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December 16, 2021 2 min read


What did Wittgenstein mean by that anyway? Wittgenstein is implying a limit to language in the first place, making a clear distinction between “what can be said” and “what we cannot talk about”. For example, it is not possible to talk about metaphysical things at all, since we are given the idea of them, but we can in no way find adequate words to describe the phenomenon accurately. Wittgenstein also breaks radically with these very things, one could also say they are not worth talking about, since we cannot come to any generally valid conclusion about them anyway. Wittgenstein himself comes from the analytic school for which formal logic and mathematical proof lead to the establishment of truth. "Poetic" (existentialist) assumptions about the nature of people, ethics, morality, religion do not seduce him.

On the contrary, he declares these parts of philosophy as closed, precisely on the grounds that we cannot say anything about them. The meme depicted here makes it clear that the indescribability of the "greater whole" is itself part of itself and that it therefore always "sloshes back" onto man, like a wave in the ocean. We thus turn Wittgenstein's quotation around in its meaning, when it is we ourselves who set the limits of our world with our language. We are now limiting ourselves instead of reflecting on the fact that the world is limitless, but our language is not. This may be a human error that Wittgenstein himself also grasped in his later work. He now recalled parts of his "Tractatus" from which the in-depth quotation comes. One therefore also speaks of Wittgenstein I and Wittgenstein II, in order to make clear from which premises we start, when we speak of Wittgenstein's philosophy.

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