Considered by some to be the greatest philosopher of the 20th century, Ludwig Wittgenstein played a central, if controversial, role in 20th-century analytic philosophy. He continues to influence current philosophical thought in topics as diverse as logic and language, perception and intention, ethics and religion, aesthetics and culture. In more recent scholarship, this division has been questioned: some interpreters have claimed a unity between all stages of his thought, while others talk of a more nuanced division, adding stages such as the middle Wittgenstein and the third Wittgenstein. Still, it is commonly acknowledged that the early Wittgenstein is epitomized in his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus.

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Considered by some to be the greatest philosopher of the 20th century, Ludwig Wittgenstein played a central, if controversial, role in 20th-century analytic philosophy.

He continues to influence current philosophical thought in topics as diverse as logic and language, perception and intention, ethics and religion, aesthetics and culture. In more recent scholarship, this division has been questioned: some interpreters have claimed a unity between all stages of his thought, while others talk of a more nuanced division, adding stages such as the middle Wittgenstein and the third Wittgenstein.

Still, it is commonly acknowledged that the early Wittgenstein is epitomized in his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. By showing the application of modern logic to metaphysics, via language, he provided new insights into the relations between world, thought and language and thereby into the nature of philosophy. It is the later Wittgenstein, mostly recognized in the Philosophical Investigations , who took the more revolutionary step in critiquing all of traditional philosophy including its climax in his own early work.

The nature of his new philosophy is heralded as anti-systematic through and through, yet still conducive to genuine philosophical understanding of traditional problems. Wittgenstein was born on April 26, in Vienna, Austria, to a wealthy industrial family, well-situated in intellectual and cultural Viennese circles.

In he began his studies in aeronautical engineering at Manchester University where his interest in the philosophy of pure mathematics led him to Frege. Wittgenstein was idiosyncratic in his habits and way of life, yet profoundly acute in his philosophical sensitivity.

During his years in Cambridge, from to , Wittgenstein conducted several conversations on philosophy and the foundations of logic with Russell, with whom he had an emotional and intense relationship, as well as with Moore and Keynes. He retreated to isolation in Norway, for months at a time, in order to ponder these philosophical problems and to work out their solutions.

In he returned to Austria and in , at the start of World War I — , joined the Austrian army. He was taken captive in and spent the remaining months of the war at a prison camp. It was during the war that he wrote the notes and drafts of his first important work, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus.

After the war the book was published in German and translated into English. It was only in that he returned to Cambridge to resume his philosophical vocation, after having been exposed to discussions on the philosophy of mathematics and science with members of the Vienna Circle, whose conception of logical empiricism was indebted to his Tractatus account of logic as tautologous, and his philosophy as concerned with logical syntax. During these first years in Cambridge his conception of philosophy and its problems underwent dramatic changes that are recorded in several volumes of conversations, lecture notes, and letters e.

In the s and s Wittgenstein conducted seminars at Cambridge, developing most of the ideas that he intended to publish in his second book, Philosophical Investigations. In he prepared the final manuscript of the Philosophical Investigations , but, at the last minute, withdrew it from publication and only authorized its posthumous publication.

For a few more years he continued his philosophical work, but this is marked by a rich development of, rather than a turn away from, his second phase. He traveled during this period to the United States and Ireland, and returned to Cambridge, where he was diagnosed with cancer.

Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus was first published in German in and then translated—by C. Ogden, with F. It was later re-translated by D. Pears and B. It is constructed around seven basic propositions, numbered by the natural numbers 1—7, with all other paragraphs in the text numbered by decimal expansions so that, e.

The world is represented by thought, which is a proposition with sense, since they all—world, thought, and proposition—share the same logical form. Hence, the thought and the proposition can be pictures of the facts.

Starting with a seeming metaphysics, Wittgenstein sees the world as consisting of facts 1 , rather than the traditional, atomistic conception of a world made up of objects. Facts are existent states of affairs 2 and states of affairs, in turn, are combinations of objects. They may have various properties and may hold diverse relations to one another.

Objects combine with one another according to their logical, internal properties. Thus, states of affairs, being comprised of objects in combination, are inherently complex.

The states of affairs which do exist could have been otherwise. This means that states of affairs are either actual existent or possible. It is the totality of states of affairs—actual and possible—that makes up the whole of reality. The world is precisely those states of affairs which do exist. Pictures are made up of elements that together constitute the picture. Each element represents an object, and the combination of elements in the picture represents the combination of objects in a state of affairs.

The logical structure of the picture, whether in thought or in language, is isomorphic with the logical structure of the state of affairs which it pictures.

This leads to an understanding of what the picture can picture; but also what it cannot—its own pictorial form. Logical analysis, in the spirit of Frege and Russell, guides the work, with Wittgenstein using logical calculus to carry out the construction of his system. First, the structure of the proposition must conform to the constraints of logical form, and second, the elements of the proposition must have reference bedeutung.

These conditions have far-reaching implications. The analysis must culminate with a name being a primitive symbol for a simple object. Moreover, logic itself gives us the structure and limits of what can be said at all. This bi-polarity of propositions enables the composition of more complex propositions from atomic ones by using truth-functional operators 5. He delves even deeper by then providing the general form of a truth-function 6.

