Article

Ludwig Wittgenstein: Early Works

Denis McManus

in Philosophy

ISBN: 9780195396577
Published online May 2010 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0126
Ludwig Wittgenstein: Early Works

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Ludwig Wittgenstein is one of the few widely recognized great philosophers of the 20th century. His career is typically—though not uncontroversially—divided into an early and late phase, each associated with a particular magnum opus: the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (TLP) and the Philosophical Investigations respectively. This entry focuses on the first of these phases. TLP is a short but difficult work that explores questions of logic, ontology, subjectivity, language, ethics, and metaphilosophy. It is a work for which its author had stratospheric ambitions, claiming that its “definitive” and “unassailable” truths provide “on all essential points, the final solution” to the problems of philosophy (TLP preface), and it represents one of the founding works of analytic philosophy. Nevertheless, most commentators, following Wittgenstein’s own later judgment, now regard TLP as an insightful but ultimately confused piece of work. Saying precisely what that confusion is has never been easy and is made significantly more difficult by the fact that, in TLP’s penultimate paragraph, we read: “He who understands me finally recognizes my propositions as nonsensical,” as rungs of a “ladder” that “he must so to speak throw away . . . after he has climbed up on it.” Different responses to this infamous remark (including ignoring it) have always played an important role in the interpretation of TLP, and recent discussion of TLP has been dominated by one in particular, that of so-called “resolute” readings (and by responses to that response). Exactly what it is for a reading of TLP to be “resolute” is a controversial issue, but one central commitment is a rejection of the notion that TLP’s propositions, though nonsensical, are somehow meant to convey certain inexpressible philosophical insights. Discussion of what one might call the more “material” topics of TLP—logic, ontology, subjectivity, etc.—continues intensely. But the debate between “resolute” readers and their critics concerning the kind of work TLP is (and the kinds of objectives it sets for itself) currently provides—some feel, unhelpfully—a shaping context for much of that discussion. In what follows, the literature is divided up into a number of distinct categories; but, as will be apparent, there is a certain artificiality to many of the distinctions in question. Readers should take care to read the commentary that accompanies each set of citations: one will find references to other relevant items listed for various reasons under other headings. Readers ought not to assume that the topics with fewest citations “of their own” are less intensively discussed or that these particular citations are the most important for the topics in question. (The literature in this area is, of course, large and has burgeoned in recent years; in constructing this bibliography I have had the benefit of the views of a number of colleagues and I would like to thank Cora Diamond, Oskari Kuusela, Adrian Moore, Ian Proops, Peter Sullivan and Daniel Whiting.)

Article.  7640 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art ; Epistemology ; Feminist Philosophy ; History of Western Philosophy ; Metaphysics ; Moral Philosophy ; Non-Western Philosophy ; Philosophy of Language ; Philosophy of Law ; Philosophy of Mathematics and Logic ; Philosophy of Mind ; Philosophy of Religion ; Philosophy of Science ; Social and Political Philosophy

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