Graham McFee

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"On first looking into ...": The placing of the 'slips of paper' at the bottom of pages of PI Part One: consequences of the anniversary edition

This material presents some thoughts about the new edition of Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations -- and, implicitly, on the nature of the original edition - in respect of those comments 'below the line' in PI Part One. Do they still sit happily when the work is repaginated? Or has somethiong changed? Can the original intention to treat them as loosely associated with the material 'above the line' be maintained? Can we learn anything about the status of these remarks by reconsidering them in context?


In their "Editors' Note" to the original edition of Philosophical Investigations, Anscome and Rhees explain the passages in question thus:

The passages printed beneath a line at the foot of some pages were written on slips which Wittgenstein had cut from other writings and inserted at these pages, without further indication of where they were to come in.

For the 50th Anniversary Commemorative edition of Philosophical Investigations, this passage was simply reprinted. However, the repagination of that edition had meant that some new decisions had been made in respect of these passages.

Three features from this note concern us here:

(a) It is unclear whether each 'below-the-line' passage is one slip or more -- it seems they were regularly more, but this is not clear here (and no consistent policy is adopted in the printing).

(b) The expression "these pages" makes it seem that some fairly specific location was obvious or implied [[What do we know of LW's plan? Was there some logic to the moving? -- compare B&H's attempt to see where passages might 'come in'.]]

(c) The expression "where they were to come in" suggests that only (and exactly) inserting the passages was envisaged; was this something the editors knew? (Compare B&H p. 152 below.)

The status, and the placing, of these remarks was always contestable. At one extreme, we cannot be absolutely sure where they should go, both because we lack the original text and because a slip of paper (inserted into a typescript but with no other indications) could be intended to be associated with the previous typed page -- that is, it could be inserted behind -- or with the following one (inserted in front). At best, we can only assume that Wittgenstein had some uniform policy here: but why should we make any such assumption? And, of course, the difference between typed pages and type-set one raises further questions about the appropriate location.

Nor can we be sure how to read these remarks. For we do not know exactly for what these slips were intended. And we cannot safely assume that all were meant to be treated the same way. As Baker and Hacker (1980 p. 152 ) perceptively note[1]:

... [Wittgenstein's] intentions in inserting these slips into the typescript of PI are not known. He may have meant to add these remarks as they stood into the text [[Were this so, it would make sense for us to look for, and speculate on, plausible insertion-points, based on a reading of the text]] .... Equally, he may have inserted them to remind himself of modifications he intended to make to the 'final' text (perhaps deletions as well as additions).Different slips may have been inserted for different purposes and some for multiple purposes.

For these reasons, then, Baker and Hacker continue with a justified warning:

In ignorance of his intentions, we make a mistake in principle if we make the interpretation of PI turn on the content of any of these slips.

And this will be true even of those remarks where we have, in "another hand" (presumably Geach's), indications that these are indeed insertions (see below).

We should conclude that both location and purpose of these passages was unclear. However, the fact that they had an 'official' location meant that all the scholars who begin from the published version were in the same position. In that way, there might be thought a kind of 'custom-and-practice' with respect to the remarks. And B&H (in one case, just H) have tracked down some earlier locations for the remarks on these slips -- so we have a scholarly basis from which to proceed (without committing ourselves to the B&H 'reading' of the text).

Whatever has been made of these remarks in the past, the 50th Anniversary Commemorative edition posed a new set of issues: the repagination of the text of PI meant that the remarks would not appear in exactly the same places; hence not in conjunction with exactly the same passages. And the look of works on a page is not always irrelevant [2]. Here, I want simply to point out the new locations -- and to comment on the differences where this seems apporopriate. As my guide to the previous connection or consideration of the passages, I have drawn (as one example) on the account offered by Baker and Hacker: hereafter, typically referred to as "B&H" to identify this moment in their thought. [[NOTE?: It will also be interesting to note if Hacker's work since that volume (as represented in the new edition of Volume one of the commentary) revises any of the points recorded here: but, since they are merely examples, even wre it to do so, that does not cast doubt on my points. Still I have added comments specifically on that new edition -- having special regard for any differences. Hacker certainly records the new page locations, but (in almost all cases: contrast no. 9 below)) the discussion of each slip-remark is in the same place in the commentary as it was in the first edition.]]

