So another person cannot understand the language. What Wittgenstein had in mind is a language conceived as necessarily comprehensible only to its single originator because the things which define its vocabulary are necessarily inaccessible to others. Immediately after introducing the idea, Wittgenstein goes on to argue that there cannot be such a language. The conclusion is that a language in principle unintelligible to anyone but its originating user is impossible. The reason for this is that such a so-called language would, necessarily, be unintelligible to its supposed originator too, for he would be unable to establish meanings for its putative signs.
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So another person cannot understand the language. What Wittgenstein had in mind is a language conceived as necessarily comprehensible only to its single originator because the things which define its vocabulary are necessarily inaccessible to others. Immediately after introducing the idea, Wittgenstein goes on to argue that there cannot be such a language. The conclusion is that a language in principle unintelligible to anyone but its originating user is impossible.
The reason for this is that such a so-called language would, necessarily, be unintelligible to its supposed originator too, for he would be unable to establish meanings for its putative signs. And a few commentators e. This suggestion, however, depends for its plausibility on a tendentiously narrow notion of argument—roughly, as a kind of proof, with identifiable premisses and a firm conclusion, rather than the more general sense which would include the exposure of a confusion through a variety of reasoned twists and turns, of qualifications, weighings-up and re-thinkings—and is a reaction against some drastic and artificial reconstructions of the text by earlier writers.
Nevertheless, there is a point to be made, and the summary above conceals, as we shall see, a very intricate discussion. Even among those who accept that there is a reasonably self-contained and straightforward private language argument to be discussed, there has been fundamental and widespread disagreement over its details, its significance and even its intended conclusion, let alone over its soundness.
The result is that every reading of the argument including that which follows is controversial. But much derives from the tendency of philosophers to read into the text their own preconceptions without making them explicit and asking themselves whether its author shared them.
The early history of the secondary literature is largely one of disputation over these matters. Yet what these earlier commentators have in common is significant enough to outweigh their differences and make it possible to speak of them as largely sharing an Orthodox understanding of the argument.
Both debates, though, show a tendency to proceed with only the most cursory attention to the original argument which started them off.
Such a recovery is one of the tasks attempted in this article. Interpretation of Wittgenstein started to become even more complex at the close of the twentieth century, as commentators began to focus on broad questions of method. In both Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus and Philosophical Investigations there is a tension between some statements that seem to be stating controversial philosophical positions and others that seem to be saying that philosophy ought not to offer controversial theses but only work with what we already know by being competent language users embedded in human circumstances.
In the latter book there are passages that seem to support an anti-philosophical position and others that seem to offer interesting new philosophical views in the process of criticizing more traditional philosophical doctrines such as foundationalism and Cartesianism.
Along these lines, two overlapping distinctions concerning how to read Philosophical Investigations have arisen: the resolute—substantial distinction, and the Pyrrhonian—non-Pyrrhonian distinction. In general, the resolute and Pyrrhonian readings make Wittgenstein out to be an anti-philosopher, one who is not offering positive philosophical theses to replace false ones; rather, his goal is to show the nonsensical nature of traditional philosophical theorizing.
It is this goal that is partly responsible for the unique style of Philosophical Investigations its dialogical and, at least at times, anti-dogmatic, therapeutic character. On the substantial and non-Pyrrhonian readings, Wittgenstein is not only presenting a method for exposing the errors of traditional philosophers, but also showing how philosophy should rightly be done and thereby offering positive philosophical views, views which must often be inferred or reconstructed from an elusive text.
Moreover, there is an important difference between the resolute—substantial and Pyrrhonian—non-Pyrrhonian distinctions. The former distinction arises from a continuing debate on how to read Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus , both on its own and in relation to Philosophical Investigations see, e.
The Pyrrhonian and non-Pyrrhonian discussion is to be found, for example, in Fogelin , Sluga , and Stern , , and concerns the ways in which Wittgenstein might be considered as writing in the tradition of the ancient Pyrrhonian sceptics, who were philosophically sceptical about the very possibility of philosophy see Fogelin , pp.
These distinctions cut across the distinction between Orthodox and Kripkean non-orthodox readings of the text: both Orthodox and Kripkean non-orthodox interpreters have tended to offer substantial or non-Pyrrhonian readings of Wittgenstein—though the line may not always be clear and some e. According to Stern, the Wittgenstein of the Philosophical Investigations is more Pyrrhonian than not, while understanding all too acutely the attraction of philosophy and the difficulty of giving it up.
