§50. What does it mean to say that we can attribute neither being nor non-being
to elements?—One might say: if everything that we call "being" and "non-being"
consists in the existence and non-existence of connexions between elements, it
makes no sense to speak of an element's being (non-being); just as when
everything that we call "destruction" lies in the separation of elements, it
makes no sense to speak of the destruction of an element.
One would, however, like to say: existence cannot be attributed to an element, for if it did not exist, one could not even name it and so one could say nothing at all of it.—But let us consider an analogous case. There is one thing of which one can say neither that it is one metre long, nor that it is not one metre long, and that is the standard metre in Paris.—But this is, of course, not to ascribe any extraordinary property to it, but only to mark its peculiar role in the language-game of measuring with a metre-rule.—Let us imagine samples of colour being preserved in Paris like the standard metre. We define: "sepia" means the colour of the standard sepia which is there kept hermetically sealed. Then it will make no sense to say of this sample either that it is of this colour or that it is not.
We can put it like this: This sample is an instrument of the language used in ascriptions of colour. In this language-game it is not something that is represented, but is a means of representation.—And just this goes for an element in language-game (48) when we name it by uttering the word "R": this gives this object a role in our language-game; it is now a means of representation. And to say "If it did not exist, it could have no name" is to say as much and as little as: if this thing did not exist, we could not use it in our language-game.—What looks as if it had to exist, is part of the language. It is a paradigm in our language-game; something with which comparison is made. And this may be an important observation; but it is none the less an observation concerning our language-game—our method of representation.