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
Version 2: January 2011
- 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
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
- 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.
- He has chosen 'game' for this exposition merely because he segued into
this discussion via the interlocutor's demand for a definition of 'language
- 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.