Logic & Philosophy of Science Colloquium


Matthew Ostrow
Wesleyan University

"Unraveling the “Not” of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus"


In recent years there has been a good deal of debate over the role of “nonsense” in Wittgenstein’s Tractatus.  How are we to understand 6.54, the Tractatus’ famous penultimate remark, in which the author declares the nonsensicality of his own propositions?  While such discussion is central in framing an interpretation of this seminal work, it has tended to replace a careful consideration of the details of the text.  In this paper, I will argue that 6.54 indeed must be taken seriously, as it is an expression of Wittgenstein’s stated ambition of dissolving, once and for all, the problems of philosophy.  But rather than taking the nature of Tractarian nonsense as a question in its own right, I will look at Wittgenstein’s radical aim in light of some of the apparent doctrines of the text.  The focus in particular will be on the Tractatus’ supposed “fundamental thought” concerning the non-representative character of the logical constants and the connection of this idea with the picture theory.  Through a detailed analysis of these issues, my purpose will be to explicate what it means for Wittgenstein to seek to put an end to philosophical inquiry.


Friday, June 9, 2006
SST 777
3 pm

Refreshments will be served