctrinaire
application of the Use theory of meaning. On the contrary, arguments such as those of the post308 project are
required to make this disguised nonsense patent (PI 464,524). Only a sustained course of argumentation such as
this can satisfactorily meet the objections raised in the section on the Use Argument.
It follows that Wittgenstein is far from quietist about philosophy, or even about exploratory development of
ordinary language analogies and turns of speech. Philosophy is needed to provide a critique of those developments,
reminding us how far we may have wandered from our starting-place, pointing out the problems which may now
face us, and where those problems seem insoluble, recommending a way forward (or a way back). But the
developments are by no means inevitably misguided or harmful. Thus, when Wittgenstein says, for example, 'Do
not try to analyse your own inner experience' (PI II.xi.79), we should interpret him as warning against a kind of
analysis that over-extends the inner/outer analogy. He is not attempting to prohibit either introspective self-
examination or neurological research.
So, for example, I have made use of the idea of an assumed similarity between different people's experiences, and
the idea of a match between experience and reality. But these are to be understood as idioms, saying (roughly) that
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stances, are not seriously abnormal. They are not research-guiding scientific metaphors, which further investigation
can sharpen and confirm. Wittgenstein's warning against analysis is a warning against interpreting these idioms as
metaphors.
Wittgenstein's response to the Tractatus' notion of projection, to sum up, is that it is a false extension of the
inner/outer analogy, deriving from a misplaced dissatisfaction with that analogy's indefiniteness (see, for example,
PI 71). The problems projection was designed to solve (explaining the truth and meaning of propositions at an
allegedly basic, fully analysed level) are addressed in Wittgenstein's twin attacks on propositional analysis (PI
3964) and on determinacy of sense (PI 66105).
The projection issue, then, has not provided any new arguments for the post-308 project. Instead, it serves as a
crucial application for that project. I suggest that we can best understand what the later Wittgenstein wants to say
about the Tractatus, if we see the issue in the light of the post-308 project, as it applies to the concept of projection.
This fact also helps to confirm the post-308 project as the centre of PI.
Looking now to the Connection Argument as a whole, my main aims in this section have been: first, to provide a
structure within which Wittgenstein's complex and scattered insights can be constructively discussed, second, to
distinguish those lines of thought which attack the Lockean view from those which build an alternative to it, and
third, to give at least a preliminary evaluation of the lines which attack the Lockean picture. I hope the diagram
given above will help summarise the discussion's structure and results.

The Structure of PI
We can now sketch out the structure of PI as a whole.
1137 Meaning and Use
Meaning should be understood as use, not as reference, and not as something in the mind
The diversity of uses PI 1017, 234, 338
Against Logical Atomism PI 38137
> Simplicity of reference/analysis PI 3964
> Determinacy of sense PI 66105
> Philosophy and Essence PI 65, 8995, 116
> Non-essentialist Philosophy PI 10733
 

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138242 Being Guided and Interpreting
Instantaneous understanding PI 13840
> a matter of inner grasp? PI 14155
Being guided . . . by a written text PI 15671
. . . physically PI 172
>essentialism PI 173, 1768
. . . by a line PI 174
. . . by a formula PI 1514, 179
. . . by a memory PI 184
. . . by a rule PI 143, 18590
. . . by a drawing PI 1934
. . . by an intention PI 197
. . . by an order PI 206, 212
> Requires custom and usage, not individual interpretation, not something inner PI 197243
243307 The Private Language Arguments
> Inner interpretations, inner definitions cannot explain how language becomes meaningful
. . . because others could not recognise the output as a language
. . . because the interpreter/definer would be unable to use signs meaningfully
. . . because we have no concept of the inner clear enough to be explanatory
But to say this is not behaviourist PI 296307
308693 Describing the Inner/Outer Analogy
Behaviourism and dualism both misuse the analogy, making it too close
> Early Arguments against over-extending the analogy PI 30885
> The Connection Argument PI 386465 etc.
> causality and thinking/belief/language PI 46697
> The Co-existence Argument (developed) PI 50194
> The Hypostasis Argument PI 595610
> The Pre-existence Argument (developed) PI 61193
Part II Various
Part II consists largely of expansions and re-formulations of material already present in Part I.
The most important expansions are
. . . on the diversity of uses PI II.ix
 

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. . . on Moore's paradox (related to the first person asymmetry of psychological verbs) PI II.x
. . . on seeing an aspect (related to experiencing the meaning of a word, inter alia) PI II.xi. 1196
. . . on knowledge of the inner PI II.xi. 197255
. . . on the nature of philosophy PI II.xi.501, 735, 7882, 1335, 139, 142, 217, 236, PI II.xii
On this account, the structure of PIapart from the scattered locations of the various strands of the Connection
Argument, and the grouping together of heterogeneous developments in Part IIcan be seen to be rather logical.
Phase 1 attacks the errors of perspective that led to Logical Atomismits neglect of the diversity of real language, its
fascination with a certain concept of simplicity, and its exaggeration of the precision of language. Adopting a truer
perspective, we abandon the idea of analysis towards absolute simplicity and with it the attempt to 'find the essence'
of language. This has implications for the concept of philosophy in general, seen as a discipline that gives the
essence of important concepts. I have said comparatively little about this part of PI because I think it is already
well understood.
Having cleared the ground of these errors, Phase 2 begins to investigate the role of the mental in understanding
language. Wittgenstein considers a variety of cases in which someone understands something and acts on the basis
of his or her understanding. He concedes that the agent's performances may be accompanied by mental imagery or
other inner workings, but insists that these are neither necessary nor sufficient for it to be true that the agent's
performance derives from his or her understanding. What is necessary is a custom or practice of related
performances. I shall say a little more about this section in the Appendix.
Phase 3 shifts the focus from understanding to meaning. As above, Wittgenstein does not deny that inner workings
may accompany the meaningful use of language: he denies that it is these which make the use meaningful. But here
we have to separate three different strands in this denial. Wittgenstein argues that a language made meaningful by
inner workings (a) would not be recognisable as a language to anyone else, (b) would not be usable as a language
even by the person whose inner workings were supposed to establish its meanings, and (c) is not genuinely a
hypothesis we understand. I think it is a serious mistake to take (a) and (b) as claiming that a private language (one
made meaningful by someone's inner workings) is impossible. The real point is that the idea of a private language
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Phase 4 sets out to show the extent of this distortion, by bringing out its departures from the inner/outer analogy as
that analogy occurs in ordinary language. Once we appreciate how much distortion is involved in the idea of a
private language (and in the ideas of behaviourism, dualism, reasons-ascauses and so on), we will realise,
somewhat to our surprise, that we do not really understand them. If Wittgenstein's claim (in Phase 3) had been that
a private language is impossible, it would be at best anti-climactic and at worst inconsistent to spend the rest of PI
arguing that we do not really understand what a private language is.
The end result is that our ordinary concept of inner workings cannot be made to do service in a theory of
understanding or meaning. The Tractatus' attempt to achieve this (under the term 'projection') leads to nonsense of
a subtler form than its author realised. The problem is not that it tries to say what can only be shown. The problem
is that it takes what we do say, removes it from its context, stretches some points and suppresses others, and
distorts an informal picture into a theory divorced from any genuine application.

