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Science and the Argument of the Tractatus

Author(s): James Harrington

Journal: Philosophical Frontiers : A Journal of Emerging Thought
ISSN 1758-1532

Volume: 3;
Issue: 2;
Start page: 59;
Date: 2008;
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Keywords: Science | Wittgenstein | language | representation | tractatus

I argue that attention to Wittgenstein’s neglected discussion of physics at Tractatus 6.3-6.4 can shed substantial light on the general philosophical project of the work. In particular, it allows us to find a middle ground between traditional Russellian readings of Tractatus and the contemporary anti-metaphysical readings. I argue that Wittgenstein does intend for us to take his theory of language and representation seriously, with the traditionalists. However, once we do that we can see that the analysis of language and thus, philosophy itself, is useless for the serious problems of life. Wittgenstein’s discussion of physics holds a key to this interpretation because, while the conclusions point us directly at a position reminiscent of the later philosophy, the arguments depend on and follow naturally from the Tractatus theory of language.
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