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Assertion, Saying, and Propositional Complexity in Wittgenstein's <i>Tractatus</i>

Colin Johnston

in The Oxford Handbook of Wittgenstein

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199287505
Published online January 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199287505.003.0004

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

 Assertion, Saying, and Propositional Complexity in Wittgenstein's Tractatus

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Ludwig Wittgenstein responds in his Notes on Logic to a discussion of Bertrand Russell's 1903 Principles of Mathematics concerning assertion. In Principles of Mathematics, Russell makes a distinction between asserted and unasserted propositions. Whilst this distinction is not given a fully worked-out account, Russell sees it as a point of considerable theoretical importance. It is introduced in the context of a separation by Russell of modus ponens from the proposition that ‘if p and q be propositions then p together with p implies q’. In reply to Russell, Wittgenstein argues that ‘Assertion is merely psychological. In not-p, p is exactly the same as if it stands alone; this point is absolutely fundamental’. Wittgenstein's response is intriguing, not least because of the centrality to his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus of the idea that a proposition says something.

Keywords: Ludwig Wittgenstein; Notes on Logic; Bertrand Russell; Principles of Mathematics; assertion; propositions; modus ponens; Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus

Article.  9492 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Philosophy of Language ; History of Western Philosophy

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