67. I can think of no better expression to characterize these similarities than "family resemblances"; for the various resemblances between members of a family: build, features, colour of eyes, gait, temperament, etc. etc. overlap and criss-cross in the same way.—And I shall say: 'games' form a family.
And for instance the kinds of number form a family in the same way. Why do we call something a "number"? Well, perhaps because it has a—direct—relationship with several things that have hitherto been called 'number'; and this can be said to give it an indirect relationship to other things we call the same name. And we extend our concept of number as in spinning a thread we twist fibre on fibre. And the strength of the thread does not reside in the fact that some one fibre runs through its whole length, but in the overlapping of many fibres.
But if someone wished to say: "There is something common to all these constructions—namely the disjunction of all their common properties"—I should reply: Now you are only playing with words. One might as well say: "Something runs through the whole thread—namely the continuous overlapping of those fibres".

 

ELUCIDATION

Version 2: January 2011

  1. The word 'game' is used to refer to activities which are related like the members of what is called a human 'family'. I have close relatives, and more distant relatives, and relatives that are very distant. They are related in various ways; they resemble each other in some ways, but not in others. They have no single thing in common - which is to say, they have no essential characteristic, no essence that makes them 'my family'. For example, if I decide to invite my family to my wedding, I can start with my parents and my sister, but should I include Auntie Maud? Should I include my cousin Alfred? What about my second cousins? There is no clear boundary beyond which what we call 'my family' definitively ends. And this is to say that there is no definition 'of 'my family'.
  2. There is no reason to think that 'game' is in this respect unusual. Indeed, W.'s discussion indicates that it is typical - notably by his immediate, tendentious, reference to 'number'. The thought that this might apply to almost all the everyday words we use can be somewhat dizzying.
  3. He has chosen 'game' for this exposition merely because he segued into this discussion via the interlocutor's demand for a definition of 'language game'.
  4. We could roughly say that 'game' is fuzzy, but this is not in the technical sense of 'fuzzy logic'. This is because in fuzzy logic P: "Z is a game" is taken to be truex, where x is a number from 0 to 1 which indicates the extent to which P is true. For example, "Philip is bald" is 0.8 true". W. is not committed to this view.