Logic in 3D: Operating with Words in Philosophical Investigations 1 Kelly DeanJolley

_'_.>_" In this brief essay, I explain the peculiar actions of the shopkeeper described in Philos,opilical Investigations I (the shopkeeper has been given an order and has gone on to I also shed light on why and how Wittgenstein wants us to notice the peculiarity of Wittgenstein wants us to watch the shopkeeper so as to displace the general the meaning of a word in our philosophical reflections. Watching the actions is watching him understand the order he has been given. We see the hm~~p,pn,'r doing logic, segmenting the order, there in the shop, in 3D. Nothing need happen in any Cartesian non-space or Realm of Forms or Third Realm.
Al. ..



of a fog, a haze, in PI 5.1 The fog is of a word'. Wittgenstein as foggy. If the seems

by 'the general notion of the meaning us that his shopkeeper Unfortunately, that example

example in PI 1 is supposed to disperse the itself strikes readers like cavemen, the shopkeeper is unclear what such

of PI 2 seem prehistoric, like an automaton. seems automatous of the meaning how Wittgenstein pride-of-place philosophical to. It

He fulfills the order for five red apples a peculiar, has to teach us about the general acts peculiarly, the peculiarity and why and knows because of the will insist


of a word. What I will do in this brief essay is shopkeeper Wittgenstein

explain why Wittgenstein's that we will be tempted

wants us to notice the peculiarity. to misconstrue

the general notion of the meaning acting as described,

of a word has in our

reflections. Because he knows this, Wittgenstein

on the shopkeeper's

and will insist that we watch

1 All quotations from Philosophical Investigations will be from G.E.M. Anscombe's translation: Philosophical Investigations (New York: The MacMillan Company, 1958).


Kell), DeanJolle),

those actions steadily while we think about the shopkeeper order he fills. The shopkeeper's order. His understanding in three dimension; dimensions.

and the the extra in of a two of

crucial feature

I want to fasten on is the feature the descriptions

that makes the

actions show us him understanding in some unfamiliar

seem so abnormal:

of the way the shopkeeper does very different

is, as it were, there, in the shop, visible to us dimensionless. conception (It involves nothing of the meaning accomplishes theories

with each word. Notice that the shopkeeper

It involves nothing non-space,

with each word. He opens a drawer while operating with 'apples'; uses a color sample while operating with 'red'; he repeats the cardinal an apple from the drawer for each-up

it involves nothing

some, say, Cartesian word. Getting

or in a Realm of Forms

or Third

to 'five'. The

Realm). It involves no philosophical

among the ways he operates with these words is crucial. To consider the way Wittgenstein explains the philosophical of meaning (earlier in PI 1):

clear of the fog of such a conception limitations

things. It allows us better to see how PI 1 frames the rest of PI and it allows us better to understand meanmgs. of philosophical

Commenting 111 PI 5 on the example ttgenstein writes: of the shopkeeper m PI 1,

Ifwe look at the example in 1, we may perhaps get an inkling how much this general notion of the meaning of a word surrounds the working of language with a haze which makes clear vision impossible. It disperses the fog to study the phenomena of language in primitive kinds of application in which one can command a clear view of the aim and functioning of words. then does the example of the shopkeeper conception tend that there

[Augustine's] words, it seems to me, give us a particular picture of the essence of human language. It is this: the individual words in language name objects-sentences are combinations of such names. -In this pictur~ of language we find the roots of the following idea: Every word has a meamng. This meaning is correlated with the word. It is the object for which the word stands. Augustine does not speak of there being any difference between kinds of words [i.e., parts of speech]. If Augustine's tneaning-were picture of language-the philosophical conception of

correct, the shopkeeper's the philosophical

operations with the words 'five conception of meaning would

apples' would be very curious. If each of the individual words in the order were a name-as have it-then ,vays he the shopkeeper with ought to open three drawers: one labeled show-quite openly; nothing is

disperse the fog that the To answer this I




uestion, I need first to look closely at the example of the shopkeeper. is a crucial feature of the example . When we do not overlook it, Wittgenstein's