Conclusion
The post-308 project aims to show that the inner/outer analogy (which we do use) does not confer meaning on the
Lockean extension of it. Wittgenstein's central point in PI is that, although we do properly use the picture of inner
processes, we do not apply the picture as the Lockean predicts or recommends.
In the Introduction I outlined four problems for the post-308 project, and we can now review these (in reverse
order).
1 The picture (as extended by the Lockean) becomes meaningful through its role in a developed scientific or
philosophical theory.
Reply: to the extent that this is true, the terms adopted from ordinary language (or 'folk psychology') bring
no explanatory potential to the theory. (If this doesn't seem too serious, try going through a Lockean theory
substituting X for 'belief', Y for 'schema', Z for 'image' and so on).
2 Wittgenstein himself legitimises the inner process picture by using introspective evidence.
Reply: Wittgenstein's use of introspection does not give numerical identity to introspectible entities. It
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3 Wittgenstein emphasises the pervasiveness of the inner process picture in ordinary language and so cannot
dismiss it as unintelligible.
Reply: Wittgenstein does not attack the picture as such, but those (Lockean) applications or extensions of it
that distort ordinary language (PI 374). The Lockean equivocates between the ordinary, meaningful sense,
and the quasi-technical, meaningless sense of terms such as 'desire', 'image', 'rule', 'schema', using the
familiarity of the former to disguise the emptiness of the latter.
4 If ordinary language is free to use the inner/outer analogy selectively, why can't the Lockean extend it
selectively? Don't Wittgenstein's arguments depend on pushing the Lockean extensions in directions other
than the Lockean intends?
Reply: in fact, none of the arguments we have looked at (Improvement, Interruption, Speed of Thought,
Pre-existence, Co-existence, Description, Pointing, Hypostasis, Countability) attacks the Lockean in this
unfair way.
Can we therefore declare the post-308 project a success? The aim of this book has been exegetical, to enable
readers to decide this question for themselves. But perhaps, in closing, I can sketch out my own answer.
The first objective of the post-308 project is to show how profoundly the Lockean extensions of the inner/outer
analogy diverge from normal use of it, and in this, I think Wittgenstein is very successful. It is all too easy for
those calloused by doing philosophy (PI 348)or psychology or linguisticsto make new uses of the analogy, without
realising how radical their innovations are. The arguments we have looked at serve, very vividly, to remind us of
the gulf between Lockean and ordinary usage of the inner/outer analogy.
Why, then, does this gulf exist? What is the best explanation of the puzzles and peculiarities, the anomalies of use
and experience which beset Lockean applications of the inner/outer analogy? A Lockean reply might be that our
ordinary concept of the inner is insufficiently precise to do the technical, theoretical work of philosophy and
science. Ordinary concepts do normally change, after all, in the process of becoming scientifically useful. The
concept of an atom, for example, developed from an ordinary concept of something divisible like a pebble or a
grain of sand, into a concept of something indivisible, then back to something divisible into subatomic particles.
The concept of a desire, image or thought, the Lockean claims, might naturally undergo equally radical changes as
our understanding progresses.
Wittgenstein's explanation would be that the source of so much nonsense must itself be nonsense. Just as Aristotle
pushed the apparent implications of the picture of perception as a wax impression, and created a 'that which
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implications of the picture of the inner and created whole realms of entities, each accessible to only one person.
The puzzles and peculiarities of Lockean usage are due to the fact that the Lockean is talking nonsense.
It was Descartes who took the medieval concept of existence-in-the-mind (so-called objective beingalready
a considerable extension of the ordinary picture) and made its relation to the external world causal in the
modern, non-teleological sense (see Steven Nadler's Arnauld and the Cartesian Philosophy of Ideas, pp.
14765). This commits us to causal relations between public and private terms which, in the vast majority of
cases, we cannot conceivably confirm. As Descartes and, more famously, Hume pointed out, the objection
that we cannot understand causal interaction between entities metaphysically so different from each other as
the mental and the physical is not particularly damaging. What is damaging is that I am expected to believe
in five billion causal networks, only one of which I can possibly observe (and that, only if it happens to
work consciously). What's more, no two observers can possibly observe the same network in operation.
Now atoms were never like this. In fact, when atoms were only a fraction as elusive (before Perrin
confirmed Einstein's predictions regarding Brownian motion), scientists of the stature of Poincaré were
arguing that atomic theory is a useful fiction, not a literally true description of reality.
The Lockean divergence from ordinary use of the inner/outer analogy has been, I believe, a mistake, a blind alley
in the history of ideasnatural and in many ways admirable, but also chimerical and incoherent. This, however, is to
go a little further than PI really warrants. Wittgenstein certainly accuses psychology of barrenness and confusion
(PI II.xiv), but he does not marshall the epistemological problems of dualism to demonstrate Lockean incoherence.
It may be that these traditional problems are simply taken for granted by Wittgenstein, the only solution to them
being, in his view, a return to our ordinary use of the inner/outer analogy. But insofar as we are interpreting PI, I
think a weaker conclusion is appropriate.
PI, then, does not show that the Lockean extension of our concept of the inner is impossible to understand. There is
no direct argument from the Use theory to this effect (this is my opinion, not Wittgenstein's, see the section on the
Use Argument), and in any case, Wittgenstein does not address the possibility of 'semantic bootstrapping'a kind of
gradual, leveraged ascent into intelligibility which may in some circumstances be possible. PI also does not show
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epistemological reasons which Wittgenstein leaves very much in the background.
PI may show, on the basis of an argument to the best explanation, that we do not in fact understand Lockean
extensions of the analogy. In my own opinion, there is a good case to this effect. But what PI certainly and
centrally shows is that the Lockean extension is an extension, and a very radical one, of what we normally say and
understand. It is true that mere unfamiliarity cannot be used as a criterion of meaninglessness. But it can be used to
remind us how uncertain we really are about the meaning of the unfamiliar claims. We cannot take for granted (as
we generally do) an understanding of principles, beliefs, thoughts, cognitive models, images, frameworks,
preferences, hypotheses, wishes, rules, intentions, concepts, interpretations, where these are supposed to have
numerical identity and a causal role. Our understanding is much more partial and insecure than we tend to think.
To give one example: Ronald Langacker writes (in Concept, Image and Symbol: The Cognitive Basis of
Grammar), 'The goal of cognitive grammar is to characterize those psychological structures that constitute a
speaker's linguistic ability' (p. 263). Langacker stresses the 'psychological reality' of these structures. Indeed,
his chief criticism of the generative tradition is that the competence/performance distinction has allowed it
to disdain the search for psychologically real structures. He writes, 'a typical speaker uses frequently-
recurring expressions [like dog-dogs, toe-toes, tree-trees] on countless occasions; at least some of them
must attain the status of units'. In the generative tradition, by contrast, individual expressions such as these
would be produced by knowledge of the general rule for forming plurals in English. They would not be
represented individually, or causally efficacious, in the speaker's mental grammar.
Here we have two rival explanations of how it is that speakers of English form plurals like 'dogs', 'toes' and
'trees'. The generative explanation is that the speaker unconsciously consults a general rule for forming
plurals. Langacker's account is that the speaker unconsciously consults either a general rule, or a specific
singular/plural pair. In both cases, an unconscious act of consultation is supposed to be causally necessary
for production.
The main thrust of the post-308 project would be that we do not really understand what it means for
something to 'attain the status of a unit'. We have no clear idea of what psychological reality is supposed to
be. We do not have a sufficient grasp of what a real schema is to investigate empirically its causal
properties. Langacker responds to this problem with a connectionist account (p. 282f.), suggesting that each
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in a connectionist network implemented in the brain. Psychologically real units will then be those schemata
or specific instances whose neural implementations in the network are activated in the process of producing
grammatical speech. Thus, 'differences in salience (likelihood of activation) are the device employed in this
framework to implement the distinction between productive and nonproductive patterns' (p. 284).
But this assumes that we understand 'schemata', 'patterns' and 'productivity' well enough to correlate
psychological structures with their neural implementations. Now, we can certainly correlate some neural
activity with speech, or sensory stimulation. But can we really hope to correlate specific lightning flashes
from the maelstrom of brain activity with unconscious mental structures on which the individual cannot
report? This seems unlikely enough. And if, in addition, functionalism is true, then we cannot automatically
expect the same psychological structure to be implemented in the same way on other occasions, or in other
brains. In this case, it becomes hard to see any content at all in the claim that structure S was implemented
in the activation of pathway P on a given occasion.
More importantly, though, even if we accept this as a genuine claim, and one worth trying to establish, it
nevertheless does nothing to improve our understanding of psychological reality. Langacker's connectionist
account takes for granted our ability to make the correlations, and in doing so, it takes for granted a
sufficiently good understanding of psychologically real mental structures (see PI II.xi.139). But this is
precisely what was at issue. If, as Searle says, 'we do not have a clear notion of how the ontology of the
unconscious is supposed to match the ontology of the neurophysiology' (p. 172), then assuming that the
match can be achieved is not a legitimate way of explaining what a psychologically real mental structure is.
We can apply this point more widely. In response to the Interruption Argument for example, it might be
argued that we can tell whether a particular mental event (such as deciding whether there are enough
screws left to make the shelves) interrupts or merely coincides with a change in a particular train of thought
(such as wondering how many shelves to make). Both of these mental processes can be identified with
brain processes, it might be said, and in this guise questions of causal influence can be resolved in the usual
ways. This simply begs the question. Either it is possible to resolve these questions of causal influence
without making the identification or it is not. If it is possible, we would like to see it done. If it is not, we
are in the odd position of claiming an empirical identification between events and processes within the
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(neural firings, for example) and events and processes outside it (decisions and wonderings, for example).
The identification of mental events with brain processes takes for granted exactly what the Interruption
Argument brings into question. To put the point more generally still, we cannot argue against the post-308
project on the basis of any mind/brain identity thesis (other than a disappearance or eliminative version),
without begging the question.
Returning m Langacker's connectionist account, a further problem is that, on his view, we will know which
hypostasised patterns are psychologically real or productive only when we already have a successful neural
account of speech behaviour. But in this case, the Lockean stage of explanation is entirely otiose. The
supposed causal efficacy of 'units' cannot even lead us towards neural explanations, if it cannot be
established in advance or independently of them. In fairness, Langacker does claim elsewhere that schemas
can be identified independently but, in the present context (with the question of psychological reality to the
fore), he tends to lean more heavily on the connectionist account. This looks to me like an example of what
I earlier called definitional slide. Likelihood of neural activation defines psychological reality. The Lockean
entity or process is gradually understood in terms of the neurological entity or process it is supposed to help
us discover empirically.
Finally, it should be noted that the principal interest of connectionist models is precisely that they seem able
to recognise and continue patterns without the causal intervention of rules, schemata or 'psychological
realities' of any kind (see Rumelhart and McClelland's article 'On Learning the Past Tenses of English
Verbs'). It is of course possible, and may be very useful, to describe what the model does in rule-following
or schemata-consulting terms. We may even be compelled (for want of a convenient alternative) to say that
the model behaves as if it is following rule R or consulting schema S. But Langacker's stress on the
importance of psychological reality for schemas and instances forecloses this uncontroversial option. For
him, the human system really doesand causally mustconsult schemas and instances, and we are to look into
the activity of the brain for the neural implementation of these acts of consultation. The moral of
connectionism, however, is that no such consultation really takes place. The schema or rule has no real
existence in the model. (For more on why connectionism is congenial to a Wittgensteinian philosophy of
mind, see Stephen Mills' article, 'Wittgenstein and Connectionism: a Significant Complementarity').
The problematic nature of our understanding of the entities of a Lockean explanation makes it hard to hope even
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assist us reliably towards neural explanations. We tend to hypostasise memory, for example, as a persisting and
unitary faculty. On this basis, we expect to find memory localised somewhere in the brain, containing items that are
'stored' and then 'retrieved'. But the research effort based on this reifying picture appears at present to have been
fundamentally misdirected. If we therefore reconsider our talk about 'a memory' more carefully, we find that it is
based on an analogy with internal organswe talk about having a bad memory by analogy with having a bad liver or
a bad heart. But we over-extend the analogy if we take it to imply that somewhere inside the person, there really is
a memory.
To sum up, PI does not attack the Lockean picture on epistemological grounds (where it might well be attacked). It
does attack employing a sustained and multifaceted Use Argument (from various anomalies of use to
meaninglessness), which I have rejected. In place of this Use Argument we can substitute an argument to the best
explanation (based on the same anomalies), which I find persuasive. But even if this argument to the best
explanation is rejected, the post-308 project has still inflicted serious damage, in two areas. First, the insecurity of
our understanding of Lockean entities prevents Lockean theories from importing the explanatory force of common
sense homonyms and makes it plausible to suppose that Lockean explanation will tend to make a definitional slide
into neural explanation, rather than reliably contributing in any genuinely empirical way. And second, in the
process of rejecting the arguments of the post-308 project, the Lockean becomes encumbered with various
responses (that some things are too obvious to be worth saying, that various processes occur unconsciously, that
certain terms can derive meaning from their theoretical role and so on). Carrying the burden of these responses,
even supposing they were individually successful, the Lockean picture no longer seems the natural heir to common
sense. The Lockean extensions of the inner/outer analogy no longer look inevitable or unproblematic. On the
contrary, Lockean explanations, if they are explanatory at all, look much more like explanations of last resort.
In addition to arguments based on anomalies of use, there are (I have suggested) arguments based on anomalies of
experience. The Lockean predicts experiences that we do not have, and misreports experiences that we do have,
then hypostasises a range of unconscious entities and processes to paper over the cracks. We have already seen
some of Wittgenstein's arguments against this hypostasis, and we shall consider some others in the Appendix.
All this connects very closely with Wittgenstein's metaphilosophy, perhaps the element of his later thinking which
has found least acceptance. Wittgenstein's later concept of philosophy is sometimes presented as a rather
 

