3

I am reading Wittgenstein's philosophical investigations and want to understand what intermediate cases are.

In paragraph 122 Wittgenstein writes in the first section

A main source of our failure to understand is that we do not command a clear view of the use of our words.—Our grammar is lacking in this sort of perspicuity. A perspicuous representation produces just that understanding which consists in 'seeing connexions'. Hence the importance of finding and inventing intermediate cases

The German version uses here the word Zwischenglieder

The paragraphs before and after that talk much about grammar, use of words and philosophy.

What does Wittgenstein mean by intermediate cases? The word doesn't appear a second time in the PI and seems to stand there pretty much on its own.

  • 2
    While I am not qualified to answer your question, I looked at your profile, and concluded that you might not be familiar with the SEP. The SEP is a reliable, since curated, internet encyclopedia on philosophy. If you search the SEP for intermediate there are several hits in Wittgenstein pages, and you might find something helpful. – Jishin Noben Jan 19 at 14:21
  • @JishinNoben thank you. I will definitely have a look. – Bongo Jan 19 at 15:23
  • "Everything is either genetics or environment." Well, what about minor choices? They are often not really the interaction of genetics and environment, they are sometimes just random. And they still have consequences. Random choice is a kind of internal, self-generated environmental factor, which it makes no sense to call environment. It lies between.Segmenting the world into A or not A says nothing until there is a third option, and sometimes even then, This is projection, a sort of psychological hyper-grammar, and not about the subject matter. So you need to seek out ambiguous cases. – jobermark Jan 20 at 17:15
1

Wittgesntein's aim is to elucidate the use of language :

[to attain] a clear view of the use of our words.

What Wittgenstein means in Phil.Inv. by “finding and inventing intermediate cases” (Zwischengliedern, “connecting links”) ?

He means examples of language-games, i.e. of language use, that can help us to understand :

§130 The language-games are rather set up as objects of comparison which are meant to throw light on the facts of our language by way not only of similarities, but also of dissimilarities.

In many place in PI Wittgenstein asks his readers to imagine a language use; see §2, §232 and §237:

"Let us imagine a language ..."

"Let us imagine a rule ..."

"Imagine someone using ..."

These invented or fictitious particular cases are like "experiments" that Wittgenstein uses in his conceptual investigation to clarify the use of words.

1

This is a distinctly difficult passage to make out clearly or with any degree of certitude.

GP Baker & PMS Hacker, Wittgenstein : Understanding and Meaning, are less than lucid :

'Zwischenglieder' : 'intermediate links' : intermediate cases, actual or hypothetical. actual or invented, sharpen our eyes to formal connections (GB 133), whch need not be by way of common properties - as is evident in the case of family-resemblance concepts' : 259-60.

The most useful point here is the reference to GB = Remarks on Frazer's Golden Bough in Wittgenstein : Philosophical Occasions 1912-1951 : 133, where LW refers to 'the understanding which consists precisely in the fact that we "see the connections" [Zusammerenhänge]. Hence the importance of finding connecting links [Zwischengliedern].

He elaborates :

But an hypothetical connecting link should in this case do nothing but direct the attention to the similarity, the relatedness of the facts. As one might illustrate an internal relation of a circle to an ellipse by gradually converting an ellipse into a circle; but not in order to assert that a certain ellipse actually, historically, had originated from a circle (evolutionary hypothesis), but only to sharpen our eye for a formal connection.

This is hardly crystal clear but the 'connecting links' are, presumably (I speak tentatively), the related positions an ellipse passes through in the process of being converted into a circle. Without these hypothesising or conceiving these, one would not 'see any connection' between an ellipse and a circle.

I wish I could be more definite but at least you might find it useful to check out The Golden Bough, if you've not already done so. The GB passage does throw some light on the gnomic PI, §122.

0

A main source of our failure to understand is that we do not command a clear view of the use of our words.—Our grammar is lacking in this sort of perspicuity. A perspicuous representation produces just that understanding which consists in 'seeing connexions'. Hence the importance of finding and inventing intermediate cases.

First I would read the passage backwards: we need intermediate cases to see connexions which are evident in a 'perspicuous' representation. The unique example of such a representation is the Colour octahedron. Actually Wittgenstein was rather puzzled by the grammar of color words which are coordinated in a specific fashion; roughly "not long" is "short", while "not red" is undefined; also if a colour is 'between' yellow and green it is not between red and blue, etc. Following 19th. c. attempts Wittgenstein devised a spatial representation of colours which allowed him to conceive the 'logic' of both our perceptions and our word use. (see e.g. here, and some googling brings lots more, including refs). So this the Paradigm and the reader is left on his own to think what are the intermediate cases here and/or elsewhere.

It may be somewhat misleading but I can't resist the temptation of suggesting that the Quark model in physics might be another Perspicuous representation. It helped to elucidate a 'grammar of nature' which underlies valid assertions and various 'intermediate cases' allowed its completion. (And of course there is Chromodynamics whit its colours and 'anticolours', red and antired, etc).

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.