Understanding Wittgenstein: Studies of Philosophical Investigations

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

Twenty-Five
ON THE SOUL

'I believe he is not an automation', just like that, so far makes no sense.

My attitude towards him is an attitude towards a soul. I am not of the opinion that he has a soul.

Religion teaches that the soul can exist when the body has disintegrated. Now do I understand this teaching? -- Of course I understand it -- I can imagine plenty of things in connection with it. And haven't pictures of these things been painted? And why should such a picture be only an imperfect rendering of the spoken doctrine? Why should it not do the same service as the words? And it is the service which is the point.

If the picture of thought in the head can force itself upon us, then why not much more that of thought in the soul?

The human body is the best picture of the human soul.

And how about such an expression as 'In my heart I understood when you said that', pointing to one's heart? Does one, perhaps, not mean this gesture? Of course one means it. Or is one conscious of using a mere figure? Indeed not. -- It is not a figure that we choose, not a simile, yet it is a figurative expression. (PI, 11, iv)

SOME OF THE fairly hard questions this passage suggests are:

1. Why does it 'so far make no sense' to say 'I believe he is not an automaton'? The words 'so far' suggest that there are conditions under which it would make sense. To find these conditions we may make a distinction between the literal and the figurative use of 'He is not an automaton'. Wittgenstein fairly clearly took the view that there is absolutely no question of a person really being an automaton. This comes out when he asks, just before the passage quoted, what information

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