According to the movie I didn't get the part: https://youtu.be/r0cN_bpLrxk?t=201

"there are linguistic, ethical, logistic and religious but there are no genuine philosophical problems [...] philosophy is just byproduct of misunderstanding the language"

Someone can explain what he means behind these words?

I was reading tractatus logico-philosophicus but it was too difficult for me so I started with "Wittgenstein: A Very Short Introduction" by Grayling, A.C. but still I don't get it all.

Wittgenstein is so fascinating for me despite it's so difficult

  • 2
    Please, copy into the question's text the statement you are interested in. Oct 19, 2018 at 11:26
  • 4
    I wouldn't worry if you don't understand Wittgenstein. I defy anyone to do it. He is not known for his understanding of philosophy but for the curiously fascinating effect of his complex explanations of his lack of it.
    – user20253
    Oct 19, 2018 at 14:16
  • 1
    With all due respect, I think that without understanding Wittgenstein, there is no point in even trying to read and understand any elaborate position in contemporary epistemology, moral theory, or metaphysics.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Oct 21, 2018 at 14:23

3 Answers 3


Welcome VostanMinor

Two issues are involved here : (1) Wittgenstein's account of the 'end of philosophy' and (2) the consistency of this account with his own practice.

Wittgenstein and the end of philosophy - his account

Daniel D. Hutto's Wittgenstein and the End of Philosophy: Neither Theory nor Therapy attempts to trace a continuous line of thought running from the Trac tatus through all of Wittgenstein's subsequent work. The basic thesis is that Wittgenstein's early conception of logic?in particular, the claim that there are no logical facts or objects?leads inevitably to the view that there can be no philosophical theories and that philosophy should aim at description alone. This is an intriguing reading of his work, and while much of what Hutto says in the course of developing it is of great interest, in the end it remains some what unclear what it means to say (and whether) Wittgenstein's work does not advance anything that might be called a theory, and how the impossibility of philosophical theorizing is supposed to follow from the early insight on logic. Most likely what he means is that just as propositions' logical properties and relations, which might seem fit subjects for description, cannot be described but only shown, so (in the later work) certain psychological and semantic states and properties that might seem fit for theoretical elaboration cannot be so treated, but rather are 'shown' in how we act and speak within a form or life. (John Koethe, 'Wittgenstein and the End of Philosophy: Neither Theory nor Therapy by Daniel D. Hutto', Mind, New Series, Vol. 118, No. 469 (Jan., 2009), pp. 178-181 : 178.)

Wittgenstein and the end of philosophy - his practice

Whatever Wittgenstein said about the end of philosophy in the Tractatus, philosophical argument is plainly present in the Philosophical Investigations (1953, rev. 1958). Take these remarks on epistemic privacy, which clearly amount to a philosophical argument :

[I]t is obvious that one of Wittgenstein's major concerns in the Philosophical Investigations is the examination and criticism of the view that sensations are private ...

In the Investigations, Wittgenstein pays particular attention to two distinct senses in which sensations may be said to be private - the epistemic sense, and the sense in which they are privately owned. It is only with the former, epistemic, sense of privacy that I shall be concerned. The view that sensations are epistemically private is the view that only I can really know if I am in pain; others can merely conjecture about it. Wittgenstein's most direct characterization of the doctrine of privacy is this:

In what sense are my sensations private? - Well, only I can know whether I am really in pain; another person can only surmise it.- In one way this is wrong, and in another nonsense. If we are using the word 'to know' as it is normally used (and how else are we to use it?), then other people very often know that I am in pain. - Yes, but all the same not with the certainty with which I know it myself! (PI, 246)

Having formulated the doctrine of epistemic privacy in terms of the special status of one's knowledge of one's own sensations, Wittgenstein continues:

It can't be said of me at all (except perhaps as a joke) that I know am in pain. What is it supposed to mean - except perhaps that I am in pain? Other people cannot be said to learn of my sensations only from my behaviour, - for I cannot be said to learn of them. I have them. The truth is: it makes sense to say of other people that they doubt whether I am in pain; but not to say it about myself. (PI, 246)

In this succinct passage, Wittgenstein not only characterizes the privacy of sensation in terms of its epistemic expression, but also indicates his rejection of the view. (Jack Temkin, 'Wittgenstein on Epistemic Privacy', The Philosophical Quarterly (1950-), Vol. 31, No. 123 (Apr., 1981), pp. 97-109 : 97-8.)

This critique of the privacy of sensations - this argument - connects with other arguments about the impossibility of a logically private language and about rule-following. If Wittgenstein isn't doing philosophy here, I don't know what he is doing.

