Talk:Philosophical Investigations

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Citation/references style[edit]

I have a suggestion: Since most of the citations for this entry are just section numbers to the text, perhaps we should just put them in parentheses next to the quote and so on. It's kind of ridiculous to have a bunch of footnotes that only have section numbers. Although, it does keep with the standard style of having the citations footnoted in a "Notes" section. Any thoughts? - Jaymay 22:16, 8 September 2006 (UTC)

Agreed especially for the claim that Wittgenstein was sure duck-rabbit was due to external, not cognitive, changes. Sounds like BS meant to discredit Wittgenstein. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:33, 8 November 2016 (UTC)

The lion[edit]

Unfortunately, I have an old copy of Investigations (1983 reprint), and it is possible that my pagination is different from the 2001 version. But the Lion quote in mine occurs on page 223, not on page 190, as cited here. Could someone verify that the page is correct? Banno 21:33, 24 June 2006 (UTC)

Also, my text reads ""If a lion could talk, we could not understand him" - which differs from the text in the article. Which is correct? Banno 21:40, 24 June 2006 (UTC)

I have the paperback "50th anniversary edition" (2001, 3rd edition), parallel German/English text, Blackwell ISBN 0-631-23159-5. There are not 223 pages in that edition, (well, there are, but everything after p200 is the index), and the Lion sentence is on p190, with the same words as you give above. The third edition incorporates Elizabeth Anscombe's final revisions and a few typesetting errors, and it has been repaginated. What do we want to do about this? Part 1 is easy, as the paragraphs are numbered. For part 2, there's no indication in the 2001 edition of the original pagination, and no easy way to refer to individual sections or paragraphs other than page numbers. --ajn (talk) 09:17, 26 June 2006 (UTC)
Thanks, Andrew. It's IIxi that presents the problem, since it is probably too long to reference without page numbers; but perhaps we could live with that? From what I can see on-line,[1] your commemorative edition has the same ISBN as the one cited in the article, which should mean that the pagination in yours is the same, so let's just leave the page number as is. Banno 10:13, 26 June 2006 (UTC)
Can you provide a page number for reference 2, which is the first page of the preface? I;d like to use it to justify the use of remarks in place of paragraph or comment, since this is used in the Anscombe translation. (It's page vii in mine). Banno 10:17, 26 June 2006 (UTC)
The next page is xe, so I guess the preceding one is ixe (the page numbers are identical on facing pages, with the English translation given a superscript). It's the first paragraph of a two-page preface, so I don't think the page number's really necessary. --ajn (talk) 10:50, 26 June 2006 (UTC)

Wittgenstein's analysis of psychological phenomena[edit]

The following:

In the second part of Philosophical Investigations, Wittgenstein moves outward from human language behavior and towards an examination of more general psychological issues.

seems to me to be not quite true. Much of the last part of part I is concerned with psychological phenomena; much of the second part is concerned with meaning. Removed. Any objections?Banno 23:07, 8 July 2006 (UTC)

Foundations of mathematics/the role of philosophy[edit]


The opening para claims that the PI deals with the foundations of mathematics. I think this is pretty misleading - there are a few (very) passing comments on maths (eg, paras 67-68) but not nearly enough to justify the text's claim.

In fact LW at one time envisioned his book containing a whole section on the foundation of mathematics but chose instead to concentrate on psychological concepts.

I disagree. There is a substantial amount of stuff on mathematics - both explicit and implicit. The whole discussion of following a rule takes place in the context of mathematics. Perhaps someone with an eye for maths could add a section to the article, to support he claim in the intro? Banno 20:10, 27 July 2006 (UTC)

The role of philosophy

I think the article needs a section on LW's account of the role of philosophy as described in the PI (paras 89-133). His notion of philosophy as being akin to therapy is not only one of his most original contributions to the subject but also goes some way towards explaining why the book is written as it is.

--Attlee 11:13, 22 July 2006 (UTC)

Comments on this aspect arescattered throughout the article. But if you think such a section is needed, please add it. Banno 20:10, 27 July 2006 (UTC)


Hi all. I recently made some copyedit changes to the article. Hope I'm not imposing--just trying to help Wikiproject Philosophy. Here are a few things I tried to do, but may have still missed some things:

  1. Tried to keep the present tense throughout when talking about W's arguments, views, etc. Although, obviously it's good to put tense in when talking about Kripke's book, being after W's, and so on.
  2. Tried to refrain from saying 'we' and 'our' and so forth--it seems too informal and unprofessional.
  3. Added info about those who call W a behaviorist--this charge is quite the misunderstanding of W's position, yet a lot of people think that that's what he meant. There might be a case for him being sort of a behaviorist, but I just thought the debate should be addressed.

