Wittgenstein: The Relation of Objects and Names

Wittgenstein: The Relation of Objects and Names

June 27, 2021 Off By Felso

In the Tractatus, Wittgentein said that names refer to objects.

Moreover, it was argued that the objects in question were “simple”, that is, not “complex” and could not be resolved into simpler elements. It was said that if the names did not correspond to simple objects, the definition of the names would take forever and no specific meaning could emerge. In Philosophical Investigations, Wittgenstein seems to have completely changed his mind.

First, Wittgenstein tries to explain what we mean by the meaning of a name. The meaning of a name and the thing that bears that name are not one and the same. An argument Wittgenstein gives to demonstrate this distinction is as follows: When a person who bears a name dies, the meaning of the name does not disappear. Otherwise, we cannot even say that the person is dead (Philosophical Investigations, 40). If the meaning of the name is not the bearer, what is? In Wittgenstein’s view, the meaning of a word is its use in language (Philosophical Investigations, 43). It follows that the meaning of names (often words) is not simply the objects they refer to. The meanings in question are determined in language games.

Wittgenstein also dwells on the word “simple” to further reinforce his view on this point.

But what are the simple components from which reality is formed? What are the simple constituent parts of a chair? Is it pieces of wood from which it is made, or molecules or atoms? “Simple” means: Uncomplicated. The main thing here is: “complex” in what sense? It makes no sense at all to speak of “simple parts of a chair” in the absolute sense (Philosophical Investigations, 47).

What we understand by the complex, or the way we analyze the complex, varies. Therefore, it is impossible to say that there are absolutely simple parts independent of the language game we are in. Again, even if our inner voice says that there are simple elements out there that are independent of our fictions, Wittgenstein advises us not to get carried away by this voice.

Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook