In a recent article on Wittgenstein1, Elizabeth Anscombe addressed a problem concerning the picture theory in the. Tractatus. The problem is that of the. G. E. M. Anscombe. St. Augustine’s Press Disagreements: Anscombe, Geach, Wittgenstein. Thoughts and Their Subject: A Study of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus. The Disenchantment of Nonsense: Understanding Wittgenstein’s Tractatus. Book Review:An Introduction to Wittgenstein’s Tractatus G. E. M. Anscombe.

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Ludwig Wittgenstein anscmobe the Tractatus to reshape our understanding of what philosophy was and what it could accomplish. She wanted her book to inaugurate a radical change in how the Tractatus was read and understood. This chapter looks at her critique of older readings and at her own approach to the Tractatus. At the end of the Preface, he said that he took himself to have in essence arrived at a definitive solution of such problems.

The book was meant to revolutionize philosophical thinking. In this chapter, I want to look at these two intentions together: In the introduction to her book, Anscombe explains why virtually all that has been said about the Tractatus has been fraught with misunderstanding. But the story she tells has problems, and they are the subject of section The transformation which Anscombe hoped to bring about in how the book was read helped to transform also the study of both Frege and Russell.

This latter transformation can help us to see what underlies her claim in the introduction that it was neglect of Frege and over-dependence on Russell that anscpmbe to the irrelevance of so much of what had been written about the Tractatus. An approach to the Tractatus can be Russellian in two different senses.

Her account of the contrast between Russell and Frege, in her argument for the importance of not neglecting Frege, does not reach to the largely implicit understanding of the contrast that is anscommbe in her treatment of the picture theory. Much of the criticism of that essay for example in Malcolmch.

I shall have some brief words about that in the concluding section, In his study of the history of philosophical analysis, J. Urmson presents an interpretation of the Tractatus of exactly the sort Anscombe criticizes.

Both Russell and Wittgenstein are seen as empiricists, updating empiricism with the aid of recent developments in logic. She makes a contrast between Frege and Russell, the point of which is that readers of Wittgenstein have tended to see him as resembling Russell in respects in which he is ajscombe closer to Frege. In the following chapter, Anscombe develops further her account of the usual, and as she sees it deeply mistaken, reading of the Tractatus. In explaining the sorts of question with which Wittgenstein was concerned, Anscombe gives as an example the question of the relation to reality of what I say, tractxtus for example if p.

The relation cannot be explained in terms of the truth of what I say, since even if my statement had been false, it would still have said something.

As Anscombe notes, Wittgenstein was concerned with this problem throughout his life. What then of her contrast between a reading of the Tractatus which sees it trcatatus Russellian in its approach to philosophical questions and one which sees it as Fregean?

But it is far from clear that the contrast can be made out in that way. Peter Hylton has argued in detail that the conception of Russell generally accepted by British philosophers involved a misleading assimilation of his views in the period before the First World War to those of traditional empiricism, and Anscombe herself takes the view of Russell criticized by Hylton.

The period about which Hylton is writing includes the period during which Russell wrote Principles of Mathematics:. The anti-psychologism of Platonic Atomism…is complete and thoroughgoing. Platonic Atomism does…imply or suggest a picture of the mind and its capacities, but this picture is very much a by-product of the view. There is no overt concern at all with the nature of thought or the mind or experience, in any sense. It is not that Moore and Russell are concerned to advance a view ttactatus these notions which is different from that of the Idealists, it is rather that these notions almost cease to be the subject of explicit philosophical concern.

This seems to be because the notions are looked on as psychological, and for this reason of no interest to philosophy. If Russell is the source, it would be Russell in his Platonic Atomist or idealist periods. If I do mention it, what is the connection between the two mentioned things?

Reading Wittgenstein with Anscombe, Going On to Ethics

And, if I do not mention it, what account should be given of the words expressing what I say about Russell? But here we can note that the questions mentioned by Anscombe are important for Bradley, and indeed his discussion of them is famous; further, his account of judgment stresses questions about how judgment is related to reality, questions again of exactly the sort which Anscombe is suggesting we need to be struck by if we want to understand the Tractatus.


Idealist preconceptions would not stop us seeing the force of such questions. The contrast with Russell on the matter of interest in epistemology is indeed complicated. But I have tried to show problems for her argument that it is neglect of Frege, more than anything, that underlies the irrelevance of most of what had been written about the Tractatus. There are all sorts of problems with the picture Anscombe gives us, of idealists and empiricists on one side, with their preconceptions and their familiar sorts of question, and Frege on the other side, giving a new direction to philosophy, and asking questions much more like those of ancient philosophy than like those that had concerned earlier thinkers.

But how does she turn out to be right, if her account of the history is, as it stands, unconvincing? They are questions that arise from the usual explanations, in logic books, of truth-functional composition.

An introduction to Wittgenstein’s Tractatus / G.E.M. Anscombe – Details – Trove

In short, is there not an impression as anscombbe were of logical chemistry about these explanations? It is this conception that Wittgenstein opposes in the Tractatus at 6. She quite explicitly argues that Frege, for example, in discussing whether every well-formed sentence the names in which are not empty has a truth-value, takes for granted a kind of logical-chemistry view of the nature tractatud concepts.

Hence the importance of her treatment of negation. If we think about ordinary pictures, she says, we shall be able to see how the possibility of using a picture to anscpmbe that things are so goes with the possibility of using the very same picture to represent that that is how things are not.

We can, that is, see in ordinary trractatus the possibility of being used in two opposite ways, to say two opposite things. Hence the possibility of things being connected that way is in the picture itself. It is then, as occurring in such a picture-context, that the elements can have the ansdombe of representing this or that thing. We can move from that initial insight to an understanding of negation which does not appeal to some kind of ultimate logical fact.

Only so far as they stand in such significant connections are tracratus items elements of a picture; only in such connections can the picture-elements stand for this or that person or object or whatever it may be. Here is her summary: The picture-character of an ordinary picture is then what makes it possible, once correlations have been made, for there to be a thi s, such that there are two opposed ways of representing how things are: Only in the connection that makes up the proposition do the expressions in it stand for anything.

It is through the significant connection of its parts that it can say that anything is the case; and so far as those significant connections make it possible to anscomge that this is how things stand, those same connections make it possible to p.

If what a picture represents as being so is its sense TLP 2. There Anscombe quotes Tractatus 3. Here we should pause and ask some questions. But what then is the connection? Frege does anscoombe think of judgments as put together from parts which have some prior independent logical character.

They are put together into propositions, but are recognizable on their own, independently of their role in propositions. Consider the remarks that I quoted in section We should, I think, read those remarks as containing three distinct points, about immediate experience, private contents, and empiricism.

A notion of immediate acquaintance can play anscombee central role in a philosophical account of meaning and judgment, which may be quite far from empiricism in various tractauts, or indeed opposed to it. Anscombe is certainly right that the Tractatus was misunderstood by her contemporaries ansconbe large part because they saw it as a working out of a radically empiricist view; they saw Russell as arguing for a very similar kind of empiricism.

Although I am in the middle of a line of argument here, I shall introduce a digression to indicate where the argument is going.

McGuinness, and Peter Winch developed readings of the Tractatus which explicitly reject the idea that the connections between names and objects are supposed to be established prior to the use of the names in propositions; on the reading that trwctatus reject, Wittgenstein held that the logical form of the object with which a name was correlated determines how the name can be correctly combined with other names in propositions. It will be helpful if I summarize here, very briefly, one such line of ansocmbe, that of David Pears.


As she says, only if significant relations hold among the elements of a picture can we correlate the elements with things, so that the picture-elements stand for the things, and so that their arrangement shows a way in which the things can stand. When she wrote that the Russellian connection leads to misunderstandings of the Tractatusone of the main things she had in mind was this: Otherwise one could not speak of its connection with some object being annulled.

But a mere sign has no logical connection to any particular kind of object. This connection requires that the name itself not be thought of either as a sign or as a symbol, if a symbol is a symbol only in the context of a proposition. But a weakened version of the context principle is quite different from the version of the tractatks principle that is reflected in the distinction between sign and symbol.

Putting this point another way: These passages are hardly unambiguous, but more important, they were written well before Wittgenstein began to take the context principle seriously. A strong version of the context principle, like that which Anscombe ascribes to Wittgenstein, has been held by some philosophers of language and some commentators on Wittgenstein to be incompatible with the compositionality of language.

So on this view if Wittgenstein did hold such a version of the context principle, his account of language is in trouble. It is far from obvious, though, that there is such an incompatibility, and there are good arguments against it Bronzo I shall not, however, examine tratatus issues here.

I have argued that there is indeed a fundamentally Russellian way of reading the Tractatusand that it is common to the interpretations Anscombe criticized and to later readings like that of David Pears. I quoted her discussion of Tractatus 6. The idea is not, I think, that trwctatus have antecedently available a conception of philosophical clarity, and that the Tractatus account of propositions provides that sort of clarity.

Rather, the making intelligible of the logical character of propositions anscombf a way ascombe understanding what philosophical clarity can be. In the next three sections, I shall be following out a line of thought that starts from what Anscombe actually does in presenting the picture theory.

That will put me in a position to discuss, in section Diamondp. That now seems to me a stupid and misleading thing to have said.

What, after all, does she do in the book—in that part of it that I have been considering? She lays out, makes open to view, a way of using words, the picture-proposition use. She herself is presenting a use of language, the picture-proposition p. There are various ways in which we might represent such a class of propositions; but what such a presentation of the class will do is make evident what the entire class has in common.

Wherever a class of propositions has a feature in common, it can be presented in some such way; and although the point as Anscombe makes it concerns sub-sentential expressions, it is also applicable to the entire class of picture-propositions.

What they have in common can be laid out. They have in common saying that something is so. Presenting the use of signs to say that something is so gives one case, indeed a quite special case, of presenting a class of propositions with something in common, of presenting a class so that what the members have in common is open to view.

In any such case, the propositions in question are all values of some variable; and making plain what the values of the variable are is the way in which the variable itself is given. If as the Tractatus has it anything essential to their sense that propositions can have in common with one another is an expression or symbol, then picture-propositionhood is itself a symbol common to picture-propositions, a common formal feature propositional formand the class of propositions with that feature all propositions can be presented; and this is what Anscombe has done.

In fact, Anscombe presents this class of propositions twice over in her book, as does Wittgenstein in the Tractatus.

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