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The Conflicts of Modernity in Ludwig Wittgenstein’s «Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus»

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Marek Dobrzeniecki

The author offers a new look at one of the most influential books in the history of philosophy: Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. He presents the Tractatus as expressing the intellectual anxieties of its modernist epoch. The most intriguing but usually unanswered question concerning the Tractatus is why Wittgenstein had to think that only propositions of natural science have meaning. The author reviews the most popular interpretations of the Tractatus and comes to the conclusion that the early Wittgenstein was an ethical subjectivist. With this insight, he solves the tension between Tractarian theses that influenced neopositivism and its mystical part.
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Chapter 5. Ethics in Wittgenstein’s Early Writings

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In the previous chapters I advanced arguments in favour of the thesis that the Tractatus grants science exclusive authority in discovering the truth about reality; that the simple objects of the Tractatus are physical atoms and that, on the other hand, the metaphysics of the self (independently whether defined in the dualistic or the transcendental tradition) fails to safeguard the world of values and meaning from the claims of scientism. This interpretation of the Tractatus places early Wittgenstein in the wider intellectual movement (pervading philosophy, literature and theology) of the first decades of the 20th century called modernism.

This interpretation, however, leaves some questions unanswered. In this context I mentioned in Chapter 4 the Tractarian remark that:

what the solipsist means is quite correct; only it cannot be said, but makes itself manifest (TLP 5.62).

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