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doctrinaire and unmotivated afterthought to his own practice as a philosopher. But on the contrary, everything
Wittgenstein says about philosophy is perfectly natural, given the interpretation of PI developed above.
Wittgenstein's remarks on philosophy contain a number of superficial contradictions, and perhaps we can best
proceed by showing how the present interpretation resolves them. Wittgenstein stresses the 'non-interventionist'
nature of his philosophical method:
Philosophy may in no way interfere with the actual use of language; it can in the end only describe it.
For it cannot give it any foundation either.
It leaves everything as it is (PI 124).
We should neither refine nor reform ordinary language (PI 1323), nor can we justify or explain. As he says at PI
109, 'We must do away with all explanation, and description alone must take its place'. This purely descriptive
method explains why philosophy merely 'assembles reminders' (PI 127) and issues no theses with which anyone
could disagree (PI 128).
But then how is the philosopher's treatment of a question 'like the treatment of an illness' (PI 255)? A doctor does
not cure a 'disease' (PI 593) just by describing it.
Again, if philosophy is purely descriptive, why does Wittgenstein devise so many imaginary cases? Why, for
example, does he ask us to imagine people whose yells and stamping can be translated by suitable rules into a
game of chess (PI 200)?
And most of all, how can it be correct to leave ordinary language as it is if, as Wittgenstein also claims, ordinary
language is itself the source of our philosophical difficulties? As he says at PI 115, the picture that 'holds us
captive' lies in our language. The bewitchment of our intelligence that philosophy struggles against, occurs 'by
means of language' (PI 109).
These pseudo-contradictions arise from Wittgenstein's claim that philosophy should limit itself to description, as
indeed the post-308 project does, in essence. It reminds us, for example, that we say 'What idea does this sentence
express?' only in cases of difficulty of understanding, that we do not say 'I know I am in pain' in the senses the
Lockean expects, that we can say 'I meant you to write 1002' without ever having thought of that particular step. It
describes the ways in which we do actually use these and other expressions.
Now these descriptions are obviously intended to highlight the unnaturalness of a certain alternative understanding
of what we say. The Lockean thinks that every sentence expresses an idea, that one's knowledge of pain is the most
secure kind of knowledge, that some thought must
 

