How could he try to whistle it?

Eric Lemaire


At the end of the Tractatus Wittgenstein says that anyone who understands him should see that the propositions of the book are nonsensical. Furthermore, he asks us to reject them if we want to see the world aright. There is no consensus about this concluding remark. Should we take it at face value? Should we reject it? What is its real meaning? Why does he say such a thing? It is an important issue to understand the book itself. But it is important to understand the second Wittgenstein too since the Tractatus is the principal target of the Investigations. In the Investigations, Wittgenstein apparently tries to avoid such a situation. The questions related to remark 6.54 are related to a more general problem about the nature of Wittgenstein’s philosophy, its place in the history of philosophy, and its inheritance. This problem can be expressed in the following ways: Did he really show that we could not produce a scientific metaphysics? Did he really show that metaphysical propositions are nonsensical? First, I will briefly present three facts. Second, from these facts I will raise the problem. The three facts are the following: 1) The Tractatus is an attempt to construct and apply a method of analysis of ordinary language in order to distinguish between sensical and nonsensical propositions and to pass over silence what is nonsensical. 2) The analysis of ordinary language does not work and cannot work. 3) Even though the analysis of ordinary language is impossible, Wittgenstein applies the concept of nonsense to different areas such as mathematics, ethic, aesthetic, natural sciences, religion, and philosophy.


20th century philosophy; Tractatus logico-philosophicus; Wittgenstein Ludwig; analysis; language; nonsense; ordinary language; philosophy; philosophy of language; sense

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