Cool Logic

Nikhil Maddirala (ILLC)

Reading Wittgenstein's Tractatus

November 30th at 17:30, in Science Park D1.113

In this presentation, I will introduce what has come to be known as the "New Reading" or the "Resolute Reading" of Wittgenstein with emphasis on its corresponding reading of the Tractatus. It originates as a response to standard readings of Wittgenstein, i.e., readings according to which Wittgenstein is concerned with putting forth theses about logic (or about language). Wittgenstein is said to have offered a theory of logic (or of language) which specifies the conditions under which sentences make sense and conditions under which sentences fail to make sense. Allegedly, these conditions are in the Tractatus specified in terms of the rules of logical syntax (while in his later work the conditions are specified in terms of the rules of grammar and of language games). However, to suppose that the Tractatus offers any such theory is to run afoul of its author's own instructions on how the book is to be read. He says: "My propositions serve as elucidations in the following way: anyone who understands me eventually recognizes them as nonsensical, when he has used them -- as steps -- to climb out through them, on them, over them. (He must, so to speak, throw away the ladder after he has climbed up it.)" To read the Tractatus resolutely is to take seriously, as opposed to the standard readings, the author's claim that the Tractatus is not advancing any theses but is rather engaged in a different sort of activity: elucidation.