Wittgenstein remarks that “What belongs to a language game is a whole culture”, and that describing the language games in which the “words we call expressions of aesthetic judgement” are used implies describing “the culture of a period” (LA 1966: 8).Without aiming at a full reconstruction, the paper addresses the gradual emergence of the close conceptual connection between “language game” and “culture” in Wittgenstein’s manuscripts. The apparently obvious idea that “language game” and “form of life” (or “culture”) belong together or even coincide was originally missing. The paper picks out few episodes from Wittgenstein’s philosophical development. The first chapter shows that the topic of cultural diversity emerges in Wittgenstein’s reception of Oswald Spengler’s The Decline of the West, but still plays only a limited role in his first criticism of James Frazer’s The Golden Bough. The second chapter discusses the emergence of the term “language game” and establishes that Wittgenstein’s first language games do not yet imply something like an “anthropological view”. Real and imaginary “peoples” and “tribes” make their first appearance in remarks that ascribe a “primitive” arithmetic to them (chapter 3). Finally, with an eye to the possible influence of Sraffa and Malinowski, the fourth section shows how the Brown Book conceives translation as holistic cultural comparison.
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