'apples', one labeled 'red', one labeled 'five'. The differences among the operates the words hidden=-how among carefully shopkeeper he logically segments the order he is given; the differences in with the words show that there that the order Wittgenstein contains. example, are differences By giving us a the

that is often attack on the

conception of meaning becomes clear and convincing. Here's the example:

the ,vay •he operates described

the kinds of words

allows us to watch

Now think of the following use of language: I send someone shopping. I give him a slip marked 'five red apples'. He takes the slip to the shopkeeper, who opens a drawer marked 'apples'; then he looks up the word 'red' in a table and finds a colour sample opposite it; then he says the series of cardinal numbers-I assume that he knows them by heart-up to the word 'five' and for each number he takes an apple of the same colour as the sample out of the drawer. -It is in this and similar ways that one operates with words.

make sense of the order.

The shopkeeper view, questions example allows us in one case to command of words. When we command about the meaning a clear view such a clear of the aim and functioning

of the words of the order become


superfluous. interlocutor's

There is nothing

involved in the shopkeeper's


he is reminding

us that the philosophical



with the words that we do not see. As Wittgenstein says, in answer to the 'But what is the meaning of the word "five"?', 'No such here, only how the word "five" is used.' The least, no role beyond the thing was in question

is not only not compulsory-it

is a conception of a wheel that committed to the

nothing in the mechanism. What Wittgenstein says sounds radical only to someone

meaning of the word has no role to play-at

role played by knowing this use of this word. If I know this use of this word, the question of the word's meaning has already been answered. The interlocutor's insistent question is itself an artifact of the understand the line from PI 43, we need to keep in mind that the to 'used' is, for Wittgenstein, not 'misused' but philosophical conception of meaning: because of the way she thinks of contrast-term

meaning (as an object the word names), she believes that there must be some role that the meanings of the individual words in the order play. Wittgenstein's response rebukes her insistence. Wittgenstein ,... the meaning is right to rebuke the interlocutor. To see that he is, Much ink has consider perhaps the most infamous (part of a) line in all of PI (PI 43): of a word is its use in the language'. been spilled (in more than three ways) in response willing to set the line against against rebuke person examples is right, like the specific cases-in to this line. The to set it the

or 'idle' or 'on holiday'. To know the meaning of a word in a case is to know how to use that word as it is being used in that If a word is unused or idle or on holiday, no use is being made of it. such a predicament, the word has no meaning." When we encounter a we have not encountered a misused wordan in such a predicament,

that, as it were, means the wrong thing." We have encountered

reason for this is largely that few who have written on it have been particular, shopkeeper example. If Wittgenstein's

then it is because he thinks that the question the use of a word in the language-i.e.,


asks has already (really) been answered. And it has: if a if the case,


person knows how to use a word as it is being used in a particular then there is nothing understand competent or know. The interlocutor and I and

more about the word that the person needs to the shopkeeper, all that this use of 'five'. When we

English speakers all, understand

see what use the shopkeeper we need to understand.

makes of it, then we understand

To say in this case that I do not know what the doesn't, is just again to try to find

word means, or that the shopkeeper that the philosophical

a role for the meaning of the word (the object the word names) to play conception demands it play. its use in the So when Wittgenstein says that the meaning of a word is not an object the word names or for which it stands, but is rather

