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The limit of language and thought in Wittgenstein's Tractatus

Grant number: 11/23537-4
Support type:Scholarships in Brazil - Scientific Initiation
Effective date (Start): March 01, 2012
Effective date (End): December 31, 2013
Field of knowledge:Humanities - Philosophy
Principal researcher:Marcelo Silva de Carvalho
Grantee:Raphaela Silva de Oliveira
Home Institution: Escola de Filosofia, Letras e Ciências Humanas (EFLCH). Universidade Federal de São Paulo (UNIFESP). Campus Guarulhos. Guarulhos , SP, Brazil
Associated research grant:12/50005-6 - The Middle Wittgenstein, AP.TEM


This project intend to explicit the discussion about limit of language and thought, in relation to distinction between what can be said and what can only be shown and to conception of nonsense in language, in the Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus.In Preface of the Tractatus, Wittgenstein intend to present the language as a manner to circumvent the problem that a thought delimitation pressoposes: it cannot aim to what is beyond the limit, because it is unthinkable. But by language, we can show the two "sides" of the limite: the discurse with sense and the nonsense; considering the Picture theory.The language is a kind of "picture", names in the sentence replace objects in the world and its combinations construct an image from possible combinations that objects can assume, considering a comum form as a prerequisite, which became the sentence a picture of this fact (combination of objects in the world).A consequence of Picture theory is that the name attributed to each object is conventional and the sentence, as every kind of "picture", is limited to represent facts, to say about combination of objects, but a sentence cannot say about isolated objects. Other consequence is that the language, because is a "picture", cannot represent what must have in comum with reality to get represent it: the logical form (the most general form in representation relation).This restriction of representation possibility, contructed by concepts of picture and logical form, establishes a distinction between two "fields": of what can be said and of what can be shown. The sentence says like things are, while it shows its logical form, and, the dichotomy to say and to show is exclusive.According to project of the Preface, of draw a limit in the language, there are two "sides": of what can be said (and it can be said clearly), that are all sentences with sense, in other words, all sentences which represent facts; and other of what cannot be shown, about sentences that do not represent facts, I mean, "simply nonsense".The discussion about nonsense became more relevant to issue about limit of language when Wittgenstein attibuted to the Tractatus, in the book's penultimate paragraph, the nonsense condition.The problem is how we must comprehend this nonsense, because if tractatian sentences are a nonsense, so, we must give up them, because a nonsense does not have sense.As we saw, the language delimitation presented, considering Picture theory, aims to the dichotomy to say and to show. Therefore, we can observe two dichotomies: sense and nonsense; to say and to show. Theses dichotomies, however, cannot be superposed perfectly: everything what can be said, can be said clearly, in other words, with sense, but a nonsense does not appear, in the Tractatus, straightforwardly relationed to what can be shown. In so far as we superpose nonsense and what can be shown, we could suppose that nonsense is a senseless sentence, but with some elucidative character: can be found a mention of this term "elucidation" in Tractatus´ philosophy conception as activity.The problem that we explicit here, and that is in the project proposed core, consists in comprehend the conception of limit of language and thought in the Tractatus and as the project of draw this limit of language conforms in book´s conception of philosophy. But no without to comprehend: the nonsense condition that Wittgenstein attributed to Tractatus, that in Diamond-Conant reading is associated to philosophy conception at the same time that there is not any kind of elucidative nonsense; and the condition of what can be shown in the Tractatus, as the dichotomies: sense/nonsense and to say/to show cannot be superposed.

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