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Philosophical Investigations

Ludwig Wittgenstein

Part II, i - x

Part I, sections 571–693

Part II, xi


i. We can imagine an animal angry or happy, but we have trouble imagining it hopeful. Hope exists against the background of a form of life that we do not normally think of animals as sharing.

ii. In the sentence, "Mr. Scot is a Scot," the first "Scot" is a proper name, while the second "Scot" is a common name referring to a person from Scotland. Can I say the sentence while meaning the first "Scot" as a common name and the second "Scot" as a proper name? Trying to do so will not change the sense the sentence has for anybody else.

iii. If I draw a picture of a certain person, the picture's resemblance to that person is not what determines who the picture is of. It is the surrounding context—e.g. my saying who it represents—that settles the matter.

iv. I do not believe (nor am I certain) that the people I see are not automata. The question whether someone is an automaton cannot even arise without first discarding a great deal of what goes into my basic attitude toward other people. Though talk about people's having souls is a figurative expression, we do not use it in place of other, literal expressions.

v. We do not necessarily make tacit presuppositions when inferring people's mental states from their behavior. If someone groans and I give him a painkiller, that does not mean that I am presupposing that the groan expresses pain and that he is not faking it. In certain language-games, there is no place for doubt.

vi. Whether someone claims that, for him, knowing how to play chess is an inner process is immaterial: our criteria for saying he knows how to play chess is in how he plays the game, not in what goes on inside him. The same can be said for mental states that accompany certain words. We are not interested your mental state you when you speak, so long as we can understand you.

vii. The questions we are inclined to ask about a certain phenomenon depend heavily on the picture we have of that phenomenon and the use we put it to. To talk about the mind as giving words meaning is a picture, like saying that the carbon atoms in benzene form the shape of a hexagon. We have not described a matter of fact, but have rather provided a picture for looking at the matter. These pictures often direct us toward certain questions and uses, and can lead us astray if we are not careful.

viii. When we tell someone they will feel a certain sensation if they move their arm in a certain way, we are not conjecturing what inner feeling they will have. Our talk about sensations is not about inner feelings as much as about the common experiences that contribute to these feelings.

ix. Fear can be called a state of mind, but the words, "I am afraid," are not necessarily a description of that state of mind. They can be used for all sorts of purposes. I would not say I am describing an inner state when I say these words, but for all that, other people can take them as a description.

x. Moore's paradox examines the peculiarity of the first person present indicative. We can say, "It was raining, but I didn't believe it," or "it is raining, but he doesn't believe it," but not, "it is raining, but I don't believe it." We can observe behavior and describe a belief in other people, but in the first person case I am not describing but asserting.


Unlike Part I, Wittgenstein never arranged the remarks in Part II into a form he felt suitable for publication. He leaves us with fourteen sections (the eleventh taking up more than half of Part II), each of which gathers together a somewhat organized series of remarks on a particular question or topic. Many of the sections deal with similar themes, and continue the preoccupation of Part I in sorting out the grammar and meaning of various verbs like "believe," "mean," and "fear," that seem to hold some uncertain connection to the mind.

A theme that arises in several of these sections is the peculiarity of first person ascriptions of belief, meaning, fear, and so on. When talking about what other people believe or mean, I am trying to observe or describe their experience, based on what I can gather from their outward expression. When talking about what I believe or mean, there is no parallel observation or description. I cannot be wrong, nor can questions of knowledge even arise, when I say that I believe it is raining. Nonetheless, just as I can take other people's first person claims about belief, etc., to be descriptions of an inner state, so can other people take my first person claims. What I say is part of the data that other people use to infer my experience: it serves for them as a description of my inner state.

Part II also places a heavier influence on the notion of forms of life, and how they affect our relationships with one another. In denying that a dog can feel hope, Wittgenstein is not saying something about the mental capacities of a dog. While anger and joy are raw emotions that can come and go, hope only functions given certain surroundings. We could take a one-second cross-section of a person's life and conclude that she is happy at that moment, but we could not conclude that she is hopeful. Hope requires a temporal context in which we can express desires, speculate about the future, plan ahead, and so on. In saying that a dog cannot feel hopeful, Wittgenstein is not speculating that a dog's mental life is limited, but he is observing that a dog's linguistic life is limited. A dog cannot feel hope because dogs cannot speculate about the future or express desires for anything but immediate gratification. The language-games in which we talk about hope require certain surroundings and certain forms of life which a dog does not share.

This is not so much an observation about dogs as it is about the grammar of the word "hope." It is plausible that our use of that word, or our relationship with dogs, might change so that we could use it in reference to dogs. But as things are, we do not share those forms of life with dogs.

During the discussion of what it means to believe that someone is not an automaton, Wittgenstein asserts: "My attitude towards him is an attitude towards a soul. I am not of the opinion that he has a soul." We might gloss this position by saying that we can talk to people in the second person, but we cannot talk to lampposts in the second person. That is, it makes no sense to tell a lamppost something, to give it an order, to confess a secret, to share a joke, and so on. Calling someone "you" only makes sense if there is a receptive soul who can listen and respond. We may sometimes address a lamppost in the second person, but only as a joke or a sign of insanity. To believe or assert that someone is not an automaton implies that this is a plausible question to ask, and the very raising of the question requires a drastic shift in the way we think about other people. There would have to be hesitancy in our use of the second person, an uncanny feeling of uncertainty as to whether our words have any genuine effect at all. That we treat other people with "an attitude towards a soul" does not mean that we believe or even assume that they are not automata. That they are not automata is simply built into our forms of life in dealing with other people.

This is not to say that it is impossible to ask if someone is an automaton. But it does mean that we cannot simply ask. "He is not an automaton" is a "hinge" proposition (which Wittgenstein discusses in Part I, ¤¤422–570) like "the world has existed for more than five minutes." In bringing it into doubt, we are not questioning an isolated proposition, but a whole attitude that we assume toward the world.

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