Understanding Wittgenstein: Studies of Philosophical Investigations

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

Twenty-Three
SUBTRACTING THE FACT THAT ONE'S ARM GOES UP

621. Let us not forget this: when 'I raise my arm', my arm goes up. And the problem arises: what is left over when I subtract the fact that my arm goes up from the fact that I raise my arm?

((Are the kinaesthetic sensations my willing ?))

THE ABOVE quotation is a much-pondered passage from the Philosophical Investigations. The sentence in double parentheses suggests that Wittgenstein thought that when we raise an arm, we will it to go up. In the surrounding sections he said nothing that clearly indicated the contrary, although it would not be surprising to find that he did not himself make this assumption, but was portraying one of the ways our deliberations may run if we do make it. He did, in RPP 1.51, say: 'How is "will" actually used? In philosophy one is unaware of having invented a quite new use of the word'. Do we, in the normal case of doing something, will to do it? Do we even know what this means?

In general, and excluding technical terms, we understand a word when it has an ordinary use with which we are familiar, and its current use is one of its ordinary uses; but 'to will' has no perfectly ordinary use. There are noun forms of 'will', as in the expression 'against my will', 'will power', and 'last will and testament', but it has an ordinary use as a verb only when we talk of willing another person to turn left, or of willing a stone to move. Although we are sometimes asked to do those things, and sometimes do something in response to such requests (like picturing the stone moving and grunting as with effort at the same time) -- we have no idea whether we are doing the right thing, or whether there is a right thing for these purposes. Moreover even if there were something to be

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