Rowland Bismark's Reviews > Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus

Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus by Ludwig Wittgenstein
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Jun 18, 10

Read in October, 2005

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. Science is ultimately descriptive, not explanatory.

There is no perspective external to the world from which we can talk about the world or its contents generally. Thus, statements of value (as we find in ethics or aesthetics) are nonsense, since they evaluate the world as a whole. The feeling of life as a limited whole is what Wittgenstein calls "the mystical."

The only correct method in philosophy is to remain silent about philosophical questions, and to point out to anyone who tries to talk philosophy that he or she is talking nonsense. The propositions of theTractatus themselves make general statements about the nature of the world, and so they too are nonsense. They should serve only as a ladder to be climbed and then discarded. "What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence".
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Megan (new) - added it

Megan Luke Because he wrote the Tractatus anyway, it seems to me more that he is being ironic in the last proposition. It is as if he said, "What we cannot speak about, we should pass over in silence, but I cannot resist speaking about it therefore I will," or even, "What we cannot speak logically about, the 'whole picture' of the world, we then must speak about illogically if we are to speak of them and have some self-effacing attitude about it." That is actually something I love about this book. There is something melancholic about it, especially given the context in which it was written, but it also represents (and in susceptible readers, incurs) jouissance, in the poststructural sense.

message 2: by James (new)

James It is impossible not to wonder whether the book is a huge practical joke. (Is there a Poe's Law for philosophy books ?) The book is the Finnegans Wake of philosophy texts - it came out just a year before Ulysses. And like FW, the TLP gives joy. Weird stuff.

message 3: by Megan (new) - added it

Megan Luke To me, it's far too sober to be a practical joke. I think what it gets at is the failure of logical language to describe the world. That can be taken as a joke, or a tragedy, or both. What I love about the piece in particular is the poetic aspect of it, that I guess kind of makes up for what Wittgenstein I think later decided were imperfections in his argument.

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