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Propositions, Properties and Relations: Wittgenstein's “Notes on Logic” and the Tractatus

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Abstract:

Abstract

Frege famously argued that truth is not a property or relation. In the “Notes on Logic” Wittgenstein emphasised the bi-polarity of propositions which he called their sense. He argued that “propositions by virtue of sense cannot have predicates or relations.” This led to his fundamental thought that the logical constants do not represent predicates or relations. The idea, however, has wider ramifications than that. It is not just that propositions cannot have relations to other propositions but also that they cannot have relations to anything at all. The paper explores the consequences of this insight for the way in which we should read the Tractatus. In the “Notes on Logic” the insight led to Wittgenstein's emphasis on “facts” in any attempt to understand the nature of symbolism. This emphasis is continued in the Tractatus. It is central to his view that propositions are facts which picture facts which prevent us from construing such picturing as a relation between what pictures and what is pictured. It illuminates the importance of context principle with regard to the distinction between showing and saying to which Wittgenstein attached so much importance and it underlies the non-relational view of psychological propositions which he advocates. Finally, if propositions by virtue of sense cannot have predicates or relations the paradox at the end of a work which consist largely of propositions about propositions becomes intelligible.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9205.2010.01420.x

Publication date: 2011-01-01

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