“Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus” – Ludwig JJ Wittgenstein

Ludwig J.J. Wittgenstein was an Austrian philosopher. His interests revolved around logic, philosophy of mathematics, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of language. His magnum opus Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, (TLP) i.e. Logisch-Philosophische Abhandlung attempts to unite the four disciplines, while also touching upon questions of ethics, the existence of God and the human soul. TLP reveals the idealizing element within language. It shows how language naturally tends towards becoming a formal system. Analyzing this tendency helps us clear away linguistic misconceptions, helps rid our minds of false perspectives and “see the world aright” (TLP). Without a doubt, an instance of arrogance is observed on Wittgenstein’s part; to attempt to define the world, through the medium of language or other as a finite whole. It seems Wittgenstein is attempting to step outside of the world, so to speak, and survey reality from a transcendent, divine perspective – the perspective of God. Such a perspective is simultaneously the most just, inhumanly just perhaps, since it attempts to render the world and therefore language, entirely transparent. The source of injustice, being the tendency of the human mind to be clouded by language. Wittgenstein’s philosophy is also a very peaceful one, for the source of injustice is not this or that person or group which needs to be reformed, isolated or annihilated – it is language itself; or more precisely: The Entropy of language. Our everyday forms of expression contain certain uncontrollable elements, weeds so to speak, that need to be removed with the use of Logic. Not logic as a specific axiomatic system, an artificial language, but that instance within language, which unites all the different formal systems, the natural propensity of the human language (and the human mind) to cleanse itself and remove all the extra bulk, the misunderstandings, the noise – all the evil. Wittgenstein was obsessed with articulation. It was essential for a thought be articulate, but this attempt at articulation was far from a despotic, policing attempt to turn language into a rigid, dry, docile system of inputs and outputs – far from it, the strictness which Wittgenstein demanded would bring the most poetic elements of language into life, a new vitality of language is revealed, especially where Wittgenstein talks about Logic and Mathematics.

“Logical propositions describe the scaffolding of the World” (TLP, 6.124)

“Logic is not a theory, but a reflection of the World” (TLP, 6.13)

“The logic of the World which the propositions of logic show in tautologies, mathematics shows in equations” (TLP, 6.22)

The TLP is made of 7 propositions, these are the propositions of God. These propositions activate the world of the Philosopher and allow him to comprehend it entirely. The World is a totality of facts, made up of combinations of objects, the sum total of what is and is not the case, every proposition, which mirrors a thought on one side and the facts on the other, together with the negation of every proposition, is what constitutes reality. Propositions are like pictures, they contain the seeds of the states of affairs which they depict. Different elements within the picture correspond to different objects within the fact. There is a one-to-one correspondence between parts of the picture and parts of the fact. Wittgenstein’s World is extremely architectonic, the facts of reality are direct projections of propositions, which in turn are direct projections of thoughts.

These are the 7 propositions of God:

  1. The world is everything that is the case.
  2. What is a case –a fact– is the existence of states of affairs.
  3. A logical picture of facts is a thought.
  4. A thought is  a proposition with a sense.
  5. A proposition is a truth-function of elementary propositions. (An elementary proposition is a truth-function of itself).
  6. The general form of a truth function is [F, Z, N(Z)] .This is the general form of a proposition.
  7. What we cannot speak about, we must pass over in silence
  • P 1: The outline of the world. A a rough sketch of the circle.
  • P 2: This proposition initiates us into the particularities of Wittgenstein’s world. It divides into objects and their combination – the facts.
  • P 3: The duality of pictures and thoughts: Pictures consist of elements and elements are interrelated in the same way as the objects of the facts. Thinking is picturing a fact.
  • P 4: The sense of a proposition is its truth value. It either belongs to the True, or to the False. The truth or falsity of the proposition depends on the state of the world. If the different parts of the proposition are arranged the same way as the objects in the world, then the proposition is true. Otherwise, it is false, it may still, nevertheless be a logical proposition, it may picture a possible world instead of the actual one. ” … the picture is linked with reality; it reaches up to it. It is like a scale applied to reality.” (TLP, 2.1511, 2.1512).                                                                            “The totality of propositions is language (TLP, 4.001). Language is a fixed set of countable propositions. Language is a calculus, a machine. A very strict game with a limited amount of rules, operations or transformations. Language is a closed system. “Man possesses the capacity of constructing languages, in which every sense can be expressed, without having an idea how and what each word means — just as one speaks without knowing how the single sounds are produced. /Colloquial language is a part of the human organism and is not less complicated than it./ From it, it is humanly impossible to gather immediately the logic of language./ Language disguises the thought; so that from the external form of the clothes one cannot infer the form of the thought they clothe, because the external form of the clothes is constructed with quite another object than to let the form of the body be recognized./ The silent adjustments to understand colloquial language are enormously complicated (TLP, 4.002).” Logic aims at stripping the language of its outer shell to reveal thought in its pure form.
  • P 5: Logic reveals the pure structure of language. The structure is a construction, its building blocks are truth functions, which link complex propositions (their truth values) with their constituent, simpler propositions. The foundation is made up of pure tautologies, atomic propositions which are inherently true, they are truth functions of themselves. For instance “P or Not P” (Either something is the case, or it is not). Such a proposition is always true. This is where one begins to build. Interesting to note, how the English word build resembles the German word Bild, which means a picture.
  • P 6: This proposition touches upon the philosophy of mathematics. It is rather complicated. It will be discussed within a separate post.
  • P 7: This marks the exit point of Wittgenstein’s philosophy. Everything that can be said clearly can be articulated within the logic of our language and everything else which is illogical or seems to reach out beyond the world, language, or meaningful discourse must be passed over in silence. “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent” (TLP, 7).



“You have to be outside of the world to describe it completely.”

Fun fact: Hitler and Wittgenstein attended the same school, at the same time.

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