Wittgenstein is famous for having argued against the possibility of so called ’private languages’. In this essay I discuss in what way Wittgenstein would say that language is something ‘public’. i.e. the opposite of private; and I explore its consequences for a philosophical examination of words for emotions.
The focus of the discussion is Wittgenstein’s rule-following considerations, centred around §201 of the Philosophical Investigations. Crispin Wright’s reading §201 is criticised for being at odds with the spirit of PI and for ultimately not having the means to explain normativity in language. It is argued that John McDowell’s reading of PI to a greater extent is sensitive to the style of PI when he argues that 1. we should not be looking for a constructive account of normativity in language, and 2. that Wright proposal fails because it contradicts the intuition that something is not right just because a lot of people say so. However, McDowell, in an early essay, fails to appreciate why Wittgenstein writes in the peculiar style he does. He does argue that understanding Wittgenstein’s style is important to understand his arguments, but is unable to explain why the connection is so important. McDowell in later essays says he has new thoughts on this subject, but he does not state them explicitly. Therefore Edward H. Minar is brought in to the discussion, to correct the early McDowell and supplement the later McDowell, by throwing light on the connection between the style and ideas of PI. What Minar emphasises is that Wittgenstein’s style is born out of his realisation that he cannot take a meta-position on language, any more than those he criticises for doing so can.
Finally, having established an understanding the publicity of language and the connection between the style and the ideas of PI, the potential of this Wittgensteinian outlook on philosophy is explored. This is done by briefly looking at how Wittgenstein could handle some naïve yet ‘philosophically contaminated’ questions about how words for emotions ‘work’.