Having developed this analysis of world-thought-language, and relying on the one general form of the proposition, Wittgenstein can now assert that all meaningful propositions are of equal value. Subsequently, he ends the journey with the admonition concerning what can or cannot and what should or should not be said 7 , leaving outside the realm of the sayable propositions of ethics, aesthetics, and metaphysics. It follows that only factual states of affairs which can be pictured can be represented by meaningful propositions.

This means that what can be said are only propositions of natural science and leaves out of the realm of sense a daunting number of statements which are made and used in language. There are, first, the propositions of logic itself. These do not represent states of affairs, and the logical constants do not stand for objects.

This is not a happenstance thought; it is fundamental precisely because the limits of sense rest on logic. Tautologies and contradictions, the propositions of logic, are the limits of language and thought, and thereby the limits of the world. Obviously, then, they do not picture anything and do not, therefore, have sense.

Propositions which do have sense are bipolar; they range within the truth-conditions drawn by the truth-tables.

The characteristic of being senseless applies not only to the propositions of logic but also to mathematics or the pictorial form itself of the pictures that do represent. These are, like tautologies and contradictions, literally sense-less, they have no sense.

Beyond, or aside from, senseless propositions Wittgenstein identifies another group of statements which cannot carry sense: the nonsensical unsinnig propositions. Nonsense, as opposed to senselessness, is encountered when a proposition is even more radically devoid of meaning, when it transcends the bounds of sense.

While some nonsensical propositions are blatantly so, others seem to be meaningful—and only analysis carried out in accordance with the picture theory can expose their nonsensicality. Wittgenstein does not, however, relegate all that is not inside the bounds of sense to oblivion.

He makes a distinction between saying and showing which is made to do additional crucial work. This applies, for example, to the logical form of the world, the pictorial form, etc. They make themselves manifest. Is, then, philosophy doomed to be nonsense unsinnig , or, at best, senseless sinnlos when it does logic, but, in any case, meaningless? What is left for the philosopher to do, if traditional, or even revolutionary, propositions of metaphysics, epistemology, aesthetics, and ethics cannot be formulated in a sensical manner?

It is an activity of clarification of thoughts , and more so, of critique of language. In other words, by showing them that some of their propositions are nonsense.

For it employs a measure of the value of propositions that is done by logic and the notion of limits. It is here, however, with the constraints on the value of propositions, that the tension in the Tractatus is most strongly felt. It becomes clear that the notions used by the Tractatus —the logical-philosophical notions—do not belong to the world and hence cannot be used to express anything meaningful.

Since language, thought and the world, are all isomorphic, any attempt to say in logic i. That is to say, the Tractatus has gone over its own limits, and stands in danger of being nonsensical. The Tractatus is notorious for its interpretative difficulties. In the decades that have passed since its publication it has gone through several waves of general interpretations. These revolve around the realism of the Tractatus , the notion of nonsense and its role in reading the Tractatus itself, and the reading of the Tractatus as an ethical tract.

There are interpretations that see the Tractatus as espousing realism, i. Such realism is also taken to be manifested in the essential bi-polarity of propositions; likewise, a straightforward reading of the picturing relation posits objects there to be represented by signs. As against these readings, more linguistically oriented interpretations give conceptual priority to the symbolism.

In any case, the issue of realism vs. Subsequently, interpreters of the Tractatus have moved on to questioning the very presence of metaphysics within the book and the status of the propositions of the book themselves. Beyond the bounds of language lies nonsense—propositions which cannot picture anything —and Wittgenstein bans traditional metaphysics to that area. The traditional readings of the Tractatus accepted, with varying degrees of discomfort, the existence of that which is unsayable, that which cannot be put into words, the nonsensical.

More recent readings tend to take nonsense more seriously as exactly that—nonsense. The Tractatus , on this stance, does not point at ineffable truths of, e.

An accompanying discussion must then also deal with how this can be recognized, what this can possibly mean, and how it should be used, if at all. This discussion is closely related to what has come to be called the ethical reading of the Tractatus. And it is precisely this second part that is the important point. Obviously, such seemingly contradictory tensions within and about a text—written by its author—give rise to interpretative conundrums.

There is another issue often debated by interpreters of Wittgenstein, which arises out of the questions above. This has to do with the continuity between the thought of the early and later Wittgenstein.

And again, the more recent interpretations challenge this standard, emphasizing that the fundamental therapeutic motivation clearly found in the later Wittgenstein should also be attributed to the early. The idea that philosophy is not a doctrine, and hence should not be approached dogmatically, is one of the most important insights of the Tractatus. Wittgenstein used this term to designate any conception which allows for a gap between question and answer, such that the answer to the question could be found at a later date.

The complex edifice of the Tractatus is built on the assumption that the task of logical analysis was to discover the elementary propositions, whose form was not yet known.


Ludwig Wittgenstein

Reading Wittgenstein with Anscombe: Going on to Ethics. Cora Diamond. Harvard University Press. Find this book:.


Book Review: Reading Wittgenstein with Anscombe: Going on to Ethics by Cora Diamond

Ludwig Wittgenstein intended the Tractatus to reshape our understanding of what philosophy was and what it could accomplish. She wanted her book to inaugurate a radical change in how the Tractatus was read and understood. This chapter looks at her critique of older readings and at her own approach to the Tractatus. At the end of the Preface, he said that he took himself to have in essence arrived at a definitive solution of such problems. The book was meant to revolutionize philosophical thinking. In the introduction to her book, Anscombe explains why virtually all that has been said about the Tractatus has been fraught with misunderstanding. But the story she tells has problems, and they are the subject of section

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