In a book on philosophy I've lost by now I encounter an argument about "linguistic trap" idea attributed to Wittgenstein, that is, such a trap is supposed to be "taking linguistic convention or linguistic representation of an object for properties of the object itself", a particular kind of confusion.

Now, obviously Wittgenstein proposed an idea of "language games", but from what I've read on the topic it's a rather different idea.

Have you encountered this idea and if you did, can you please point to the sources?

  • 1
    "Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of our language" (PI §109). The aim of philosophy is "to show the fly the way out of the fly-bottle" (PI §309). The idea is generally referred to semantic therapy, see e.g. Later Wittgenstein's Anti-Philosophical Therapy.
    – Conifold
    Jan 1, 2020 at 0:52
  • @Conifold. Great comment. I wonder why you don't post your comments as answers. I'd upvote this one. . .
    – user20253
    Jan 11, 2020 at 13:03

1 Answer 1


I think what you're looking for is Wittgenstein's "The Big Typescript", pg. 415, or from the "philosophical Investigation, section 127. At least that's what I gather from the footnotes (46-48) here.

It might be helpful to consider the following citation-free quote given on SEP's article on Wittgenstein. I think it may be either a quote from one of his lectures or an excerpt from one of his posthumously published notebooks, but it goes as follows:

Language sets everyone the same traps; it is an immense network of easily accessible wrong turnings. And so we watch one man after another walking down the same paths and we know in advance where he will branch off, where walk straight on without noticing the side turning, etc. etc. What I have to do then is erect signposts at all the junctions where there are wrong turnings so as to help people past the danger points.

The 'wrong turnings' here are precisely what you noted: taking a turn of language as an actual property of the material world.

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