A fuller discussion would say more about each of the eleven remarks. I will simply note if the new locations would cast doubt on the comments of Baker and Hacker; and if following the B&H line would lead one to be critical of this new arrangement. For, as we will see, my real argument is just that any change of this sort has the capacity to support different readings of the text -- B&H simply offer an accessible (and prominent) example of one such 'reading'.

I do not suggest that all of the changes will have a bearing: to know that we would need to be much clearer about these passages than we are. But one can see that sometimes the change makes no difference -- or there is no appreciable change. And certainly one can only look to a plausible 'rational reconstruction' here, on the basis that Wittgenstein was both consistent and meticulous. (Hence, if any of these passages indicate a change of mind to be accommodated, we will not be able to deploy them!)

Here are the locations of the remarks, indicating roughly where each comes in the text:

1. Old: p. 11 (mid §23)           New: p. 9 (late mid §22)

[B&H (1980) p. 152 locate passage in B i §432=TS 228 §432]

The passage is clearly connected with §22, where we begin a discussion of Frege on "assumption" [Annahme]. The 'slip' note itself can seem to endorse the idea of a propositional radical. But B&H rightly criticise such a reading which, in associating the passage with PI §23, suggests that Wittgenstein is "developing an account of meaning incorporating mood-operators and proposition-radicals" (B&H, 1980 p. 154); which, as they point out, is rejected by ideas in §23! Such a reading may actually be made more difficult by the new location for the 'slip' note, since it is now on the same page as the comments on "assumption"-- and not on the same page as §23.

The passage does recognise how the very same picture might be used in different ways -- how it might amount to a an instruction (of what to do or what not to, a description. And that does connect with the multiplicy of uses of a particular string of words (mentioned in §23), contrasted unfavourably with the view taken by "the author of the Tractatus-Logico-Philosophicus".

[Hacker, 2005 p. 84: now notes that this was "a handwritten slip in another hand" {presumably Geach's} with the instruction "Insert at the end of §22". It is a briefer discussion!]

2. Old: p. 14 (mid §30)            New: p. 12 (early §30)

[B&H (1980) p. 208 locate passage in B i §522=TS 228 §522]

fairly unproblematic

Roughly, this passage is in the same place in both editions -- the page bounded by the end of §28 and the beginning of §30: and these refer to ostensive definition. Moreover, the passage simply raises the same issues for translation (especially of Erklärung) as these sections.

[Hacker, 2005 p. 102: again, reference to the "handwritten instruction (not in W's hand ...) to insert this at the end of §28". Otherwise, no change.]

3. Old: p. 18 (mid §38)           New: p. 16 (late §38)

[B&H (1980) p. 216 locate passages in B i §36=TS 228 §36; B i §223= TS 228 §223: B&H begin, "It is unclear where this cutting belongs ..."]

One speculation of B&H (1980 p. 216): "... it is possible that these remarks fit onto §35" -- if so, they are very badly placed in the new edition, since §35 is on the previous page!

An alternative reconstruction (implied by B&H: see p. 218) might associate the point here with the varied uses of, say, the standards metre, why I might at one time assert "that bar is one metre long" in order to ascribe a property to the bar and, on another occasion, say those same words to explain to someone what a metre was. And it might be clear, I imagine, how -- in the words of the marginal note (if we trust it) -- a crucial superstition was lurking there: namely, the superstition that such an utterance would have one sense (perhaps, with Frege, seen through the conditions under which it would be true). But, of course, that associates the remark with later comments in PI, especially with §50.

Since this remark is cryptic, it is difficult to locate it properly. At the least, its new location will mean that the first reading B&H mention will be unlikely to suggest itself to any reader.

[Hacker, 2005 p. 110: basically the same note, slightly abridged -- so again associating the passage with §35, with the consequences noted above.]

