ABSTRACT

In the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus Wittgenstein writes: “We picture facts to ourselves.”1 Again: “The pictorial relationship consists of the correlations of the picture’s elements with things.”2 Later he presents the ‘general form’ of propositions as “This is how things stand”.3 This ‘picture theory’ of language can, perhaps, be seen as an extreme statement of assumptions which underly a good deal of philosophy. This view of the relation between language and the world will be likely to lead to the idea that different forms of discourse are distinguished from each other by referring to different types of object. In the Philosophical Investigations Wittgenstein rejects the picture theory and with it the search for the “general form of propositions”. The notion that “This is how things stand” can be the general form of propositions arises only when “language goes on holiday”.4 Such a paradigm is only plausible divorced from any actual linguistic context, from any “language-game”.5 According to the picture theory the words in a sentence name elements in the world, and the form of the sentence bears a relation of logical analogy to the form of the facts which the sentence depicts.6 To name is to engage in an activity which is prior to any language-game, and indeed is the precondition of any language being possible. “Naming is so far not a move in the language-game – any more than putting a piece in its place on the board is a move in chess.”7 The setting up of such a purely ‘descriptive’ paradigm of language (although – as Wittgenstein goes

on to argue – “This is how things are” is not even being used as a description), the insistence on pure naming as the pre-condition of language, makes the connection between words and things mysterious, private and arbitrary – “some remarkable act of mind, as it were a baptism of an object”.1 An entirely private language would not, on this theory, be impossible.2