Given that the literal translation of the german word bedeutung is "sense", what does it refer to in the semantics of the tractarian Wittgenstein, among these options?

  1. the meaning of the subatomic elements only (the contituents of the elementary sentense which are proxy for each one of the component of the depicted situation);

  2. the meaning of the elementary / atomic sentences(which depict facts);

  3. the meaning of a generic meaningful declarative sentence, even the compound / molecular ones.

1 Answer 1


Sense and reference are the (usual) English counterpart of Fregean distiction between Sinn und Bedeutung [see: Sense and reference].

In the Tractatus, Wittgenstein follows Frege in this use of the word "Bedeutung".

The original translation by C.K. Ogden as "meaning" is probably not the best one.

Wittgenstein's conception of "sense" [Sinn] may be called the same as Frege's, with the basic difference that, for Wittgenstein, names had no sense but only reference, and propositions no reference but only sense.

See Tractatus (D.F. Pears and B.F. McGuinness translation, 1961):

3.203 A name means an object. The object is its meaning [Bedeutung].

3.3 Only propositions have sense [Sinn]; only in the nexus of a proposition does a name have meaning [Bedeutung].

  • thank you. Bedeutung or reference is referred to names only, not to predicates, right? (e.g. in "the sky is blue", "blue" doesn't have a bedeutung?)
    – franz1
    Commented Mar 20, 2016 at 17:05
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    @robertalrp - the issue is thorny. It seems that predicates have no refernce. See GEM Anscombe, An Introduction to Wittgenstein's Tractatus (2nd ed., 1963), page 109: "So far as concerns the content of a functional expression, that will consist in the objects covered by it. But in respect of having argument-places, concepts go over entirely into logical forms. In the 'completely analysed proposition', which is 'a logical network sprinkled with names', the Fregean 'concept', the thing with holes in it, has become simply the logical form." 1/2 Commented Mar 20, 2016 at 18:05
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    "Thus there is no question of two kinds of reference for expressions; one which is incomplete, having a hole in it that awaits, say, an object to complete it; and another, complete and capable of completing the incomplete, itself requiring no completion." 2/2 Commented Mar 20, 2016 at 18:05

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