That's about it. Although, I think that more could be done to improve this article, including adding more that's covered in the Investigations; there's lots of good and important stuff in there. - Jaymay 23:02, 11 August 2006 (UTC)

The recent edits are most welcome - good to see others taking an interest in the article. Tenses and so on are hangovers from the original article text, which comes from Larry Sanger. I will take issue with the changes to the introduction to the private language argument - but not right now. Banno 08:45, 14 August 2006 (UTC)

I made some recent edits (again). Here are few of the things I did:

  1. Organized a bit; made three main sections for the article: The text, language, and mind.
  2. Added to the "Mind" section. I think it still could use some expansion, though.
  3. Put external links on the bottom and removed the short and unnecessary "See also" section.

-- Jaymay 22:13, 8 September 2006 (UTC)

Private language[edit]

Thread 1[edit]

Wittgenstein's "Private Language" argument should be discussed, as well as his "beetle-in-the-box" thought-experiment, as those are recurring issues in philosophy. --Wikiwikifast

  • That would certainly be great. Unfortunately, I only know those arguments by association, and I think the number of wikipedians who could give an adequate explanation of it are slim. Do you think you could whip something up? Adam Conover 22:04, Apr 10, 2004 (UTC)
  • I took "beetle in a box" off the main W page and added it here, where it seems more appropriate. It reads like a direct quotation - is it? If so, that should be made clear.
  • The Private Language section is quite misleading: It is likely not the case that W. was attempting a response to Hume or other empiricists. More likely his was a response to Kant's idealism -- and there are plenty of references to this in various biographies -- or to Russell's notion that we could reduce language to simple "objects." I suggest that the last paragraph be completely stricken.
    • Kantian Idealism? Don't remember that from the two biographies I've read. Mind you, it's not very likely he had Hume specifically in mind either - LW was by no means well-versed in the history of philosophy. It can't be taken for granted that he'd even read Hume. His most obvious target was probably his own early philosophy (and also that of Russell and Frege which the TLP drew on heavily). Of course that brand of logical atomism was in turn influenced by the "picture" of language/thought etc, found in Locke, Hume and Descartes (and Plato, come to that).--Attlee 11:31, 22 July 2006 (UTC)
  • The second sentence of the second paragraph is so disingenuous and flatly wrong that it should also be stricken. For example, the notion that the "facts of language" are something "forgotten in the excitement of thinking that s/he had discovered some new theory" stands in need of support, for it is not clear (especially from the Investigations alone, which this page is supposed to be about) what the "facts of language" might be, and there is no reference to "excitement" at discovery of theory anywhere to be found in the text. Also, the suggestion that W. "believed that language (and therefore thought) was a fundamentally social activity" is misleading in that W. does not advance points about "fundamental" features of anything. Indeed, were he to do so, he would vandalize the anti-theoretical stand that he takes in PI.
  • The first paragraph conflates so many themes of the text that it is almost entirely unhelpful. "Another related idea is the observation that when we speak of a word having a meaning, we normally imply some means of verification" is completely misplaced, for not only is the verification principle not under attack in what some philosophers call the "Private Language" argument, but it is not clear from the analysis here what role verification serves in the remarks on languages with only one speaker.
  • W does not conclude that talk of a PL is "nonsense", as is suggested here. He uses the notion of PL to show various features of propositions about what philosophers have come to call "meaning".

I suggest reverting to my Private Language description (of December 20) at least until the existing text is overhauled. This section does a great disservice to the casual reader.

I also suggest leaving the link to as it directly addresses deep concerns about the role of "meaning" in PI. And I suggest that Mr. Norman choose more charitable words than "especially when replacements are inferior", unless well prepared to level such accusations.

Thread 2[edit]

This contentious issue has to be handled with care. The recent changes are for the most part for the better. However, I have changed one line. The previous version read as follows:

Wittgenstein also ponders the possibility of a language, the subject of which is only known to the user...

This was written paraphrasing PI 243, specifically: "The individual words of this language are to refer to what can only be known to the person speaking; to his immediate private sensations". This was done - perhaps unsuccessfully - to counter the common misunderstanding that a private language is one spoken by a single individual; the mistaken view that, for instance, the last speaker of a dying language would be speaking a private language. this is not so. A private language is not just one spoken by a single individual, but one that speaks about items which cannot in principle be understood by any other individual.

This has been replaced by:

Wittgenstein also ponders the possibility of a language that is only able to be understood by a single individual, a language that is necessarily private...


  • Wittgenstein also ponders the possibility of a language that is only able to be understood by a single individual does not rule out the finale speaker of a dying language as a private language user - It is not the number of users that makes a language private, but what is spoken about in that language.
  • a language that is necessarily private introduces potentially confusing notions of modality - which the paragraph could do without (thoughts of "private in every possible world"??).

