§38. But what, for example, is the word "this" the name of in language-game (8) or the word "that" in the ostensive definition "that is called...."?—If you do not want to produce confusion you will do best not to call these words names at all.—Yet, strange to say, the word "this" has been called the only genuine name; so that anything else we call a name was one only in an inexact, approximate sense.
This queer conception springs from a tendency to sublime the logic of our language—as one might put it. The proper answer to it is: we call very different things "names"; the word "name" is used to characterize many different kinds of use of a word, related to one another in many different ways;—but the kind of use that "this" has is not among them. [1]
It is quite true that, in giving an ostensive definition for instance, we often point to the object named and say the name. And similarly, in giving an ostensive definition for instance, we say the word "this" while pointing to a thing. And also the word "this" and a name often occupy the same position in a sentence. But it is precisely characteristic of a name that it is defined by means of the demonstrative expression "That is N" (or "That is called 'N'"). [2] But do we also give the definitions: "That is called 'this'", or "This is called 'this'"? [3]
This is connected with the conception of naming as, so to speak, an occult process. Naming appears as a queer connexion of a word with an object.—And you really get such a queer connexion when the philosopher tries to bring out the relation between name and thing by staring at an object in front of him and repeating a name or even the word "this" innumerable times. For philosophical problems arise when language goes on holiday. And here we may indeed fancy naming to be some remarkable act of mind, as it were a baptism of an object. And we can also say the word "this" to the object, as it were address the object as "this"—a queer use of this word, which doubtless only occurs in doing philosophy.


  1. This "not" seems over-strong. If the various OL uses of 'name' form a family, with various resemblances, then it is likely that Russell's choice of word, though not at the heart of the family, has some resemblance to members of it. It may have more resemblance to them than to other families.
  2. Again, this seems excessive - indeed, it hardly reads like normal W. at all.
  3. In OL we do not say these things. But Russell is trying to do philosophy, not live ordinary life.
  4. Perhaps W. here is trying so hard to exorcise the ghost of Russell, and his old self, that he exceeds his brief. "Precisely characteristic" sounds over-strong, given his view of family resemblances. He appears to be giving necessary and sufficient conditions for 'name' to be correctly used...
  5. The general methodological problem here is that Russell could - and did - respond that W. is not offering a criticism of philosophy; he is merely refusing to engage in it. Physicists presumably don't take language on holiday; why shouldn't philosophers be behaving like physicists? He is refusing to consider the possibility that, in his own terms, philosophy is an extraordinary FoL, with real problems (not puzzles or pseudo-problems). Extraordinary reflection - perhaps initially non-linguistic - leads to extraordinary thoughts and problems. Then, because communicating and recording these problems is naturally difficult in OL, philosophers sometimes highjack a word from OL, and give it an adjusted meaning. Perhaps this is unwisel, but as a community of users, in their EFoL, they have come to understand what 'name' is to be communally taken to mean; how it is to be used. If this is the situation, it is irrelevant to complain that 'this' is not called a 'name' in OL. So what? An astronaut on the International Space Station is not called 'heavy' in OL as he floats around; that's not a criticism of Physics, where he is called 'heavy'.