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Philosophical Investigations 9:3 July 1986 ISSN 0190-0536 $2.50 Following a Rule H.0.

Mounce, University College of Swansea I Kripke s recent book on Wittgenstein has occasioned enthusiasm in some quarters and puzzlement in others. Some treat it as a revelation of Wittgenstein s meaning. Others wonder what the fuss is about; the work, where it is correct, seems unoriginal and where it is original seems incorrect. Baker and Hacker belong to the critical side. In their new book2, they argue that Kripke s analysis is misconceived from start to finish. Belonging myself to the critical side, I find it difficult not to sympathize. Certainly it is hard to find great merit in a work that attributes to its subject a view rejected as a misunderstanding by the subject himself. Thus one of Kripke s main contentions is that Wittgenstein, in a certain part of the Invertigationr, has represented a form of scepticism which is striking in its originality and depth; as evidence for this interpretation, he quotes from 201. Unfortunately he quotes only the first part. In the very next sentence, Wittgenstein states explicitly that the passage quoted by Kripke represents, not his own view, but a misunderstanding. It can be seen that there is a misunderstanding here . . . So far as they reveal confusion of this kind in Kripke s account, Baker and Hacker perform a service. But the trouble, it seems to me, is that their own account reveals confusions as great as those they attribute to Kripke. Indeed on some points it is Kripke and not they who seems to me correct. I should like to deal with two such points. Many commentators refer to 243 ff. of the Znvertigations as 1. Saul A. Kripke, Wittgenstein on Rdes and Private Language: an Elementary Exposition, Blackwell 1982. 2. G.P. Baker and P.M.S. Hacker, Scepticism, Rules and Language, Blackwell 1984.

Philosophical Investigations forming a self-contained section which they term the private language argument. On Kripke s view, the discussion in these sections is continuous with that of earlier ones. His argument, somewhat freely put, is as follows. In the earlier sections, Wittgenstein seeks to show that the notions of correct and incorrect usage depend for their sense on there being a general practice in the use of sounds or marks. Anyone who follows this discussion will already see that there is a confusion in the idea of a language essentially private. But this is not to say that everyone who reads it will follow it. Some may think, for example, that what Wittgenstein says, though it may be relevant to matters of general or communal practice, cannot be relevant in the case of an essentially private object, such as a sensation. The sections from 243 are intended to show that this response is confused. The appearance of an exception to the earlier discussion is entirely illusory. Baker and Hacker take this to be misconceived. On their view, commentators are entirely correct to distinguish the so-called private language argument from what precedes it. I have not found it easy to follow their argument for this conclusion, but it seems to run as follows. There is nothing in the discussion prior to 243 which would render dubious the idea of a private language, so that the discussion from 243 deals with a fresh topic. One can see this the more easily if one realizes that Kripke s interpretation involves a radical misunderstanding of the later sections. It was never Wittgenstein s intention to show that an individual s sense of correct usage, of following a rub in the use of signs, necessarily depends on his having an acquaintance with general or communal practice. According to Baker and Hacker, a single individual may have a sense of correct usage, may follow a rule in the use of signs, not simply where he is isolated from his fellows but even where he is a being alien to all forms of social existence. Wittgenstein s point, on their view, is not that such an individual cannot have a language but only that any language he has must be capable of being grasped by other people, at least in principle. To put the issue in other terms, Kripke takes Wittgenstein to be saying that the idea of an individual s following a rule becomes obscure when the individual is considered in isolation. By an individual considered in isolation he does not of course mean someone separated from his fellows. He means, rather, that we have no clear idea of an

