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Perhaps this book will be understood only by someone who has himself
already had the thoughts that are expressed in it—or at least similar
thoughts.—So it is not a textbook.—Its purpose would be achieved if it
gave pleasure to one person who read and understood it.
The book deals with the problems of philosophy, and shows, I believe, that
the reason why these problems are posed is that the logic of our language
is misunderstood. The whole sense of the book might be summed up the
following words: what can be said at all can be said clearly, and what we
cannot talk about we must pass over in silence.
Thus the aim of the book is to draw a limit to thought, or rather—not to
thought, but to the expression of thoughts: for in order to be able to draw
a limit to thought, we should have to find both sides of the limit
thinkable (i.e. we should have to be able to think what cannot be thought).
It will therefore only be in language that the limit can be drawn, and what
lies on the other side of the limit will simply be nonsense.
I do not wish to judge how far my efforts coincide with those of other
philosophers. Indeed, what I have written here makes no claim to novelty in
detail, and the reason why I give no sources is that it is a matter of
indifference to me whether the thoughts that I have had have been
anticipated by someone else.
I will only mention that I am indebted to Frege's great works and of the
writings of my friend Mr Bertrand Russell for much of the stimulation of my
If this work has any value, it consists in two things: the first is that
thoughts are expressed in it, and on this score the better the thoughts are
expressed—the more the nail has been hit on the head—the greater will be
its value.—Here I am conscious of having fallen a long way short of what
is possible. Simply because my powers are too slight for the accomplishment
of the task.—May others come and do it better.
On the other hand the truth of the thoughts that are here communicated
seems to me unassailable and definitive. I therefore believe myself to have
found, on all essential points, the final solution of the problems. And if
I am not mistaken in this belief, then the second thing in which the of
this work consists is that it shows how little is achieved when these
problem are solved.
The procedure of induction consists in accepting as true the simplest
law that can be reconciled with our experiences.
This procedure, however, has no logical justification but only a
psychological one. It is clear that there are no grounds for believing that
the simplest eventuality will in fact be realized.
It is an hypothesis that the sun will rise tomorrow: and this means
that we do not know whether it will rise.
There is no compulsion making one thing happen because another has
happened. The only necessity that exists is logical necessity.
The whole modern conception of the world is founded on the illusion
that the so-called laws of nature are the explanations of natural
Thus people today stop at the laws of nature, treating them as
something inviolable, just as God and Fate were treated in past ages. And
in fact both are right and both wrong: though the view of the ancients is
clearer in so far as they have a clear and acknowledged terminus, while the
modern system tries to make it look as if everything were explained.
The world is independent of my will.
Even if all that we wish for were to happen, still this would only be
a favour granted by fate, so to speak: for there is no logical connexion
between the will and the world, which would guarantee it, and the supposed
physical connexion itself is surely not something that we could will.
Just as the only necessity that exists is logical necessity, so too
the only impossibility that exists is logical impossibility.
For example, the simultaneous presence of two colours at the same
place in the visual field is impossible, in fact logically impossible,
since it is ruled out by the logical structure of colour. Let us think how
this contradiction appears in physics: more or less as follows—a particle
cannot have two velocities at the same time; that is to say, it cannot be
in two places at the same time; that is to say, particles that are in
different places at the same time cannot be identical. (It is clear that
the logical product of two elementary propositions can neither be a
tautology nor a contradiction. The statement that a point in the visual
field has two different colours at the same time is a contradiction.)
All propositions are of equal value.
The sense of the world must lie outside the world. In the world
everything is as it is, and everything happens as it does happen: in it no
value exists—and if it did exist, it would have no value. If there is any
value that does have value, it must lie outside the whole sphere of what
happens and is the case. For all that happens and is the case is
accidental. What makes it non-accidental cannot lie within the world, since
if it did it would itself be accidental. It must lie outside the world.
So too it is impossible for there to be propositions of ethics.
Propositions can express nothing that is higher.
It is clear that ethics cannot be put into words. Ethics is
transcendental. (Ethics and aesthetics are one and the same.)
When an ethical law of the form, 'Thou shalt ...' is laid down, one's
first thought is, 'And what if I do, not do it?' It is clear, however, that
ethics has nothing to do with punishment and reward in the usual sense of
the terms. So our question about the consequences of an action must be
unimportant.—At least those consequences should not be events. For there
must be something right about the question we posed. There must indeed be
some kind of ethical reward and ethical punishment, but they must reside in
the action itself. (And it is also clear that the reward must be something
pleasant and the punishment something unpleasant.)
It is impossible to speak about the will in so far as it is the
subject of ethical attributes. And the will as a phenomenon is of interest
only to psychology.
If the good or bad exercise of the will does alter the world, it can
alter only the limits of the world, not the facts—not what can be
expressed by means of language. In short the effect must be that it becomes
an altogether different world. It must, so to speak, wax and wane as a
whole. The world of the happy man is a different one from that of the
So too at death the world does not alter, but comes to an end.
Death is not an event in life: we do not live to experience death.
If we take eternity to mean not infinite temporal duration but
timelessness, then eternal life belongs to those who live in the present.
Our life has no end in just the way in which our visual field has no
Not only is there no guarantee of the temporal immortality of the
human soul, that is to say of its eternal survival after death; but, in any
case, this assumption completely fails to accomplish the purpose for which
it has always been intended. Or is some riddle solved by my surviving for
ever? Is not this eternal life itself as much of a riddle as our present
life? The solution of the riddle of life in space and time lies outside
space and time. (It is certainly not the solution of any problems of
natural science that is required.)
How things are in the world is a matter of complete indifference for
what is higher. God does not reveal himself in the world.
The facts all contribute only to setting the problem, not to its
It is not how things are in the world that is mystical, but that it
To view the world sub specie aeterni is to view it as a whole—a
limited whole. Feeling the world as a limited whole—it is this that is
When the answer cannot be put into words, neither can the question be
put into words. The riddle does not exist. If a question can be framed at
all, it is also possible to answer it.
Scepticism is not irrefutable, but obviously nonsensical, when it
tries to raise doubts where no questions can be asked. For doubt can exist
only where a question exists, a question only where an answer exists, and
an answer only where something can be said.
We feel that even when all possible scientific questions have been
answered, the problems of life remain completely untouched. Of course there
are then no questions left, and this itself is the answer.
The solution of the problem of life is seen in the vanishing of the
problem. (Is not this the reason why those who have found after a long
period of doubt that the sense of life became clear to them have then been
unable to say what constituted that sense?)
There are, indeed, things that cannot be put into words. They make
themselves manifest. They are what is mystical.
The correct method in philosophy would really be the following: to say
nothing except what can be said, i.e. propositions of natural science—i.e.
something that has nothing to do with philosophy — and then, whenever
someone else wanted to say something metaphysical, to demonstrate to him
that he had failed to give a meaning to certain signs in his propositions.
Although it would not be satisfying to the other person—he would not have
the feeling that we were teaching him philosophy—this method would be the
only strictly correct one.
My propositions are elucidatory in this way: he who understands me
finally recognizes them as senseless, when he has climbed out through them,
on them, over them. (He must so to speak throw away the ladder, after he
has climbed up on it.) He must transcend these propositions, and then he
will see the world aright.
What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.
More information about Ludwig Wittgenstein from Wikipedia
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