I was wondering whether anyone could help me find an image of Köhler's intepenetrating hexagons as mentioned in Part II, section xi of the Philosophical Investigations (3rd edition of Anscombe's translation). I couldn't find them online and it's hard to follow the text without knowing what they look like. Any help would be appreciated.


1 Answer 1


Wittgenstein does not specify the image, but I'm fairly certain he meant a Gestalt psychology image such as this:

enter image description here

in which a series of overlapping (interpenetrating) 2D hexagons appears as a stack of 3D cubes. Wittgenstein is tugging at the distinction between what the eye sees and what the mind perceives. Why is it that when we look at lines drawn on a flat sheet — and know them to be just lines on a flat sheet — we see an animal pierced by an arrow (in primitive cave art); a set of cubes; even words, sentences, or ideas? I mean, what is a written sentence actually but a bunch of squiggly lines in rows? But we don't perceive them as squiggly lines in rows, unless we're looking at a foreign language that we have not learned to perceive as information.

P.s. Interesting related experiment. Psychologists set up a screen where they would flash color-words — "red", "yellow", "blue"… — , and the text of each word would itself be colored. Most of the time the word and color would agree (e.g., the word "red" would be colored red), but a certain percentage of the time they would disagree (e.g., the word "red" would be colored green, blue, etc.). Subjects were asked to report what color they saw, and in a significant number of cases they would report the color the word represented, not the actual color of the letters (e.g., they would see the word "red" projected in blue and say it was colored red). Perception is an odd and fascinating thing…

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