H.O. Mounce individual s following a rule which is wholly determined by his own thoughts and movements. According to Baker and Hacker, this is where he is mistaken. The idea is a perfectly clear one. Wittgenstein s point is simply that such a rule must be capable of being followed by someone else, i.e., in principle; no one in fact may ever succeed in following it. This view has interesting consequences. For example, in the 1950 s there was a celebrated dispute between A.J. Ayer and Rush Rhees about whether an individual, who was isolated in the above sense, might develop language for himself. According to Baker and Hacker, this whole dispute was entirely irrelevant to what Wittgenstein is saying. Now, as I have implied, there are really two issues here. First, there is the issue of whether the discussion in 243 ff. should be seen as continuous with the earlier section and, second, the issue of whether an individual can be seen as following a rule which is wholly determined by his own thoughts and movements. But these issues are clearly interrelated and in what follows I shall move back and forth between them. Let us begin with the issue first mentioned. There is one obvious point in favour of Kripke s interpretation. Wittgenstein states what is taken to be the conclusion to the private language argument long before the so-called private language section even begins. Moreover he states it as a conclusion which is already implicit in the earlier discussion. Thus 202 runs as follows: And hence also obeying a rule is a practice. And to think one is obeying a rule is not to obey a rule. Hence it is not possible to obey a rule privately : otherwise thinking one was obeying a rule would be the same thing as obeying it. Now all things are disputable but it would be hard even to imagine a more apparently conclusive piece of evidence. The first sentence states a conclusion which follows from the earlier discussion of following a rule. Obeying a rule is a practice. Wittgenstein then draws the conclusion: it is not possible to obey a rule privately. Baker and Hacker, in reply, enter into certain details of scholarship. They point out that in an earlier version of the Investigations the passage in question does not occupy its present position but occurs later, after the material incorporated in 243 ff. In pointing this out, they wish to suggest, presumably, that its

Philosophical Investigations present position is fortuitous and may therefore be discounted. But the trouble is that this argument ,seems to prove the opposite of what they intend. For granting that the position of the passage is fortuitous in one or the other of these versions, it is more plausible to suppose it fortuitous in the earlier, looser, version than in the finished product. We must remember that, given Baker s and Hacker s interpretation, the position of this passage in the final version is entirely incongruous (as indeed they admit). But then we need an explanation of why Wittgenstein, after due reflection, made a point of putting it there. It is not easy to believe that Wittgenstein was indifferent to the incongruity or failed to notice it in the first place. Moreover, leaving aside the question of its position, the passage would seem in itself to tell decisively in favour of Kripke s interpretation. For the ground on which Wittgenstein dismisses the idea of a private rule is precisely that obeying a rule is a practice, i.e. something which has a general significance. But Baker and Hacker deny that practice should be so taken. They argue that a

practice , on Wittgenstein s usage, has no essential connotation of the social, being applicable to the habitual behaviour of a single individual. This indeed is essential to their interpretation. Solitary individuals may have practices and, hence, may follow rules. Now, as it happens, we can test this interpretation simply by moving our eyes further up the same page in the Investigations. Earlier on this page, Wittgenstein supplies an alternative version of the sentence in question. To obey a rule, to make a report, to give an order, to play a game of chess are customs (uses, institutions). (199)

In other words, Wittgenstein here (and indeed quite generally) is using a practice as interchangeable with a custom , a general

use , an institution . He is saying, in short, that following a rule is a practice in that sense of practice. Now it is not easy to imagine a context in which one would naturally apply any of these terms to the behaviour, however habitual, of a single individual. Custom

is perhaps the most plausible candidate, though not a very plausible one. But an institution?! It seems obvious, in short, that Wittgenstein s ground for dismissing the idea that a rule may be taken privately, is that following a rule requires something like a social background. Now these are very far from being the only difficulties in Baker s

H.O. Mounce 191 and Hacker s interpretation. For example, it is not simply that the conclusion of the so-called private language argument appears in the earlier material but that some of the earlier material appears right in the middle of the so-called private language argument. For example at 257 we find the following passage: But what does it mean to say that he has named his pain -How he has done this naming of pain?! And whatever he did, what was its purpose? When one says He gave a name to his sensation one forgets that a great deal of stage-setting in the language is presupposed if the mere act of naming is to make sense. And when we speak of someone s having given a name to pain, what is presupposed is the existence of the grammar of the word pain ; it shews the post where the new word is stationed. Wittgenstein is here considering a so-called private definition of one s sensation. Arguments (and sometimes phrases) from the earlier sections are applied directly to the problem. People who think they have an idea of such a definition go astray, Wittgenstein suggests, because they neglect these considerations. To see the resemblances in the material one need only compare the passage with the last sentence of 198. On the contrary, I have further indicated that a person goes by a sign-post only in so far as there exists a regular use of sign-posts, a custom. 3 It is this point, occurring at an important stage in the earlier discussion, that is being repeated, in an expanded form, at an important stage in the so-called private language argument. Moreover the point being made is precisely the one we have emphasized. Following a rule is a custom, a practice, an institution. At this point, however, it may be useful to turn for a moment to the second issue. According to Baker and Hacker, there is no difficulty in supposing someone to follow a rule even when he is considered in isolation, i.e. even when we consider only his own 3. This sentence is relevant, incidentally, to a point made earlier. As we have seen, Baker and Hacker take a practice , a custom etc. to be applicable to the habitual behaviour of a single individual, these terms having about them no esse ntial connotation of the social. Now consider the sentence again. Is it not perverse t o suppose that custom , regular use there refer to the habitual behaviour of a single individual?It makes sense for the individual to put up a sign post because he ca n take for granted the regular use of sign posts in his community. That, surely, is the obvious meaning of the sentence.

