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Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus

4.05 of 5 stars 4.05  ·  rating details  ·  8,125 ratings  ·  264 reviews
Originally published in German in Annalen der Naturphilosophie, 1921 under title: Logisch-Philosophische Abhandlung. In it Wittgenstein defined the object of philosophy as the logical clarification of thoughts & proposed the solution to most philosophic problems by means of a critical method of linguistic analysis. Beginning with the principles of symbolism, the author...more
Paperback, 188 pages
Published 1989 by Athenaeum - Polak & Van Gennep (first published 1921)
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What can I say about Tractatus that hasn't been said a million times before? Crystalline... gnomic... dense... wrong. Well, I don't disagree with any of that, but it would be nice to have an image. I ask my subconscious if it can come up with anything, and while I'm in the shower it shows me the sequence from Terry Gilliam's 1988 movie The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, where John Neville and Eric Idle build a hot air balloon made entirely from women's lingerie.


I am about to smack my subconscio...more
Sep 19, 2007 Robin rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: students of 20th Century philosophy
Shelves: philosophy
The ingenious work which, had it been true, would have provided a firm foundation for Positivism and provided justification for Philosophy's existence. It also would have pretty much been the last word on the nature of and philosophical limits of language. Instead Wittgenstein repudiated this view and put a nail in the coffin with P.I.

Elegant, minimal, logically crystalline. And mostly wrong.

Adam Floridia to rate a book you didn't understand at all--that is the question. Maybe like this: (?)

1. Here the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus is everything that is the case.

1.1 It is the case because it is the subject of this review.

1.11 This review is determined by facts. In this case, all the facts that I came up with while reading the case.

1.12. The subject cannot include facts that are not the case because the totality of existent facts determines what is the case, and whatever is not the ca...more
I was just going to write, “Of what we cannot speak we must remain silent,” as my review. The book ends with this rather affected proposition, which actually would make a perfect book review for me as well. However, it’s an abomination to read (or pretend to have done so) a book of this stature (supposedly the most important philosophical book of the 20th century, no less) and not write a paragraph or two about it.

Wittgenstein wrote this book in the trenches and P.O.W. camps of World War I. At t...more
Wittgenstein was deathly afraid of uttering nonsense; whereas I, clearly, am not—how else could I stomach writing so many book reviews?

This book is a work of high art—beautiful, austere, and sweeping. Wittgenstein is self-consciously attempting to speak the unspeakable—in his opinion, at least—which is why the language is so succinct and severe. He has no use for literary niceties, flowing prose, or extended exposition. One gets the feeling that, for Wittgenstein, writing philosophy is repugnan...more
Leo Robertson
What the hell am I supposed to say about this?

The parts I understood were hugely inspirational to my own thoughts, if I did indeed understand those parts, which I suspect I did not.

What a shame that someone so clever who had decided that this book was the be-all and end-all to problems in philosophy could only communicate them in a form that often eludes human comprehension.

It's like the saying that if the human brain were simple enough for us to understand it then we would be too stupid to do s...more
William West
First of all, it should be acknowledged that my entire philosophical background is in continental, rather than analytic, thought. I come to Wittgenstein with very little context. The only other philosophers Wittgenstein directly references in the Tractatus are Frege and Russell, neither of whom I have studied. My only preparation for reading this was a (very good) book by Anthony Rudd that compared Wittgenstein's work with that of Heidegger, finding unexpected similarities in their projects. Bot...more
In 1992, the SF writer William Gibson published Agrippa (a book of the dead) in floppy-disk form, a poem about his late father and the Memento-ish evanescence of memory, which encrypted itself after reading (i.e. you could only read it once). A rarer, analog edition was even printed with photosensitive chemicals that would degrade the ink upon exposure to light. (Two copies had to be sent to the Library of Congress, one to read so it could be catalogued, the other to be archived, forever unread....more
Jan 29, 2008 Gabriel rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Recommended to Gabriel by: Nick Smaligo
Wittgenstein says explicitly in the introduction of the book that no one has not already had these thoughts will be able to understand it, and should therefore not read it. No doubt this had a great affect on the size of The Tractatus' readership.