can, of course, 'look up the meaning' of the word in the OED, say. But how should we its meanings as a noun, a verb or an adjective, etc.? Compare Austin's from 'TIle Meaning of a Word' (in Philosophical Papers (Oxford: Oxford Press, 1961), pg. 24.: ' ... [W]e can speak quite properly of, for example, 'looking Lilt: llIlCdlULLl') of a word' in a dictionary. Nevertheless, it appears that the sense in which phrase 'has a meaning' is derivative from the sense in which a sentence 'has a to say a word or phrase 'has a meaning' is to say that there are sentences in it occurs which 'have meanings': and to know the meaning which the word or phrase to know the meanings of the sentences in which it occurs. All the dictionary can do 'look up the meaning of a word' is to suggest aids to the understanding of the <PI1tpnrf'< in which it occurs'. Putting this in the terms of the Tractatus, we might say the dictionarv is full of propositional variables. to be the point of Dennis O'Brien's wonderful response to 'Don't ask for the ask for the use!': 'And don't ask for the use either!' (See 'The Unity of wittgenstein's rnuosonn» ed. K. T. Fann (New York: Delta Books, 1967), pp. 380-404. Wittgenstein does 'V"L<UHCU 'use-theory of meaning'. The way a word in a particular case is usedcih'PI·~tpd witn-c-trxes its meaning, not some object called 'the use of the word' (whatever that Thinking that there is some object called the use of the word itself is a speciation of the conception of meaning the remark is meant to attack. Knowing the meaning of a word is not a matter of knowing what object it stands for or what object is correlated with it; knowing the meaning of a word is knowing how to use it. For more on Wittgenstein and 'use-theory', Cf. Alice Crary, 'Wittgenstein's Philosophy in Relation to Political Thought', in The New Wittgenstein, eds. A. Crary and R. Read (London: Routledge, 2000), pp. 118-145.


Kelly DeanJolley


unused word-one that means nothing. connected to this point:

On Certainty 61 is importantly

orders from multiple-item the philosophical conception

lists. Wittgenstein

suggests in

of meaning faces this problem.

A meaning of a word is a kind of employment of it. For it is what we learn when the word is incorporated into our language.

that Augustine does not speak of there being any difference kinds of words, he points out that
describe the learning of language in this way you are, I believe, primarily of nouns like 'table', 'chair', 'bread', and of people's and only secondarily of the names of certain actions and properties; the remaining kinds of word as something that will take care of itself.

Let me try to make this more convincing by returning and re-telling the story from the interlocutor's example interlocutor understands the shopkeeper to the shopkeeper point-of-view. in (something The like) the to the

may grant this, and so grant the difficulty and the have mentioned, of the but will also protest is itself drawers, consult that Wittgenstein's Surely few and color charts shopkeeper problematic.

the following way: The person sent shopping slip marked 'five red apples'. The shopkeeper, This 'red' means stands that the shopkeeper must

gives the shopkeeper in order to respond that

the order, must know the meanings ·of the individual words it contains. know the objects shopkeeper individual words name, must know the object that 'five' stands for, that for, that 'apples' stands for. The uses his the

actually use labeled Normally, five red apples. normal

a shopkeeper

simply looks at the order and normal in of describes. A is more Wittgenstein

The idea is that a shopkeeper's the interlocutor conception thinks,

'"""hr."",,,, to an order is very unlike the one Wittgenstein response, with the philosophical 'five', the interlocutor of meaning.

acquaintance with those objects to fill the order. For the interlocutor, shopkeeper

operates with each individual word the same way; there are looking at

no differences among the words (there are differences, if there are, only among the objects named by the words). The shopkeeper's labeled drawers, consulting a color chart, and counting aloud (as he does in Wittgenstein's example) are all bustle on the view of the interlocutor: they are a needless and confusing sideshow. Not only do the shopkeeper's the interlocutor's why doesn't actions get reduced to bustle, but on view it becomes difficult to see how the shopkeeper

this idea too in PI 1: Before asking about the meaning

asks 'But how does he know where and

to look up the word "red" and what he is to do with the word answer is another rebuke. 'Well, I assume that he described. Explanations conception
•."ctn,... point).

come to an end somewhere.' The aware of the lack of role to think more that the than the

rebuke is to make the interlocutor Notice answer that there her own

of meaning to play (both rebukes have is no reason question easily

succeeds in fulfilling the order. If all the words of the order are names, the shopkeeper treat the slip as containing a horizontal may as shopping list? That is, if the interlocutor is right, the shopkeeper


can. All the interlocutor described.' Of course,

can say is 'Well, I assume he acts she can go on to describe his response with the meanings to the order. But

well treat what is written on the slip as an order for a list of items: for five, for red, and for apples, instead of an order for five red apples. Of course, if the shopkeeper were to treat the order in that way, he would fives is correct, the order is then is to distinguish have to regard himself as often out-of-stock on central items-like or reds. The difficulty is that if the interlocutor just a combination of names. The problem

