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Understanding Wittgenstein: Studies of Philosophical Investigations

By J. F. M. Hunter | Go to book overview

Ten
THE CONNECTION BETWEEN PAIN AND LIVING HUMAN BEINGS

281. 'But doesn't what you say come to this: that there is no pain, for example, without pain-behaviour?' -- It comes to this: only of a living human being and what resembles (behaves like) a living human being can one say: it has sensations; it sees; is blind; hears; is deaf; is conscious or unconscious.

I WILL NOT go into the hard questions, i) how Wiitgenstein can deny that he is saying there is no pain without pain- behaviour, and ii) how what he represents himself as saying instead of this can be seen as what the preceding discussion comes to'. I will concentrate on questions having to do with what the latter means.

The most basic point to be noticed is that except in the case of having sensations, there are pairs of (opposite) attributions: 'sees or is blind', 'hears or is deaf', 'is conscious or unconscious'. This argues that 'sees', 'hears' and 'is conscious' are not being used transitively, and that what is at issue here is what we may call 'category attributions', questions of whether either of these opposite predicates is applicable. If we say of a human being or a horse that he can't see or hear anything, it follows that he is deaf or blind, but if we were to say of a chair that it never sees anything, or of a flower that it never hears anything, these implications would not hold. When 'never sees' entails 'is blind' or 'never hears' entails 'is deaf', the living being to which the predicates are applied belongs to a species, members of which normally see or hear. When we say the chair doesn't see or the flower doesn't hear, we could conclude that they were blind or deaf only given that some chairs see, or some flowers hear.

Presumably the same holds of 'having sensations'. It is

-90-

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