I, having not fully had many of these thoughts, was nonetheless absolutely THRILLED by the book--it's abstruseness notwithstanding--to the point where I would bring it up in conversation with absolute strangers, which, needless to say, affected the num...more
Patience is necessary if you're not within philosophy academia, like myself. It's not light reading but, conversely, Wittgenstein is not heavy material. In fact, it's the strict, disciplined simplicity of his ideas that adds some difficulty. The book ends on a fantastic note, either an affirmation or a haymaker to the field of philosophy. I'm still unsure which.
Jon Stout
Jul 30, 2010 Jon Stout rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: poets and evangelists
Recommended to Jon by: Ambi Mani
Shelves: philosophy
If I may use a crude simile for illustration, Wittgenstein says that knowledge, or language, or science, is like a pile of cordwood. Each piece of wood is a proposition that mirrors or pictures a fact in the world. The pieces of wood are stacked on top of each other according to the logical rules for concatenating propositions, including implication (for causation) and universal quantifiers (for scientific principles). The pile of wood rests on a bottom layer of “elementary propositions,” of whi...more
John Doe
I don't know if it is true that you can't tell a person how to live. People seem to do it all the time. That is what mentoring and psychotherapy are. But, Wittgenstein wanted to die for some reason, so during the first world war he joined the Austrian military and volunteered for the most dangerous assignments (hoping he would be killed in the line of duty). He was given metals.

In an Italian POW camp, he wrote this book wherein he claimed to have solved all of the problems of philosophy (at lea...more
Like many young American readers, I made the mistake of reading the bulk of this text in an In-N-Out, and now it is difficult for me to think about elementary propositions without thinking about someone ordering a cheeseburger, and, subsequently, thinking about the relationship between the sign of "cheeseburger" and the atomic fact of the cheeseburger it refers to. Wittgenstein orders his cheeseburger with the totality of everything that is the case. And he eats the whole thing in under 100 page...more
I love this book, and I am not sure why. I actually pick it up time-to-time and it is really a book that can't be defined by words - I think about it and it's almost abstract. And that is the essence of the book. How do you define something abstract into words - and are words enough to describe something that can't be said, but can be felt?
Rowland Bismark
Mathematics is a logical method derived from the repeated application of operations. The number 2, for instance, is the exponent given to an operation that is applied twice. Thus, the propositions of mathematics do not say anything about the world, but only reflect the method in which propositions are constructed.

The laws of science are not logical laws, nor are they empirical observations. Rather, they constitute an interpretive method, by means of which we can more accurately describe reality....more
Nick Black
A beautiful little book about language and thought, done in by Wittgenstein's lack of mathematical training to this point (it was written in the trenches of the Austro-Hungarian ostfront and the Italian POW camps of Cassino, and published only with the help of Russell and Ogden -- indeed, Ogden gave the book its title). Look to the Philosophical Investigations for "Wittgenstein II", the much more useful side of Ludwig's career (well after he'd left Logical Positivism behind), but read the Trac...more
This is a classic of the era of logical postivism. With the blessing of Bertrand Russell it became an influential text at least until its author threw it overboard for a new approach with his Philosophical Investigations.
The early Wittgenstein was concerned with the relationship between propositions and the world, and hoped that by providing an account of this relationship all philosophical problems could be solved; these problems arise, he thought, because the logic of language is not evident...more
I had a hard time thinking of how to rate this book. It was, literally, amazing. It also made me miserable.

Do I recognize its genius? Yes, to the extent possible. Do I like it? Only in the abstract.
Les Johnson
The TLP is probably just about the best account of a wrong idea about how language functions. Wittgenstein's later work attacks the fundamental idea in TLP and replaces it with another that was also hugely influential, not least because it also represented a new attitude to doing philosophy.

We can read the TLP as though the question it answers is: "How does language get a grip on the world?" As though language was like ivy on a wall and we ask what is under the surface of leaves that we can not...more
David Markson made some funny aphorisms regarding Harold Bloom's claim to The New York Times that he could read 500 pages in an hour (highly dubious):

"Writer's arse.

Spectacular exhibition! Right this way ladies and gentlemen! See Professor Bloom read the 1961 corrected and reset Random House edition of James Joyce's Ulysses in one hour and thirty-three minutes. Not one page stinted. Unforgettable!

... What's this? Can't spare an hour and a half? Wait, wait. Our matinee special, today only! Watch...more
A friend told me that someone bringing Wittgenstein up in a conversation was the very definition of pretentiousness. So I'm pretentious. Live with it. Even though part of the reason that I read this was to impress my friends, I also hoped to gain something from it. Wittgenstein, after all, is an interesting character. In the end, I'm not sure that I gained much from the book---I don't feel bad about this, since Wittgenstein told the philosophers of his day who had embraced the book that they tot...more
Tractatus gave me a dull, achy throbbing behind my eyes. I have to admit most of it is beyond me. I made attempts to research the sudden downpour of terms, but even wikipedia was no help. I flashed back to my struggles with Baudrillard and his nonsense. He does appear to be pretty pompous when he makes adjustments to Russell's and Frege's work. Thankfully, by the fourth of seven points, I began to grasp a little of his thinking, though I may never understand what's going on with those formulas.