as I did above, as using his acquaintance and 'apples' her description ask the interlocutor to explain

gets us no farther along than Wittgenstein's, 'How does he know where and how he is to

meaning of "red" and what he is to do with the meaning of


"five"?' For somewhere, 6. Wittgenstein shopkeeper shopping.) shopkeeper






to an shopkeeper

list of blocks I want on a slip of paper. I walk rain to the toy store. Wiping the rain from my face, I hand and say: 'This is a list of blocks I'd like to buy.' takes the list, goes to a large cabinet with many drawers,


of course,


to the



labeled T and takes a block, opens one labeled 'want' and etc. day, I stop by a car dealership to price new cars. When approaches me, I find that I have lost my voice; my earlier the rain has taken its toll. I gesture to tell him that I've lost then feel around in my pocket for something to write on. I took to the toy store. As I look at it, I am struck by the fact use the same words in the same order to do something here. I hand the paper to the salesman, who reads it at the toy store uses, segments, my words in one way,

acts abnormally

in the example.

(Even Wittgenstein

Nothing hangs on shopkeepers

often or ever acting as there

in the example. He describes the abnormal behavior

to get operating with words out into the open. For shopkeepers,

normally no reason to go through these particular actions of 'H''''lll!! sense of orders. They have taken many orders, for any number of in any of many different Shopkeepers mastered mastered have certain colors;' they know how to use such logical expectations: shopkeepers they of taking and filling orders,

the language-game

making sense of orders. What is crucial is that they "'~~a~" orders logical ".JC1U". shopkeepers

multiple-word orders to contain individual words to be assigned to than one logical kind. Only then are they multiple-word of multiple-item lists. Wittgenstein's example individual words of the order are assigned to different Normally, such assigning is more or less automatic-again, have certain logical expectations-but lets us watch as

is brought

out agam,


a slightly

there needs to be such

The words cannot do it for themselves. Nor can some object which name or for which they stand do it for them." Consider how the shopkeeper would have acted if the order had been 'five wax or 'two fives for a ten'. Consider a related example: Imagine I want to buy some blocks my small son. There is a toy store in my neighborhood that has not only with numbers or letters on them, but with words on them. talking to my wife, I decide to buy an 'I' block, a 'want' block, an 'a' block, a 'new' block and a 'car' block. To remind myself of my decision,

point isn't the word, but its meaning, and you think of the thing of the same kind as the word, though also different from the word, there the meaning. The money, and the cow that (But contrast: the money, and its use.)

treats each word as a name, as standing for an object. idea is that, somehow, is supposed determine committed the object each word the use of each to in turn determine

its logical kind. But the interlocutor herself to treating each word as a has already

herself to a use for each word to play in the an object; that is, the interlocutor

4 The exact nature of the object the names name or stand for does not really matter; objects are physical or metaphysical or logical or whatever, the point is the same.

if the


committed naming

herself to using each word as a noun." Only by using a noun, can the interlocutor treat each word the shopkeeper, we see logic in action, logic in 3D. The for an object; but, then, once she treats for an object, she turns round has assumed Wittgenstein's has double-counted." She has, notice that no combination It is, at best, a acting as vVittgenstein describes, operates with words out segments the order as he moves about the shop, and we his logical work. The fog of the philosophical dispersed. And we, now commanding we were engaged conception of a clear view of the of finding

word as a name,

or as standing

word as a name or as standing

claims that the object each word names or stands for determines logical kind, its use. The interlocutor in order to deny it; the interlocutor might say, over-used each word. -And

of the words of the order, can see that the fog crept in the logical pettifoggery to name. Think here of Berkeley: 'We first kick up a

nouns is an order (of the sort we are considering). items to be ordered." But what about the Wittgenstein's the philosophical meaning conception as determined

money and the cow? Well, if I to station PI 559. There Wittgenstein writes,
to speak of the function of a word in this. sentence. ~s if the a mechanism in which the word had a particular function, But function consist in? How does it come to light? For there isn't we see the whole sentence? The function must come with the word. ((Meaning-body.»

