"Not a Something"

Main Article Content

Roger Teichmann


Wittgenstein’s remark in section 304 of the Investigations that a sensation “is not a something, but not a nothing either” has often been connected with his critique of the “picture of an inner process”, and there is a temptation to read “something” as meaning “something private”. I argue that his remark should be taken more at face value, and that we can understand its purport via a consideration of the notion of consisting in. I explore this multi-faceted notion and its connection with (an extended version of) the Context Principle, beginning with the case of certain “propositional attitudes” and moving on to sensations. Wittgenstein was right to think it a philosophical prejudice to say that X’s being in pain, say, must consist in, be constituted by, something.

Invited Paper
Author Biography

Roger Teichmann, St Hilda's College, Oxford

Roger Teichmann is Lecturer in Philosophy at St Hilda’s College, Oxford.  He is the author of The Philosophy of Elizabeth Anscombe (OUP 2008), Nature, Reason and the Good Life (OUP 2011), and most recently Wittgenstein on Thought and Will (Routledge 2015).


Anscombe, G.E.M., 1981. “Brute Facts”. In: G.E.M. Anscombe, Collected Papers Vol. III: Ethics, Religion and Politics. Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 22-5.

Child, W., 2011. Wittgenstein. Routledge.

Gustafsson, M., 2017. “Wittgenstein on using language and playing chess: the breakdown of an analogy, and its consequences”. Forthcoming in: Emmanuel Bermon, Jean-Philippe Narboux eds. 2017. Finding One's Way Through Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations -- New Essays on §§1-88. Dordrecht: Springer, 2017.

McDowell, J., 1989. “One Strand in the Private Language Argument”. In: Grazer Philosophische Studien 33, pp. 285-303.

Specht, E.K., 1969. The Foundations of Wittgenstein’s Later Philosophy. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Teichmann, R., 2001. “The Functionalist’s Inner State”. In: S. Schroeder, ed., Wittgenstein and Contemporary Philosophy of Mind. Basingstoke: Palgrave, pp. 24-35.

Teichmann, R., 2016. “The Identity of a Word”. In: American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 90/2, pp. 317-335.