Wittgenstein's Dilemma

Satisfactory Essays
Wittgenstein's Dilemma

Either language can be defined or it can be investigated empirically. If language is defined then this will be mere tautology. If language is investigated empirically then this will lead to a substantial yet contingent truth.

The cure for this dilemma for Wittgenstein in his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus was to submit the doctrine that the structure of language cannot be said but only shown.

This doctrine is vague and misconceived. In this essay, I will show that it is vague and misconceived and, consequently, why it does not cure his dilemma.

Wittgenstein stated in the preface of his book that he had solved the problems of philosophy. That these problems had been formulated by the misuse of the logic of our language by philosophers. What philosophers had been saying could simply not be said. Their philosophy was beyond the scope of what could be said and was therefore nonsense.

By plotting the limits of language, Wittgenstein expected to be able to deal with the problems of philosophy finally.

Outside the limits of what can be said lies nonsense, so any theory of language must occur within these limits.

Wittgenstein thought that the nature of language could tell us what can and cannot be done with it. He believed this because he deduced that language had its own limits fixed within its structure.

So, in his theory of language, he revealed the structure of language to entail these limits of language which were also necessary truths. However, this meant that they would also be empty tautologies!

Wittgenstein believed that language disguises thought and therefore the nature of propositions would reveal the nature of the language that represents it. So, Wittgenstein based his theory of language on the nature of propositions.

Within the nature of propositions, Wittgenstein found a satisfactory account of logical necessity. This lead to the fact that the limits of language were logically necessary.

In this essay, I shall give an account of Wittgenstein's theory of propositions and show that his elementary propositions are in fact divisible. I will outline his 'picture theory' and show that the consequential 'doctrine of showing' is vague and misconceived. I shall submit my own theory of the tautology as a possible cure for the above dilemma. Numbers appearing after quotes refer to the numbered passages in the Tractatus.

To begin, then, some detail of Wittgenstein's theory of propositions is needed in order to see how the important 'atomic' propositions idea came about.
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