Tractatus, in a way, says World isn't what is out there, but is the world you imagine. World is what you would tell another person when you will recount this world. (It is what you would 'know' of the world). You will remember this world with a ripe land, tall green trees, shining sun, flowing river. We will also 'know', when recounting 'land', 'trees', 'sun', 'river', what relation one had with another -that sun shone at day, trees grew on land, rivers had fishes. They are 'facts'. They tell us what was the 'case'. This remembrance would be, in a manner of saying, logical picture because thoughts must be logical. We don't imagine facts when we imagine the World. (Facts are contained in the logical relationship one one object to another and Totality of these facts is therefore the complete description of world). When we imagine World, we imagine a logical picture. (This picture may correctly or incorrectly correspond to reality with complex probability functions -and will be the limit of my world). He has then developed a theory to explain how this happens -ending by saying that whatever we will 'say' about the world, cannot be what it 'was'. Exemplification cannot be said; it 'happens'.

I personally don't see anything blatantly wrong with the theory. It is a very convincing theory on the the kind of system it deals with (We say so just in case reality is 'not' reducible to the world Tractatus deals with). So my question is why was Tractatus not so successful (or is relevant today)? Also, can the ideas of logical picture be applied on our perception of science?

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    Naive logical atomism and positivism of the Tractatus were quickly superseded in philosophy of science. And, as Wittgenstein himself wrote, "Language is much more complex than logicians and the author of the Tract. Log. Phil. have imagined". You can read an account of the unraveling in Kuusela's The Development of Wittgenstein’s Philosophy.
    – Conifold
    Commented Sep 9, 2019 at 23:53
  • "Tractatus, in a way, says World isn't what is out there, but is the world you imagine." Can you please give a source (a paragraph of the Tractatus) saying that ? Commented Sep 10, 2019 at 6:07
  • See related post as well as this one. Commented Sep 10, 2019 at 7:42
  • @MauroALLEGRANZA World is the sense you make out of what you experience. 2.1: "We picture facts to our selves" . Facts are, in a way of speaking, valid sense of the world. Picture of the world is the Fact. And a right picture will depict the World. Pictures occur in minds. They are imagined. By 'World' I meant thought of the World.
    – Ajax
    Commented Sep 11, 2019 at 7:05
  • Pictures are facts and not images in the mind. The word "mind" does not occur in the text of the Tractatus. Commented Sep 11, 2019 at 8:06

1 Answer 1


Your recap of some aspects of the Tractatus is pretty nicely written. We might reasonably suppose that there is something deep still left for the individual to find the in the Tractatus. However, there are many more details and finer points of theory in the Tractatus that are subject to criticism. As a whole, academic philosophy no longer sees the theory propounded in the Tractatus as worthy of mainstream development. To get a good idea of why Wittgenstein's early theory was abandoned even by him, the following is a pretty good overview: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/wittgenstein-atomism/#DisLogAto

To give you a brief idea. One tenet of Tractatus is that each atomic proposition's truth-value is independent of the truth-value of every other proposition. This gave rise to the Color-Exclusion Problem that was instrumental in moving Wittgenstein away from his earlier theory and into the later Wittgenstein. Wittgenstein in the Tractatus says:

For two colours, e.g., to be at one place in the visual field is impossible, and indeed logically impossible, for it is excluded by the logical structure of colour. Let us consider how this contradiction presents itself in physics. Somewhat as follows: That a particle cannot at the same time have two velocities, that is, that at the same time it cannot be in two places, that is, that particles in different places at the same time cannot be identical (6.3751)

The problem is how Wittgenstein can account in the Tractatus for the incompatibility. Since the truth-value of every proposition is independent of the truth-value of the others, the proposition 'x point on the visual field is green' and the proposition 'x point on the visual field is red' are independent of one another. But that doesn't seem right at all--it seems that this place in the visual field being green precisely rules out this point in the visual field being red.

Wittgenstein believed he could solve the problem for some time without fundamental revisions to the Tractatus, but it seems that Wittgenstein cannot get the color-exclusion principle using just his atomic facts and combinations thereof. He needs it to be a conceptual truth that two colors cannot occupy the same point of the visual field, but it looks like it may be a synthetic claim. If it is a priori, then Wittgenstein doesn't have it because he doesn't have a synthetic a priori.

In “Some Remarks on Logical Form” (1929), Wittgenstein comes to the realization that not all materially incompatible propositions can be reduced to logical contradiction. Wittgenstein's Tractatus did not have the resources provide an account of why certain pairs of propositions could not be true together; again, this ultimately issues forth from the doctrine of truth-value independence of atomic propositions.

These and other issues make the Tractatus look less and less like a workable theory. That said, the Tracatus is still worthy of study and the individual can find much of value in the course of thoughts that Wittgenstein takes you through. Like most great works of philosophy, it is a failure but a spectacular failure that shines like a great light.

  • it may sound silly, but what about visions of colour?
    – user38026
    Commented Sep 25, 2019 at 21:36
  • @another_name Is the suggestion that illusory visions of color can have two colors at the same time at the same point on the visual field? Wouldn't even visions be just one color at one point? In any case, Wittgenstein seems convinced that the example shows that there are propositions that cannot possibly be true together. Commented Oct 4, 2019 at 20:26

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