4. Old: p. 33 (after §70) New: p. 28 (mid §69)

[B&H (1980) p. 356 locate passage in B i §545=TS 228 §545=PG p. 119]

Although granting that "the point of this and its relation to the text are obscure", B&H (1980 p. 357 speculate that the passage "... is related primarily to §70": in the new edition, §70 is on a different page -- so, as above, the connection suggested by B&H would be unlikely to suggest itself to a reader of the published text.

If one looks instead to its occurence in PG, there seem to be two issues (both partly acknowledged by B&H): first picks up the idea of "what I meant to say" -- that is, the scope of my meaning or intending (compare PI §151, §178). Thus, "... this coming to mind doesn't really consist in a particular image's being present" (PG p. 119[a]). The second seems more specific to games, and especially to their relation to a specific set of rules: "... it could easily be misleading to say boundaries had ... beem drawn around the area of rules" (PG p. 119 [e]). The first idea suggests a connection (or criss-crossing) not presently clealy visible; Wittgenstein may have hoped to bring it nearer to the surface.

[Hacker, 2005 p. 160: slightly abbreviated, but with same main point -- reinforcing the connection to §70.]

5. Old: p. 46 (mid §108) New: p. 39 (after §106)

[B&H (1980) p. 518 locate passage in B i §340=TS 228 §340 -- As often, Baker & Hacker (1980 p. 518) begin, "It is unclear where this note belongs ..."]

One part of the confusion here (as B&H, 1980 p. 518) note, is that this fragment originally followed one which had been in PI §233 between para. (a) and para. (b), but had been deleted [in TS 227]. Located here, it might have a connection to the idea of "formal unity" in §108 (compare B&H 1980 p. 520). If so, the new version obscures that fact, in placing the note on the previous page.

[Hacker, 2005 p. 234: now "[t]he history of its location illuminates matters" concerning the remark's purpose. This seems to suggest a location in §103: If that were correct, the new location would be preferrable -- in the original location, §103 was on the previous page.]

6. Old: p. 53 (after §138) New: p. 46 (mid §139)

[B&H (1980) p. 579 locate passage in B i §82=TS 228 §82]

The suggestion: to see the note as "... a riposte to the final sentence of §138, or an elaboration on §139(a)." (B&H, 1980 p. 580). Since these are both on the same page, that reading will still be of equal plausibility.

This example has an important difference from all the other 'slip' notes, in that (for the 50th Anniversary Commemorative edition) it is attached by a footnote to a specific passage (at the end of §137). And this is required by the other big difference: that, on the same page, is a further 'slip' note (discussed below). But the presence of the footnote involves the editors specifying a connection between 'slip' note and text which -- by their own lights -- they had been unable to accomplish originally! As such, this must give a confusing impression, at least in the absence of scholarly work explicitly making this connection to §137 (and what kind of scholarly work could possibly do this?). Moreover, the footnote to §137 will be misleading if the B&H connection is correct (as it surely is).

[Hacker, 2005 p. 296: substantially the same note.]

7. Old: p. 54 (after §139) New: p. 46 (mid §139)

[B&H (1980) p. 581 locate passages in (a) B i §363=TS 228 §363; (b) B i §335=TS §335]

There ae two notes here, designated (a) and (b): B&H (1980 p. 582) suggest that note (b) might be related either to §139[e] or to §140. Both proposals are problematic: the second runs foul of both editions, since (in both) §140 is on the next page. At this point, it would be useful to know for sure if the "(a)", "(b)" designations indicate that these were originally separate slips of paper. And one might assume this, since the slips originate in different manuscripts. If so, there would have been some incentive (or at least a consistent possibility) of putting note (b) onto the following page: that is, old p. 55.

But then we must look back to the editorial 'policy' in respect of note no. 3 above: there, passages from different typescript locations are treated as a single remark.


[Hacker, 2005 p. 299: substantially the same note, therefore ignoring the footnote which suggests a strong connection to §139[c] of both passages -- as above, this would be contrary to both B&H and Hacker 'readings'.]

8. Old: p. 56 (mid §143) New: p. 48 (late §143)

[B&H (1980) p. 586 locate passage in B i §357=TS 228 §357]


B&H (1980 p. 586) comment: "This belongs with §142, but only if further amplification is given". In both texts, that is equally easily recognised, since both are bounded at roughly the same places.

