Wittgenstein defines World as:

TLP: World is the totality of facts, not of things.

Clearly, Wittgenstein is referring to the mental "representation" of the World, not the physical World itself.

We use the word 'sense' in the following way:

Human: Does this make sense to you...?

This usage captures the true meaning of 'sense': a proposition may be well formed (decipherable according to social/language rules), but are you able to "think" what I am thinking?

TLP: A thought is a proposition with sense.

Now this is where I am lost:

TLP: Sense of the World must lie outside the World.

Can the World itself have a sense- Is Wittgenstein still talking about same "sense"?

Even if I agree, how can one just stand away and declare so? Am I not required to "use" some prior sense to be able to make that statement in the first place? Let me be more clear: if sense belongs, so to speak, to a singular faculty of mind -let's call it, for lack of a better term, understanding. Now there seems to be something "fundamentally" wrong in being able to make a statement about sense: For if there isn't infinite hierarchy of such senses, one cannot safely "use" sense to make a statement about sense. More generally, one cannot explain everything, for if one does, the theory itself runs at the danger of being unable to explain itself.

How are we supposed to interpret the "Sense of the World" then (according to TLP / view points against it)? Does/can it exist? If yes, is it "sensible" to us?


1 Answer 1


The first parts of Tractatus are about language, world and logic.

In order to understand it, we have to consider the background, and mainly Frege's philosophy of language where meaning is twofold: bedeutung, i.e. the objects to which the linguistic expression refers to, and the sinn, i.e. the thought that the linguistic expression expresses.

In a nutshell, the basic difference is that for W, names have only reference:

2.221 What a picture represents is its sense. [A complex linguistic expression: name-relation, is a fact that pictures a non-linguistic fact. See W's picture theory of language.]

3.142 Only facts can express a sense, a set of names cannot.

Having said that, in the Tractatus there are two way of beig "devoided of sense": being senseless (sinnlos), like logic formulas, that are "syntactically correct" but without meaning, because they do not represent facts, and being nonsensical (unsinnig), like the propositions of metaphysics and ethics.

Traditional metaphysics, and the propositions of ethics and aesthetics, which try to capture the world as a whole, are also excluded, as is the truth in solipsism, the very notion of a subject, for it is also not “in” the world but at its limit.

The final part of the Tractatus is about ethics:

6.41 The sense of the world must lie outside the world.

Here sense is not only the "technical" term derived from Frege, but is roughly: the meaning of life.


6.421 It is clear that ethics cannot be put into words. Ethics is transcendental.

In a nutshell, values are not facts of the world and thus they cannot be expressed by "syntactically correct" propositions.

In conclusion, the "meaningful" questions (the scientific ones?) are those related to the facts in the world. We can speak of them with our language and thus - in principle - we can answer them.

But there are also questions and problems that remain untouched by science, like ethics and theology. For them, the only approach is "the mystical":

6.522 There are, indeed, things that cannot be put into words. They make themselves manifest. They are what is mystical.

  • According to W's TLP, is the idea of Turing Machine "senseless" (sinnlos)? Not the formulae printed by it, but the concept of Turing Machine (or the intuitive notion of computation) itself?
    – Ajax
    Jan 23, 2021 at 12:38
  • @Ajax - what is the link with the discussion above? Jan 23, 2021 at 13:08
  • Having said that: why not? A computation is the result of a (human) process performed with symbols. Thus, it is a "fact" of the world and we can describe it (Turing did). It is not a "value". Jan 23, 2021 at 13:09
  • I am only trying to internalize W's notions by considering extreme cases.
    – Ajax
    Jan 23, 2021 at 13:36
  • While it is clear to me that Turing's Machines can be sinnlos, it seems to me, for reasons I am unable to articulate at the moment, that the "notion" of computation is with sense. Godel remarked that the notion of computation is in some sense "absolute" : does this not indicate some concrete "sense" associated with computation?
    – Ajax
    Jan 23, 2021 at 13:38

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