DOI: 10.1515/witt-2023-0003 ISSN: 1868-7431

Über die Assoziation von Namen mit privaten Empfindungen – ein Kommentar zu Wittgensteins Privatsprachenargument (PU 256 – 265)

Matthias Lüdeking
  • Philosophy


On the Association of Names with Private Sensations – A Commentary on Wittgenstein’s Private Language Argument (PI 256 – 265). This commentary on PI 256 – 265, informed by Wittgenstein’s Nachlass and the recently published Skinner dictations, shows that Wittgenstein uses a particular method in these sections: He investigates what kind of meaning one might give to the parts of a philosophical sentence. Wittgenstein recommended this method already in TLP and BBB – it marks a continuity in his thought. The sentence under investigation is the following: “And now I simply associate names with sensations” (PI 2009: 256). PI 257 – 265 discuss three proposals of what it might mean to associate a name with a private sensation. PI 257 investigates the claim that the association is set up by means of inventing a name, PI 258 proposes that it consists in a private ostensive definition, and PI 262, 263 suggest that it works by (inwardly) resolving to call this like that. All of these ideas turn out to be unsatisfactory. The reason why PI 258’s private ostensive definition fails is that for a private sensation there is by definition no difference between “it is the same” and “he recognized it”. This is why one cannot talk of recognition here, and therefore the private ostensive definition is an empty ceremony. The result of PI 256 – 265 is not a proof of the impossibility of a private language, but these sections show that the meaning of “And now I simply associate names with sensations” cannot satisfactorily be explained by means of the three aforementioned proposals.