josh blog

Ordinary language is all right.

One could divide humanity into two classes:
those who master a metaphor, and those who hold by a formula.
Those with a bent for both are too few, they do not comprise a class.

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11 Jun '13 09:23:59 PM

'300. It is, one would like to say, not merely the picture of the behaviour that belongs to the language-game with the words “he is in pain”, but also the picture of the pain. Or, not merely the paradigm of the behaviour, but also that of the pain. — It is a misunderstanding to say “The picture of pain enters into the language-game with the word ‘pain’”. Pain in the imagination is not a picture, and it is not replaceable in the language-game by anything that we’d call a picture. — Imagined pain certainly enters into the language-game in a sense, only not as a picture.'

The first remark immediately follows a section (§299) in which Wittgenstein cautions against taking an inclination to say something for a case of being forced into an assumption, or of having insight into some state of affairs. So presumably what one ‘would like to say’ here is put forward not as philosophy, but as raw material for philosophy (§254), to be treated (§255).

What wants saying? It is a matter of what ‘belongs’ to the language-game played with the words ‘he is in pain’. In §293 Wittgenstein spoke of things themselves, as opposed to ‘pictures’ of them, belonging to the (same) language-game (there, the beetles everyone could have in their boxes). Here, someone wants to say that elements of a picture themselves belong to the language-game. This carries the implication, for reasons perhaps unclear to us, that a certain way of picturing things is itself to be part of the language-game, or that the language-game is (here) to be played in a certain way, under the guidance of some picture. One element of the picture said to belong to the language-game seems as if it may be uncontroversial: ‘the picture of the behaviour’. The seemingly controversial element, the one which our tempted speaker wants also to say belongs to the language-game, is ‘the picture of the pain’ which the behavior shall be taken (or not taken) to express.

This insistence is given an alternative formulation: ‘paradigm’ rather than ‘picture’. One thing this formulation stresses is the attraction that the interlocutors have lately had for knowing other peoples’ pain on the model of one’s own pain, ‘only from one’s own case’. On such a line, perhaps pain must be part of the picture (of the whole situation: pain expressed in pain behavior and then known and responded to by another via comparison to one’s own model for what pain is) because it seems as if, without it, there would be no way of ‘knowing’, i.e. recognizing, pain behavior as expressive of pain.

In response, Wittgenstein labels it a ‘misunderstanding’ to say ‘The picture of pain enters into the language-game with the word “pain”’.

There are two initial obscurities in this response. First is the sense in which Wittgenstein is talking about pain ‘entering into’ the language-game. I believe comparison to a similar form of expression in §290 may help clarify what Wittgenstein means by ‘entering into’:

'290. It is not, of course, that I identify my sensation by means of criteria; it is, rather, that I use the same expression. But it is not as if the language-game ends with this; it begins with it.

But doesn’t it begin with the sensation — which I describe? — Perhaps the word ‘describe’ tricks us here. I say “I describe my state of mind” and “I describe my room”. One needs to call to mind the differences between the language-games.'

In §290a the game played ‘begins’ with my expression of my pain: anything else that is to happen or be done in the game shall be done after, and presumably with reference to, my expression of pain. The question of §290b commences a series of remarks concerned with one way of misunderstanding this state of affairs, namely, thinking that I cannot express pain without first being somehow cognizant of, then describing, my sensation of pain. I take these two paragraphs together to say, in effect: the game begins when I make the first move, by feeling and expressing pain—not when a pain sensation occurs in me, so that I make the first move by observing and describing my pain. Relative to the language-game with the word ‘pain’, I am a source of pain-behavior in the world, for the responses and pain talk of others to be about.

The second obscurity is simply what Wittgenstein means by his talk of ‘the word “pain”’. I take it that this is a metonym for the sufferer’s expression of pain: ‘[I am in…] pain’. This expression is itself a form of behavior; and the sufferer’s behavior, whatever else it may include, is just as much an expression of his pain. So ‘the word “pain”’ here is the verbal behavior expressing the sufferer’s pain. What Wittgenstein opposes is thinking that it is with this expression of pain that the picture, the paradigm, the model, of pain also enters the picture.

Why? Wittgenstein goes on immediately to say that ‘pain in the imagination is not a picture’, as if what he wanted to correct was a misidentification or a mixup, his interlocutor perhaps having wanted to say that with the expression of pain ‘the picture of pain’ entered rather than ‘pain in the imagination’. But Wittgenstein’s elaboration is stronger still: it is not just that it is some imagination of pain, rather than a picture of pain, which enters into the game, but that no picture (or ‘anything we would call a picture’) could replace that imagination of pain.

Reference to the picture, i.e. the paradigm, of pain, seems (as I said above) to point back to the idea of ‘one’s own case’, from which one would know what pain (in others, expressed by them in their words and behavior) is. So adverting from ‘the picture of pain’ to the imagination of pain appears to maintain focus on the observer, the spectator, on the one who may or may not respond to the sufferer’s expression of pain. It is his imagination which is active, or lies inactive, here; and indeed Wittgenstein goes on to say that ‘imagined pain certainly enters into the language-game in a sense’. The sufferer feels pain, expresses it in words and behavior; the respondent hears her, sees her behavior, takes it in, sees it as pain behavior—imagines her pain—and responds accordingly. Or his imagination is dull, his feelings of sympathy not easily aroused; he sees her behavior, hears her cry, and does little or nothing.

In §300 someone wants to say that the picture of the pain belongs to the language-game with the word ‘pain’, as well as the picture of the behavior. This is a way of saying: whatever is pictured, behavior and so on, the pain had better be in the picture too. Recall that §300 follows close on the heels of §296 and §297. §296 sees some interlocutor insisting on the presence of ‘a Something’. §297 transposes that interlocutor’s insistence into a parable about a boiling pot, and picture of same, and asks, ‘what if one insisted on saying that there must also be something boiling in the picture of the pot?’. This interlocutor has been an insistent presence for a while. He seems most exercised by the possibility that Wittgenstein might be denying this ‘Something’ entirely.

8 Jun '13 10:53:36 PM

'… du gehst einen Feldweg entlang, läßt dich von ihm führen.'

7 Jun '13 07:05:03 AM

'This is how things are.'

6 Jun '13 08:40:03 AM

Placemaking, a very refined excuse for eating hot dogs.

4 Jun '13 06:17:44 PM

'Why are you doing this? I'm getting out.'

31 May '13 09:11:33 AM

'One generation abandons the enterprises of another like stranded vessels.'

30 May '13 03:18:01 AM

I bought peanuts, but they were unsalted, so I put salt on them, I'm a problem solver.

29 May '13 08:47:09 PM

I feel I can't complain enough about the lifeless book I'm reading. I hold this too against the book; a better one, still bad, would free me to vent and get on with it.

24 May '13 11:04:47 PM

'The clearest progress in philosophy is at the level of individuals…'