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correspond to my having meant such-and-such. It is true that more effort, in PI, goes into the highlighting than into
the simple description, and it is also true (I have argued) that Wittgenstein makes genuine use of introspection, in
pursuit of anomalies of experience as well as anomalies of use. But neither of these points detracts from the
essentially descriptive nature of the post-308 project.
So how is it possible to cure by describing? It is possible simply because the illnesses philosophy has to deal with
are illnesses of the understanding. Philosophical problemssuch as the epistemology of mental processes arise when
we stray from the ordinary uses Wittgenstein describes. Reminding us of these uses, therefore, is the best and only
cure.
The situation with Wittgenstein's employment of imaginary cases is a little more complicated, because they have
two functions in his method. One (PI II.xii) is to wean us away from the belief that 'certain concepts are absolutely
the correct ones', (which is not to say that these concepts are arbitrary). For example, the Lockean thinks the
concept of the 'complete seclusion' of the mental is absolutely correct, but PI II.xi.207 undermines this. Our
concept of mathematics would be different if calculations were more subject to disagreement than they are (PI
II.xi.232f.). Our concept of pain would be different if the surfaces of things around us had 'patches and regions' that
produced pain when we touched them (PI 312).
The second function of Wittgenstein's imaginary cases is to show the connections between apparently distinct
contexts of use, leading to what Wittgenstein calls a 'perspicuous representation' of our use of certain words (PI
122). For example, Wittgenstein imagines a series of language-games based on the builders of PI 2 who have only
four name-like commands ('Slab!' etc.) as their entire language. At PI 8, he adds a means of counting, two
pointing-terms, and a colour-chart. PI 21 adds reporting and questioning to the imperatives and PI 19 suggests that
we could elaborate many more of these language-games intermediary between the four-term language-game of PI
2 and our own language. The importance of these intermediate cases derives from the philosophical picture of
naming as the fundamental language function (Adam's first language act, and so on). The intermediate cases reveal
this picture's true connection with, and true distance from, our ordinary language, and in that way give us a
perspicuous representation of what we call 'naming'. Possessed of this, we will no longer be so inclined to demand
that verbs should be construed as names of events, numerals as names of numbers, personal pronouns as names of
centres of experience, and so on. Here the essential goal remains descriptiveto say clearly what we ordinarily mean
by the term 'name'but the method involves a range of imaginary cases. The method of intermediate cases is one
 

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way of highlighting the difference between what the philosophical theory demands (that every term should be
analysed as a name) and what we normally say. It is not much used in the post-308 project because the
unnaturalness of the Lockean picture can be highlighted more directly, by decribing actual usage. But examples
occur at PI 331, 361, 409, 420, 528f., 653, PI II.xi.203, 209, 237f.
The case of the yelling and stamping 'chess-players' anticipates a topic we shall return to in the Appendix. Its
tendency, however, is clearly to downplay the importance of rule-following. The fact that behaviour can be brought
under the rules of chess does not guarantee that those involved are playing chess.
The third pseudo-contradiction was between leaving ordinary language as it is and holding it responsible for
philosophical problems. This, too, is easily resolved on my account. Ordinary language is responsible in the sense
that the inner/outer analogy is inextricably woven into it. The inner/outer analogy is a 'simile that has been
absorbed into the forms of our language' (PI 112) so that our language itself seems 'to repeat it to us inexorably' (PI
115). In this sense, ordinary language is the source of our problems. But the analogy is not in itself harmful. It is
rather our mistaken dissatisatifaction with it in its native state that leads to insuperable difficulties. A particular
'improvement' of the analogy 'seems to force itself on one' (PI II.xi.82). We become victims of 'misunderstandings
concerning the use of words, caused . . . by certain analogies between the forms of expression in different regions
of language' (PI 90). In trying to devise improvements, we become 'as it were entangled in our own rules' (PI 125).
The remedy, correspondingly, is an accurate and persuasive description of the native state of the analogy, returning
us to 'the actual use of language' (PI 124), bringing words back 'from their metaphysical to their everyday use' (PI
116). Once we realise that the problematic ideas we thought ordinary language committed us to, are in fact
consequences of these extensions of ordinary usage, we will cease to be troubled by them (PI 133). It is in this
sense that we bump our heads 'against the limits of language' (PI 119)philosophical problems arise when we push
familiar analogies and pictures beyond the limits of their actual use.
Thus, the aphoristic presentation and the 'criss-cross' explorations of PI (PI Preface) are nevertheless imbued with
an underlying method (going back always to our actual experience and use of language), and an underlying
direction (leading to a re-evaluation of something we thought we understood). In these deeper senses, PI deserves
to be called systematic.
In my own view, Wittgenstein's later concept of philosophy cannot do justice to all philosophical problems. But
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interventionist, method inevitable. So if the post-308 project succeeds, as I have suggested, Wittgenstein's non-
interventionist metaphilosophy has to be accepted, at least for the central problems of the philosophy of mind.
In conclusion, I would like to summarise the main strengths and weaknesses of the interpretation offered in the
present book. It has to be counted a weakness if an interpretation makes some central argument of the text
unacceptable, and I am afraid that the present interpretation rejects two such arguments in PI. Wittgenstein clearly
does take absence of real, practical use to be in itself a damaging indication of meaninglessness. He also,
correspondingly, gives an important place to the senselessness of doubt regarding one's own meaning and one's
own sensations. I have suggested that this aggressive use of the Use theory, and the senselessness-of-doubt
doctrine, are distractions from the real arguments against the Lockean.
On the positive side, the present interpretation shows how PI attacks behaviourism and dualism at their shared root
(in extensions of the inner/ outer analogy which both wrongly take to be intelligible). On this basis, it is possible to
give introspection in PI its proper place. The present interpretation also shows how PI exemplifies and
substantiates Wittgenstein's radical views about philosophy (of mind, at least), as a critical discipline which must
yet be descriptive and systematic. PI demonstrates that philosophy within these constraints can be immensely
challenging, absorbing and important. Finally, the present interpretation represents PI as a unified work that
pursues a coherent line of argument from beginning to end, and as a selfcontained text which is intelligible on the
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Appendix: The Rule-following Considerations


In this appendix I hope to explain what Wittgenstein's discussion of rulefollowing is supposed to establish, and
what its relevance to the discussion of private languages really is.
We may begin with a point about underdetermination. Wittgenstein points out that a given amount of behaviour,
including speech-behaviour, will always (if our task is to say what rule underlies it) be open to multiple
interpretations. No sample of behaviour, however large, will uniquely determine the correct interpretation of it.
This is not a sceptical conclusion for Wittgenstein (see the note to p. 14 and PI 87) because our beliefs are further
constrained by the fact that we share a common natural history, common natural reactions, with other human
beings. If I see a child being taught the rule 'Add 2', watch the child through its first attempts to apply the rule in
new situations, see it respond to corrections and encouragements, and observe nothing out of the ordinary in the
child's reactions, then, when I later see the child write, '2, 4, 6, 8, 10 . . .', I am perfectly justified in saying that the
child is following the rule 'Add 2', in spite of the fact that those numbers (no matter how far extended) might
conform to an infinite number of other rules.
But if underdetermination (by behaviour narrowly construed) is not a cause of scepticism, for Wittgenstein, the
hypostasis of interpretations certainly is. We are tempted to think that, because we sometimes arrive at our beliefs
about other people on the basis of hypothesis-formation, weighing evidence and choosing the likeliest
interpretation, we must always do so, (only sometimes it happens unconsciously). Against this, Wittgenstein wants
to insist that interpretation occurs where there is some explicit problem or some unusual difficulty in arriving at a
belief. In normal cases, no interpretation occurs. Wittgenstein's scepticism, I shall argue, is directed at the
meaningfulness of talk about implicit rules (or interpretations), not at the aptness for truth or factuality of any talk
about rules (for more on the
 

