THE FATE OF ANALYSIS, #21–Tractarian Solipsism.

By Robert Hanna

THE FATE OF ANALYSIS: Analytic Philosophy From Frege to The Ash-Heap of History



II. Classical Analytic Philosophy

II.1 What Classical Analytic Philosophy Is: Two Basic Theses

II.2 What Classical Analytic Philosophy Officially Isn’t: Its Conflicted Anti-Kantianism

II.3 Classical Analytic Philosophy Characterized in Simple, Subtler, and Subtlest Ways

II.4 Three Kinds of Analysis: Decompositional, Transformative, and Conceptual

II.5 Frege, The First Founding Father of Classical Analytic Philosophy

II.6 Frege’s Project of (Transformative or Reductive) Analysis

II.7 Frege’s Dead End

II.8 Frege’s Semantics of Sense and Reference, aka Meaning

II.9 Some Biggish Problems For Frege’s Semantics

II.10 Husserl, Logic, and Logical Psychologism, aka LP

II.11 What LP is, and its Three Cardinal Sins

II.12 Husserl’s Three Basic Arguments Against LP

II.13 Has Husserl Begged the Question Against LP? Enter The Logocentric Predicament, and a Husserlian Way Out

II. Moore, Brentano, Husserl, Judgment, Anti-Idealism, and Meinong’s World

III.1 G.E. Moore, the Second Founding Father of Classical Analytic Philosophy

III.2 Brentano on Phenomenology, Mental Phenomena, and Intentionality

III.3 Husserl on Phenomenology and Intentionality

III.4 Moore and the Nature of Judgment

III.5 Moore and the Refutation of Idealism

III.6 Meinong’s World

IV. Russell, Unlimited Logicism, Acquaintance, and Description

IV.1 Russell Beyond Brentano, Husserl, Moore, and Meinong

IV.2 Russell and Mathematical Logic versus Kant

IV.3 Russell’s Unlimited Logicist Project

IV.4 Pursued by Logical Furies: Russell’s Paradox Again

IV.5 Russell’s ‘Fido’-Fido Theory of Meaning

IV.6 Knowledge-by-Acquaintance and Knowledge-by-Description

IV.7 Russell’s Theory of Descriptions

IV.8 Russell’s Multiple-Relation Theory of Judgment

IV.9 Russellian Analysis, Early Wittgenstein, and Impredicativity Again

IV.10 Russell and The Philosophy of Logical Atomism

V. Wittgenstein and the Tractatus 1: The Title, and Propositions 1–2.063

V.1 A Brief Synopsis of the Tractatus

V.2 The Tractatus in Context

V.3 The Basic Structure of the Tractatus: A Simple Picture

V.4 Tractarian Ontology

V.5 Reconstructing Wittgenstein’s Reasoning

V.6 What Are the Objects or Things?

V.7 The Role of Logic in Tractarian Ontology

V.8 Colorless Objects/Things

V.9 Tractarian Ontology, Necessity, and Contingency

V.10 Some Initial Worries, and Some Possible Wittgensteinian Counter-Moves

VI. Wittgenstein and the Tractatus 2: Propositions 2.013–5.55

VI.1 What is Logical Space? What is Real Space?

VI.2 Atomic Facts Necessarily Are in Manifest or Phenomenal Space, But Objects or Things Themselves Necessarily Aren’t in Manifest or Phenomenal Space

VI.3 Logical Space is Essentially More Comprehensive than Manifest or Phenomenal Space

VI.4 Why There Can’t/Kant Be a Non-Logical World

VI.5 A Worry About Wittgenstein’s Conception of Logic: Non-Classical Logics

VI.6 What is a Tractarian Proposition?

VI.7 Naming Objects or Things, and Picturing Atomic Facts

VI.8 Signs, Symbols, Sense, Truth, and Judgment

VI.9 Propositions Again

VI.10 Language and Thought

VII. Wittgenstein and the Tractatus 3: Propositions 4–5.61

VII.1 The Logocentric Predicament, Version 3.0: Justifying Deduction

VII.2 The Logical Form of Deduction

VII.3 Logic Must Take Care of Itself

VII.4 Tautologies and Contradictions

VII.5 What is Logic?

VII.6 Logic is the A Priori Essence of Language

VII.7 Logic is the A Priori Essence of Thought

VII.8 Logic is the A Priori Essence of the World

VIII. Wittgenstein and the Tractatus 4: Propositions 5.62–7

VIII.1 Tractarian Solipsism and Tractarian Realism

VIII.2 Tractarian Solipsism

VIII.3 Tractarian Realism

VIII.4 Is the Tractatus’s Point an Ethical One?

