Philosophy Ludwig Wittgenstein: Early Works
by
Denis McManus
  • LAST REVIEWED: 08 October 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 10 May 2010
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0126

Introduction

Ludwig Wittgenstein is one of the few widely recognized great philosophers of the 20th century. His career is typically—though not uncontroversially—divided into an early and late phase, each associated with a particular magnum opus: the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (TLP) and the Philosophical Investigations respectively. This entry focuses on the first of these phases. TLP is a short but difficult work that explores questions of logic, ontology, subjectivity, language, ethics, and metaphilosophy. It is a work for which its author had stratospheric ambitions, claiming that its “definitive” and “unassailable” truths provide “on all essential points, the final solution” to the problems of philosophy (TLP preface), and it represents one of the founding works of analytic philosophy. Nevertheless, most commentators, following Wittgenstein’s own later judgment, now regard TLP as an insightful but ultimately confused piece of work. Saying precisely what that confusion is has never been easy and is made significantly more difficult by the fact that, in TLP’s penultimate paragraph, we read: “He who understands me finally recognizes my propositions as nonsensical,” as rungs of a “ladder” that “he must so to speak throw away . . . after he has climbed up on it.” Different responses to this infamous remark (including ignoring it) have always played an important role in the interpretation of TLP, and recent discussion of TLP has been dominated by one in particular, that of so-called “resolute” readings (and by responses to that response). Exactly what it is for a reading of TLP to be “resolute” is a controversial issue, but one central commitment is a rejection of the notion that TLP’s propositions, though nonsensical, are somehow meant to convey certain inexpressible philosophical insights. Discussion of what one might call the more “material” topics of TLP—logic, ontology, subjectivity, etc.—continues intensely. But the debate between “resolute” readers and their critics concerning the kind of work TLP is (and the kinds of objectives it sets for itself) currently provides—some feel, unhelpfully—a shaping context for much of that discussion. In what follows, the literature is divided up into a number of distinct categories; but, as will be apparent, there is a certain artificiality to many of the distinctions in question. Readers should take care to read the commentary that accompanies each set of citations: one will find references to other relevant items listed for various reasons under other headings. Readers ought not to assume that the topics with fewest citations “of their own” are less intensively discussed or that these particular citations are the most important for the topics in question. (The literature in this area is, of course, large and has burgeoned in recent years; in constructing this bibliography I have had the benefit of the views of a number of colleagues and I would like to thank Cora Diamond, Oskari Kuusela, Adrian Moore, Ian Proops, Peter Sullivan and Daniel Whiting.)

Introductory Works

Wittgenstein himself provided no introduction to the Tractatus, and he saw in Russell’s little more than “superficiality and misunderstanding” (letter to Russell, 6 May 1920, in Wittgenstein 2008, cited under Primary Sources). The Tractatus is a forbidding book, and anyone attempting an introduction has a tough job on their hands. The best known “introduction” (Anscombe 1971, cited under General Overviews) is far from introductory, but there are several worthwhile books that are. Kenny 2006 takes in early and later Wittgenstein and is accessible, as is Pears 1985. Particularly well thought of is Morris 2008; White 2006 also has its fans. None of the existing introductions to TLP belongs to the “resolute” camp (see Resolute Approaches).

General Overviews

There is a wide range of instructive general works on the early Wittgenstein. Perhaps the most widely read are Anscombe 1971, Hacker 1986, Pears 1987, and Fogelin 1987, all of which have much to offer. Of earlier studies, Ramsey 1923 is an early and important review of the book, Black 1964 is still widely used, and the recently-reprinted reading of TLP in Stenius 1996 (as essentially shaped by Kantian concerns) has had something of a resurgence in popularity. Distinctive reading of TLP’s ontology in particular can be found in Hintikka and Hintikka 1986 and in Frascolla 2007. Malcolm 1986 has had a significant readership, although it is now often criticized as offering a rather unsophisticated version of what “resolute” readers most object to. Such readers have been accused of concentrating on only a small proportion of TLP’s remarks, but Ostrow 2002 and McManus 2006 attempt to provide “resolute” readings that take in all the book’s main topics, and Friedlander 2001 is also shaped by “resolute” concerns (all three are listed under Resolute Approaches). Also listed elsewhere (see An “Elucidatory” Third Way?) is McGinn 2006, which proposes what McGinn sees as a “third way” to rival both “resolute” accounts and those that the "resolute" attack.

Anthologies

A number of useful anthologies have been more or less devoted to the early Wittgenstein. Block 1981, though a little long in the tooth, contains some important pieces. Shanker and Shanker 2000 is a five-volume collection of secondary literature, and Volume 1 is devoted to Wittgenstein’s early work. The pieces collected in Crary and Read 2000 are oriented toward “resolute” readings, as are several in Reck 2002 and Stocker 2004.

  • Block, Irving, ed. Perspectives on the Philosophy of Wittgenstein. Oxford: Blackwell, 1981.

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    Contains important essays on the Tractatus by Dummett, Ishiguro, McGuinness, and Pears, among others.

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    • Crary, Alice, and Rupert Read, eds. The New Wittgenstein. London: Routledge, 2000.

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      A collection of essays devoted to “resolute” readings of Wittgenstein’s early work and related perspectives on his later work.

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      • Reck, Eric H., ed. From Frege to Wittgenstein: Perspectives on Early Analytic Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

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        Contains a number of pieces on the early Wittgenstein, principally by “resolute” readers.

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        • Shanker, Stuart, and V. A. Shanker, eds. Ludwig Wittgenstein: Critical Assessments. 5 vols. London: Routledge, 2000.

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          Volume 1 of this five-volume collection of commentary on Wittgenstein is devoted to his early work.

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          • Stocker, Barry, ed. Post-Analytic Tractatus. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2004.

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            Contains some interesting pieces, including ones by important “resolute” readers.