[Hacker, 2005 p. 303: now "a marginal note indicates that this is a footnote to §142" -- if this were granted, it need nolonger be a slip-passage at all! But why was it not noted originally? It comes from a carbon copy of TS 227 but (if PO p. 491 is to be believed) only one such carbon was in the editors' hands initially. So perhaps this information comes from the other. Against that idea, though, is the numbering: this is TS 227a!]

9. Old: p. 59 (mid §151) New: p. 50 (after §150)

[B&H (1980) p. 630 locate passages in (a) B i §79=TS 228 §79; (b) B i §86=TS 228 §86]


Here again, the passages are treated as separate: (a) "further elaborates §§148-9" (B&H, 1980 p. 630). This is plausibly in both editions: the old version has §149 finishing at the top of the page, the new encorporates both remarks in the body of the page. Note (b) "strikes at a related target" (B&H, 1980 p. 631). If so, then it too should be accommodated within these pages.

[Hacker, 2005 p. 320 for (a); p. 327 for (b): this is the one place where the location of the commentary is moved: B&H has comments on both notes after §149; Hacker puts (a) after §148, and (b) after §149. However, the content of the commemntary ios broadly similar.]

10. Old: p. 66 (mid §165) New: p. 56 (mid §165)

[B&H (1980) p. 644 locate passages in (a) in Wittgenstein's hand on the slip; (b) B i §395=TS 228 §395 = PG p. 169]

fairly unproblematic

The published text, in both versions, is confusing in making its two parts into one (apparent) paragraphs, despite their originating in different typescript places. As such, we should have expected to find it designated "(a)", "(b)", as earlier. Nevertheless, the connection here is straightforward. The second part is "... clearly associated with the first sentence of §165": but it is also associated with BB p. 158, and PI §531, where Wittgenstein recognises that "particular" (and "peculiar") in this context might have what he calls an intransitive use -- where, on this occasion, there is nothing more to say.

[Hacker, 2005 p. 340: same content.]

11. Old: p. 147 (mid §552) New: p. 124 (after §548)

[Hacker {Vol 4} (1996) p. 361, p. 365 locate passage in ?????]

Note (a) "... arguably belongs together with PI §§547-9" (Hacker, 1996 p. 361): this point is better seen in the old version, where the note falls at the bottom of the page on which §549 finishes -- in the new version, §549 begins overleaf from the note.

Although note (b) might also be seen as a continuation of §549, "it might have been placed after §554" (Hacker, 1996 p. 365) -- I don't know where this information comes from! Certainly that would not be facilitated by the placing in either of the published versions.


Thus, if the locations (or connections) suggested by B&H for these slip-passages are at all plausible, the re-ordering in the 50th Anniversary Commemorative edition will make such connections harder to see for at least some of the passages (especially numbers 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 11). Moreover, it is reasonable to assume that other 'interpretations' of the nature and role of the slip-passages would be similarly affected, if in different ways or to different degrees. So my points holds even when the specifics of the B&H ascriptions are put aside. And that suggests that, in so far as the decision to re-paginate lacked a specific rationale, the resultant changes to how some of these passages are most readily seen -- or with which passages they most readily connect -- seem to be just consequences of the printer's convenience. But, of course, such changes could not be justified without taking a view (perhaps more than one) of the place and role of the slip-passages, contrary to the original account of them.

Indeed, the fact of change here undermines one perfectly good pragmatic reason for not making such changes: namely, that (in the absence of a genuine rationale these as better locations) the original arrangement had become the recognised starting point for those hoping to make sense of PI; and of these remarks as part of it. (Or, to put the point more crudely, readers could treat the work simply as a text shared by commentators, where this was de facto the location of these passages.) But that argument is undermined once other arrangements of the remarks exist: and especially one in which (as for numbers 6 and 7) a more specific connection of slip-passage to major text now appears to be indicated, expressed by a footnote.



[1] It may be important to distinguish my use of Baker and Hacker's scholarship from my (occasional) use of the reading offered: the second is typically included just as an example.

[2] As Rhees pointed out, comparing the Tractatus unfavourably with the Prototractatus [REF]

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