La pointe de la sauce
The seminal work of Ludwig Wittgenstein and it reads like poetry. There is something inherently wrong with Tractatus, it seems logically sound when you take its elements or logical propositions one at at time, however when you work it all into one unified body there are many conflicts. Wittgenstein bothers me because there is something snotty about how he presents his work, its like he's trying to pick a fight and has set the playing field exactly how he wants it.

Anyway, it sounded a bit too pr...more
I am in no way a logician, so the formally technical passages of this work were lost on me, but Wittgenstein's more classical philosophical musings (even though he later refuted many of them) were consistent with the worldview in which I most often operate. I read in them many precursors to postmodern literary theory, with a healthy dose of solipsism. It is certainly an intellectually engaging work, even for those of us for whom the many equations are all but unintelligible, and even in such cas...more
Erik Graff
Nov 27, 2013 Erik Graff rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Russell & Wittgenstein fans
Recommended to Erik by: Bill Ellos
Shelves: philosophy
I read this thing at the old Volume II bookstore on Sheridan Road across from Loyola University Chicago on the recommendation of Father Bill Ellos, S.J., the philosophy professor there whom I was serving as a teaching assistant. It was a quick read. Like all of Wittgenstein, it was readily accessible.

The Tractatus is like a philosophical science fiction story. What if Bertrand Russell's logical atomism were the case? Wittgenstein draws the implications. Of course, it isn't the case given the cur...more
Frustrating. Except for some fragmental notions I could not understand what is he talking about. I thought I could understand it better if I had some knowledge of modern logic, but then I learned Russell did not understand it too which gives me little chance I could ever catch up with him. And the final blow - later Wittgenstein himself thought he was wrong. Usually I try to understand even wrong thoughts as it can be extremely fruitful, but this time, given the arbitrary unintelligibility of th...more

1. If B follows from A, then A contains B. If A = B then A can be substituted for B and B for A.
2. It follows from this that all logical propositions, all numbers, and all mathematical problems are tautological.
3. It follows from this that what I am writing is tautological.
4. It follows from this that I am a very witty and ironic fellow, or that I'm wrong.
5. Ignoring these difficulties, what follows is logical positivism—that is, despite my denial of induction and causality as a law of nature.
Jack Waters
The world is everything that is the case. I understood maybe 1/5th of this short treatise on language, logic, solipsism and philosophy. But even that was enough to make it on this top ten list. The 1/5th understanding is after reading it three times, by the way. He's a poetic philosopher, so what he is saying is either 100 percent or zero percent clear. I wanted to read this a few times before starting his other works, so I will begin those in 2011.
Perhaps one of the only philosophical masterpieces that you can read in a couple of days, or perhaps even in one afternoon if you're a quick reader. I cannot pretend that I understand everything about this book, neither can I pretend that I even get the essence of it right. However, I feel amazed by the brave attempt of Ludwig to literary 'cut the crap' out of the philosophy. His insight that the laws of logic are tautologies is brilliant. We cannot talk about the things that matter most to us (...more
Mark Sacha
Apart from an embarrassingly annotated volume of Nietzsche I owned in high school, I've read very little philosophy. Fortunate for me, Witty says its all a load of crap (not really, just the way that it's often rendered, or in his view, misinterpreted). Having some background in logic will help immensely in reading this book, which contains very little theory per se and is organized so that the language mimics the internal logic of its assertions, much in the way that its author alleges that ima...more
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bilingual edition? 5 62 Mar 29, 2013 06:31PM  
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  • Cartesian Meditations: An Introduction to Phenomenology
  • The Problems of Philosophy
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  • Against Method: Outline of an Anarchistic Theory of Knowledge
  • Principia Ethica (Philosophical Classics)
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  • Ethics
  • A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge
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Ludwig Josef Johann Wittgenstein (26 April 1889 – 29 April 1951) was an Austrian-British philosopher who worked primarily in logic, the philosophy of mathematics, the philosophy of mind, and the philosophy of language.

Described by Bertrand Russell as "the most perfect example I have ever known of genius as traditionally conceived, passionate, profound, intense, and dominating", he helped inspire t...more
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