Understanding Wittgenstein: Studies of Philosophical Investigations

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

Fourteen
ON BEING 'A SOMETHING'

'But you will surely admit that there is a difference between pain-behaviour accompanied by pain and painbehaviour without any pain?' -- Admit it? What greater difference could there be? -- And yet you again and again reach the conclusion that the sensation itself is a nothing. -- Not at all. It is not a something, but not a nothing either! The conclusion was only that a nothing would serve just as well as a something about which nothing could be said. We have only rejected the grammar which tries to force itself on us here. (PI §304)

It positively seems to us as if pain had a body, as if it were a thing, a body with shape and colour. Why? Has it the shape of the part of the body that hurts? One would like to say for example 'I could describe the pain if I only had the necessary words and elementary meanings'. One feels: all that is lacking is the requisite nomenclature. (James.) As if one could even paint the sensation, if only other People would understand this language. (Z §482)

THE REMARK that pain is not a something, but not a nothing either is one of the many Wittgensteinian offerings that make us sigh and pass on, hoping perhaps that someday these mysteries will be resolved, or anyway that there will be other things that prove less bewildering, and reward the fearful struggle to understand. It seems perplexing how anything can be neither a something nor a nothing. One might have thought that something and nothing exhaust all the alternatives; and one stands trembling at the gate of the unwritten metaphysics in which there is anything in between.

Although Z §482 clearly expresses a similar thought, it does not prove to be much help, partly because most of us could honestly plead not guilty to the charge of regarding

-119-

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