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Philosophical Investigations

Ludwig Wittgenstein


Part I, sections 571–693

page 1 of 3


While physics observes the phenomena it studies directly, psychology only infers mental phenomena from outward behavior. Expectation, belief, etc., are treated grammatically as states, and thus differ from thoughts. I can believe that a chair will not collapse under me without ever having that thought cross my mind. Of course, I can also at times express beliefs in my head very much in the manner of thoughts.

Hope, love, and intention are not simply feelings or inner states. They are given meaning by their surroundings. My intention to leave tomorrow might take a number of different forms: settled resignation, furious indignation, excitement, etc. One might object that surely, there is a different mental undertone when I say, "I intend to leave tomorrow," and mean it, from when I don't mean it. This difference, however, is not carried by a mental act of meaning, but by a whole host of surrounding elements.

I am very familiar with everything in my room, but that does not mean I am struck by a feeling of recognition every time I enter my room. And yet, I can say that I recognize everything in my room.

Guessing the time cannot simply be a matter of saying, "I wonder what time it is," and uttering a certain time. There must be some mental act that distinguishes real guessing from when we utter the same words while reading or practicing elocution. But we only think that there must be an inner act of "guessing the time" because we can contrast the normal case with these other cases.

We might think of the act of willing as uncaused: an act of will causes me to raise my arm, but nothing causes the act of will itself. But if I raise my arm voluntarily, we do not speak of there being any act of will; I simply do it. We think of willing as an uncaused mover because it is not something we can fail to do; but hence, also not something we can try to do. We can only will or try to do things if there is some difficulty involved. There is no intermediary between our voluntary actions and ourselves. We cannot will them, nor can we observe them, predict them, or react with surprise to them. When I say I am going to do something, other people can predict my future actions based on this speech, but I make no such prediction.

If I recall what I was going to say or do, that is not a matter of remembering my frame of mind and then interpreting what was going to be said or done. When I recall a wish or intention, I do not recall a sensation but the general context of in which the wish or intention was made. I am not recalling a temporal event, but something about myself that goes beyond any fact of the matter.

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