Sunday, April 22, 2012


While I am thoroughly interested in Wittgenstein's theory, I am perhaps more interested in the stylistic transformation that took place between the Tractatus and Philosophical Investigations. The Tractatus, in form and content, seems written without an audience in mind, or at least without a questioning, doubtful, human audience, anyway. Philosophical Investigations, on the other hand, anticipates skepticism, and at times even calls out directly to the reader. I first became conscious of this on 152, where he writes: "Do the others, perhaps, hover before one's mind? All of them? And while one is saying the one sentence, or before, or afterwards? --No. Even if such an explanations rather tempts us, we need only think for a moment of what actually happens in order to see we are going astray here." First of all, I love the emphatic "No" he frequently uses. (I love it the most at the bottom of 163: "Can you give the boundary? No." It's as if he's saying, "No, you can't, so why don't you just listen to me." I cannot recall any such feeling in the Tractatus-- there was instead an implicit feeling of "if you don't understand, I don't care.") Secondly, he recognizes and anticipates where the minds of his audience might stray and preemptively guards against this straying, exhibiting a consciousness of audience that prevails, ultimately contributing to this text's (vs. Tracty's) readability.

Other moments: pg. 157-- "Do not say: 'There isn't a last definition...'"; pg. 163-- "... don't think, but look!"; and the very fascinating moment when he writes of "the author of the Tractatus Logico--Philosophicus," effectively putting even the past version of himself into his intended audience.


  1. Noelle, I love that you pointed this out. I definitely felt a distinct difference between "Investigations" and "Tractatus" but I thought it was simply because they were set up differently. Thanks to you, I now realize that it's because they're written differently in regard to the audience. I agree that "Investigations" seems to involve the reader much more than "Tractatus". When I was reading "Tractatus," I felt as though I was in no way involved with what I was reading but it wasn't the same in reading "Investigations," probably for the exact reason that Wittgenstein addresses the reader by using words like "you."

  2. I thought about this too, Noelle -- how wonderfully this shift in style reflects the different understanding of language in Investigations. From the perspective of the later Wittgenstein, the early Wittgenstein seems locked into a language game called "logic" or perhaps "philosophy", and mistaking the rules of that language game for a correct description of the world. There is an aspiration to pure definition and correspondence in the Tractatus that seeks to (almost?) eliminate any way of speaking that would complicate that picture. In Investigations we get instead this wonderful richness of different language games: including funny examples, direct address, imagined dialogue, and (my personal favorite) a recurring appeal to actual experience (in, for example, the wonderful "that sounds queer" on p. 158).