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A Companion to Wittgenstein's Tractatus

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"It is one of the merits of Max Black's Companion to the Tractatus that he emphasizes the continuity of Wittgenstein s philosophical development by ... Show synopsis

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Eos3011

Logical Truths Reconsidered

by Eos3011 on Feb 9, 2008

This is a most unusual book and it is a model of thorough, subtle scholarship to illuminate and appraise some early work of Ludwig Wittgenstein (LW). As its title implies, it is a companion to Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (TLP) and it is of service and interest only to a careful student of that work with its intellectual underpinnings. A concern with logical truth is an element essential to a mindset in an investigator who is to gain from close study of both TLP and its companion work from Professor Black. A student must be diligent. Max Black is a master of plain talk, among other things, and he puts his formidable skills to this task of shedding light on logical truth. Here is an example of a logical truth: ?Either snow is white or snow is not white.? Here this statement is expressed in plain English but it can also be reset as possible content of a sentence formula in formal logic. A core issue for LW is the nature and meaning of logical truth of such statements generally classed as tautologies. A major claim made by LW is that this truth ?shows itself? and can be seen in the formal structure of this statement without any observations of snow. At first glance an attentive reader may take study of tautologies as another form of trivia game. Both LW and his teacher, Bertrand Russell, took metaphysics as arising from logic and this assumption places TLP in a tradition of distinguished but trying scholarship dating back to Plato and Aristotle. Formal logic can not only clarify patterns of inference, as W.V.O. Quine has so ably demonstrated, but it can also be used to clarify and challenge metaphysical claims. As the distinguished particle physicist, Lisa Randall, has remarked in her interview with Charlie Rose, ?A word is worth a thousand pictures in inference.? Tautologies in formal logic have their cousins among the postulates of natural science, such as ?Energy can neither be created nor destroyed.? Einstein cautioned Bertrand Russell not to be too afraid of metaphysics. In Max Black?s companion work we have a detailed commentary on TLP with interpretation, joined with cross-references among interrelated passages, together with illuminations from related works of Wittgenstein. In addition, this companion work has a concordance for German attuned to original writing in TLP. A serious scholar who would devote close study to TLP as an intellectual monument in progress of ideas will find substance on logical truth in abundance in this splendid book crafted by Max Black.

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