The importance of nonsense - Some Remarks on the Notion of Secondary Use of Words

Cato Wittusen


In part II of Philosophical Investigations and in Last Writings on the Philosophy of
Psychology Wittgenstein suggests a distinction between a word's primary and secondary
meaning. A natural response to Wittgenstein's account of the phenomenon might be to
take secondary uses of words as live metaphors. On such a reading, though, the
interesting contrast is the one between dead metaphors and secondary uses.
Wittgenstein's own example of a metaphoric use seems in effect to support this line
of reasoning. In his view, it might be pertinent to describe secondary uses as a kind
of metaphorical expression. But the relationship between primary and secondary uses
is not like the one between expressions such as "cutting of a thread" and "cutting of
someone's speech". Here one can obviously do without the figurative expression.
(Wittgenstein 1982, § 798-99) However, this remark is anything but controversial.
Hardly anyone would claim that one would sustain a loss of expressive aptness by
being denied this kind of figurative expression.


philosophy; 20th century philosophy; Wittgenstein Ludwig; secondary sense; metaphor; nonsense; primary sense

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