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beetle in a box

Subject Philosophy

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405106795.2004.x


P hilosophy of language, epistemology Part of Wittgenstein 's argument against the possibility of a private language . Suppose every language user has a private box into which no one else is allowed to look, and suppose that we refer to the contents of these boxes as beetles. Since the contents of different boxes are different, the word “beetle” plays no role in the language-game at all, for other language users have no idea what it means. They use the same word “beetle,” but it may refer to totally different things. By analogy, if one ascribes a private definition or name to one's private sensations, it is semantically irrelevant, for it has no genuine sense and cannot be used as a name. “Suppose everyone had a box with something in it: we call it ‘beetle’. No one can look into anyone else's box, and everyone says he knows what a beetle is only by looking at his beetle … If so it would not be used as a name of a thing.” Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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