Yet More on Eat, Pray, Love: Following a Rule

Wittgenstein famously and rightly disses attempts to follow rules privately.  But it seems to me that ultimately Gilbert’s quest uncovers as an attempt at just such private rule-following:  she will have her own ritual, her own ceremony, her own meaning.  Sure, she gabs on about these as she does everything else; yet she cannot, and in a way knows she cannot, and in a way she does not want to really share them with anyone else.  To be able to do so would be for them not to be hers. As long as it means something to her, it means something. Admittedly, that sounds tautological.  But given what she wants, it is not.  She wants it to mean something only to her, because then it really means something.  She wants something of more grandeur than a bettle in a box; she wants a Beetle, her Beetle, in the Ark of the Covenant.

 Now someone tells me that he knows what pain is only from his own case!–Suppose everyone had a box with something in it: we call it a “beetle”. No one can look into anyone else’s box, and everyone says he knows what a beetle is only by looking at his beetle.–Here it would be quite possible for everyone to have something different in his box. One might even imagine such a thing constantly changing.–But suppose the word “beetle” had a use in these people’s language?–If so it would not be used as the name of a thing. The thing in the box has no place in the language-game at all; not even as a something: for the box might even be empty.–No, one can ‘divide through’ by the thing in the box; it cancels out, whatever it is. –PI 293

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