If someone were to insist that a private language is possible, one way to argue against him would be by employing the method of reductio ad absurdum : assume that it is true that a private language is possible, show that that assumption leads to certain absurdities or a contradiction, and then conclude that it is actually false that a private language is possible.
This is the way in which the argument was typically understood. But this understanding has come into question. In contrast to his earlier commentaries, for example, Gordon Baker has since called into question whether the private language sections should not be read as attempting to show that the notion of a private language is intelligible but false, but rather that it is nonsense masquerading as an important possibility Baker, The appearance of this inclination in Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus , for example, is well mapped by Fogelin [, Ch.
And it is characteristic of Wittgenstein to talk of philosophical error in terms of nonsense. The matter may not be clear. Is it untrue or nonsensical to say that a pot talks? Even a nonsense poem is not nonsense in the same way as the babble of a baby.
Here the question of how the Investigations is to be read intrudes. Rather, a combination of words is being excluded from the language, withdrawn from circulation. Further, the resolute reading is especially firm in rejecting the idea that there is something determinate that we cannot do, the idea that there is something, namely, a private language, that cannot be achieved; there is not a limitation on language.
Rather, the idea is simply nonsense, or as Mulhall later puts it ibid. However, we may not need to choose. And in so far as we cannot make intelligible the circumstances in which there could be a private language, we should say that the idea of a private language is nonsense. Unlike cats, which react in a seemingly random variety of ways to pointing. One function of the private language argument is to show that not only actual languages but the very possibility of language and concept formation depends on the possibility of such agreement.
Another, related, function is to oppose the idea that metaphysical absolutes are within our reach, that we can find at least part of the world as it really is in the sense that any other way of conceiving that part must be wrong cf. Philosophical Investigations p. Philosophers are especially tempted to suppose that numbers and sensations are examples of such absolutes, self-identifying objects which themselves force upon us the rules for the use of their names.
Wittgenstein discusses numbers in earlier sections on rules — Some of his points have analogues in his discussion of sensations, for there is a common underlying confusion about how the act of meaning determines the future application of a formula or name.
In the case of sensations, the parallel temptation is to suppose that they are self-intimating. Wittgenstein tries to show that this impression is illusory, that even itching derives its identity only from a sharable practice of expression, reaction and use of language.
The private language argument is intended to show that such subsequent facts could not be irrelevant, that no names could be private, and that the notion of having the true identity of a sensation revealed in a single act of acquaintance is a confusion.
In a logically perfect language, there will be one word and no more for every simple object, and everything that is not simple will be expressed by a combination of words, by a combination derived, of course, from the words for the simple things that enter in, one word for each simple component. A language of that sort will be completely analytic, and will show at a glance the logical structure of the facts asserted or denied. That is to say, all the names that it would use would be private to that speaker and could not enter into the language of another speaker.
If you mean this piece of chalk as a physical object, then you are not using a proper name. And in that it has a very odd property for a proper name, namely that it seldom means the same thing two moments running and does not mean the same thing to the speaker and to the hearer.
When you are acquainted with that particular, you have a full, adequate and complete understanding of the name, and no further information is required. Although Wittgenstein does not explicitly say so, it is likely that this is the inspiration of his argument: his writing is marked in many places by criticism of Russell, both explicit and otherwise.
However, as noted above, the issues she raises are of increasing interest both directly and indirectly. His central contention is that Diamond projects views attributable to the later Wittgenstein into the Tractatus , particularly those concerning naming and use. The argument is thus perhaps most profitably read as targeting, not any particular theory, but rather the motivation for considering a range of apparently independent or even competing theories along with their associated tasks, problems and solutions.
Again, Descartes considered himself able to talk to himself about his experiences while claiming to be justified in saying that he does not know or not until he has produced a reassuring philosophical argument anything at all about an external world conceived as something independent of them.
And he and others have thought: while I may make mistakes about the external world, I can infallibly avoid error if I confine my judgments to my immediate sensations. Compare The Principles of Philosophy , I, 9. Again, many philosophers, including John Stuart Mill, have supposed there to be a problem of other minds, according to which I may reasonably doubt the legitimacy of applying, say, sensation-words to beings other than myself.
In each of these examples, the implication is that the internal vehicle of my musings could in principle be private as Kenny [, p. The implication is of course often denied. But the question is, on what basis does this ability rest?
