Verificationism and the transition

Diego Marconi
Università degli Studi di Torino
The connection between sense, verification, and mode of verification never entirely disappeared from Wittgenstein’s philosophy. However, there was a time – the years 1929– 1932 – when Wittgenstein upheld explicitly verificationist views: he identified a proposition’s meaning with the mode or method of its verification, and he said that to understand a proposition is to know how the proposition is verified. This has been regarded as puzzling, in view of the fact that the Tractatus is usually considered not to be committed to verificationism; indeed, it is usually regarded as incompatible with verificationism. Several people have proposed to revise such a received view: Michael Wrigley (1989) has claimed that verificationism must be implicit in the Tractatus; and P. M.S. Hacker (1986) has argued that the Tractatus, though not verificationist, is not as distant from verificationism as it has been taken to be. In another paper (Marconi, forthcoming) I discuss their views. Here I will just notice that, even if one regards the Tractatus as implicitly verificationist, the problem remains of explaining why and how did Wittgenstein reach the explicitly – indeed, blatantly – verificationist outlook of the early Thirties. This is the first question I would like to try to answer in this paper. The second question is, why was such rampant verificationism short-lived? Or in other words, why was verificationism de-emphasized so that, although verificationist themes are undoubtedly present in the later Wittgenstein’s writings, the extreme formulations of the early Thirties tend to disappear after 1933?
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