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question of rule scepticism, see Kripke's book Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language, and the ensuing
literature).
Just as I may know without any interpretation which rule someone else is following, so I understand how to follow
a rule myself, normally without any interpretation (see, for example, PI 171f. on being guided by a written word, or
PI 219 'I obey the rule blindly'). If there had to be an interpretation at every step, rule-following would be
impossible (PI 238). Just as behaviour underdetermines the interpretation of it as rule-following, so the rule
underdetermines any interpretation of the behaviour it requires. Which goes to show that interpretation isn't the
only way we can connect rules and behaviour (PI 201, 20611). If it were, scepticism about the efficacy of rules
would follow.
This leads directly into the Practice Argument, (and thence, as we saw, into the Verificationist Argument), because
the alternative to the mentalistic connection (between action and rule, rule and action) through interpretation, is
connection through existing custom and practice. But I do not believe that there is any other important connection
between what Wittgenstein has to say about following a rule and what he says about private languages. In
particular, and despite a widespread perception to the contrary, Wittgenstein does not think that any meaningful use
of a sign must involve following a rule (PI 814). And his quarrel with private languages does not therefore turn on
the impossibility, asserted at PI 202, of the PLU following a rule.
A clear and carefully reasoned example of the contrary view is provided by Malcolm Budd. This is worth
discussing as an influential (and I think mistaken) account of the PLA, and because it will allow us to say
more about Wittgenstein's views about the hypostasis of unconscious rules.
Budd writes, 'I do not believe that it is possible to derive the conclusion of Wittgenstein's ''private language
argument"that a private language for one's sensations is impossiblefrom the conclusion of his consideration
of the notion of following a rulethat "obeying a rule is a practice" and, hence, that it is not possible to obey
a rule "privately" [Budd cites PI 202 as crucial]in the simple manner advanced by the "community
interpretation" of Wittgenstein's discussion of rule-following' [the 'community interpretation' being the
view, put forward by Christopher Peacocke, that Wittgenstein held that a practice necessarily involves a
community], pp. 578. I agree with Budd that we need some argument to show that there cannot be a private
practice (see the section on the Practice Argument), though I have rejected the claim that Wittgenstein's real
aim is to show that 'a private language for one's sensations is impossible'.
 

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Budd continues, 'The connection between Wittgenstein's assertion that it is not possible to obey a rule
"privately" and the conclusion of his private language argument emerges when we focus on the real
difficulty that faces the user of a private language. This arises from his intention to introduce a sign "S" as a
name of a sensation (in order to be able to record in words the recurrence of the sensation) [Budd cites PI
258]. And the difficulty is obvious. For if "S" is intended to be the name of a sensation it must have the
same grammar as a word for a sensation. Now this grammar has two essential components: that which is
characteristic of the third-person use of names of sensations, and that which is characteristic of the first-
person use. But in the case of a private language there is no third-person use: nothing provides another with
a good basis for using the term "S'' to describe the private language user's condition, and nothing provides
the private language user with a good basis for using the term "S" to describe anybody else's condition.
Hence, if "S" has any claim at all to the title of a name of a sensation, it must be used in the way a name of
a sensation is used in the first-personin particular, in the first person present. And hence, when the private
language user thinks "I have S" he has no reason for believing that this is so: his self-ascriptions are
criterionless: he uses "S" without a justification . . . But not only is this insufficient for "S" to be granted the
status of name of a sensation, it is insufficient for it to be accorded the status of meaningful sign or word'
(pp. 589).
Budd's argument is that criterionless use is meaningless unless grounded in public, third-person use. But
what reason do we have to believe this? Why shouldn't the PLU's criterionless dispositions to say or write
'S' constitute a practice sufficient to give the sign meaning?
Budd says, 'all that his mastery of a private language comes to is the fact that he sometimes, without any
particular reason, writes the sign "S" in his diary. And since his use of "S" is entirely unconstrained, "S" is
not a sign whose use is rule-governed' (p. 60). This brings us to the connection with the rule-following
considerations. Budd writes, 'if the aspirant private language user merely writes "S" down on a number of
occasions, on each occasion only for the non-justifying 'reason' that he considers it correct then to use "S",
there is only what is before his mind on the various occasions (the sign "S") to give substance to the idea
that he is obeying a rule in his use of "S". But, as Wittgenstein has shown, this is insufficient to give
content to the notion of following a rule . . . Accordingly, it is not possible to use a word as the name of a
sensation in a private language because it is not possible to obey a rule "privately" ' (p. 62).
Budd's argument, in essence, is that criterionless means not-rulegoverned, and not-rule-governed means
meaningless. Ordinary sensation language is rescued from this progression because of
 

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the rule-governed nature of criterial uses, which is held to 'carry over' somehow into the criterionless case.
(But how could it be shown, on this view, that my criterionless use of the term 'pain' is not in fact a
meaningless homonym of a term that is meaningful when I use it criterially?)
We might well challenge the first step in this argument. Suppose a child asks what the word 'nostalgic'
means and we explain that it's a feeling of longing for the past. Isn't this a rule for using the word and might
the child not apply the rule when saying 'I feel nostalgic' (a first-person psychological ascription)? It is the
second step in Budd's argument, however, that I want to rebut in detail. Wittgenstein does not hold that the
absence of a rule implies loss of meaning.
We may begin by distinguishing explicit from implicit rulefollowing. A certain behavioural output may
result from a person's explicitly consulting a rule, (a shopkeeper consulting a colour-chart to find a sample
of 'red' for example, or counting inwardly up to five, taking an apple for each number). It would plainly be
bizarre to suppose that every meaningful use of language involves rulefollowing in this sense: only in cases
of special difficulty do we apply rules in this explicit way. Some behavioural output may also be such,
however, that we can read into it a certain implicit rule, which the person may claim to know nothing about
(the rules or principles of transformational grammar, for example).
A second, equally rough but equally serviceable distinction is between normative and descriptive rule-
following. In normative rulefollowing, the rule (whether explicit or implicit) explains the agent's judgments
about right and wrong. If the shopkeeper says of a certain apple 'That won't doit's not red' by referring to a
mental image of the colour-sample, the explicit mental application of the rule explains his normative
judgment. But, if the shopkeeper selects apples, for example, by hearkening to a spirit voice (PI 2326), then,
although his behaviour can still be accurately described by means of the rule of the colour-chart, that rule
plays no part in explaining how his normative judgments are derived. The shopkeeper acts as if he is
following the colour-chart rule, but in fact, he isn't. Or if we prefer, he is following the rule in a purely
descriptive sense.
Now, does Wittgenstein hold that we have to be able to read rules into behaviour for it to be meaningful? In
the section on the Interpretation Argument, I said that Wittgenstein holds that a certain degree of regularity
is necessary for us to recognise verbal behaviour as a language, (this regularity existing within a context of
similarity to human life). But it is very natural to equate regularity with our ability to see rules (PI 237),
and it would then follow that where we cannot read a rule into verbal behaviour, as, by definition,
 

