Wittgenstein’s beetle in a box and philosophical activity

Wittgenstein’ s analogy of the beetle in a box in his Philosophical Investigations (1.293), points out our difficulties at sharing out most private experiences with others. For one thing, what do we actually mean by ‘pain’ or ‘disappointment’ or ‘regret’? My ‘own’ words to designate my personal mental states may not correspond to what you understand by ‘pain’, ‘disappointment’ or ‘regret’, let alone the fact that the latter feelings and emotions may not relate, at all, to your personal experience of them. In other words (!), our own private language is untranslatable just as our own beetle in a box remains a mystery to everyone else.
Wittgenstein rejects the possibility of any private language as he considers linguistic statements to acquire their actual meaning only within a public or social context. As a human activity, philosophy qualifies as a type of ‘language-game’ with its own vocabulary, concepts and rules of dialogical engagements. Wittgenstein certainly valued philosophy as the highest human activity as he considered it a cathartic therapy ‘against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language.’ The main purpose of philosophy is, therefore, the clearing away of false or alleged philosophical problems, directly caused by a misuse of language itself.
The analogy of the beetle in a box can receive a range of divergent interpretations as it is intentionally open to endless discussions as to its possible meaning. In this respect, Wittgenstein would agree that as a stimulus for debate, his analogy may lead to new uses of the words ‘beetle’ or ‘box’, once set in a totally unfamiliar context. The surreal world described by Lewis Carroll in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland gives some idea of what happens to language when it reinvents itself and opens new horizons of meaning. Wittgenstein was deeply aware of the endless resources of language and for that very reason, philosophy is that special ‘game’ played by the most earnest and open-minded participants in search of new ways of expressing thoughts and feelings.

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