Nicht einmal ein Etwas

Felix Mühlhölzer
Felix Mühlhölzer


Not Even a Something. If one exclaims that a pain is not a Nothing, what one means is that one feels it and that, when felt, it is simply there. Why shouldn’t one then also say, contrary to PI 293 & 304, that it is ‘a Something’? One has to admit, however, that, as felt, it is only momentarily there, and when I ask whether the pain that I feel now is the same as the pain I felt earlier, I realize that for me there are no objective criteria of sameness: for me, what counts as the same is what appears to be the same. In the sparse privacy-scenario of PI 258 this talking about ‘sameness’ is totally empty, and so also our talking about ‘pain’, ‘sensation’, and so on, quite generally. In our public language, however, the situation is different, because there our use of a word like “pain” and our talking about the sameness of our own pains is embedded in our intersubjectively assessable speaking about pains. Nevertheless, also in this familiar case Wittgenstein’s statement near the end of PI 258 persists, at least under normal circumstances, and is accepted with regard to my own pain: “whatever is going to seem correct to me is correct”. But now, as part of our normal way of speaking, to claim this correctness is not empty. At the same time, however, it is not justified in a substantial way. With assertions like “I am in pain” or like “This is the same pain as earlier” the language-game does not end, as Wittgenstein says; it begins with them. This view, expressed in PI 290, can appear outrageous and may lead to the reaction, scrutinized in the beetle-paragraph PI 293, that everyone can tell from her own case that she knows what pain is. To talk in this way involves a grammatical model, “the model of ‘object and name’”, that presumably underlies our reference to our own private objects and according to which our language-game with sensation words would ‘begin’ with the objects. However, by this severing of reference from our use of language, the objects referred to prove to be completely indeterminate. – In the two ways just described, regarding sameness and determinateness, our talk of a ‘Something’ in the case of sensations turns out to be problematic.

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The yearbook is designed as an annual forum for Wittgenstein research. Wittgenstein-Studien [Wittgenstein Studies] publishes articles and materials on Ludwig Wittgenstein’s life, work and philosophy and on his philosophical and cultural environment.