Philosophical Investigations thoughts and movements as relevant in determining the correctness of what he does. If this view, taken in itself, is overwhelmingly plausible, one may still be inclined to accept their interpretation, in spite of the textual evidence. Very well, then, let us consider the view itself. At first sight, it seems confronted by an obvious difficulty. If we are to consider only an individual s own thoughts and movements as relevant to the correctness of what he does, how can we avoid concluding that whatever he thinks or does is correct? For example suppose our isolated individual puts down the marks 2, 4, 6, 8 . . . 1000. Then he puts down 1004. This too is the product of his thought and movement. Well, then, this too, surely is correct. It would be easy to support this by producing a formula that would make 1004 consistent not only with everything he has put down previously, but also with everything that has previously passed through his mind. I say this move would be easy and also in a way correct; nevertheless it seems to me misguided. This is because it is liable to induce in the reader an entirely mistaken attitude to the problem. Without knowing it, he slips into supposing that the individual in question is following some rule and that the problem consists in determining which in fact it is, as if the difficulty lay in penetrating beneath the surface to something hidden. Now this is entirely misguided because, for one thing, nothing at all is hidden. Indeed, it hardly could be, since we are not dealing with a real individual but only with something we have made up ourselves. Our aim is conceptual not factual. We seek to construct (not to discover) an example of an isolated individual who is following a rule. Or, to put it another way, we wish to consider whether these notions go together -that of following a rule and that of an individual isolated in the required sense. So long as we treat only the individual s own thoughts and movements as relevant to the correctness of what he does, we can add (or subtract) whatever we wish. Nothing need occur, in our example, apart from what we want to occur. Now let us return to our problem. I am suggesting that, so far, we are forced to conclude that whatever our individual puts down is correct. What needs to be added (or subtracted) in order to make the case more nearly like what we should normally call following a rule? Well consider the following possibility. Suppose after putting down 1004 he pauses, looks back over what he has written, shakes

H.O. Mounce 193 his head, crosses out 1004 and puts down 1002. Would we not say that earlier he had made a mistake? In short, not everything he puts down is correct, judging now by his own reactions. Very well; this gives us a clear enough criterion. We are to count as correct not everything he puts down but only what he puts down after due reflection. From this of course it follows that if on the next step he does the same, writing down 1004 and then crossing it out, then 1004 will be incorrect on the next step also. Or do you wish to say that on this occasion it is his first thoughts which are correct? But now we are lost. For how are we to know when it is his first thoughts which are authorative and when his second? Now I can imagine some who are irritated by this move. Why imagine that he proceeds in this way? Why not suppose that after crossing out 1004 and putting down 1002, he then proceeds 1004, 1006, 1008 . . .? Well, why not? But I suspect that the irritation results from a loss of grip on the problem. We can add or subtract as we wish, so long as we stick to our terms of reference. Now if you are entitled to imagine his crossing out 1004 at a given step why am I not entitled to imagine his doing the same thing at the step after it? It involves no conceptual difficulty. It may cause a difficulty for your view but then so much the worse for your view. Butlet us not press the point. Let us suppose that after crossing out 1004 and putting down 1002, he then proceeds 1004, 1006, 1008 . . . Still the point, it seems to me, is the same. What is correct is whatever he treats as correct. But have we not allowed, when he crossed out 1004, that he can make a mistake? Yes, but only if he treats it as such. We are permitted, as it were, to say that he is incorrect but only if he treats it as correct to do so. This reminds me of a story about Sidney and Beatrice Webb. After their marriage they decided that he would make the big decisions and she the small ones, and she would decide what counted as the big decisions. Still, it might be said, do we not have a sense of being mistaken and therefore of being correct? You can say so if you wish. The only trouble is that this is not what we normally mean by these terms. For example, in the case we have constructed, there seems no difference between saying our individual proceeds correctly and saying he proceeds as, on reflection, he feels inclined or compelled to proceed. It is of course perfectly easy to construct a case of a solitary individual who, on reflection, always feels compelled to

