The introduction to Wittgenstein’s Tractatus is written by Bertrand Russell and explains some of the books main ideas and concepts.
Russell begins by outlining Wittgenstein’s ideas on symbolism and language. He initially identifies the four main problems with language.
1)What it is that occurs in our minds when we use language with the intention of meaning something by it
2)The relationship subsisting between thoughts, words, sentences and what they refer to and mean
3)Using sentences to convey the truth instead of lies
4)The relation one fact (i.e a sentence) has to another in order to be a symbol for the other.
There are conditions for accurate symbolism. A logically perfect language has rules of syntax which prevents nonsense and single symbols have a definite and unique meaning. An ideal language would have one symbol for everything and no multiple meanings.
Wittgenstein also makes a comparison between linguistics and geometry. A geometrical figure can be projected in many different ways, with each corresponding to a different language. Proposition and fact must have something in common if the proposition is to assert the fact. For example; ‘Socrates loves Plato.’ The two men must be named and the word ‘loves’ establishes a certain relationship between the two names.
‘We make to ourselves pictures of facts.’ Wittgenstein believed that a picture is a model of reality and the objects in the reality correspond to the elements of the picture. The picture itself is a fact. However, the picture must share a logical form with the fact. This logical form cannot be depicted.
The world is not described by merely naming all the objects in it.
The preface to Wittgenstein’s Tractatus opens by stating ‘This book will only be understood by those who have themselves thought the thoughts that are expressed in it or similar thoughts.’
The book deals with the problems of philosophy and states that the method of formulating these problems rests on the misunderstanding of the logic of our language. Wittgenstein drew a limit to thinking and the expression of thought. He firmly believed in his idea of logic and was certain he had solved the problems put forth by himself, but little had been done about it.
The first part of the Tractatus deals with ontology, what the world is made up of fundamentally. Everything relies on fact, the world is made up only of facts and divides into facts. Objects form the substance of the world and cannot be compound. Something either has a singular meaning, making it easy to define, or multiple meanings, making it difficult to differentiate.
Space, time and colour are all forms of objects and the existence of objects provides the world with a fixed form. Logical form is the form of reality.
What is thinkable is also possible. We cannot think anything illogical or we would have to think illogically. Therefore, as we cannot think in a manner that defies logic, we are unable to say what an illogical world would look like.
Reality is made up of simple objects which are combined to form states of affairs. A state of affairs either can be the case or cannot be the case. The world is the totality of states of affairs.
Objects are simple and cannot be analysed, as they only exist within the context of the state of affairs. Each object has a logical form which determines their combination within the state of affairs. Think of it like links in a chain. However each object does not need a relational object to hold them together. Logical connections between states of affairs and elementary propositions show themselves, so there is no need for logical objects such as ‘and’ or ‘that’ to hold them together. The premise that logical objects do not actually represent anything is one of Wittgenstein’s fundamental ideas.
Wittgenstein moves on to look at how language works to accurately describe the world. Language is made up of propositions. A proposition is a logical picture of reality and it mirrors reality by sharing its logical form. Names mirror objects.
Elements in a proposition are set out to resemble the reality which they represent. Signs acquire meaning through their use in propositions. If a sign is used in two entirely different ways, it represents two entirely different signs.
Wittgenstein believed that most problems within philosophy arise because people attempt to talk about things which can only be shown. Wittgenstein differentiates between ‘formal concepts,’ which cannot be spoken about, and ‘concepts proper,’ which are legitimate components of propositions. Philosophy is NOT a body of propositions, it should instead be thought of as an activity to clarify the logical structure of language and thought.
Wittgenstein also outlines three different types of proposition:
1)Tautologies- which are always true
2)Contradictions- which are always false
3)Propositions with a sense- which can either be true or false
True propositions always follow on from one another. However, if any part of the proposition is false, it falsifies the entire proposition. This can be fully explained by using Frager’s truth tables. Propositions of logic are all tautologies and therefore all equivalent.
Wittgenstein believed that language and the world both shared the same limits, leading to the reflection that the claim made in solipsism that ‘the world is my world’ is correct. However solipsism also cannot be put into language.
Wittgenstein also looks at maths and states that it does not actually say anything about the world but instead reflects the construction of propositions. Moving on from this, he says that the laws of science are not logical laws but merely an interpretive method.
Wittgenstein concludes that the only correct method to apply in philosophy is to remain entirely silent about philosophical questions. Anyone trying to talk about philosophy, is effectively just talking nonsense.
‘What we cannot speak about, we must pass over in silence.’