Skip to content
Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter March 14, 2022

St Augustine and All That: Remarks on the beginning of Philosophical Investigations

Joachim Schulte
From the journal Wittgenstein-Studien


One way of identifying the beginning of the Investigations is by deciding to regard remark 1, and hence neither the motto nor the Preface but the famous quotation from Augustine, as the real starting point of Wittgenstein’s reflections as developed in this book. One point implicit in this decision is that the notion of a language-game is placed in the foreground of Wittgenstein’s discussion. In a way, the language-game of the builders (2) is Wittgenstein’s paradigm of a language-game – but why is it treated differently from the shopkeeper scene (last paragraph of remark 1) in the sense that the latter is not given a separate number? This question appears particularly urgent in view of the fact that in earlier manuscript versions of the Investigations Wittgenstein did allot a separate number to the shopkeeper scene. Towards the end of this paper I make an attempt to answer that question. But in order to get down to this a number of additional questions are raised focussing on Wittgenstein’s use of central terms like “game” (Spiel), “operate”, “sample” (Muster) and drawing on distinctions elaborated in the literature, such as Benacerraf’s distinction between “transitive” and “intransitive” kinds of counting. This reading of the beginning of the Investigations is impregnated with the conviction that later parts of the book can fruitfully be seen as growing out of the remarks immediately following the quotation from Augustine.


Baker, Gordon & Peter M. S. Hacker: An Analytical Commentary on the Philosophical Investigations, 2nd edition, Oxford 1991.Search in Google Scholar

Benacerraf, Paul: ‏”‎What Numbers Could not Be” (1965), in: Benacerraf, Paul & Hilary Putnam (eds.), Philosophy of Mathematics: Selected readings, 2nd edition, Cambridge 1983.Search in Google Scholar

Biesenbach, Hans: Anspielungen und Zitate im Werk Ludwig Wittgensteins, Sofia 2014.Search in Google Scholar

Knowles, Elizabeth: Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, Oxford 2009.Search in Google Scholar

Schiller, Friedrich: Theoretische Schriften, Frankfurt am Main 2008.Search in Google Scholar

Schulte, Joachim: The Builders’ Language – the Opening Sections, in: Ammereller, Erich & Eugen Fischer: Wittgenstein at Work, Milton Park 2004, 22 – 41.Search in Google Scholar

Stern, David: Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations: An Introduction, Cambridge 2004.10.1017/CBO9781139167185Search in Google Scholar

Published Online: 2022-03-14
Published in Print: 2022-03-14

© 2022 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston

Scroll Up Arrow