VIII.5 The Meaning of Life

VIII.6 Three Basic Worries About the Tractatus

VIII.7 Natural Science and the Worry About the Simplicity of the Objects or Things

VIII.8 Natural Science and the Worry About the Logical Independence of Atomic Facts

VIII.9 Tractarian Mysticism and the Worry About Metaphilosophy

IX. Carnap, The Vienna Circle, Logical Empiricism, and The Great Divide

IX.1 Carnap Before and After the Tractatus

IX.2 Carnap, The Vienna Circle, and The Elimination of Metaphysics

IX.3 The Verifiability Principle and Its Fate

IX.4 The Davos Conference and The Great Divide

X. Wittgenstein and the Investigations 1: Preface, and §§1–27

X.1 From the Tractatus to the Investigations

X.2 The Thesis That Meaning Is Use

X.3 A Map of the Investigations

X.4 The Critique of Pure Reference: What the Builders Did

XI. Wittgenstein and the Investigations 2: §§28–242

XI.1 The Picture Theory and the Vices of Simplicity

XI.2 Wittgenstein’s Argument Against The Picture Theory: A Rational Reconstruction

XI.3 Understanding and Rule-Following

XI.4 Wittgenstein’s Rule-Following Paradox: The Basic Rationale

XI.5 Wittgenstein’s Rule-Following Paradox: A Rational Reconstruction

XI.6 Kripkenstein’s Rule-Following Paradox: Why Read Kripke Too?

XI.7 Kripkenstein’s Rule-Following Paradox: A Rational Reconstruction

XI.8 How to Solve The Paradox: Wittgenstein’s Way and Kripkenstein’s Way

XI.8.1 Wittgenstein and The Rule-Following Paradox: A Rational Reconstruction

XI.8.2 Kripkenstein and The Rule-Following Paradox: A Rational Reconstruction

XII. Wittgenstein and the Investigations 3: §§242–315

XII.1 What is a Private Language?

XII.2 The Private Language Argument: A Rational Reconstruction

XII.3 Is Wittgenstein a Behaviorist? No.

XII.4 Wittgenstein on Meanings, Sensations, and Human Mindedness: A Rational Reconstruction

XIII. Wittgenstein and the Investigations 4: §§316–693 & 174e-232e

XIII.1 Linguistic Phenomenology

XIII.2 Two Kinds of Seeing

XIII.3 Experiencing the Meaning of a Word

XIII.4 The Critique of Logical Analysis, and Logic-As-Grammar

XIV. Coda: Wittgenstein and Kantianism

XIV.1 World-Conformity 1: Kant, Transcendental Idealism, and Empirical Realism

XIV.2 World-Conformity 2: Wittgenstein, Transcendental Solipsism, and Pure Realism

XIV.3 World-Conformity 3: To Forms of Life

XIV.4 The Critique of Self-Alienated Philosophy 1: Kant’s Critical Metaphilosophy

XIV.5 The Critique of Self-Alienated Philosophy 2: Wittgensteinian Analysis as Critique

XV. From Quine to Kripke and Analytic Metaphysics: The Adventures of the Analytic-Synthetic Distinction

XV.1 Two Urban Legends of Post-Empiricism

XV.2 A Very Brief History of The Analytic-Synthetic Distinction

XV.3 Why the Analytic-Synthetic Distinction Really Matters

XV.4 Quine’s Critique of the Analytic-Synthetic Distinction, and a Meta-Critique

XV.5 Three Dogmas of Post-Quineanism

XVI. Analytic Philosophy and The Ash-Heap of History

XVI.1 Husserl’s Crisis and Our Crisis

XVI.2 Why Hasn’t Post-Classical Analytic Philosophy Produced Any Important Ideas in the Last Thirty-Five Years?

XVI.3 On Irad Kimhi’s Thinking and Being, Or, It’s The End Of Analytic Philosophy As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)

XVI.4 Thinking Inside and Outside the Fly-Bottle: The New Poverty of Philosophy and Its Second Copernican Revolution


But you can also read or download a .pdf version of the complete book HERE.


VIII. Wittgenstein and the Tractatus 4: Propositions 5.62–7

VIII.1 Tractarian Solipsism and Tractarian Realism

I’ve scare-quoted these terms because Wittgenstein develops these notions in ways significantly different from, although still related to, their uses in the idealistic and realistic traditions to which the Tractatus belongs.

As I’ve said several times, Wittgenstein‘s idealism should be situated in the historico-philosophical context of Kant‘s transcendental idealism in the Critique of Pure Reason, Schopenhauer’s neo-Kantian idealistic monism in the World as Will and Representation, and the logicistic neo-Kantianism of the early 20th century phase of the Marburg neo-Kantians, especially Cassirer.

On the other hand, Wittgenstein’s realism should be placed in the context of Frege’s platonism, Moore’s platonic atomism, and early Russell’s theory of acquaintance.

Here are the basic texts, from the Tractatus and the Notebooks:

5.61 …. What we cannot think, that we cannot think: we cannot therefore say what we cannot think.

