1953 PhilosophicalInvestigations

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Subject Headings: Lexical Semantics.


  • It presents the challenge of defining the meaning of the word game.


p43. For a large class of cases – though not for all – in which we employ the word 'meaning' it can be defined thus: the meaning of a word is its use in the language. And the meaning of a name is sometimes explained by pointing to its bearer.' Thus, in a sense, people don't really understand anything when they use and respond to words. Hence, we have to start putting words like meaning and understanding into inverted commas, when we are discussing Wittenstein's interpretation of them; because there is no 'meaning' as such, and 'understanding' requires no conscious, mental state, no cognition, simply a process of following a rule. So we could say that according to Wittgenstein there is no 'meaning' and there is no 'understanding' when we use words in our language.

p66. Consider for example the proceedings that we call "games." I mean board-games, card-games, ball-games, Olympic games, and so on. What is common to them all?--Don't say: "There must be something common, or they would not be called 'games'"--but look and see whether there is anything common on all.--For if you look at them you will not see something that is common to all, but similarities, relationships, and a whole series of them at that. To repeat: don't think, but look!--Look for example at board-games, with their multifarious relationships. Now pass to card-games; here your find many correspondences with the first group, but many common features drop out, and others appear. When we pass next to ball-games, much that is common is retained, but much is lost.--Are they all 'amusing'? Compare chess with noughts and crosses. Or is there always winning and losing, or competition between players? Think of patience. In ball-games there is winning and losing; but when a child throws his ball at the wall and catches it again, this feature has disappeared. Look at the parts played by skill and luck; and at the difference between skill in chess and skill in tennis. Think now of games like ring-a-ring-a-roses; here is the element of amusement, but how many other characteristic features have disappeared! And we can go through the many, many other groups of games in the same way; can see how similarities crop up and disappear.

And the result of this examination is: we see a complicated network of similarities overlapping and crisscrossing: sometimes overall similarities, sometimes similarities of detail.

p67. I can think of no better expression to characterize these similarities than "family resemblances";

p 120. Your questions refer to words; so I have to talk about words.

You say : The point isn't the work, but its meaning, and you think of the meaning as a thing of the same kind as the word, though also different from the word. Here the word, there the meaning. The money, and the cow that you can buy with it. (But contrast: money, and its use.)",

 AuthorvolumeDate ValuetitletypejournaltitleUrldoinoteyear
1953 PhilosophicalInvestigationsLudwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951)Philosophical Investigations1953