Notes on Wittgenstein’s Blue Book

By David M. Price

The following is a transposed and modified version of the notes I took on Wittgenstein’s Blue Book while researching for my senior thesis. My senior thesis was on intentionality–in particular, theories of mental content–so there are some interpretations of the text that are motivated by my research into that area of philosophy of language.

Here I was trying to get a grip on the first few pages.

  • Critique of the philosophical method used to address the intentionality and meaning of a concept or word.
  • The standard method is to ask ‘what is meaning?’ This is akin to Plato asking ‘what is knowledge’ or ‘what is the Good’?
  • Wittgenstein begins with “what’s an explanation of meaning”? The foundation of his method is an undermining of the kind of question which leads to philosophical puzzles concerning grammatical generalities.
  • The grammar of an “explanation of meaning” will inform the grammar of “meaning.” I believe this was a quote.
  • Explanations are broken down into two essential kinds: verbal vs. ostensive definitions. Verbal definitions are akin to analytic judgments except that they are always verbal expressions, not merely cognitive judgments.
  • Ostensive definitions are when we make examples of a thing. Pointing to something and saying ‘oh this is an x’ or ‘here is an x’ Ostensive definitions seem typically out of linguistic analysis.
  • Wittgenstein: many concepts lack ostensive definitions, for instance ‘one’, ‘number’, ‘not’, ‘belief’. We can’t see or make examples of them. They cannot be pointed to per se.

If you’re interested in additional information and discussion concerning Wittgenstein’s work, check out my blog, Language Games. Language Games features very technical analysis of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s later philosophy, as well as links to websites about Ludwig Wittgenstein.

David M. Price (BA Philosophy, honors + cum laude) has been blogging about Ludwig Wittgenstein since July 2007. He is a freelance writer, current graduate student, and published author. He has written on anything from race relations to world of warcraft. Check out his blog at []

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