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            Primary Sources

            The German title of TLP is Logisch-philosophische Abhandlung, but the book is now much better known by its “English” title. It is available in a number of different translations. The Ogden translation (Wittgenstein 2005) was produced in consultation with Wittgenstein himself; but there are those who prefer the later Pears and McGuinness translation, and it is often illuminating to juxtapose the two. The most useful German edition is the Suhrkamp critical edition (Wittgenstein 1998), which includes the Prototractatus and identifies many correspondences between passages in these and in other early writings. Of these other writings, the most important are those translated as Notebooks 1914–1916 (Wittgenstein 1979), which present early formulations of many ideas that would play central roles in TLP. The Prototractatus (Wittgenstein 1971) itself represents an earlier draft of TLP; although the similarities are much more noticeable than the differences, many of the latter are thought provoking. “A Lecture on Ethics” (Wittgenstein 1965), though a much later piece, presents thoughts that seem to be rather similar to those expressed in the difficult and scant remarks on ethics in the early writings and is typically discussed in connection with those remarks. The several collections of letters listed in this section often shed light on the early Wittgenstein’s thinking, and Letters to C. K. Ogden (Wittgenstein 1973) contains Wittgenstein’s comments on an earlier draft of the Ogden translation (which serve to support particular construals of some tricky passages in TLP). These letters also illuminate the early Wittgenstein’s broader thinking, as do his Geheime Tagebücher 1914–1916 (Wittgenstein 1992), which contains material from some of his personal wartime diaries.

            • Engelmann, Paul. Letters from Ludwig Wittgenstein, with a Memoir. Edited by Brian G. McGuinness, translated by L. Furtmüller. Oxford: Blackwell, 1967.

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              Contains a number of interesting remarks by Wittgenstein on ethics.

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              • Wittgenstein, Ludwig. “A Lecture on Ethics.” Philosophical Review 74 (1965): 3–12.

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                A lecture from 1929 that presents, in a different way and in a different context, sentiments seemingly similar to those of the early remarks on ethics. Reprinted as chapter 5 of Philosophical Occasions: 1912–1951, edited by James C. Klagge and Alfred Nordmann (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 1993).

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                • Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Prototractatus: An Early Version of Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. Edited by Brian F. McGuinness, T. Nyberg, and George H. von Wright; translated by David F. Pears and Brian F. McGuinness. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1971.

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                  An earlier draft of TLP that includes some remarks that TLP lacks, omits some that it contains, and arranges many of the rest in interestingly different ways.

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                  • Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Letters to C. K. Ogden. Edited by George H. von Wright. Oxford: Blackwell, 1973.

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                    Contains a number of interesting remarks, in particular Wittgenstein’s comments on an earlier draft of the Ogden translation.

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                    • Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Notebooks 1914–1916. Edited by George H. von Wright and G. E. M. Anscombe, translated by G. E. M. Anscombe. Oxford: Blackwell, 1979.

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                      Contains several crucial pre-Tractarian manuscripts, the most important primary texts of the early Wittgenstein after TLP.

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                      • Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Geheime Tagebücher 1914–1916. Edited by Wilhelm Baum. Vienna: Turia and Kant, 1992.

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                        Contains decoded versions of material from Wittgenstein’s coded wartime diaries.

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                        • Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Logisch-philosophische Abhandlung: Kritische Edition. Edited by Brian McGuinness and Joachim Schulte. Frankfurt am Main, Germany: Suhrkamp, 1998.

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                          Includes TLP and the earlier draft known as the Prototractatus; many interesting correspondences between these texts and other early writings are also identified.

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                          • Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. Translated by C. K. Ogden. London: Routledge, 2005.

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                            First printed in 1922, this translation was produced in consultation with Wittgenstein himself. Nevertheless, some commentators prefer the translation by David F. Pears and Brian F. McGuinness (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1961).

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                            • Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Wittgenstein in Cambridge: Letters and Documents 1911–1951. Edited by Brian McGuinness. Oxford: Blackwell, 2008.

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                              Includes correspondence with Russell, Moore, and Ramsey.

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                              Wittgenstein’s Life and the Background to the Composition of the Tractatus

                              The details of Wittgenstein’s biography have always attracted interest, and McGuinness 1988 and Monk 1990 also shed much light on the composition of the Tractatus and other early writings. McGuinness takes this exploration further in a number of important essays collected in McGuinness 2002. von Wright 1982 offers an account of the origin and publication of TLP, and Potter 2009 explores in detail some of Wittgenstein’s pre-Tractatrian writings. Janik and Toulmin 1996 paint a colorful picture of the philosophical culture of the Vienna in which Wittgenstein was raised.

                              • Janik, Allan, and Stephen E. Toulmin. Wittgenstein’s Vienna. New York: Touchstone, 1996.

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                                Informative picture of the broader cultural context within which Wittgenstein was raised, and of figures outside of the philosophical mainstream but whom Wittgenstein himself saw as formative influences (including Weininger, Kraus, Mauthner, and Loos).

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                                • McGuinness, Brian F. Wittgenstein: A Life—Young Ludwig, 1889–1921. London: Duckworth, 1988.

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                                  A fascinating juxtaposition of Wittgenstein’s early life and philosophy.

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                                  • McGuinness, Brian F. Approaches to Wittgenstein. London: Routledge, 2002.

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                                    A collection of important pieces that illuminate Wittgenstein’s early philosophy by drawing on details of his biography. “Some Pre-Tractatus Manuscripts” in particular is a crucial study.

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                                    • Monk, Ray. Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius. London: Vintage, 1990.

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                                      A very readable and insightful biography of Wittgenstein.

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                                      • Potter, Michael. Wittgenstein’s Notes on Logic. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.

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                                        Sheds much light on the composition of TLP. The first book-length study of one of Wittgenstein’s most important pre-Tractarian writings.

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                                        • von Wright, George H. “The Origin of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus.” In Wittgenstein. By George H. von Wright. Oxford, Blackwell, 1982.

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                                          Offers an account of the origin and publication of TLP.

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                                          The Influence of, and Response to, Frege and Russell

                                          In the preface of TLP, Wittgenstein describes Gottlob Frege and Bertrand Russell as providing “in large measure the stimulation of his thoughts.” Although there clearly are other influences that one can trace (Schopenhauer, Hertz, etc.), it is difficult to argue with this overall verdict, but quite what kind of stimulation Frege and Russell provided, and who was the most stimulating, are subjects of debate. Many general discussions of TLP examine Wittgenstein’s reaction to Frege and Russell, such as Kenny 2006 (See Introductory Works). Morris 2008 (see Introductory Works), Hacker 1986 (see General Overviews) and McGinn 2006 (see An “Elucidatory” Third Way?); but there are also several important discussions that make it their central theme. One of the best known is Pears’s exploration of Wittgenstein’s reaction to Russell’s theory of judgment (Pears 1977), which is seen as shedding light on Wittgenstein’s conception of logic and subjectivity. (Landini 2007 makes a case for a broader reassessment of Wittgenstein’s relationship with Russell.) Another well-known contribution is Geach 1976, an exploration of how Wittgenstein’s “say/show” distinction might be seen as a response to concerns already present in Frege. Dummett 1996 is a critical evaluation of some of the ways Wittgenstein attacked Frege, and Baker 1988, although a controversial piece of work, sheds some light on Wittgenstein’s response to Frege’s logic. A certain conception of how Wittgenstein reacts to Frege, and to his “concept horse” paradox in particular, is a common feature of many “resolute” readings of TLP; however, “resolute” commentators disagree over how to understand Wittgenstein’s Fregean and Russellian inheritance (see, for example, Diamond 1991, Goldfarb 2002, Ricketts 1985, and Ricketts 2002; see also Ricketts 1996, listed under Propositions and Pictures). Many pieces of work listed elsewhere could also have found a place in this section, such as Potter 2000 and Sullivan 2000, both of which are cited in The Tractatus on Mathematics and the Paradoxes.

                                          • Baker, Gordon. Wittgenstein, Frege, and the Vienna Circle. Oxford: Blackwell, 1988.

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                                            A controversial, but often illuminating, reading on Wittgenstein’s response to Frege.

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                                            • Diamond, Cora. The Realistic Spirit: Wittgenstein, Philosophy, and the Mind. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1991.

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                                              Includes several discussions of Frege that inform (and are informed by) Diamond’s distinctive reading of TLP (see, in particular, “Frege and Nonsense,” “What Nonsense Might Be,” and “What Does a Concept-Script Do?”).

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                                              • Dummett, Michael. “Frege and Wittgenstein.” In Frege and Other Philosophers. By Michael Dummett, 237–248. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.

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                                                A critical assessment of Wittgenstein’s critique of Frege.

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                                                • Geach, P. T. “Saying and Showing in Frege and Wittgenstein.” In Essays on Wittgenstein in Honour of G. H. von Wright. Edited by Jaakko Hintikka, 148–164. Amsterdam: North-Holland, 1976.

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                                                  Traces Wittgenstein’s “say/show” distinction to concerns present in Frege.

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                                                  • Goldfarb, Warren. “Wittgenstein’s Understanding of Frege: The Pre-Tractarian Evidence.” In From Frege to Wittgenstein: Perspectives on Early Analytic Philosophy. Edited by Eric H. Reck, 185–200. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

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                                                    Explores Wittgenstein’s understanding of Frege, challenging claims made by Geach, Diamond, and Ricketts.

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                                                    • Landini, Gregory. Wittgenstein’s Apprenticeship with Russell. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

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                                                      A controversial reassessment of the Russell-Wittgenstein relationship.

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                                                      • Pears, David F. “The Relation between Wittgenstein’s Picture Theory of Propositions and Russell’s Theory of Judgment.” Philosophical Review 86 (1977): 177–196.

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                                                        Examines how Wittgenstein’s reaction to Russell’s theory of judgment sheds light on the former’s conception of logic and subjectivity.

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                                                        • Ricketts, Thomas G. “Frege, the Tractatus, and the Logocentric Predicament.” Noûs 15 (1985): 3–15.

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                                                          Interprets TLP as responding to tensions in Frege’s conception of logic.

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                                                          • Ricketts, Thomas G. “Wittgenstein against Frege and Russell.” In From Frege to Wittgenstein: Perspectives on Early Analytic Philosophy. Edited by Eric H. Reck, 227–251. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

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                                                            Explores how Wittgenstein’s criticisms of Frege might illuminate the former’s understanding of logic and language.

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                                                            Objects, Facts, Simples, and Substance

                                                            As TLP’s preface closes, the reader is thrown headfirst into a set of reflections on objects, facts, names, and propositions, the ultimate intent of which is less than apparent. Among the puzzling conclusions seemingly reached is that there are simple, necessarily existent objects that make up what Wittgenstein calls “the substance of the world.” Any general work on TLP will examine these topics (see for example, the discussions in Fogelin 1987 in General Overviews, Hacker 1986 in General Overviews, Hintikka and Hintikka 1986 in General Overviews, Kenny 2006 (see Introductory Works), McGinn 2006 in An “Elucidatory” Third Way?, McManus 2006 in Resolute Approaches, Morris 2008 in Introductory Works, Ostrow 2002 in Resolute Approaches, and Pears 1987 in General Overviews); cited below are some other pieces that are very much worth reading. Central to these discussions is the question of the character and cogency of the reflections through which Wittgenstein reaches these conclusions: how, for example, these seemingly metaphysical conclusions relate to his reflections on the character of logic. Another related and recurrent concern in recent discussions has been to question whether the remarks at issue really do wittingly advance metaphysical views. One sees this concern in “resolute” readings and in McGinn’s “elucidatory” reading (McGinn 2007).

                                                            • Carruthers, Peter. The Metaphysics of the Tractatus. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

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                                                              Presents a reading of the argument for substance in the context of a discussion of logical atomism.

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                                                              • McGinn, Marie. “Simples and the Idea of Analysis in the Tractatus.” In Wittgenstein and his Interpreters: Essays in Memory of Gordon Baker. Edited by Guy Kahane, Edward Kanterian, and Oskari Kuusela, 200–220. Oxford: Blackwell, 2007.

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                                                                McGinn attempts to accommodate the discussion of “simples” within her broader “elucidatory” reading.

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                                                                • Proops, Ian. “Wittgenstein on the Substance of the World.” European Journal of Philosophy 12.1 (2004): 106–126.

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                                                                  Gives an alternative reading of the argument for substance, arguing that the relevant claims are best understood as standing in a Kantian tradition.

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                                                                  • White, R. M. “Can Whether One Proposition Makes Sense Depend on the Truth of Another?” In Understanding Wittgenstein. Edited by Godfrey Vesey. London: Macmillan, 1974.

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                                                                    A clear and representative presentation of what might be thought of as the “orthodox” reading.

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                                                                    Propositions and Pictures

                                                                    TLP is one of the works that helped secure language as one of the central—perhaps defining—concerns of analytic philosophy, but Wittgenstein’s understanding of language raises many questions. One central concern emerges as his initial remarks on objects and facts close: “We make to ourselves pictures of facts” (2.1). Subsumed by this claim is another, which has been taken as the basis of a “picture theory of the proposition”: “The proposition is a picture of reality” (4.01). Any general work on TLP will examine these topics (see those listed under Introductory Works, General Overviews as well as McGinn 2006 in An “Elucidatory” Third Way? and McGuinness 2002 in Wittgenstein’s Life and the Background to the Composition of the Tractatus); cited here are some other recent pieces very much worth reading. Ricketts 1996 offers a “resolute” reflection on the picture analogy. (Rather different “resolute” treatments are offered by Ostrow 2002 and McManus 2006 both listed under Resolute Approaches). Sullivan 2001 connects the picture remarks in an interesting way to the notion of “logical space,” and Ishiguro 2001 presents a reading of the picture analogy based on the author’s “minimalist” construal of TLP’s “metaphysics.”

                                                                    • Ishiguro, Hidé. “The So-called Picture Theory: Language and the World in Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus.” In Wittgenstein: A Critical Reader. Edited by Hans J. Glock, 26–46. Oxford: Blackwell, 2001.

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                                                                      An interpretation of the picture analogy based on Ishiguro’s “minimalist” construal of TLP’s “metaphysics.”

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                                                                      • Ricketts, Thomas G. “Pictures, Logic, and the Limits of Sense in Wittgenstein’s Tractatus.” In The Cambridge Companion to Wittgenstein. Edited by Hans Sluga and David G. Stern, 59–99. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

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                                                                        A “resolute” reading of the picture analogy and its bearing on issues of logic.

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                                                                        • Sullivan, Peter M. “A Version of the Picture Theory.” In Ludwig Wittgenstein: Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. Edited by Wilhelm Vossenkuhl, 89–110. Klassiker Auslegen. Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 2001.

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                                                                          An interesting reading of the picture remarks which also illuminates the notion of “logical space.”

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                                                                          The Logic of the Tractatus

                                                                          A reflection on the character and status of logic is central to TLP. This reflection expresses itself in discussions not only of topics within the philosophy of logic narrowly construed (such as the nature of logical truth, inference, identity, quantification, etc.), but also in its offering of certain logical innovations and in its metaphysical discussions. Hence, as with other sections, the literature that addresses these issues also addresses those that have (rather artificially) been set off into separate categories. For example, most commentators believe that Wittgenstein’s understanding of logic shapes his remarks on objects and facts. Any general work on TLP will examine these topics (see Introductory Works, as well as General Overviews); it is by reference to these topics that Wittgenstein’s relationships with Frege and Russell often become most vivid, and several of the items listed in The Influence of, and Response to, Frege and Russell and The Tractatus on Mathematics and the Paradoxes could also have been placed here. Also very much worth reading are Dreben and Floyd 1991, which explores Wittgenstein’s understanding of logic. Proops 2002 discusses Wittgenstein’s critique of Frege and Russell’s concept of inference. Hylton 1997 deals with Wittgenstein’s notion of an operation.

                                                                          • Dreben, Burton, and Juliet Floyd. “Tautology: How Not to Use a Word.” Synthese 87 (1991): 23–49.

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                                                                            An examination of the status, and subsequent appropriation, of the early Wittgenstein’s understanding of logic as tautological.

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                                                                            • Hylton, Peter. “Functions, Operations, and Sense in Wittgenstein’s Tractatus.” In Early Analytic Philosophy: Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein; Essays in Honor of Leonard Linsky. Edited by William W. Tait, 91–106. Chicago: Open Court, 1997.

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                                                                              Explores the philosophical significance of Wittgenstein’s notion of an operation.

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                                                                              • Proops, Ian. “The Tractatus on Inference and Entailment.” In From Frege to Wittgenstein: Perspectives on Early Analytic Philosophy. Edited by Eric H. Reck, 283–307. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

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                                                                                Investigates Wittgenstein’s criticisms of Frege and Russell’s conceptions of inference, laws of inference, and logical entailment.

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                                                                                The Tractatus on Mathematics and the Paradoxes

                                                                                Although it has long been recognized that Wittgenstein’s reaction to Russell’s theory of types—and the paradoxes to which that theory responds—plays an important shaping role in TLP (an important treatment being Ishiguro 1981), less attention has been devoted to Wittgenstein’s view of mathematics, an analysis of which first led Russell to those paradoxes. Recently, however, attention has turned again to all of these topics. New perspectives on Wittgenstein’s reaction to the theory of types have emerged, notably those set out in Ruffino 1994, Sullivan 2000, and Potter 2009 (listed under Wittgenstein’s Life and the Background to the Composition of the Tractatus). Potter 2000 also provides an illuminating discussion of TLP’s philosophy of mathematics in the context of that subdiscipline’s history, as does Marion 1998, though with a rather different historical frame of reference. Frascolla 1994, on the other hand, places TLP’s discussion within the context of Wittgenstein’s later understanding of mathematics (see also Frascolla 1997). Unlike the other items listed, Ramsey 1990 is not devoted to an exposition of Wittgenstein’s ideas, but it is nonetheless an important source.

                                                                                • Frascolla, Pasquale. Wittgenstein’s Philosophy of Mathematics. London: Routledge, 1994.

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                                                                                  An examination of TLP’s philosophy of mathematics within the context of his career as a whole.

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                                                                                  • Frascolla, Pasquale. “The Tractatus System of Arithmetic.” Synthese 112 (1997): 353–378.

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                                                                                    A systematic, formal examination of the notion that Wittgenstein saw arithmetic as interpretable within a general theory of logical operations.

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                                                                                    • Ishiguro, Hidé. “Wittgenstein and the Theory of Types.” In Perspectives on the Philosophy of Wittgenstein. Edited by Irving Block. Oxford: Blackwell, 1981.

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                                                                                      Important discussion of Wittgenstein’s view of the paradoxes and their proposed elimination through the theory of types.

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                                                                                      • Marion, Mathieu. Wittgenstein, Finitism, and the Foundations of Mathematics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.

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                                                                                        Provides useful background for TLP’s philosophy of mathematics.

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                                                                                        • Potter, Michael. Reason’s Nearest Kin: Philosophies of Arithmetic from Kant to Carnap. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

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                                                                                          Contains illuminating presentations of the logic and philosophy of mathematics of Frege, Russell, and Wittgenstein, and interprets central elements of TLP’s logic as responses to problems raised by Russell’s theory of types.

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                                                                                          • Ramsey, Frank P. “The Foundations of Mathematics.” In Philosophical Papers. Edited by D. H. Mellor. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

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                                                                                            Not an expository work but an important source for Wittgenstein’s ideas in the area.

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                                                                                            • Ruffino, Marco. “The Context Principle and Wittgenstein’s Criticism of Russell’s Theory of Types.” Synthese 98 (1994): 401–414.

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                                                                                              Explores the role of Wittgenstein’s version of the “context principle” in his dispensing with the theory of types.

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                                                                                              • Sullivan, Peter M. “The Totality of Facts.” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 100 (2000): 175–192.

                                                                                                DOI: 10.1111/j.0066-7372.2003.00009.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                Argues that Wittgenstein’s notion of a truth-operation responds to philosophical difficulties arising out of Russell’s theory of types.

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                                                                                                Subjectivity, Solipsism, and Idealism in the Tractatus

                                                                                                Among TLP’s remarks on the subject are some that can be clearly related to other central themes in TLP (its analysis of propositional attitude ascriptions relating, for example, to its notion of a “general form of the proposition”), and others that are profoundly gnomic; of the latter, those concerning “the metaphysical subject” stand out. Though most general works discuss these remarks in depth, the single most influential discussion remains Pears 1987 (cited under General Overviews). It -- along with Stenius 1996 (listed under General Overviews) and McGuinness 2002 (listed under Wittgenstein’s Life and the Background to the Composition of the Tractatus) It provides the background against which one of the most interesting discussions in the most recent scholarship has emerged. The discussion concerns the relationship between the remarks on subjectivity and the notion of transcendental idealism and is focused around an ongoing exchange between Adrian Moore (see, for instance, Moore 1997 and Moore 2003) and Peter Sullivan (see Sullivan 1996, Sullivan 2002, and Sullivan 2003). The debate concerns whether and in what sense the early Wittgenstein might be said to be a transcendental idealist, or whether he might instead have seen that view as answering to certain fundamental philosophical demands (concerning the unity of the world, language and/or the self), while nonetheless being ultimately incoherent—being, by virtue of those two features, a position calling for exploration in TLP but also, ultimately, to be “thrown away.” Though neither Moore’s nor Sullivan’s are “resolute” readings, their issues clearly have a bearing on such readings; “resolute” treatments of related topics can be found in Floyd 1998 and chapter 8 of McManus 2006 (cited under Resolute Approaches).

                                                                                                Ethics and Religion

                                                                                                As TLP comes to a close, it presents its most perplexing remarks; these are devoted principally to ethics but also touch on religion, aesthetics, and the mystical. Although the wartime notebooks and Wittgenstein’s 1929 “Lecture on Ethics” provide important supplements, we have little textual evidence on which a reading of these remarks might be based, and there is no denying that any such reading will be speculative. Consequently, it is not untypical for commentators to discount these topics altogether. But others, compelled by, for example, Wittgenstein’s claim that “the point of the Tractatus is ethical” (letter to von Ficker, quoted on pp. 15–16 of von Wright’s introduction to the Prototractatus), feel these remarks cannot be ignored. Several of the works listed under General Overviews and Introductory Works address these issues), and a number of studies that concentrate on these difficult topics have also been published, some of which are listed here. Edwards 1985 is interesting, though not widely discussed. Diamond 1991, Kremer 2004 and Conant 2005 give “resolute” readings (as does Kremer 2001 and chapters 13-14 of McManus 2006, both listed under Resolute Approaches), ), while a central concern of Schönbaumsfeld 2007 is to challenge Conant’s “resolute” reading of related topics in TLP.

                                                                                                • Conant, James. “What ‘Ethics’ in the Tractatus is Not.” In Religion and Wittgenstein’s Legacy. Edited by D. Z. Phillips and Mario von der Ruhr, 39–88. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2005.

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                                                                                                  Brings his “resolute” reading to bear on attempts to understand TLP’s ethical “point.”

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                                                                                                  • Diamond, Cora. “Ethics, Imagination, and the Method of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus.” In Bilder der Philosophie: Reflexionen über das Bildliche und die Phantasie. Edited by Richard Heinrich and Helmuth Vetter. Vienna: Oldenbourg Verlag, 1991.

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                                                                                                    Integrates a discussion of the ethical “point” into a difficult “resolute” discussion of what reading TLP involves. Reprinted in Crary and Read 2000 (cited under Anthologies).

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                                                                                                    • Edwards, James C. Ethics without Philosophy: Wittgenstein and the Moral Life. Tampa: University Press of Florida, 1985.

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                                                                                                      This interesting but rarely discussed book contains a reading of TLP on ethics.

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                                                                                                      • Kremer, Michael. “To What Extent is Solipsism a Truth?” In Post-Analytic Tractatus. Edited by Barry Stocker, 59–84. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2004.

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                                                                                                        Despite its title, this piece focuses heavily on questions concerning the ethics of TLP.

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                                                                                                        • Schönbaumsfeld, Genia. A Confusion of the Spheres: Kierkegaard and Wittgenstein on Philosophy and Religion. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

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                                                                                                          A study of Wittgenstein’s understanding of religion, including a discussion of TLP.

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                                                                                                          Resolute Approaches

                                                                                                          While there are other important commentators who may seem to have anticipated some of its core ideas, Cora Diamond and James Conant have done most to promote the possibility of a "resolute" reading of TLP. It is difficult to say which features make a reader “resolute.” But one significant commitment is an “austere” conception of nonsense, according to which nonsense is not, as it were, the “wrong kind of sense” but is a matter of strings of signs that actually lack meaning being mistaken for ones that do. A second is a desire to take seriously the notion that when Wittgenstein describes his own propositions as “nonsense,” he is using that term in the above “austere” sense, rather than describing them as “gesturing at something that is going on, some inexpressible state of affairs or true but inexpressible thought” (Goldfarb 1997, p. 61). A third is a rejection of the idea that Wittgenstein’s judgment of his own propositions rests on the application of a theory of meaning—of sense and nonsense—that TLP advances; and a fourth is a sense that the early Wittgenstein shared his later view that escaping from the confusions that give rise to philosophical problems is not a matter of replacing inadequate substantial philosophical theories—expressible or inexpressible—about the nature of the world, thought, or language with adequate ones: the state of enlightenment here is, so to speak, one in which the questions that one wished to answer have vanished, rather than one in which one has arrived at better answers. Clearly, readings that share the above features could take a wide variety of forms, not least because what they principally serve to articulate is a view about how TLP ought not to be read. A significant number of different views have been advanced under the “resolute” banner, and many pieces listed elsewhere express “resolute” views. Listed here are some of the “canonical texts” for this broad approach (Diamond 1991, Conant 1991, and Conant 2002), some of the other most-discussed pieces that explore it (Kremer 2001, Goldfarb 1997, and Goldfarb 2000), and three works that, in their different ways, give general overviews of TLP in a more or less “resolute” spirit (Friedlander 2001, McManus 2006, and Ostrow 2002). One might, of course, now ask: Who precisely are the “irresolute,” and where is their section in this bibliography? Given the looseness of the definition of “resolution,” identifying the “irresolute” is not always easy either; but, for the record, the principal targets of “resolute” criticism have been Hacker, Malcolm, and, to a lesser degree, Pears. See, by way of comparison, their works listed under General Overviews.

                                                                                                          • Conant, James. “The Search for Logically Alien Thought: Descartes, Kant, Frege, and the Tractatus.” Philosophical Topics 20 (1991): 115–180.

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                                                                                                            Situates some core notions for a “resolute” reading of TLP in relation to issues in the philosophies of logic of Kant, Frege, and Hilary Putnam.

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                                                                                                            • Conant, James. “The Method of the Tractatus.” In From Frege to Wittgenstein: Perspectives on Early Analytic Philosophy. Edited by Eric H. Reck, 374–462. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002.

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                                                                                                              Further elaborates on this “resolute” reading of TLP.

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                                                                                                              • Diamond, Cora. “Throwing Away the Ladder: How to Read the Tractatus.” In The Realistic Spirit. By Cora Diamond, 179–204. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1991.

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                                                                                                                For many, the “founding text” for “resolute” readings.

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                                                                                                                • Friedlander, Eli. Signs of Sense. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001.

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                                                                                                                  A difficult but sometimes thought-provoking reading of TLP, sharing some commitments with “resolute” readings.

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                                                                                                                  • Goldfarb, Warren. “Metaphysics and Nonsense: On Cora Diamond’s The Realistic Spirit.” Journal of Philosophical Research 22 (1997): 57–73.

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                                                                                                                    An illuminating analysis of Diamond’s reading.

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                                                                                                                    • Goldfarb, Warren. “Das Überwinden: Anti-Metaphysical Readings of the Tractatus.” In Beyond the Tractatus Wars. Edited by R. Read and M.A. Lavery, 6-21. London: Routledge, 2011.

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                                                                                                                      Presents an interesting taxonomy of “resolute” views and relates them to others (e.g., Ishiguro’s) to which that label is not typically applied.

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                                                                                                                      • Kremer, Michael. “The Purpose of Tractarian Nonsense.” Noûs 35 (2001): 39–73.

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                                                                                                                        Develops a “resolute” reading in the context of an ambitious reflection on ethical themes in the early Wittgenstein’s thought.

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                                                                                                                        • McManus, Denis. The Enchantment of Words: Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

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                                                                                                                          A broadly “resolute” reading of TLP that attempts to examine all the main topics of the book and meet some criticisms of the “resolute” approach.

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                                                                                                                          • Ostrow, Matthew B. Wittgenstein’s Tractatus: A Dialectical Interpretation. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

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                                                                                                                            A “resolute” reading of TLP, with a particularly useful discussion of the picture analogy.

