"Rethinking" the preface of the tractatus

Philosophical Investigations 30 (1):3–24 (2006)
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It is generally considered the case that an authorial preface is an author’s opportunity to give the reader a hand in interpreting the work he or she is about to read. It is strange then that the Preface to Wittgenstein’s Tractatus (1922) has often been overlooked. Max Black’s (1964) influential A Companion toWittgenstein’sTractatus, for example, passes over the Preface in silence. And even in the latest published edition of the so-called Prototractatus (1996), the Preface is the only part that appears in hand-written facsimile but is not reproduced in typescript form. Perhaps an argument for not so-reproducing the Preface of the Pro- totractatus in typescript is also an argument for the importance of the Preface: not one letter of this early hand-written text of the Preface is different from the final published edition (I will return to this later). Only of late has the Preface to the Tractatus been seen as having any kind of focal importance.This recent interest in the Preface has largely been spawned by Cora Diamond’s and James Conant’s “New” view of Wittgenstein. This New view (designated as such subsequent to the publication in 2000 of the volume entitled The New Wittgenstein) uses the Preface as a central interpretive tool that, according to this view, shows that the Tractatus takes “a strong anti-metaphysical stand” which is “most explicit in Wittgenstein’s statements in the book’s Preface and concluding remarks.1”The third and fourth paragraphs of the Preface are seen as especially revealing of Wittgenstein’s anti-metaphysical purpose



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Bruce Andrew Howes
Okanagan University College

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On Certainty (ed. Anscombe and von Wright).Ludwig Wittgenstein - 1969 - San Francisco: Harper Torchbooks. Edited by G. E. M. Anscombe, G. H. von Wright & Mel Bochner.
Tractatus logico-philosophicus.Ludwig Wittgenstein, G. C. M. Colombo & Bertrand Russell - 1975 - London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. Edited by C. K. Ogden.
Tractatus logico-philosophicus.Ludwig Wittgenstein - 1922 - Filosoficky Casopis 52:336-341.
Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus.Ludwig Wittgenstein - 1956 - Revista Portuguesa de Filosofia 12 (1):109-110.

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