  • 1
    Maybe it would be helpful to say that what he essentially holds throughout all his writings is that philosophy proper, i.e. a theory and understanding of how Man is able to act, communicate, and think as Man-in-the-World - a relation mediated by language - will eventually lead to a dissolution of all (classical) philosophical problems. His endeavour is critical insofar as he always wrote about what language cannot do and be, limiting the space of meaningful language and reason, making philosophy proper meta-linguistical and thereby meta-philosophical.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Oct 21, 2018 at 14:37
  • @Philip Klöcking. I did sense that a sceptical and corrosive attitude towards philosophy persisted in different forms from the Tractatus to the PI. May I include your comment with acknowledgement in my answer ? It does add a necessary element to the true picture.
    – Geoffrey Thomas
    Oct 21, 2018 at 16:20
  • Sure, go ahead.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Oct 21, 2018 at 16:45

As written, it seems to me a little bit misleading ...

See A.C Greyling, Wittgenstein: A Very Short Introduction :

Wittgenstein runs against this current [the traditional approach to philosophical problems]. His view is that the proper task of philosophy is not one of engagement with the issues mentioned, for in his opinion they involve illusory problems which arise as a result of misunderstandings about language. The proper task of philosophy, he says, is to make the nature of our thought and talk clear, for then the traditional problems of philosophy will be recognized as spurious and will accordingly vanish. Wittgenstein's work - both his early work as embodied in the Tractatus and his later work - is dedicated to solving the traditional problems of philosophy in this way.

Regarding Tractatus (1921), see

3.324 In this way the most fundamental confusions are easily produced (the whole of philosophy is full of them).

4.0031 All philosophy is a ‘critique of language’.

4.111 Philosophy is not one of the natural sciences. (The word ‘philosophy’ must mean something whose place is above or below the natural sciences, not beside them.)

4.112 Philosophy aims at the logical clarification of thoughts. Philosophy is not a body of doctrine but an activity. A philosophical work consists essentially of elucidations. Philosophy does not result in ‘philosophical propositions’, but rather in the clarification of propositions.

And see also Tractatus's Preface :

I therefore believe myself to have found, on all essential points, the final solution of the problems. And if I am not mistaken in this belief, then the second thing in which the value of this work consists is that it shows how little is achieved when these problems are solved.

But the interpretation of many Tractarian statements is not an easy task; you can see e.g. :

Despite the "discontinuity" of W's thought, this is a common theme for all W's works.

See Philosophical Investigations (1953) :

I.38 This is connected with the conception of naming as, so to speak, an occult process. Naming appears as a queer connexion of a word with an object. [...] For philosophical problems arise when language goes on holiday. And here we may indeed fancy naming to be some remarkable act of mind, as it were a baptism of an object.

And :

The question "What is a word really?" is analogous to "What is a piece in chess?"

I.109. It was true to say that our considerations could not be scientific ones. [...] And we may not advance any kind of theory. [...] We must do away with all explanation, and description alone must take its place. And this description gets its light, that is to say its purpose, from the philosophical problems. These are, of course, not empirical problems; they are solved, rather, by looking into the workings of our language, and that in such a way as to make us recognize those workings: in despite of an urge to misunderstand them. The problems are solved, not by giving new information, but by arranging what we have always known. Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language.


Wittgenstein-the philosopher

Its new insights can be understood as primarily exposing fallacies in the traditional way of thinking about language, truth, thought, intentionality, and, perhaps mainly, philosophy.

In this sense, it is conceived of as a therapeutic work, viewing philosophy itself as therapy. (Part II “Philosophy of Psychology – A Fragment” (PPF)), focusing on philosophical psychology, perception etc., was not as critical. Rather, it pointed to new perspectives (which, undoubtedly, are not disconnected from the earlier critique) in addressing specific philosophical issues.

It is, therefore, more easily read alongside Wittgenstein’s other writings of the later period.)

PI (Philosophical Investigations was published posthumously in 1953)begins with a quote from Augustine’s Confessions which “give us a particular picture of the essence of human language,” based on the idea that “the words in language name objects,” and that “sentences are combinations of such names” (PI 1).

This picture of language cannot be relied on as a basis for metaphysical, epistemic or linguistic speculation.

Despite its plausibility, this reduction of language to representation cannot do justice to the whole of human language;

and even if it is to be considered a picture of only the representative function of human language, it is, as such, a poor picture.

Furthermore, this picture of language is at the base of the whole of traditional philosophy, but,

for Wittgenstein, it is to be shunned in favor of a new way of looking at both language and philosophy.

The Philosophical Investigations proceeds to offer the new way of looking at language, which will yield the view of philosophy as therapy.

So different is this new perspective that Wittgenstein repeats:

“Don’t think, but look!” (PI 66);

and such looking is done vis a vis particular cases, not generalizations. In giving the meaning of a word, any explanatory generalization should be replaced by a description of use.

The traditional idea that a proposition houses a content and has a restricted number of Fregean forces (such as assertion, question, and command), gives way to an emphasis on the diversity of uses.

In order to address the countless multiplicity of uses, their un-fixedness, and their being part of an activity, Wittgenstein introduces the key concept of language-game’.

He never explicitly defines it since, as opposed to the earlier picture’, for instance, this new concept is made to do work for a more fluid, more diversified, and more activity-oriented perspective on language.



You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .