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


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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Final Thoughts. The Defence of Human Values by early Wittgenstein


On the last pages of this dissertation I shall try to summarise its results. I wrote this work because I was interested in the question as to how Wittgenstein, who fully accepted the scientific worldview, solved the problem of ethics, i.e. the group of issues concerning moral goodness or evil, the meaning of life or aesthetic beauty. If, according to the naturalistic point of view, only physical particles exist – and by that Wittgenstein grants correctness to a proponent of the most far-reaching scientism – then how can we talk about the values of the human world? Wittgenstein’s answer seems to me to be interesting exactly because he does not resort to shortcuts consisting of saying that although natural science has made progress, science is somehow limited, and that there are other, equally valuable points of view on reality. He assumes that it is basically possible that a set of true utterances about the world is tantamount to the totality of propositions of science. He asks from this standpoint: what is the role of philosophy? Is there a place in such a worldview for our strong intuitions that some of our deeds are right or wrong; or that some things or events in our lives present themselves as valuable?

In my opinion, those interpretations of the Tractatus which emphasise its naturalism do not dedicate much attention to the so-called solipsistic and mystical parts of the Tractatus, or even if they do, it seems that their authors are slightly...

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