Wittgenstein's Tractatus and the Epistemology of Logic

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This paper discusses Wittgenstein’s early account of the epistemology of logic in relation to Frege, Russell, and Carnap. My goal is to explain how the key insight of Wittgenstein’s early philosophy of logic, captured in his slogan ‘logic takes care of itself’, enables him to solve several problems that arise for Frege’s and Russell’s philosophies and epistemologies of logic. These include problems relating to the justification of logical accounts and logical consequence, as well as to the status of logic as an a priori investigation distinct from empirical psychology. More specifically, Wittgenstein’s key insight eliminates the need to appeal in the study of logic to any allegedly self-evident truths, intuitions or substantial metaphysical knowledge regarding abstract objects. Further, his associated conception that the right way to articulate an account of logic isn’t propositions or theses, but a logical language whose design mirrors the logical structure of thought and language, puts him in a position to address what Sheffer\ called later ‘the logocentric predicament’, a difficulty that arises for what are known as universalist accounts of logic, such as those of Frege, Russell, and the early Wittgenstein. In the last section I use the proposed interpretation to explain why the Tractatus doesn’t suffer from a paradox of nonsensical theses, contrary to how it has often been interpreted. I also outline how Wittgenstein’s use of colloquial language to introduce his logical language foreshadows Carnap’s method of logical syntax, anticipating the distinction between metalanguages and object languages in contemporary logic, and explain why Carnap’s criticisms of Wittgenstein fail.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWittgenstein's Tractatus at 100 years
EditorsMartin Stokhof , Hao Tang
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-031-29863-9
ISBN (Print)978-3-031-29862-2
Publication statusPublished - 23 Sep 2023

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