SUBTRACTING (AND ADDING) LANGUAGE
491. Not: 'Without language we could not communicate with one another' - but for sure: without language we cannot influence other people in such-and-such ways; cannot build roads and machines, etc. And also: without the use of speech and writing people could not communicate.
WITH THIS statement in Philosophical Investigations Wittgenstein is making a point as obliquely as he ever does.
Let us call the three propositions 'A', 'B' and 'C'. Although there are obvious differences in wording, we might have been inclined to say their sense was substantially the same, or if different, not so different that one could be false while the others were true. It comes as a surprise therefore that 'A' is rejected while 'B' and 'C' are accepted; and it is surprising also because 'A' is a proposition one might well have let pass as being true. 'A' is rejected; but it is not clear whether Wittgenstein means that it is false, or that it is unsatisfactory in some other way, such as being undecidable, or being nonsense.
'A' might be called nonsensical or trivial if we defined communication in such a way that nothing was communication which was not carried on in words and sentences; or if we defined language in such a way that anything in which living beings communicated was a language. Then 'A' would come out either 'Without a way of communicating, people could not communicate', or 'Without words and sentences people could not do what can only be done with words and sentences'.
The possibility that 'A' is trivial reminds us that we are not sure what we mean here by 'language' and 'communication'.