59. "A name signifies only what is an element of reality. What cannot be destroyed; what remains the same in all changes."—But what is that?—"Why, it swam before our minds as we said the sentence!" This was the very expression of a quite particular image: of a particular picture which we (i.e. the interlocutor) want to use (wrongly). For certainly experience does not show us these elements. (In experience) we see component parts of something composite (of a chair, for instance). We say that the back is part of the chair, but is in turn itself composed of several bits of wood; while a leg is a simple component part. We also see a whole which changes (is destroyed) while its component parts remain unchanged (if we take the chair to pieces). (All this, which is our normal experience of things in the world, is fine) These are the materials from which we construct that (wrong) picture of reality (According to which the process of breaking things into components ends with the elementary parts of reality, which words in our language purely name)


  1. The interlocutor is persisting in his exposition of the Tractatus "picture" or "image". In that work the atomic elements of reality, and the atomic facts which are pictured by sentences involving the names of these elements, are not considered to be matters of experience. Whatever they are, they must exist; they are necessary for language to work - or at least for the working of a language that is properly ordered (ideal, logical), but they are not 'redness', or 'leg': "Experience does not show us these elements". In the Tractatus he gives no examples of what they are.
  2. Notice his uncharacteristically strong and definite "certainly" - he is very touchy, understandably, about those aspects of his earlier theory that he now thinks are utterly wrong.
  3. What we get in experience is all fine; we can break the chair into component parts, fix them back together, discuss parts that need changing, and so on. The pieces are smaller than the whole chair. The chair is made of its pieces, fitted together. Without the parts, there would be no chair. This is unproblematic; it is how the world is; this is our experience of it. But this does not imply (c.p. the end of §60) that when I say "Bring me that chair!" I mean (necessarilyx) some kind of molecular claim, which is the conjunction of many atomic statements about the atomic elements of reality (c.p. §60).