This study is an interpretation and defence of Saul Kripke's essay Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language (WRPL). Kripke's essay is, in turn, an interpretation and defence of one central theme in Ludwig Wittgenstein's principal work Philosophical Investigations (PI). Kripke insists that, in advocating Wittgenstein's views, he is not speaking for himself: “Primarily I can be read, except in a few obvious asides, as almost like an attorney presenting a major philosophical argument as it struck me” (WRPL: ix). Kripke is trying to make Wittgenstein's ideas as strong and convincing as possible, without however committing himself to their truth. This book is bolder – or more foolhardy: it seeks to show that the position Kripke attributes to Wittgenstein is the right one.
In this chapter I put forward my interpretation of WRPL. The categories I develop in the process will also be central for classifying different critical responses to Kripke's book. Not everything I develop here will be defended at length in later chapters. For instance, only in this chapter shall I comment on Kripke's suggestion concerning important resemblances between Berkeley, Hume and Wittgenstein, and only here shall I summarize and endorse Kripke's criticism of the “qualia theory” or the “use theory”. I shall not deal further with the former topic since its more detailed discussion would take us too far afield. And I shall say no more on the latter, since at least this part of Kripke's book has not proved controversial. Finally, I shall confine my summary and interpretation to Chapters 2 and 3 of WRPL.