Phil 791T – Seminar: Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus

Fall 2002 – Prof. Kevin C. Klement

Thursdays 4:00-6:30pm; location TBA

Course description: An in-depth examination of Ludwig Wittgenstein's (1921) Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, its historical background, and philosophical influence. Topics include logical atomism, the picture theory of meaning, saying and showing, truth functionality, and mysticism.

Contact info: My office is 353 Bartlett Hall. My office phone is 545-5784. My office hours are Tu 4:00-5:00pm, Th 1:00-2:00 and most other times by appointment. Feel free to drop by any time I'm in my office. You may also e-mail me at or call me at home at 259-1154.


Course requirements:
Your final grade will be based on the following requirements: (1) in-class participation (15%), (2) one in-class presentation (20%), (3) weekly reading assignments (20%), and (4) a final term paper or book reviews (45%).

Presentation: You will sign-up for one seminar session in which you will lead discussion by first summarizing and clarifying the reading for that session (taking approximately 20 minutes to do so), and then raise a number of points for discussion for the group.

Weekly reading assignments: You are expected to carefully read the selected texts for each session before the seminar meeting and come prepared to discuss them. To help facilitate this, each week you are expected to write a 1-3 page essay in which you (1) summarize the reading, (2) identify any criticisms or points of discussion (including points in need of clarification). These essays are due at the start of class on the day on which we will be discussing the relevant readings. You will be graded on 1-5 scale, with 1 representing a barely acceptable essay, 2 representing a deeply problematic essay, that misrepresents the views of the philosopher or philosophers in question or commits other abuses of philosophical method, 3 representing an essay that is slightly lacking in some area, but generally acceptable, 4 representing a good essay that performs the desired tasks as expected, and 5 representing an essay with substantial and original insight. (You should never expect to receive anything above 4. A student receiving a 4 on every assignment should still expect a good grade for this portion. I will only award a 5 to an essay that surpasses my expectations.) In determining your grade, I will take into account only your 10 highest scores of 12 possible essays. This means you may either drop your two lowest scores, or simply not write two essays (or combine the two options). You need not prepare an assignment for the week you will be presenting.

Lastly, you may choose between the following two options:

Term paper (15-25 pages): The paper should constitute critical and original discussion either of the interpretation of Wittgenstein's Tractatus or the philosophical issues it raises. The amount of outside research done for the paper is left to your discretion, but a careful search of the relevant secondary material is strongly recommended.    —OR—
Book reviews: Read TWO books written on or about Wittgenstein's early philosophy and prepare lengthy academic-style book reviews (6-8 pages each) in which you first summarize the book, and evaluate it in terms of both the accuracy of its interpretation of Wittgenstein, and its other philosophical merits.

A note on incompletes: Graduate students taking incompletes must complete all course requirements by the first day of classes for Spring semester, or a grade of F will be turned in. I mean it this time!

Reading Schedule  (subject to change)

(* = in coursepack)
Material Covered
Sept 5
Course Introduction
Sept 12
1) Frege, "Function and Concept"* and 2) "On Concept and Object"* (to be found in The Frege Reader, or in his Collected Papers)
Sept 19
Russell, Philosophy of Logical Atomism, lectures I-IV
Sept 26
Russell, Philosophy of Logical Atomism, lectures V-VIII
Oct 3
1) Russell, chap. XVIII ("Mathematics and Logic") of Introduction to Mathematical Philosophy*
2) Russell, Introduction to the Tractatus
3) Frank Ramsey, Critical Notice (review) of the Tractatus* (from Mind 32 (1923): 465-78.)
Oct 10
Tractatus, preface, sections 1 - 3.263
Oct 17
Tractatus, sections 3.3 - 4.128
Oct 24
Tractatus, sections 4.2 - 5.156
Oct 31
Tractatus, sections 5.2 - 5.5352
Nov 7
Tractatus, sections 5.54 - 6.13
Nov 14
Tractatus, sections 6.2 - 7
Nov 21
1) Cora Diamond, "Throwing Away the Ladder: How to Read the Tractatus"* (from her The Realistic Spirit)
2) Warren Golfarb, "Metaphysics and Nonsense: On Cora Diamond's The Realistic Spirit,"* from Journal of Philosophical Research 22 (1997): 57-73.
[recommended background reading: Peter Geach, "Saying and Showing in Frege and Wittgenstein"* (from Acta Philosophica Fennica 28 (1976): 54-70.)]
Nov 28
Thanksgiving. No class.
Dec 5
James Conant, "The Method of the Tractatus"* (from From Frege to Wittgenstein, ed. Erich H. Reck)
Dec 11
1) Thomas Ricketts, "Pictures, Logic, and the Limits of Sense in Wittgenstein's Tractatus"* (from The Cambridge Companion to Wittgenstein, eds. Stern and Sluga)
2) P.M.S. Hacker, "Was He Trying to Whistle It?"* (from The New Wittgenstein , eds. Crary and Read)

Return to course homepage.