Tuesday, 15 April 2014


Yet another apology for my lengthy silence. Things have become a bit difficult recently (in various ways), and it’s hindered my progress with the blog.

A second reason, however, has a more philosophical stamp to it. The more I considered it, the more dissatisfied I became with dividing up §§138-184 and §§185-242 under the respective headings of “Understanding” and “Rule-Following”. True, that’s a fairly standard division (Hacker and Fogelin both use it, though McGinn doesn’t), but I don’t think it makes much sense. For a start, the so-called Understanding section is at least as much about knowing, meaning and rules as it is about understanding. Perhaps more importantly, however, I think the rule-following section is quite clearly a continuation of – and culmination of – the discussion begun at §138. There, the idea of understanding as an “inner Something” (a picture, formula, rule, process or whatever) leads to the question of how it ensures correct usage. This in turn raises the suggestion that the picture (etc) “forces a particular application on us” (§140). In the same section, Wittgenstein wonders about the nature of this compulsion: is it psychological or logical? (I’m probably overstepping the mark here, but I’m tempted to say this ROUGHLY equates to “Empirical or Rational”.) I seems to me that (again, roughly speaking) §§141-184 investigate psychological compulsion, while §§185-242 deal with the logical side of things.

Moreover, it is in this latter section that the crucial role of circumstances (raised in §154) is given its fullest treatment in the passages concerning customs and techniques. Finally, the discussion terminates with some startling and difficult comments that look back to (but also build upon) §142.

That, at any rate, is my current thinking on the structure of §§138-242. I’m still mulling over the best way to break things down into easily digestible chunks (there’s way too much going on to be covered in one or two posts), but hopefully I’ll have something worth putting up before too long (and if that sounds annoyingly vague…).