[lit-ideas] Re: "Roughly speaking" (Was: Wittgenstein)

  • From: Robert.Paul@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx (Robert Paul)
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: 26 May 2004 21:20:03 PDT

Richard writes:

>I believe some insight into "objects are colorless" can be gained by
discussing $A431 in _Philosophical Investigations_. If anyone (Robert?) wants
to "play" and could set up the pieces (it's about chess, language games),
i.e. post the text (if this doesn't involve typing, at least in English,
though I've got some lambasting to do and need the German, too), I think
there's a lit-ideas mini-seminar lurking in it.<

English text herewith. It did involve a fair amount of typing. I'm not up to
typing this much German because I can't look away from the page and keep strings
of German in my head while I type. I'd be glad to supply the German for
particular words, passages, or phrases that anyone finds problematic.

$A431 When one shews someone the king in chess and says: "This is the king",
this does not tell him the use of the piece--unless he already knows the rules
of the game up to this last point: the shape of the king. You could imagine his
having learnt the rules of the game without ever having been shewn an actual
piece. The shape of the chessman corresponds here to the sound or shape of a

One can always imagine someone's having learnt the game without learning or
formulating rules. He might have learnt quite simple board games first, by
watching, and have progressed to more and more complicated ones. He too might be
given the explanation "This is the king", --if, for instance, he were being
shewn chessmen of a shape he was not used to. This explanation again only tells
him the use of the piece because, as we might say, the place for it was already
prepared. Or even: we shall only say that it tells him the use, if the place is
already prepared.  And in this case it is so, not because the person to whom we
give the explanation already knows the rules, but because in another sense he is
already master of a game.

Consider this further case: I am explaining chess to someone; and I begin by
pointing to a chessman and saying: "This is the king; it can move like this,
....and so on."--In this case we shall say: the words "This is the king" (or
"This is called the 'king' ") are a definition only if the learner already
'knows what a piece in a game is'. That is, if he has already played other
games, or has watched other people playing 'and understood'--_and similar
things_. Further, only under these conditions will hebe able to ask relevantly
in the course of learning the game: "What do you call this?"--that is, this
piece in a game.

We may say: only someonewho already knows how to do something with it can
significantly ask a name.

And we can imagine the person who is asked replying: "Settle the name
yourself"--and now the one who asked would have to manage everything for
Robert Paul
Reed College
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