§24. If you do not keep the multiplicity of language-games in view you will perhaps be inclined to ask questions like: "What is a question?"—Is it [essentially] the statement that I do not know such-and-such, or the statement that I wish the other person would tell me....? Or is it [essentially] the description of my mental state of uncertainty?—And is the cry "Help!" such a description?

Think how many different kinds of thing are called "description": description of a body's position by means of its co-ordinates; description of a facial expression; description of a sensation of touch; of a mood.

Of course it is possible to substitute the form of statement or description for the usual form of question: "I want to know whether...." or "I am in doubt whether...."—but this does not bring the different language-games any closer together.

[New remark - looking forward to §402] The [further] significance of such possibilities of transformation, for example of turning all statements into sentences beginning "I think" or "I believe" (and thus, as it were, into descriptions of my inner life) will become clearer in another place. (Solipsism.)


  1. The first three paragraphs pursue the anti-essentialism that he has asserted (there is no argument here) in the previous §23. The final paragraph is on a different theme, which he develops much later.

  2. The first paragraph implicitly is taking the lack of a common feature that essentially links all the coarse-grained aspects of language that he listed in §2, and remarking that there will also be no common features if we take a more fine-grained look at just one of the coarse-grained aspects. Like a fractal image, the same complexity will recur, however closely we look at language.