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? asked in Arts & HumanitiesPhilosophy · 1 decade ago

Why do you think Wittgenstein began his masterpiece Tractatus Logico-Philosohicus as he did?

One thing that fascinates me is the first paragraph of the Preface to this masterpiece.

“Perhaps this book will be understood only by someone who has himself already had the thoughts that are expressed in it—or at least similar thoughts.—So it is not a textbook.—Its purpose would be achieved if it gave pleasure to one person who read and understood it.”


The reason I love this quote is that it summarizes perfectly my experience setting up communities and blogs over the past 10 years. At first there are a lot of people but after a few months, I find that I am in a dialogue with one special person who is like my soul sister in many ways. (always a woman.)

3 Answers

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    Wittgenstein was inspired by Kierkegaard, and no doubt he read Kierkegaard's The Point of View. Kierkegaard had a fascinating method of communicating to the individual. Creegan puts it best:


    The ideal of the task of convincing brings up another important point of contact between the methodologies of Kierkegaard and Wittgenstein. They both focussed their efforts on the individual. This focus can be clearly seen in the prefaces to Wittgenstein's works. That of the Investigations says: 'I should not like my writing to spare other people the trouble of thinking. But, if possible, to stimulate someone to thoughts of his own.' And the first paragraph of the preface to the Tractatus reads:

    Perhaps this book will be understood only by someone who has himself already had the thoughts that are expressed in it - or at least similar thoughts. - so it is not a textbook. - Its purpose would be achieved if it gave pleasure to one person who read and understood it.

    These formulations clearly recall the emphasis which Kierkegaard places on the individual reader. There are good reasons why they should. First, both authors are communicating indirectly. As was suggested above, the nature of that enterprise is such that every individual reader must be independently convinced of the proposed improvements in understanding. A directly communicated work - a scientific text - can be relied upon. The material in it is factual, and has been derived according to various laws and standards. As Wittgenstein says, the content of 'theses' must be acceded to by all. But a perspicuous presentation of the facts, designed to alter someone's view of the world, can only be accepted or rejected by each individual.

    Kierkegaard's understanding of this method is demonstrated when he talks of 'appropriation' and 'double reflection.' These two categories stress the role of the person on the receiving end. Indirect communication is doubly reflected. The communicator reflects on the problem, and makes an attempt at communication. The listener must also reflect, and his reflection governs the way in which he will appropriate the material. The dialectic of double reflection is explained in his material on 'the listener's role in a devotional address' in Purity of Heart.64 It is also shown - in fact, perhaps best shown - by the development of his own case. He remarks in a journal entry:

    It must above all be pointed out that I am not a teacher who originally envisioned everything and now, self-confident on all points, uses indirect communication, but that I myself have developed during the writing. This explains why my indirect communication is on a lower level than the direct, for the indirectness was due also to my not being clear myself at the beginning. Therefore I myself am the one who has been formed and developed by and through the indirect communication.

  • 1 decade ago

    He was right to be cautious, a lot of people ended up missing what the work meant. I haven't read the tractatus yet, but from what wittgenstein I have studied, it seemed like he thought the entire logical positivist movement misunderstood what he had meant.

  • 1 decade ago

    Well, the whole thing was a bit odd, wasn't it? I mean, I think it's really cool, but . . . Look, let's spend all this time defining what we can know. And then say everything we've just spent all this time on is of no value. And the only thing that is of value I can't write down, so ...... thanks for buying the book. Be real, if you were writing that and publishing it, wouldn't you be a little unsure of how it would be received???

    Source(s): An 18 year old memory of the Tractatus (which, incidentally, I found very impressive as I recall).
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