Realism Behind the Reduction in Wittgenstein’s Tractatus

Quaestio 16:225-243 (2016)
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The paper deals with the controversial issue of realism in Wittgenstein’s Tractatus. Most of the problems are grounded in the logical-linguistic foundation of important ontological notions given within the text (such as object, state of affairs, fact, etc.). This has led some scholars to think that there is no conception of the world in the Tractatus that is independent of language and that in his work Wittgenstein is simply engaged in a logical investigation of what it is essential for any language to represent reality. Therefore, no conclusions about a transcendent world can be drawn from it. Here we argue that it is true that the author of the Tractatus is engaged in a logical investigation, conducted a priori and internal to language, on the conditions that are (or have to be) satisfied by any significant language. However, what such an investigation reveals, given one of these languages, is the necessity to presuppose a world made in a certain way and transcendent to the language that pretends to describe it. Two issues are considered to clarify the sense of the realism of the Tractatus — that of the existence of simple objects, and that of the truth of propositions — and a new interpretative schema for the text is advanced.

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Giambattista Formica
Pontifical Urbaniana University


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