How Do I Know That The Colour That I Am Now Seeing Is Called "Green"?

Martin Gustafsson


In his discussions of language use and rule-following, Wittgenstein repeatedly
emphasises the importance of acting without reasons. Sometimes, he even makes a
connection between ordinary cases of language use or rule-following, and situations
in which fear or panic makes us say things without reflecting at all. Consider
§§211-212 in Philosophical Investigations. It is very difficult to provide an
adequate reading of passages such as these. The difficulty is not just that of seeing
the possibility of questioning the over-rationalistic picture of language use that is
Wittgenstein's most visible target. It is equally hard to avoid ascribing to
Wittgenstein a view which constitutes the dialectical opposite of that
over-rationalistic picture. The temptation is strong to think that rejecting the idea
of language use as somehow based on reasons all the way down, must involve depriving
language of something - what one might want to call its "content", or "cognitive
significance". We are inclined to believe that if we fail to make sense of the idea
that our linguistic practices have a rational foundation, then we are forced to
conclude that such practices can only, to use Kripke's phrase, consist in a series of
impulsive "stabs in the dark". (Kripke, 1982) We will then read the passages just
quoted as offering a view according to which, basically, language use is not a form
of mindful action at all, but just a series of spontaneous, though remarkably unison,


philosophy; 20th century philosophy; Wittgenstein Ludwig; colour; justification; reason; evidence

Full Text:



  • There are currently no refbacks.