An Analysis of Wittgenstein's Picture Theory
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Wittgenstein's distinction between what is shown and what can be said is controversial because implicit in this distinction is the assertion that both sides of it are mutually exclusive, that is, what can be shown cannot be said. This bold assertion rests on an ontology forged from the beginning of the Tractatus regarding the nature of simple objects. This ontology views the world as necessarily consisting, independently of us and of language, of simple objects whose relations operate in particular ways. It is in fact this ontology which leads Wittgenstein to a paradox in which he admits that his own propositions are senseless since his own descriptions about the relation of language to the world can only be shown by language, not said or stated in it. That Wittgenstein's method does breach with his ontology is a problem he tried to answer by likening the situation unto one where we regard his propositions as a ladder on which we mount to a certain level of understanding and which we then kick away. Wittgenstein, as Russell remarks in the preface,l manages to say an awful lot about what cannot be said. I will try in this paper to expand on the limits he assigns to language and the rationale he supplies for doing so.