of the meaning of money, if I think

by the object I buy with it, and if I buy a the first place? So how does the

with it, then money means a cow, money is surrogate cattle. But have to use it-to buy a cow-in determine the use?

calls the 'meaning-body'
5 Compare Hide Ishiguro: 'It seems to me to be a truism that a word ... cannot have role of referring to a fixed object without having a fixed use.' 'Use and Reference Names' in Studies in the Philosoph» of Wittgenstein, ed. Peter Winch (London: Routledge Kegan Paul, 1969), pg. 20. 6 In doing so, the interlocutor misses a related point of Wittgenstein's, however: confounds the meaning of a name with the bearer of a name (Cf. PI 40). 7 Typically, to be a name is to be a noun; and, to be a noun is to playa particular role sentence. This, we might say, is an implication of Frege's famous Context Principle: ask for the meaning of a word in isolation, but only in the context of a ou,,'-uuc. Wittgenstein refines the Principle in PI (but in what he takes to be a properly spirit): 'We may say: nothing has so far been done, when a thing has been named. It has even got a name except in the language-game. This was what Frege meant too, when said that a word had meaning only as a part of a sentence' (PI 49). Wittgenstein was aware-and thought it important to note-that we sometimes use words in isolation sentences (consider the builders of PI 2) but he did not think that we use them in 'O'-''''''V'' from language-games (again, consider the builders). I can shout someone's name isolation from a sentence) as a greeting: 'Jack!' However, when I do, I use the name as of the language-game of greeting. So, for Wittgenstein, the Context Principle more refined would be 'Never ask for the meaning of something-a sentence, a \Vn1YI--1n isolation, but only in the context of a language-game.'

of a word is something


of it, not something the word takes with it from use are all there
,ye •• ",Oll'"u'L

in front

of us, but we think that of the words

see, something

obscured by the words themselves,

their functions. The meaning-bodies

hidden by the part of the words that faces us. we think we need to ratchet ourselves into a to look at the words from above, or from below, or end. Only then, we think, will the meaning-bodies When we think this, we put ourselves in the vis-a-vis the shopkeeper. the order the shopkeeper
think that a mouse

But the meaning-

fills are open to view.
come into being by


lsigel1eratio,n out of grey rags and dust, I shall do well to examine

204 those rags very closely to see how a mouse may have hidden in them may h~ve got~en there and so on. But if I am convinced that a mouse' come into bemg from these things, then this investigation will superfluous. But first we must learn to understand what it is that opposes examination of details in philosophy. (PI 52)

of Reflective Equilibrium: Wide, Fallible, Plausible *

The six hundred

and ninety-two remarks that follow PI I (in Part why we just will not 100k.8
that, suitably modified, the method of reflective equilibrium is moral principles. The appropriate conception of the method is consideration of a full range of moral principles and ,.".,.,,;,.;n,rr the enquiring individual to consider others' views and undergo any formative biases. The individual is not bound by his initial and may revise his view in any way whatsoever. It is appropriate to a balance between coherentism and fallibilist foundationalism. With criticisms, including the claims that considered judgments and are shaped by prejudice, and that the method itself fails to lJie:se:lection, re challenged. a

are an attempt to learn to understand

Auburn University

be justified? from morally-neutral derivation

If such principles

could be

facts we would have a ready In the absence of such a by some should

is possible.'

choice but to justify moral principles judgment. But what kind of judgments

the first part of this question was considered made under idealized circumstances and

and suggestions, I thank Matt Matravers, Hillel Steiner and for this article was supported by the Arts and



~ I I t~lank Beth Savickey for a helpful conversation; and I thank Alice Crary, Watkins, James Summerford, Robert Epperson, James Shelley and Roderick Lon helpful comments on a previous draft. g

For brief comments on Brandt's (1979) attempt at such a Of the many contemporary attempts of this general kind, best-known. Important criticisms of it are presented by and Nagel (1988). Contractarian (Gauthier, 1986) and attempts have also had some influence; I say something

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