However, it cannot be emphasized too strongly that the significance of the private language argument does not rest on the scholarly detail of whether this or that thinker can be correctly described as committed to the idea. The target is a way of thinking which generates philosophical theories, not the theories themselves.
In the remarks that follow, Wittgenstein argues that the idea of such a private language is nonsensical or incoherent because it is a violation of grammar i.
Wittgenstein at this point reminds the interlocutor that we already use ordinary language for that. As we saw above, in section 1. On either, the point of the private language argument is that the idea is exposed as unintelligible when pressed—we cannot make sense of the circumstances in which we should say that someone is using a private language.
He continues to talk of sensations, and of pain as an example, but one should remember that these are not our sensations, the everyday facts of human existence, but the supposed exemplars of philosophical accounts of the everyday facts. See the recent 4th edition translation of this paragraph, a relevant part is in the first sentence of this article, to find a version closer to the original German. The attempt to name a sensation in a conceptual vacuum merely raises the questions of what this business is supposed to consist in, and what is its point.
But, for the sake of getting to the heart of the matter, Wittgenstein puts the first of these questions on one side and pretends that it is sufficient for the second to imagine himself in the position of establishing a private language for the purpose of keeping a diary of his sensations.
However, to investigate the possibility of the imagined diary case by exploring it from the inside the only way, he thinks, really to expose the confusions involved requires him to use certain words when it is just the right to use these words which is in question.
This difficulty has often gone unnoticed by commentators on the argument, with particularly unhappy results for the understanding of the discussion of the diary example. Fogelin , for instance, a paradigm representative of Orthodoxy, treats this as a case where he himself , a living embodied human being, keeps a diary and records the occurrences of a sensation which he finds it impossible to describe to anyone else.
But we are not to assume that the description of the keeping of the diary is a description of a possible or even ultimately intelligible case. But the fact that it may not make sense must be remembered in reading what follows, which in strictness should constantly be disfigured with scare quotes.
We shall, as we have already, occasionally supply them as a reminder, reserving double quotes for this purpose. The aim is to show that even if this concession is made, meaning for a sensation-word still cannot be secured and maintained by such a linguist. The translation here obscures the reason why. In these circumstances, meaning cannot be extracted from a pre-existing practice of private use, since what is in question is how such a use could be established in the first place.
But if this exercise is to be genuine and successful ostensive definition, it must establish the connection between sign and sensation, and this connection must persist.
For I do not define anything, even to myself let alone anyone else, by merely attending to something and making a mark, unless this episode has the appropriate consequences. This account of the argument and its history is summed up by Anthony Kenny as follows:. Critics of Wittgenstein have found the argument, so interpreted, quite unconvincing. Surely, they say, the untrustworthiness of memory presents no more and no less a problem for the user of a private language than for the user of a public one.
At this point critics of Wittgenstein have either denied that truth demands corrigibility, or have sought to show that checking is possible in the private case too. Kenny[ ] pp. This interplay of criticism and defence characterizes the Orthodox interpretation of the argument. See Fogelin , pp. There seem to be at least two reasons why this interpretation should have become established.
First, philosophers committed to the idea of a private language are often looking for an arrangement in which mistakes of fact are impossible; that is, they are trying to overcome scepticism by finding absolute certainty.
Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language is a book by philosopher of language Saul Kripke in which he contends that the central argument of Ludwig Wittgenstein 's Philosophical Investigations centers on a devastating rule-following paradox that undermines the possibility of our ever following rules in our use of language. Kripke writes that this paradox is "the most radical and original skeptical problem that philosophy has seen to date" p. He argues that Wittgenstein does not reject the argument that leads to the rule-following paradox, but accepts it and offers a "skeptical solution" to alleviate the paradox's destructive effects. While most commentators accept that the Philosophical Investigations contains the rule-following paradox as Kripke presents it, few have concurred in attributing Kripke's skeptical solution to Wittgenstein. Kripke expresses doubts in Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language as to whether Wittgenstein would endorse his interpretation of the Philosophical Investigations. He says that his book should not be read as an attempt to give an accurate summary of Wittgenstein's views, but rather as an account of Wittgenstein's argument "as it struck Kripke, as it presented a problem for him" p. The portmanteau " Kripkenstein "has been coined as a term for a fictional person who holds the views expressed by Kripke's reading of the Philosophical Investigations ; in this way, it is convenient to speak of Kripke's own views, Wittgenstein's views as generally understood , and Kripkenstein's views.