Wittgenstein on Going On

Canadian Journal of Philosophy 50 (1):1-17 (2020)
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In a famous passage from the Philosophical Investigations, Wittgenstein describes a pupil who has been learning to write out various sequences of numbers in response to orders such as “+1” and “+2”. He has shown himself competent for numbers up to 1000, but when we have him continue the “+2” sequence beyond 1000, he writes the numerals 1004, 1008, 1012. As Wittgenstein describes the case: We say to him, “Look what you’re doing!” — He doesn’t understand us. We say “You should have added two; look how you began the series!” — He answers: “Yes! Isn’t it right? I thought that’s how I should [sollen] do it. — Or suppose he were to say, pointing to the series, “But I went on in the same way!”1The passage continues:— It would now be no use to us to say “But don’t you see…?” — and repeat for him the old explanations and examples. — In such a case, we might perhaps say: this person naturally understands our order, once given our explanations, as we would understand the order “Add 2 up to 1000, 4 up to 2000, 6 up to 3000, and so on.”

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Hannah Ginsborg
University of California, Berkeley


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