Ethics in the Tractatus. A Condition of the Possibility of Meaning?

In Martin Stokhof & Hao Tang (eds.), Wittgenstein's Tractatus at 100. Springer Verlag. pp. 57-76 (2023)
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Abstract

My aim in this chapter is to explore an analogy between logic and ethics, as Wittgenstein understands them in the Tractatus. First, I argue that Wittgenstein regards logic as a condition of the possibility of meaning, in the sense that logic makes meaningful language and thought possible. Second, I ask why Wittgenstein calls both logic and ethics ‘transcendental’. I suggest that, while logic is a condition of the possibility of semantic meaning, ethics is a condition of the possibility of existential meaning. Without ethics, life could not be meaningful. Third, I show that harmony and agreement play a crucial role in Wittgenstein’s accounts of logic and ethics. A meaningful proposition can be true or false, a meaningful life can be happy or unhappy, and both truth and happiness consist in some kind of harmony or agreement with reality.

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