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What Does It Look Like?

Wittgenstein’s Philosophy in the Light of His Conception of Language Description: Part I

Sebastiaan A. Verschuren

This book is the first part of a comprehensive study of Wittgenstein’s conception of language description. Describing language was no pastime occupation for the philosopher. It was hard work and it meant struggle. It made for a philosophy that required Wittgenstein’s full attention and half his life. His approach had always been working on himself, on how he saw things. The central claim of this book is that nothing will come of our exegetical efforts to see what Wittgenstein's later philosophy amounts to if his work on describing language is not given the place and concern it deserves. The book shows what his philosophy might begin to look like in the light of critical questions around his interest to see the end of the day with descriptions, and these things only.


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5. What do our neighbours look like?


5.1 Why play the game the way we do? Let us start with the following remarks: ‘Language […] relates to a way of living’ (RFM: 335) and ‘Language is just a phenomenon of human life’ (RFM: 351).156 Both remarks are what they are: genuine remarks, hence not descriptions of the language-game themselves. Both remarks emerged on what we have called Wittgenstein’s playground of abstract consideration and both bear an intimate connection to Wittgenstein’s conception of language description, being of the grammatical type as they are. Neither the one nor the other states a thesis about the essence of language, and if we want to know what they aim at: we may com- mence by observing that both put a very fine gloss on the grammar of the expres- sion “language”. One of the important things the present gloss intimates if not brings out clearly is that our concepts need not be the way they are. The concept of pain, for instance, really need not be the way it is, that is, it need not necessar- ily come in the shape it actually does in our present life. It relates to our way of living, and, Wittgenstein suggests, we are well able to imagine this way to be dif- ferent from what we are used to. Hence we may well imagine a different concept of pain, one that differs from the actual one in one respect or another. Having said this much, let us recall here the following passage. Of course...

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