Subject and Object

David G. Stern

in Wittgenstein on Mind and Language

Published in print March 1995 | ISBN: 9780195080001
Published online February 2006 | e-ISBN: 9780199786145 | DOI:
 Subject and Object

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This chapter argues that the ontology of the Tractatus is best understood as the consequence of Wittgenstein’s conception of logic and representation in general, and the postulate of the determinacy of sense in particular. Once it is recognized that Wittgenstein arrived at the idea of simple objects based on an abstract argument about the nature of complexes and analysis without providing any specific examples of such analyses, it is easy to see the need for caution in attributing any characteristics to the objects over and above those demanded by Wittgenstein’s logicolinguistic commitments. Commentators have taken the Tractatus to be setting out a bewildering variety of highly specific views about the nature of objects. But the truth is that the book is so programmatic that its ontology can be elaborated in any number of ways. The final section of this chapter analyzes Wittgenstein’s treatment of the self in the Tractatus and his writing from the 1930s as a central example of the extreme tensions between the positivisistic doctrines stated in the Tractatus and the antipositivistic subtext it aims to convey or “show”: if the exoteric doctrine of the Tractatus is that there is no such thing as the subject of experience, the esoteric doctrine is that there is. This leads to a close reading of his proposal in the early 1930s that is considered a “subjectless” language as a way of clarifying the nature of experience, and his subsequent critique of the notions of the “metaphysical self” and the “visual world”. He had transmuted the difference between the first person and third person modes of speech into differences between two worlds and then had tried to put them back together again.

Keywords: Wittgenstein; Tractatus; objects; ontology; sense; determinacy; logic; simples; subject; self

Chapter.  19854 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Philosophy of Language

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