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                                                                                                                            Criticism of Resolute Approaches

                                                                                                                            “Resolute” readings have been criticized in a number of different ways. For example, Hacker 2000 and Proops 2001 accuse them of being incompatible with claims that Wittgenstein makes within, and outside of, the context of TLP; McGinn 1999 and Hacker 2001 charge them with failing to provide an adequate account of how one might climb a “ladder” that really is nonsensical in the “austere” sense; and there is a widespread belief that “resolute” readings are unsatisfactorily thin, abstract, “strategic” accounts of how the book ought to work, as opposed to detailed readings of the text as one finds it. Resolute readers have attempted to respond to these charges, claiming, for example, that in a work to be “thrown away” after having been seen to be made up of propositions that are nonsensical, many of “the claims that its author makes” might be meant to be “thrown away.” Similarly, they claim that when Wittgenstein later states that the TLP does advance metaphysical theses, he may be pointing to unwitting commitments of his earlier self that he later recognized as such (see, Conant and Diamond 2004 and Kuusela 2008). Needless to say, such rejoinders need to be made good through a detailed reading of the relevant texts—of the sort that might also meet the third criticism. (McManus 2006, listed under Resolute Approaches, also contributes to this effort and makes a particular effort to respond to the second criticism above.)

                                                                                                                            • Conant, James, and Cora Diamond. “On Reading the Tractatus Resolutely: Reply to Meredith Williams and Peter Sullivan.” In Wittgenstein’s Lasting Significance. Edited by Max Kölbel and Bernhard Weiss, 46–99. London: Routledge, 2004.

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                                                                                                                              A response to a number of different criticisms of the “resolute” approach.

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                                                                                                                              • Hacker, P. M. S. “Was He Trying to Whistle It?” In The New Wittgenstein. Edited by Alice Crary and Rupert Read, 353–388. London: Routledge, 2000.

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                                                                                                                                A strident attack on “resolute” readings.

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                                                                                                                                • Hacker, P. M. S. “When the Whistling Had to Stop.” In Wittgensteinian Themes: Essays in Honour of David Pears. Edited by David Charles and William Child, 13–48. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

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                                                                                                                                  In reflecting on how Wittgenstein becomes disenchanted with TLP, Hacker elaborates further on his attack on “resolute” readings.

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                                                                                                                                  • Kuusela, Oskari. The Struggle against Dogmatism: Wittgenstein and the Concept of Philosophy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008.

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                                                                                                                                    Includes a broadly “resolute” presentation of Wittgenstein’s development that has a bearing on recent criticism.

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                                                                                                                                    • McGinn, Marie. “Between Metaphysics and Nonsense: Elucidation in Wittgenstein’s Tractatus.” Philosophical Quarterly 49 (1999): 491–513.

                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1111/1467-9213.00155Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                      McGinn makes a number of criticisms of “resolute” readings in setting out a basis for her own “elucidatory” reading.

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                                                                                                                                      • Proops, Ian. “The New Wittgenstein: A Critique.” European Journal of Philosophy 9 (2001): 375–404.

                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1111/1468-0378.00142Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                        Presents textual evidence taken to be incompatible with a “resolute” reading and articulates a version of the second criticism outlined in the introductory paragraph to this section.

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                                                                                                                                        • Sullivan, Peter M. “What is the Tractatus About?” In Wittgenstein’s Lasting Significance. Edited by Max Kölbel and Bernhard Weiss, 32–45. London: Routledge, 2004.

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                                                                                                                                          A short paper that sets Sullivan’s worries about “resolute” readings in the context of a broader overview of his reading of TLP.

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                                                                                                                                          An “Elucidatory” Third Way?

                                                                                                                                          As mentioned in Resolute Approaches, identifying the first “resolute” reading is a difficult matter. Some depict Ishiguro 1969, McGuinness 1981, and Winch 1987 (to which Hacker 1999 is an interesting rejoinder) as having important affinities with “resolute” thinking. But McGinn has also argued that they belong to a distinct, third line of interpretation. (Other possible candidates for inclusion here are Rhees 1996 and Ryle 1993.) In McGinn 1999 the author presents a first sketch of the view she has in mind, and McGinn 2006 and McGinn 2007 (listed under Objects, Facts, Simples, and Substance) develop it in detail. As with the “resolute” approach, one might raise some doubts about how well defined this “elucidatory” approach is (see McManus 2008—and, if only for the sake of fairness, McGinn’s review of McManus 2008 in the journal Mind, Vol. 117, which she sees as not without its faults). But setting aside that worry, as well as concerns about who might claim whom as ancestors, one finds in all of these works, among other things, an important and interesting concern to question an ascription of realistic and atomistic views to TLP.

                                                                                                                                          • Hacker, P. M. S. “Naming, Thinking, and Meaning in the Tractatus.” Philosophical Investigations 22 (1999): 119–135.

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                                                                                                                                            A critique of Winch 1987. Reprinted with a postscript in Hacker’s Wittgenstein: Connections and Controversies (Oxford: Clarendon, 2001).

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                                                                                                                                            • Ishiguro, Hidé. “Use and Reference of Names.” In Studies in the Philosophy of Wittgenstein. Edited by Peter Winch, 20–50. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1969.

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                                                                                                                                              Argues that Wittgenstein rejects the notion that the reference of names can be secured independently of how they figure in propositions, and connects this proposal to the later Wittgensteinian notion of “meaning as use.”

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                                                                                                                                              • McGinn, Marie. “Between Metaphysics and Nonsense: Elucidation in Wittgenstein’s Tractatus.” Philosophical Quarterly 49 (1999): 491–513.

                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1111/1467-9213.00155Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                McGinn’s first principal articulation of her "elucidatory" “third way”.

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                                                                                                                                                • McGinn, Marie. Elucidating the Tractatus: Wittgenstein’s Early Philosophy of Logic and Language. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006.

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                                                                                                                                                  Significantly expands upon McGinn’s “third” reading.

