Monday, April 5, 2010

Understanding a sentence

Take the case of trying to understanding a peculiar sentence in a philosophical text. "The limits of my language are the limits of my world," says Wittgenstein at the beginning of section 5.6 of the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. This sub-heading, with all its subsidiary remarks, is so full of resounding, paradoxical statements (one would almost have to quote the entire section to give a full catalog) that it is difficult to fathom how it could be the summation of a a very careful and technical analysis of truth-functions of elementary propositions. Life, subjectivity, reality, the will, the world: none of these themes are fields in which anyone would expect an entirely abstract logical discussion to produce anything. What do truth-tables have to do with these substantial issues?

To be continued.