Philosophical Investigations proceed as we should proceed in following the arithmetical series 2, 4, 6, 8 . . . This in fact is all we have done in the above examples. But that does not mean we have constructed the case of an individual who, just like us, is following a rule. To see this, we have only to remember what occurs when a child is trained in our arithmetic. Such a child is corrected. Now this is not equivalent to saying that he is invited to consider whether, on reflection, he feels compelled to proceed in such-and-such a way. We may call him wrong even if, after the fullest reflection, he does feel compelled to proceed in that way. This is possible because he is being trained in a practice that exists independently of him, or, to put it another way, because it is not only his own thoughts and movements which are relevant in determining the correctness of what he does. Now let us consider a puzzling feature of this whole discussion. The puzzling feature is that people find it so puzzling. After all, when looked at in a certain light, the point seems obvious. For example, suppose for the purpose of the discussion that someone is secretly observing and interpreting the behaviour of our solitary individual. He may succeed in grasping the rule being followed. But then, of course, he may fail to grasp it. Either of these is a possibility. Now consider the individual himself. Plainly he cannot fail to grasp the rule he is following for then there would be no rule. But, in that case, why say he is following it correctly? Indeed why say that he is following it? How is the following to be distinguished from what is followed? Why not just say that he goes as he goes? Admittedly the way he goes may exhibit some interesting regularities, and occasionally, through inattention, he may wander away from them, but even a moment s reflection should reveal that this is not what we mean by correctly or incorrectly following a rule. Why then is the point so hard to grasp? One reason is that use is made of examples in which all social background is removed, the trouble being that people tacitly replace the social background which is supposed to be absent. To see this, let us return to our own example of an individual who is putting down the marks 2, 4, 6, 8 . . . Confronted by such a case in ordinary life we should proceed somewhat as follows. We should assume, straight away, that the man is following a rule. We should wait a while to see what else he puts down. This, we shall suppose, confirms that we have grasped the rule he is following. From that point on, we proceed to

H.O. Moutice 195 judge what the man puts down as right or wrong in the light of the rule. Now in our example of the solitary individual we proceed in the same way. The marks 2, 4, 6, 8 . . . are instances of a rule in the light of which his further procedure is to be judged. Where is the difficulty? Well, consider the differences. When in the everyday or social case we say that the individual is following a rule, we take for granted the existence of rules or practices in the community and take for granted also that the individual is seeking to act in conformity with one of them. Now the marks which the individual puts down in our example cannot be seen as an attempt to act in conformity with some independent rule or practice since there is no such rule or practice. All we have are the marks. The idea is that if there are enough of them, or if they are put down often enough, they will themselves generate the rule by which they are to be judged. Why is the absurdity of this not evident? For the following reason. It often happens in an ordinary case that an individual will check what he has put down with what he put down earlier to see whether he is following a rule correctly. He checks the later marks against the earlier. This is taken to be the essence of following a rule. Moreover, it is something a solitary individual can do also. All he needs to do is to check his later marks against his earlier. The rule consists in their agreement. But consider again the differences. It is entirely misleading (in the context) to say that the individual, in the social case, is seeking to put down his later marks in agreement with his earlier. What he seeks to do is to put down all the marks in conformity with a rule. Nor is this a trivial difference. For it is precisely the rule which determines what it is for the later marks to agree with the earlier. Now the individual in our example is not seeking to put down all the marks in conformity with an independent rule, for there is no rule apart from what he puts down. Here the marks have to agree or disagree with themselves. As a matter of fact, even if we could make some sense of this idea, it would not help us. For suppose we grant, say that the later marks somehow or other disagree with the earlier. Which are correct? Why say this is wrong because it disagrees with what was put down earlier? Why not say what was put down earlier was wrong because it disagrees with this? To settle the matter we need some rule of correctness that we can apply to the marks. But that is precisely what we do not have. There is a further source of confusion, to which I have already briefly alluded. This is the failure to distinguish following a rule

