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Sense and Substance in Wittgenstein"s Tractatus

Austrian Ludwig Wittgenstein Society
Publication Date
  • Epistemologie
  • Wissenschaftstheorie
  • Naturphilosophie
  • Kirchberg 2003
  • Sprachphilosophie


In the early pages of his Tractatus, Wittgenstein says that the substance of the world consists of unalterable, simple objects (Gegenstände) (2.021, 2.027). Substance is connected to the Sinn of a proposition in the following cryptic way: "If the world had no substance, then whether a proposition had sense [Sinn] would depend on whether another proposition was true.â€? (2.0211)â€? "In that case we could not sketch any picture of the world (true or false).â€? (2.0212) How can the sense of a proposition depend on the existence of simple, unalterable objects? No connection between Sinn and substance is evident on the basis of these short remarks. Furthermore, the remarks sound strange because elsewhere in the Tractatus Wittgenstein makes it clear that we can understand the sense of a proposition without knowing anything about how things actually stand in the world (see e.g. 4.024).

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