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we cannot in the case of a private language, that behaviour must, for Wittgenstein, be meaningless. In this
way we reach the conclusion that behaviour which is not (at least implicitly) rule-following, cannot on
Wittgenstein's view be meaningful.
But it is now obvious that Budd's argument gains in plausibility by a shift from explicit to implicit rule-
following. Criterionless selfascription involves no explicit rule-following, but it is at best implicit rule-
following that Wittgenstein requires as a condition of meaning. And we cannot move from the definitional
fact that we could not discover the implicit rule which the PLU is following to the claim that no such rule is
operating, without a stronger verificationist principle than the Wittgenstein of PI would accept.
More importantly, Wittgenstein does not require even implicit, normative rule-following as a condition of
meaning. Not only is there his general hostility to the unrealisable unconscious and his claim that normal
human behaviour might emerge out of 'chaos' (Zettel 60813), there are clear statements to this effect in PI
itseft.
PI 81, 'in philosophy we often compare the use of words with games and calculi which have fixed rules, but
cannot say that someone who is using language must be playing such a game'.
PI 82, 'how am I to determine the rule according to which he is playing? He does not know it himself.Or, to
ask a better question: What meaning is the expression "the rule by which he proceeds" supposed to have
left to it here?'
At this point, Wittgenstein clearly suggests that if we cannot determine which rule is in operation, it
becomes pointless (or even meaningless) to insist that, still, the speaker must be following a rule. It is
possible to interpret PI 81 as attacking only the idea of language as based on a calculus of fixed and definite
rules (and this point is certainly important at PI 80 and repeated at PI 84). But PI 82 shows that
Wittgenstein's attack goes beyond this. The more vague and transient the alleged rule is imagined to be, the
more difficult it becomes to determine if it is being followed.
PI 83, 'We can easily imagine people amusing themselves in a field by playing with a ball . . . And now
someone says: The whole time they are playing a ball-game and following definite rules at every throw' (a
claim Wittgenstein takes to be absurd). Again, this analogy shows that Wittgenstein is not concerned only
with exact and unalterable rules. Someone who 'throws the ball aimlessly into the air' is not following any
rules at all, not even vague rules subject to easy revision. When people 'bombard one another for a joke'
they are not following rules of any kind (as they are, or may be, when playing catch, for example).
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quite extended language activities might occur, which it would be absurd to describe as Me-governed.
Now, we could certainly devise a (very complex) rule that describes what happens when someone is
throwing the ball aimlessly into the air. And we can insist, if we wish, that the person is following this rule
(just as a bird, for example, 'follows' very complex rules of aerodynamics). This seems to me to stretch our
normal usage of 'follows', but as long as we are clear that it is only rulefollowing in the descriptive sense,
perhaps it is harmless.
In this descriptive sense, rule-following (or some of it) seems equivalent to the regularity Wittgenstein
regards as essential. And if this is so, rule-following in the descriptive sense would be necessary for us to
interpret behaviour as language. But as already argued, the fact that we could not discover descriptive rules
does not imply that none exists, and the fact that we could not interpret behaviour as linguistic does not
imply that it isn't linguistic (see the section on the Interpretation Argument) without stronger verificationist
premisses than Wittgenstein would accept. It is also clear that the kind of rule Budd has in mind is
normative, not merely descriptive. His concern is with what makes it 'correct' to use a term, or gives
someone a 'good basis' or 'justification' for using it. Against this, my claim is that Wittgenstein did not
regard normative rules as an essential precondition of meaning.
PI 84, 'the application of a word is not everywhere bounded by rules'. Here, Wittgenstein does not say that
an application which is not fixed by an existing rule requires a new rule, or an extension of the old one. He
says (as at PI 80) that there are possible applications which are not governed by rules (see also the first
sentence of PI 133).
Further remarks attacking the alleged connection between rulefollowing and meaning can be found at PI
31, which asserts that someone might even master a game such as chess without knowing any rules, and PI
292, which warns against supposing that describingan explicitly linguistic activitymust always be rule-
based. PI 237 describe, a case in which we might concede that someone is guided, but without the
intervention of any rule. (See also PI 653, On Certainty 47, 95, Zettel 295, 303, 612, Remarks on tee
Foundations of Mathematics VII. 49f.)
PI 814 appear to derive from Blue Book p. 25, where Wittgenstein argues that we think there must be such
rules because we mistakenly suppose that our words have exact meanings. The hypostasis of rules is a
consequence of the same exaggeration of the precision of language which motivated Logical Atomism.
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idea of an unconscious rule, operating as it were by itself to produce overt behaviour, as a Lockean
extension of our ordinary, harmless, concept of following a rule.
Let's now consider some counter-evidence. At PI 54, Wittgenstein seems to accept rules read into the
players' behaviour (but not known to them) as a sense in which we can say that a game is being played
according to definite rules. There is a significant precursor to PI 54 at Philosophical Grammar p. 86,
significant because Wittgenstein there seems to regard rules read into the players' behaviour and not
explicitly used by them, as a hypothesis and therefore merely uninteresting for a grammatical investigation.
At PI 54, his immediate reaction to the hypothesis is the more aggressive 'verificationist' querycould the
observer verify that a particular move in the game was the result of the hypothesised rule and not just a
slip? He gives the observer an answer to this questionthat there is behaviour characteristic of making a
slipbut PI 162 ignores this (suggesting that the way to show that someone really is following an implicit
rule is by finding a way to see it being followed explicitly). And even without PI 162, I don't think we could
regard this behaviour characteristic of a slip as sufficient to remove the 'verificationist' doubt once and for
all. The player might often fail to notice the slip until later, for example, and so produce puzzled or 'trying-
toremember' behaviour. And, of course, the behaviour characteristic of a slip would not occur if the move
were made on the advice of a spirit guide, or on the basis of a sudden hunch, or as an act of homage to a
great player who once made a similar move, or as a bluff. Like the case of making a slip, these cases would
have to be distinguished from cases of acting on the basis of a rule, and yet none could be as readily
distinguished by means of characteristic behaviour.
At PI 197, Wittgenstein says, 'chess is the game it is in virtue of all its rules (and so on)'. This certainly
seems to equate the meaningfulness of the practice with its rule-governed nature. Does it imply that a
practice must be rule-governed to be meaningful? I think Wittgenstein is here talking about chess as it
currently exists in our community. We have books of explicit rules, international bodies to control the game
and settle disputes, experts and so on. But just as there are 'calculating prodigies who get the right answer
but cannot say how' (PI 236), there might be chess players who move correctly, without explicit or even
implicit, normative rules (a group composed of players like the learner of PI 31). They would follow rules,
if we choose to call it that, in a purely descriptive sense. In short, it obviously does not follow from the
explicit nature of our chess rules, that any community of chess-players must be following rules.
 

