Understanding Wittgenstein: Studies of Philosophical Investigations

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

Eighteen
HOW SENTENCES REPRESENT

435. If it is asked 'How do sentences manage to represent?' - the answer might be: 'Don't you know? You certainly see it, when you use them.' For nothing is concealed.

How do sentences do it? - Don't you know? For nothing is hidden.

But given this answer: 'But you know how sentences do it, for nothing is concealed' one would like to retort 'Yes, but it all goes by so quick, and I should like to see it as it were laid open to view.'

NOT EVERYONE would be likely to pose the question how sentences manage to represent, and one can need some help to see how there can be a problem here. §433 is about as helpful as any. In it we are asked to imagine someone being given an order, and not understanding at all. It is suggested that if it is the order to raise his arm, one might explain by raising one's arm; but that would still leave it unclear that he was to do that. One could try to make that point by pointing from oneself to him, or by making encouraging gestures; but whatever we do, it too may need further explanation, and there seems to be no direct and effective way of making exactly the point made by the words 'Raise your arm'. There is a gap there, and no clear way of bridging it; and yet it is bridged every day by people who have learned English. How is language so effective when gestures are so inefficient? How do sentences manage to represent?

You may still not be much troubled by this question, but given that, for good or ill, it has arisen, we can turn to Wittgenstein's handling of it. He seems to be suggesting that the answer is not concealed, it is right there for anyone to see, if

-155-

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