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                                                                                                                                                  • McGuinness, Brian F. “The So-called Realism of the Tractatus.” In Perspectives on the Philosophy of Wittgenstein. Edited by Irving Block, 60–73. Oxford: Blackwell, 1981.

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                                                                                                                                                    Argues that TLP’s seemingly metaphysical remarks are “a kind of ontological myth” used to “show us the nature of language.” Reprinted in McGuinness 2002 (cited under Wittgenstein’s Life and the Background to the Composition of the Tractatus).

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                                                                                                                                                    • McManus, Denis. “Review of M. McGinn, Elucidating the Tractatus.” Grazer Philosophische Studien 76 (2008): 259–262.

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                                                                                                                                                      A review of McGinn 2006, questioning how well defined McGinn’s “elucidatory” approach is.

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                                                                                                                                                      • Rhees, Rush. Discussions of Wittgenstein. Bristol, UK: Thoemmes, 1996.

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                                                                                                                                                        Chapters 1–3 of this collection could be seen as setting out a precursor of Winch’s view, though with a more sympathetic understanding of TLP’s logical aspirations.

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                                                                                                                                                        • Ryle, Gilbert. “Ontological and Logical Talk in Wittgenstein’s Tractatus.” In Aspects of Mind. Edited by René Meyer. Oxford: Blackwell, 1993.

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                                                                                                                                                          Argues that “the ontological story in TLP stands to the propositional story as something said in the ‘material mode’ stands to the same thing said in the ‘formal mode.’”

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                                                                                                                                                          • Winch, Peter. “Language, Thought, and World in Wittgenstein’s Tractatus.” In Trying to Make Sense. By Peter Winch, 3–18. Oxford: Blackwell, 1987.

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                                                                                                                                                            An influential paper in which Winch, among other things, attacks the notion that for Wittgenstein the meaning of a name is determined by reference to something extra-linguistic.

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                                                                                                                                                            The Tractatus And The Emergence Of A Later Wittgenstein

                                                                                                                                                            As is well known, Wittgenstein left an extensive Nachlass, and until recently only a small proportion of it had been published. The Bergen Electronic Edition (Wittgenstein 2000) has changed all that, though discussion still tends to center around the works that were published independently. Of these, the crucial texts in which one can see Wittgenstein’s later ways of thinking emerge are Wittgenstein 1929, Wittgenstein 1974, and Wittgenstein 1975. Also invaluable are records of his lectures (including Wittgenstein 1979a, Wittgenstein 1980, and Moore 1993) and of conversations that he held with members of the Vienna Circle (Wittgenstein 1979b). Since Wittgenstein’s reaction to TLP represents one of the single most important sources of information about what that work represented to him, these texts are also crucial to an appreciation of that work: to tell a plausible story about TLP, one must also be able to tell a plausible story about how the later philosophy emerged from it. Listed here are only primary texts, but most general works on TLP will say something about the course of his subsequent development and the debate about “resolute” approaches to TLP has provided a particular context in which questions about that development have recently been restated: of the works listed elsewhere, see, in particular, Hacker 2001 in Criticism of Resolute Approaches, Kuusela 2008 in Criticism of Resolute Approaches, McGinn 2006 in An “Elucidatory” Third Way?: ch. 12, and Appendix A of McManus 2006 in Resolute Approaches.

                                                                                                                                                            • Moore, G. E. “Wittgenstein’s Lectures in 1930–33.” In Philosophical Occasions: 1912–1951. Edited by James C. Klagge and Alfred Nordmann, 46–114. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 1993.

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                                                                                                                                                              A summary of Moore’s notes (originally published in Mind) from Wittgenstein’s lectures, in which ideas from TLP are clarified and criticized.

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                                                                                                                                                              • Wittgenstein, Ludwig“Some Remarks on Logical Form.” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 9 (1929): 162–171.

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                                                                                                                                                                A short piece in which Wittgenstein first made public reservations about TLP. Reprinted as chapter 4 of Philosophical Occasions: 1912–1951, edited by James C. Klagge and Alfred Nordmann (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett, 1993).

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                                                                                                                                                                • Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Philosophical Grammar. Edited by Rush Rhees, translated by Anthony Kenny. Oxford: Blackwell, 1974.

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                                                                                                                                                                  A further step forward from Wittgenstein 1975 but still often explicitly engaged with concerns of TLP.

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                                                                                                                                                                  • Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Philosophical Remarks. Edited by Rush Rhees, translated by Raymond Hargreaves and Roger White. Oxford: Blackwell, 1975.

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                                                                                                                                                                    Manifests Wittgenstein’s growing dissatisfaction with TLP and points the way to his later views.

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                                                                                                                                                                    • Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Wittgenstein’s Lectures: Cambridge, 1932–1935. Edited by Alice Ambrose. Oxford: Blackwell, 1979a.

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                                                                                                                                                                      A further step forward from the corresponding Wittgenstein 1980 collection, but still often engaging explicitly with concerns of TLP.

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                                                                                                                                                                      • Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Wittgenstein and the Vienna Circle. Edited by Friedrich Waismann and Brian F. McGuinness, translated by Joachim Schulte and Brian F. McGuinness. Oxford: Blackwell, 1979b.

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                                                                                                                                                                        Records of Wittgenstein’s conversations with members of the Vienna Circle, in which he clarifies and criticizes some Tractarian ideas.

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                                                                                                                                                                        • Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Wittgenstein’s Lectures: Cambridge, 1930–1932. Edited by Desmond Lee. Oxford: Blackwell, 1980.

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                                                                                                                                                                          Transcripts of lectures in which ideas from TLP are clarified and criticized.

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                                                                                                                                                                          • Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Wittgenstein’s Nachlass: The Bergen Electronic Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.

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                                                                                                                                                                            Includes all of Wittgenstein’s unpublished manuscripts, typescripts, dictations, and most of his notebooks.

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