Academic journal article The Review of Metaphysics

Philosophy: Vol. 88, No. 2, April 2013

Academic journal article The Review of Metaphysics

Philosophy: Vol. 88, No. 2, April 2013

Article excerpt

Insatiable Desire, FIONA ELLIS

Why the Tractatus, Like the Old Testament, Is 'Nothing but a Book,' K. L. EVANS

In The Education of the Human Race, G. E. Lessing argues that the propositions of the Old Testament are pseudopropositions, or why they do not resemble the significant propositions of natural science but the tautological propositions of mathematics and of logic. That is, the so-called propositions of the Old Testament do not teach readers whether what actually happens is this or that; rather what they teach us is to imagine expressions by substitution in such a way as to throw their structure into relief. One of Lessing's most attentive readers was Wittgenstein. Or perhaps only Wittgenstein would have been able to grasp so immediately Lessing's contention that the tautological or pseudopropositions of the Old Testament invite thinking only when readers use them to understand "what is the case" in the pictures (the thoughts) that the propositions have (logically) constructed. Thus this essay uses Wittgenstein's reading of Lessing to throw light on his work in the Tractatus. Rather than take up the new logician's interest in completely analyzing expressions (which would include settling the way a referent is referred to in an expression), Wittgenstein insists in the Tractatus that the expressions we use, even those that seem to be propositions or that contain assertions, are in fact designed to be elucidatory without saying anything about the nature of the subjects that figure in them. …

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