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Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (Routledge Classics) Paperback – June 28, 2001

ISBN-13: 978-0415254083 ISBN-10: 0415254086 Edition: 2nd
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Editorial Reviews


Wittgenstein, in his preface, tells us that his book is not a textbook, and that its object will be attained if there is one person who reads it with understanding and to whom it affords pleasure. We think there are many persons who will read it with understanding and enjoy it. The treatise is clear and lucid. The author is continually arresting us with new and striking thoughts, and he closes on a note of mystical exaltation.
–The Times Literary Supplement

Tractatus is one of the fundamental texts of twentieth-century philosophy - short, bold, cryptic, and remarkable in its power to stir the imagination of philosophers and non-philosophers alike.
–Michael Frayn

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: German --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 142 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; 2 edition (June 28, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415254086
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415254083
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.3 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #677,077 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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396 of 418 people found the following review helpful By S. Guha on December 15, 2005
Format: Paperback
Since most of the reviews of the Tractatus here contain either fawning praise or vituperation without much expository content, it may perhaps be useful to give an account, in reasonably clear terms, of what this book is actually about. Granted that my account is somewhat simplified, it will still be better than quasi-mystical gushing praise or bitter unargued criticism. The central idea of the Tractatus is expressed very clearly at proposition 4.01 and certain comments following it:

"A proposition is a picture of reality.

A proposition is a model of reality as we imagine it." [4.01]

"At first sight a proposition--one set out on the printed page, for example--does not seem to be a picture of the reality with which it is concerned. But neither do written notes seem at first sight to be a picture of a piece of music . . . And yet these sign-languages prove to be pictures, even in the ordinary sense, of what they represent." [4.011]

"A gramophone record, the musical idea, the written notes, and the sound-waves, all stand to one another in the same internal relation of depicting that holds between language and the world.

They are all construed according to a common logical pattern." [4.014]

So, Wittgenstein's basic view in the Tractatus is simple: statements ("propositions") are pictures or models of the situations they are about. The sequence of words "The cat is on the mat" would be taken by him to picture the situation that consists in one object (the cat) standing in a certain relation (being on) to another object (the mat). Or rather, this would be the way to understand this proposition if the cat and mat themselves were indivisible atoms, without any smaller parts.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Reader From Aurora on February 6, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Originally published in 1921 Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus is arguably the most influential piece of twentieth century philosophical writing. This edition contains the well respected 1961 Pears and McGuinness translation as well as the introduction to the original English edition by Bertrand Russell. I offer the following comments for potential readers.

Despite its unquestioned historical significance the Tractatus is not necessarily a good entry point into Wittgenstein's thought. Arguably, if one were to read it not aware of the context within it which it was written it might seem pedantic and tedious - it is largely focused on addressing logico-linguistic questions prevalent at the outset of the twentieth century. From my perspective, an understanding of Frege and Russell is essential to appreciating the Tractatus. In particular it is important to have an appreciation for Frege's notions of concept, and his views on sense and reference; Whereas, Russell's approach to names and descriptions is also important.

Although I appreciate Wittgenstein's work in the fields of language and logic I think his influence on modern philosophy has not been entirely positive. For instance it could be argued that the Logical-Positivist movement stemming from Wittgenstein's early work steered philosophical discussion into and sterile and uninteresting period where large metaphysical questions were deemed out of bonds (undoubtedly some would consider this a good thing).

Overall, the Tractatus is a classic in modern philosophy - an important read for all serious students. For non-Wittgenstein enthusiasts, however, it can be a difficult read in early twentieth century analytic philosophy.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Nathaniel Avery on January 27, 2003
Format: Paperback
That is the only word to describe this book, even if some of the ideas are erroneous. That is not the only basis to judge a book's importance. His work seems to be an expansion of an aphorism found in Nietzsche's All Too Human, that people have always assumed words have an unchanging meaning, or have meaning at all in some cases. Ludwig compares our language to a mirror, which must represent something in reality to be truthful. This is not a rejection of what is thus deemed "mystical," but in fact is more respectful of it, in freeing it from refutations or proofs based in language. Ludwig perhaps states this better in his later work. He also shows that the idea of an absolute is nonsensical, that something must exist in relation to something else; to prove an absolute you would have to find a symbol that would no longer be a symbol. Not every proposition can be based on the criterion of truth or falsehood. This makes all previous philosophy nonsense. The symbols used are used to say something that cannot be said. His style is impressive in its force and simplicity. The book is an eclectic mix of logical proofs and regular prose. Now whether all philosophy is made suspect by Wittgenstein is debatable. There are some philosophies that do not repeat the previous errors of the Platonic tradition, such as existentialism. In any case, the study of language is profoundly shown to be integral to a full study of philosophy. Some knowledge of logic would be helpful, but not absolutely necessary to understand the import of his main ideas.
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Nathan Andersen TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 31, 2005
Format: Paperback
There's a lot going on in this little book. I take it, though, that at its core the thesis of the book is fairly straightforward (even if controversial):

What can be said (i.e. what can be meaningfully uttered, i.e. what can be said in such a way as to have an unambiguous meaning) can be said clearly (i.e. can be said in such a way as to make perfect sense and be easily understood). Nothing else should be said. This has the implication that instead of doing philosophy, we should let scientists do their things, we should talk about things around us ("warm weather today, huh" "There is a red tailed sparrow on the top of that tree!"), and not sully our feeling that there is something more by talking about it in ways that will not make sense.

The argument fits nicely with a style of poetry and art that is contemporary with Wittgenstein, that consists of simply painting things as they are seen, and calling attention to the ordinary everyday around you in such a way as to summon its power to astound (e.g. Rilke or Proust). The aim ultimately, for W., is to stop theorizing about things and to just live in the moment. In that way, it is close to Buddhist and other insights.

Great book, well worth reading. Not an easy read though.
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