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In note (b) to p. 147, we read, 'without these rules the word ["not"] has as yet no meaning; and if we change
the rules, it now has another meaning'. Wittgenstein is here discussing double negation, which is explicitly
defined in logic as equivalent to the related affirmative. And as above, we cannot safely infer from a case in
which an explicit rule does exist, to a general requirement that a normative rule must exist.
At PI 558, Wittgenstein allows that there is a rule forbidding the substitution of an equals sign for 'is' in the
sentence 'The rose is red'. The existence of the rule shows that 'is' here has a different meaning from the 'is'
in the sentence 'Twice two is four'. This rule forbidding the substitution does not seem to have been explicit
(until Wittgenstein made it so), though neither is it entirely clear that the rule is implicit, because the equals
sign will have been introduced in explicit connection with numerical symbols. Nor is it dear that
Wittgenstein regards the rule as normative rather than descriptive. But even if this is an implicit normative
rule determining meaning, it by no means follows that all other meaningful uses of words must be rule-
governed too.
And this possible admission of an implicit normative rule is in any case rather exceptional in PI. The
balance of evidence is very much against such an admission. For example, at PI 201 Wittgenstein insists
that it must be possible for a rule to be 'exhibited in what we call "obeying the rule" and "going against it"
in actual cases'. The word I want to emphasise in this much-quoted passage is 'exhibited'. Wittgenstein's
point is that rules must have some explicit function, and this is why he ends PI 201 by saying that 'we ought
to restrict the term "interpretation" to the substitution of one expression of the rule for another'. This clearly
asserts that we ought to restrict interpretations to the explicit case. But, if we should restrict interpretations
to exhibitable cases, why not rules, (and, though there is less textual evidence for this, criteria too)? We are
not to hypostasise unconscious interpretations or unconscious rules, (as Chomsky does, or as Davidson
does in 'Radical Interpretation' for example). An interpretation takes place, a rule is followed, a criterion is
applied (for Wittgenstein), only where there is something explicit to indicate it, such as tile rule-follower's
explicit substitution of one expression for another. This interpretation is entirely consistent with
Wittgenstein's warnings against the 'constant danger of producing a myth of symbolism, or mental
processes' (Zettel 211, and see PI 598). It is also consistent with the fact that connectionist models can
produce output closely resembling a practice, without the intervention of rules. Interpreted as I suggest,
Wittgenstein might almost be said to have foreseen this interesting result.
 

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To sum up: Budd's version of the PLA claims, first, that no rules would govern the PLU's utterances (no
explicit rules because his or her utterances would be criterionless, and no implicit rules because the
definition of a private language makes the discovery of any such rule by anyone other than the speaker
impossible), and second, that utterances which are not rule-governed (even if only at one remove, as in the
case of ordinary sensation language) are meaningless. First-person psychological ascriptions, however,
might very well involve explicit rules. Also, the impossibility of our discovering implicit rules does not
imply that no implicit rules are operating, without a stronger verificationist premiss than Wittgenstein would
accept. Again, the idea of being rule-governed 'at one remove' seems hard to work out in detail. And
finally, Wittgenstein did not hold that all meaningful utterances must be rule-governed. His tendency is very
much to be suspicious of the meaningfulness of talk about unconscious rules (that is, implicit normative
rules which the agent sincerely disavows). But if this is correct, he can hardly object against the PLU, as
Budd would have him do, that no normatire rules govern his or her verbal output.
If the rule-following considerations do not contribute directly to the PLA, why do they seem particularly 'resonant'?
One reason is their relevance to the epistemology of foundational and mathematical knowledgebut that is a topic
for another day. In the present context, I think there are four main reasons. I said above that Wittgenstein does not
attack the private language model on epistemological grounds, but it is not difficult to see how the rule-following
considerations might be pressed into service here. If meaning is conferred by an inner act that no one else can
directly observe, then it is possible that a language user's outer performances could be correct in spite of a deviant
inner correlation. For example, someone might correlate the spoken or written rule 'Add 2' with the understanding
we would express by 'Add 2 up to the first twenty-digit number, thereafter add 4' and yet go through life
undetected. The possibility of an infinite number of deviant correlations which we might never detect certainly
dramatises the epistemological problems of the private language model. In this sense, the rule-following
considerations do raise a general sceptical problemfor the Lockean.
A second possible application of the rule-following considerations is to demonstrate the failure of behaviourism
narrowly understood (Remarks on the Philosophy of Psychology vol. 1,314), because the behavioural output '2, 4, 6,
8, 10 . . .' would not be sufficient to justify a claim we can justifiably make (and so would also lead to scepticism).
Wittgenstein's response to this failure is to broaden the evidential base to include all the facts which show that the
child shares our form of life.
 

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The third reason for the special interest of the rule-following considerations is that they reinforce the attack on the
Tractatus' demand for determinacy of meaning. Wittgenstein's remarks strongly suggest that, even in a case which
seems to have an exact meaning (such as the rule 'Add 2'), we cannot give an account of the meaning that will be
proof against deviant or unorthodox interpretations. And we can't give such an account, not because we have to
interpose the imperfect medium of language between our own perfectly clear understanding and the child's
ignorance. We can't give it because we don't have it (PI 20811, PI 5034). Lacking this (hypostasised) perfectly
clear understanding, we are nevertheless able to do everything we want to do, even in an area of language that
seems a paradigm of exactitude. The demand for determinacy of sense was therefore a mistake.
The fourth possible application of the rule-following considerations is against hypostasis (see, for example, PI
213), and here various lines of argument are possible. We considered a development of the Hypostasis Argument
above (p. 87f.). It might also be argued that the underdetermination of rules by behaviour itself attacks any
attempted hypostasis of rules: if alternative rules are always possible, how can we hypostasise with any
confidence? To this an obvious answer is that if the kind of broadening of evidence described above is sufficient to
tell us what (conscious) rule someone is following, it must also be sufficient to allow hypostasis of unconscious
rules. But it could be argued in reply that the agent's confirmation (in the case of conscious rules) is a peculiarly
important part of the broader evidence. Wittgenstein says, or is reported as saying, in the second Lecture on
Aesthetics, that it is the subject's recognition of the unconscious influence, when suggested by someone else, which
validates explanation by reference to the unconscious. The same importance is attached to the subject's
acknowledging the unconscious influence at Culture and Value, p. 68, a passage dated as late as 1948, (for more on
this see Wittgenstein reads Freud, by Jacques Bouveresse). It is not implausible to suggest, for example, that to
disregard the agent's explicit statements about the rules he or she is following is to place the agent to some extent
outside our form of life. If we see the agent as a laboratory subject rather than as a person, the broader evidence
appealed to above may not consistently be available.
Another line of attack against hypostasis would be based on a regress argument. If a rule must be hypostasised in
order to account for mastery of some feature of language, must there not be further rules to account for mastery of
that rule? (Of course, if the rule is hypostasised merely as a descriptive device, to summarise rather than explain
mastery, no demand for further rules is created). There are two ways, in reply, to stem the regress. We can try to
stop it at once, by holding that the hypostasised rule does not
 

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itself require the kind of explanation provided for overt language mastery. We might say, for example, that it is a
mental rule and therefore comes with mastery, as it were, built in (see, for example, Ray Jackendoff's book
Semantic Structures, p. 123). Or we can say that further rules are indeed required but that the hierarchy of rules has
a (probably neural) terminus. The first option seems obscurantist (not to say false because we can of course fail to
understand things we mentally consult). The second seems to presuppose a better understanding than we have of
what a psychologically real mental rule might be. If we don't really understand what it means to say that N's speech
is produced by unconsciously following a real mental rule R, how can we be confident that unconsciously
following R breaks down into unconsciously following S, T and U? And how will it be possible to frame a genuine
hypothesis that unconsciously following S consists in the occurrence of brain processes B, C, D and E (see above,
p. 111f. and p. 126f.)?
The idea that the meaning resides somehow in the uninterpreted text (so that the rule itself determines how it is to
be appliedsee, for example, the contrast between PI 189 and 190) is also rejected in the course of the rulefollowing
remarks. But this is a minor concern. Wittgenstein asks of this idea, 'how would it help?' (PI 219), because the
basic question is how we come to know what the rule demands (that is, how we explain our understanding of it).
And the answer to that question is that we rely, ultimately in some blind way, not only on the text, but on all the
facts that constitute our belonging to a certain form of life (PI 241).
Wittgenstein's underlying concern throughout PI is to show that Lockean theories of meaning or understanding,
like theories of truth, are based on a mistaken dissatisfaction with the existing inner/outer analogy. Pressing the
analogy ever further in the direction of unintelligibility, all they can do is increase that initial (mistaken)
dissatisfaction. Thus, if the present interpretation is correct, the most important of the various possible applications
of the rule-following considerations is against hypostasis.
The temptation to hypostasise interpretations of which we are not conscious is very strong: 'He understood, so he
did interpret/follow a rule/apply a criterion, though he wasn't aware of it'. Against this, Wittgenstein holds that
there might be nothing at all (nothing mental, that is) 'behind' understanding. We say a person understands a series,
for example, when he or she can continue it correctly, teach it to others, construct analogous series and so on (PI
692). And there's an end of it (until we reach neurological explanations). We don't need implicit interpretations or
rules, and correspondingly, we can't genuinely make sense of them.
Wittgenstein's scepticism about the meaningfulness of implicit rules and interpretations is not fully worked out in
PI (or elsewhere). He seems to
 

