Wittgenstein: Connections and Controversies

By P. M. S. Hacker | Go to book overview

4 Was he Trying to Whistle It?

1 'A Baffling Doctrine, Bafflingly Presented'
That there are things that cannot be put into words, but which make themselves manifest (TLP 6.522) is a leitmotif running through the whole of the Tractatus. It is heralded in the Preface, in which the author summarizes the whole sense of the book in the sentence 'What can be said at all can be said clearly, and what we cannot talk about we must pass over in silence', and it is repeated by the famous concluding remark 'What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence'. Wittgenstein's claim is, or at least seems to be, that, by the very nature of language, or indeed of any system of representation whatsoever, there are things that cannot be stated or described, things of which one cannot speak, but which are in some sense shown by language. The numerous truths that seemingly cannot be stated, but that are nevertheless apparently asserted in the course of the Tractatus, can be sorted into the following groups:
(i) The harmony between thought, language, and reality. There is (or seems to be) a harmony (or as Wittgenstein later put it, with deliberate Leibnizean allusion, a 'pre-established harmony' (BT 189)) between representation and what is represented. This harmony does not consist in the agreement of a true proposition with reality, since there are also false propositions. Rather it consists in the agreement of form between any proposition whatever and the reality it depicts either truly or falsely.

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