Philosophical Investigations from any type of regular action which someone (else) could formulate as a rule. Baker and Hacker, it seems to me, are persistently guilty of this confusion. (I mean in practice. In theory, no doubt they are clear enough.) Thus, as an example of a solitary individual s following a rule, they ask us to imagine one who decorates his wall with a pattern of three dashes and three dots simply repeated. If the pattern varies he becomes discomforted and adds a dot or a dash, or whatever, to his wall. Now stripped of its misleading social connotations (for example, of decorating ) all we have left in this example is a response to regularity which is hardly more complex than many to be found amongst the animals or amongst very young children. A child, for example, wants a tune sung or a story told in exactly the same way each time and becomes discomforted at variations. Now suppose someone reasons in the following way. The child is discomforted because it perceives that the break in rhythm violates a rule. It is evident that the reference to a rule is redundant. The child is discomforted by the break in rhythm. Here we have a phenomenon on which rules may later rest but which does not itself rest on any rule. Moreover it is surely clear that in Baker s and Hacker s example we simply have an allied phenomenon. In short, the reference to rules is as redundant in this case as it is in the other. This point can be further illustrated by returning to textual matters. In the Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics, Wittgenstein happens to discuss an example which is almost identical with Baker s and Hacker s. There might be a cave man who produced reguiar sequences of marks for himself. He amused himself, e.g., by drawing on the wall of the cave: or -.-. . -. . .-. . . . But he is not following the general expression of a rule. And when we say that he acts in a regular way that is not because we can form such an expression (VI -41) In other words, the regularity in the cave man s behaviour is not something it requires a rule to recognize. It occurs at a different level. Wittgenstein expresses this by saying that the behaviour does not involve any general expression of a rule and none is needed to

H.O. Mounce 197 recognize it. But he might also have said that the behaviour is not the expression of something having a general significance. Thus lower down he adds the following remarks. Only in the practice of a language can a word have meaning. Certainly I can give myself a rule and follow it. But is it not a rule only for this reason, that it is analogous to what is called a rule in human dealings? In short, the example is the same but the conclusion is entirely different. It will be useful to consider, also, the example that Wittgenstein discusses in the very next remark. If one of a pair of chimpanzees scratched the figure 1 --I in the earth and thereupon the other the series I --1 I --I etc., the first would not have given a rule nor would the other be following it, whatever else went on at the same time in the mind of the two of them. If however there were observed, e.g., the phenomenon of a kind of instruction, of showing how and of imitation, of lucky and misfiring attempts, of reward and punishment and the like; if at length the one who had been so trained put figures which he had never seen before one after another in sequence as in the first example, then we should probably say that the one chimpanzee was writing rules down, and the other was following them. (VI -42) In other words, it is only when we sketch in something akin to a social context that the procedure can be seen as one of following a rule. There is one further passage that needs to be considered. A human being can encourage himself, give himself orders, obey, blame and punish himself; he can ask himself a question and answer it. We could even imagine human beings who spoke only in monologue; who accompanied their activities by talking to themselves. An explorer who watched them and listened to their talk might succeed in translating their language into ours. (This would enable him to predict those people s actions correctly, for he also hears them making resolutions and decisions.) (Inuestigationr 243). I quote this passage because it is the one in the Investigations that Baker and Hacker take as proof of their interpretation. They take the passage to show that an individual, for Wittgenstein, may develop a language for himself. But in fact there is nothing in the passage to suggest that the individuals involved have themselves developed the language they speak. Imagine, say, a refugee camp in

Philosophical Investigations which the people do not speak each other s language and are in any case so far gone in despair that they have no interest in talking to one another, though occasionally they mumble to themselves. Or suppose that some terrible affliction has fallen on a whole population, so that the people speak only to themselves, having lost all interest in one another. Each of these could be instances of the type of case Wittgenstein has in mind. It is true that Wittgenstein himself does not mention how the people in his example may have got into their condition, but the reason for this will be obvious to anyone who is familiar with the context in which the passage occurs. Wittgenstein mentions this case because he wishes not to discuss it. He mentions it, in short, only because he wishes to distinguish it from the case he is going on to discuss. He therefore has no interest in how the people in his example might have got into their condition. It may be worth remarking, in conclusion, that the thesis Baker and Hacker attribute to Wittgenstein is as obscure at the end of the book as it was at the beginning. On their view, rules are necessarily public, not necessarily social. But in that case why are they necessarily public? No clear explanation emerges. Is the idea that rules have about them a certain objectivity? But it is still obscure why a rule must be capable of being grasped by more than one person. Why should something not be objectively so even if no one is capable of grasping it? Now the view that rules are a feature of social life, though it may lack metaphysical profundity, has at least the merit of removing this mystery. If rules are a feature of social life then obviously they are public; for so is social life. Department of Philosophy, University College of Swansea, Singleton Park, Swanrea, SA2 8PP.