I am looking for a precise reference where Wittgenstein writes about the use of ordinary language when people think, and that they do not use formal logic. Even in the case of mathematics.

Can you pass me a reference?

  • 1
    Wittgenstein's discussion of "thinking" is in Philosophical Investigations §§138–55, but "thinking is essentially the activity of operating with signs". So it is not so much that the folk "thinking" is done in natural language, but rather that there is not much to "thinking" beyond using language generally. He argued (in the late period) that philosophers too should revert to the ordinary use of words because only that gives them meaning. See Hutchinson Wittgenstein on Thinking and Understanding.
    – Conifold
    Commented Mar 27, 2019 at 10:13
  • 1
    Wittgenstein discusses 'natural' language in his 'Blue' and 'Brown' books. Nether one is very long and you should be able to pull out your desired quote easily. Cheers, CS
    – user37981
    Commented Mar 28, 2019 at 20:06

1 Answer 1


The passage that you seek may be the following one, from the Tractatus.

4.022 Man possesses the ability to construct languages capable of expressing every sense, without having any idea how each word has meaning or what its meaning is—just as people speak without knowing how the individual sounds are produced. Everyday language is a part of the human organism and is no less complicated than it. It is not humanly possible to gather immediately from it what the logic of language is. Language disguises thought. So much so, that from the outward form of the clothing it is impossible to infer the form of the thought beneath it, because the outward form of the clothing is not designed to reveal the form of the body, but for entirely different purposes. The tacit conventions on which the understanding of everyday language depends are enormously complicated.

You must log in to answer this question.

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