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have been inclined to demand some method of making a hypostasised rule explicit (such as the subject's explicit
acknowledgement), but taken at face value, this demand seems too strict. Someone under post-hypnotic suggestion
may follow the rule 'Cluck whenever you hear the word "chicken" ', though sincerely and consistently denying all
knowledge of the rule. In this case, we can elicit behaviour which (having seen the hypnotist induce the belief) can
only be explained by means of the unconscious rule, and which may therefore count as making the rule explicit.
But what this shows is that we need more detail on what is to count as exhibiting or making explicit. Lacking a
detailed account of this, we cannot safely ascribe to Wittgenstein anything more than a tendency to be sceptical of
the meaningfulness of implicit rules. But in the context of PI, this is not an important omission, because none of
the arguments against the hypostasis of unconscious entities depends on this scepticism. Wittgenstein has
suggested that hypostasis is uncontrollable, that it will in some cases require an infinite number of unconscious acts
or entities, that it involves simultaneously viewing the subject as a human being and as a mechanism, that it is not
explanatory because regressive, and that it tries to provide an explanation where none is needed. None of these
arguments turns on a demand that hypostasised entities or acts be realisable in some sense.
To sum up: the rule-following considerations are part of a wider discussion of following and being guided (see
above, p. 121). The aim of that wider discussion is to show that behaviour is not made 'understandingful' by
something that happens in the agent's mind, such as mental consultation (conscious or otherwise) of a rule or
interpretation. The rule-following considerations contribute another example of behaviour that is not made
'understanding-ful' by any mental process, and so lead, With the other examples, into the Practice Argument and
the attack on hypostasis (to which they make a special contribution). The rule-following considerations also remind
us of the epistemological problems of the Lockean picture, show the inadequacy of behaviourism narrowly
construed, and suggest that our grasp of meaning is not perfectly determinate. They do not show that a private
language is impossible, nor argue for scepticism about rules in general. And they do not claim or imply that
language must be rule-governed if it is to be meaningful.
 

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Index

A
action, 97-107
agreement, 20-2
analogy, argument from, 43, 57
inner/outer, 3, 61, 69-71, 81-3, 92-5, 100, 116-18, 124-6, 132
Anscombe, Elizabeth, 114
Aristotle, 108
associationism, 1-2, 88-9
Atomism, 1-2, 115-19, 120, 139
attitude, 98

B
behaviourism, 39-40, 50-4, 65-71, 101-3, 116-17, 142
Berkeley, George, 11
bipolarity, 30, 52, 93-4
Blackburn, Simon, 18-19, 40
Blue Book, 80, 99, 139
Bouveresse, Jacques, 143
Budd, Malcolm, 68-9, 135-42

C
causality, 6, 35-6, 72-3, 83, 88, 105, 113, 126-8
criterion, 26, 44, 76-80, 99-102, 136, 141
Culture and Value, 143
custom, 17-24, 121

D
Davidson, Donald, 22, 113, 141
Descartes, René, 12-13, 125
Donagan, Alan, 102
doubt, 94, 97-9;
see also error (esp. pp. 29-30)
dualism, 3, 53-6, 79, 100, 116, 121
Dummett, Michael, 19, 46-8

E
error (impossiblity of), 26-30, 43-4, 57, 78, 94, 115-16, 133
essentialism, 1-2, 54, 122
explanation, 105, 110, 126-9
expression (natural), 7, 28, 37, 76-80

F
Feyerabend, Paul, 54-5
Fodor, Jerry, 25, 35, 113-14

G
grammar, 35, 76, 116, 136, 140

H
Hacker, Peter, 23, 44, 95, 99-101, 103
Hintikka, Jaakko and Merrill B. Hintikka, 102-3
Hobbes, Thomas, 17, 55, 62
hypostasis, 48, 83-8, 143-5

I
I (non-referring), 95-7
identification, 26-30
image, 11, 110, 114-15
innate ideas, 17, 36
intention, 20, 104-6
interpretation, 24-5, 68, 104, 116, 121, 134-5, 141
interruption, 63-4, 127-8
introspection, 4, 64-71, 80-3, 89-90, 107, 110, 123, 131, 133

J
Jackendoff, Ray, 144
Johnston, Paul, 22-3, 39-41, 76
justification, 105-6

K
Kosslyn, Steven, 110-11
Kripke, Saul, 19, 59, 135

L
Lakoff, George, 10-12
 

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Langacker, Ronald W., 87, 126-8
language (ordinary), 3-4, 50, 56, 108-9, 111, 118, 122-4, 130-3
learning, 17, 32-3, 36-8
Lectures and Conversations, 143
Locke, John, 8, 11-12, 17

M
McClelland, James L., 128
McGinn, Colin, 19
McGinn, Made, 59
Malcolm, Norman, 19-22, 76-80
meaning, 1-2, 36-7, 43-4, 45-56, 122 practical, 52-6, 58-60
memory, 14, 26, 33-6, 44, 68, 129
mental accompaniments, 50-1, 73-6
metaphilosophy, 59-61, 129-33

N
Nadler, Steven, 125
naming, 1, 16-17, 43, 65, 73, 96
nonsense, 44, 49-56, 57-4, 69, 74-5, 118

O
object-designation model, 43, 79-80
On Certainty, 139

P
perception, 108-14
perspicuous representation, 131-2
phenomenalism, 13, 41-2
Philosophical Grammar, 140
Pinker, Steven, 85-6
Plato, 73
pointing, 7, 80-3
Pomerantz, James R., 110
private language, 2, 7-13, 56-9, 121-2, 135-42
projection, 114-19
psychological reality, 126-8
Putnam, Hilary, 10, 86, 115

R
regularity, 21-5, 137-42
Rorty, Richard, 30
rules, 17-24, 114, 128, 134-45
Rumelhardt, David E., 128
Rundle, Bede, 48-9
Russell, Bertrand, 13

S
Saussure, Ferdinand de, 8-10
scepticism, about rules, 134-45
Cartesian, 12-13
Searle, John, 86, 113, 127
seeing an aspect, 109-10
sense (determinacy of), 1-2, 114-18, 120, 143
sense-data, 13, 42
Sterelny, Kim, 110
Stern, David, 6, 53

T
thinking, 3-4, 12, 50, 58-9, 63-71, 73-80, 115-18
Tractatus, 100, 114-19, 143

V
verification, 30-42

W
will, 106-7

Z
Zettel, 6, 98, 138-9, 141
 
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