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By Marie Mcginn

Marie McGinn offers a transparent, finished, and unique interpretation of Wittgenstein's Tractatus and of its relation to Wittgenstein's later paintings. The Tractatus is without doubt one of the most renowned works of early analytic philosophy, the translation of which has continuously been an issue for controversy and is presently the point of interest for an enormous philosophical debate.

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Extra resources for Elucidating the Tractatus: Wittgenstein's Early Philosophy of Language and Logic

Example text

The importance of the insight into the essence of representation is, not that it will enable us to legislate concerning the boundary between sense and nonsense, but that it makes clear both the possibility and the importance of a certain sort of critical attitude towards the words we utter. It is not that Wittgenstein can tell us in advance whether words, as they are uttered on a particular occasion, do or do not express a thought, but that he wants us to come to recognize that, if our words express a thought, then we can make that thought clear.

Diamond and Conant take these opening remarks to be an ironic expression of a philosophical perspective on the relation between language and the world; they are intended to exemplify the sort of philosophy of language that, on their reading, Wittgenstein is out to undermine. Thus, the aim of Wittgenstein’s work as a whole is ultimately to show that these remarks are plain nonsense and that the possibility of the perspective they purport to adopt is an illusion. The interpretation to be developed here will argue, by contrast, that the kind of reassessment that Wittgenstein ultimately intends us to make concerning the opening remarks is one on which we recognize that they do not have the metaphysical status we initially suppose.

It might be argued that there is a danger of missing exactly what is most original in Wittgenstein’s early thought, if we approach the task of interpreting Wittgenstein’s ideas from a perspective in which the question of influence is central. The obscurity of Wittgenstein’s text makes the danger even greater than it might otherwise be, for there is a temptation to use what is familiar from the thought of his contemporaries as a guide to Wittgenstein’s views. Yet there is good reason to believe that the Tractatus is Wittgenstein’s attempt to pursue the question about the nature of a proposition and the status of logic in a way that he believes to be both innovative and distinct from the approaches of Frege and Russell.

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