Hence my variation. I am not especially enamoured with it, however, so other suggestions are welcome. Banno 11:57, 15 August 2006 (UTC)

Banno: I think you're right that this should be handled with care. It's quite difficult to figure out exactly what LW thinks is or is not a private language. I think your changes are good though. The modal notions here are potentially dangerous. More collaboration would be good to get all parts of this article as clear, accurate, and untendentious as possible. - Jaymay 18:54, 15 August 2006 (UTC)
I hope that more contributions are forthcoming. I would like to see the private language section grow to where we can bud it off to it's own article, but at present doing so would create no more than a stub. Thanks. Banno 21:07, 15 August 2006 (UTC)

An article called Private language argument was created on 6 October 2005 but it is not linked to/from Philosophical Investigations. The content that was added to Wikipedia was copied from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. --JWSchmidt 00:59, 17 January 2006 (UTC)


It would be useful to explain in depth Language games, Family resemblance.

It would also be good to talk a little about the history of the PI. All I remember off the top of my head is: W worked on it for many years, but it was only published after W's death. And it was translated into english at W's request by to G. E. M. (Elizabeth) Anscombe -- who eventually took over W's chair at Cambridge. -- Mark Christensen

Anyway, if you don't want to do it, I can find someone from a mailing list or newsgroup who can discuss this further. --LMS

If you are going to get some W person involved, I actually think the text on the PI page is worth fixing (it's quick but not really loose like the text on ambiguity was), but I really think this is't worth taking time over. Though I do think that eventually some reference to a criteque of the "negative" view of ambiguity the article expresses is in order. By negative view, I mean the common practice of treating ambiguity as though it is something to be stomped out when possible. And though I think precision is usually extreemly valuable, I do think it can sometimes be a problem.

dead link[edit]

"the private language argument" link at the bottom is dead

Major Issue with PIs[edit]

(Copied from the biography page). In the article there is nothing said about the problem with the philosophical investigations and the understanding of the later works structure which is crucial for understanding. The current editor of the Nachlass "On his death, Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951) left behind a philosophical Nachlass of some 20,000 pages", The style of writing is so important that it should be considered as a new form of philosophical inquiry. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:16, 20 September 2007 (UTC)

Actually Part I of the Investigations WAS in its final form, and it was Part II that was added on by the editors (maybe because the material that it contains would have been edited down and included in Part I had he gotten around to it? I don't know). The preface (as far as I know) was written to correspond with the manuscript of Part I, which he decided not to publish, for reasons that I'm not clear on right now. You are clearly being irrational and neglectful of the facts. Enigma00 06:10, 24 September 2007 (UTC)
So I am being "clear irrational" when you first don't bother to bring an argument and second don't give any sources. It seems that you know little about the situation, but attack my points for no clear reason without bothering to consider my arguments. 1. The preface was never written for a work called PI. 2. Any part can not have been it its final form, but the closest piece of work close to publication was the Big Typescript. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:57, 24 September 2007 (UTC)

Use of commas?[edit]

In the section, "Relation to the Tractatus," we find:

Wittgenstein provided examples of sentences or expressions that can be interpreted in more than one way. One of the most famous is, "Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language", which could mean either one of the following:

   * philosophers use language to combat bewitchments, or
   * philosophers battle bewitchments caused by language itself.

This ambiguity can only be resolved in context, showing that language cannot be broken down into self-contained units of meaning.

Is it not apparent that this ambiguity is merely the result of failure to use commas? I submit, the first and second meanings above, respectively, are adequately differentiated thus:

"Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence, by means of language."

"Philosophy is a battle, against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language." —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:23, 9 December 2007 (UTC)

Yes, of course, I think Wittgenstein uses obscurantisms here and there, which is one of the toughest obstacles for understanding his philosophies. But here we'll mainly discuss the content of the article. Go out publish yourself somewhere, or find a source claiming your claims, so that we may collect secondary sources analysing him — we need such sources. Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 11:24, 28 January 2010 (UTC)


Isn't this whole article original research? It pretty much only references Wittgenstein himself, and there is a lot of debate about how he should be interpreted. Full credit to the authors of this page, but it seems like it should contain more references to the numerous books and articles that have been written about Wittgenstein rather than just presenting what is basically an OR conception of his views. (talk) 22:28, 22 February 2009 (UTC)

It is written like an WP:Essay (disallowed), which is mainly an entire article of WP:OR thinking (disallowed). A very good essay I would say, but nevertheless disallowed. Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 11:18, 28 January 2010 (UTC)

Method and presentation[edit]

The section Method and presentation doesn't succeed to describe the style and method of the book very well. Firstly: the text sample is from the introduction, and it's one of the more unclear paragraphs, most are much clearer, and foremost: the paragraphs refers back to other paragraphs, making a coherent discourse. I'll report more later, when I've read farther into the book. Rursus dixit. (mbork3!) 15:13, 8 April 2010 (UTC)