5.62 This remark provides a key to the question, to what extent solipsism is a truth.

In fact what solipsism means, is quite correct, only it cannot be said, but it shows itself.

That the world is my world shows itself in the fact that the limits of language (the language, which I understand) means the limits of my world.

5.621 The world and life are one.

5.63 I am my world. (The microcosm.)

5.631 The thinking, presenting subject: there is no such thing.

If I wrote a book, The world as I found it, I should also have therein to include a report on my body, and report which parts were subordinate to my will, and which were not, etc., This then would be a method of isolating the subject, or rather of showing that in an important sense there is no subject; that is to say, of it alone in this book mention could not be made.

5.632 The subject does not belong to the world but it is a limit of the world.

5.633 Where in the world is a metaphysical subject to be found?

You say that this case is altogether like that of the eye and the field of sight. But you do not really see the eye.

And from nothing in the field of sight can it be concluded that it is seen from an eye.

5.634 This is connected with the fact that no part of our experience is also a priori.

Everything we see could also be otherwise.

Everything we can describe at all could also be otherwise.

There is no order of things a priori.

5.64 Here we see that solipsism strictly carried out coincides with pure realism.

The I in solipsism shrinks to an extensionless point and there remains the reality co-ordinated with it.

5.641 There is therefore really a sense in which in philosophy we can talk of a non-psychological I.

The I occurs in philosophy through the fact that “the world is my world.”

The philosophical I is not the man, not the human body or the human soul of which psychology treats, but the metaphysical subject, the limit — not a part of the world.

6.373 The world is independent of my will.

6.43 If good or bad willing changes the world, it can only change the limits of the world, not the facts; not the things that can be expressed in language.

In brief, the world must thereby become quite another. It must so to speak wax or wane as a whole.

The world of the happy is quite another than that of the unhappy.

6.431 As in death, too, the world does not change, but ceases.

6.4311 Death is not an event of life. Death is not lived through.

If by eternity is understood not endless temporal duration but timelessness, then he lives eternally who lives in the present.

Our life is endless in the way that our visual field is without limit.


What has history to do with me? Mine is the first and only world. I want to report how I found the world.

What others in the world have told me about the world is a very small and incidental part of my experience of the world.

I have to judge the world, to measure things.

The philosophical I is not the human being, not the human body or the human soul with the psychological properties, but the metaphysical subject, the boundary (not a part) of the world.

The human body, however, my body in particular, is a part of the world among others, among beasts, plants, stones, etc., etc. (Notebooks, p. 82e)

This is the way I have travelled: Idealism singles men out from the world as unique, solipsism singles me alone out, and at last I see that I too belong with the rest of the world, and so on the one side nothing is left over, and on the other side, as unique, the world. In this way idealism leads to realism if it is strictly thought out.


And in this sense I can also speak of a will that is common to the whole world. But this will is in higher sense my will.

As my representation is in the world, in the same way my will is the world-will. (Notebooks, p. 85e)

VIII.2 Tractarian Solipsism

Metaphysical idealism says that all things are necessarily mind-dependent, in the sense that mind is a necessary condition of the existence and specific character of those things.

Solipsism then says that all things are necessarily dependent on my mind alone.

So in this way according to Wittgenstein, I am my world (5.63) and the world is my world (5.641).

What reasons does Wittgenstein have for holding this?

I think it follows directly from the premise that the world of facts is constructed by the language-using subject or ego, given the objects or things as an independent constraint.

In other words, since

(i) the world of facts, in order to be constituted, requires the dual inputs of the language-using subject or ego together with the objects or things,

and since

(ii) language is a logically private or solipsistic language of thought,

it follows that

(iii) the limits of my language are the limits of the world also that the world is necessarily dependent on my mind alone.

Strikingly, Wittgenstein‘s solipsism has two somewhat distinct dimensions:

(i) a solipsism of the representing subject or ego, and

(ii) a solipsism of the willing subject or ego.

Wittgenstein‘s solipsism of the representing subject or ego says that all worldly facts are necessarily dependent on my mind alone in the sense that linguistic form (and its a priori essence, logical form) enters directly into the constitution of every fact, and language itself is constructed by the individual subject or ego.

Wittgenstein‘s solipsism of the will, by contrast, says that the specific internal nature of the objects is necessarily dependent on my attitudes, desires, and volitions (willing).

The world of facts is independent of my will, but the limits of the world, which are partially constituted by the specific internal nature of the objects, are necessarily dependent on my will.

Now the world and my life are the same thing.

Thus the world can “wax or wane as a whole,” depending on my acts of willing, just as all the events of my life depend on my will.

They do not, however, depend on my will in the sense that I can actually change any facts — I cannot — but in the sense that I can control the personal meaning or value of those facts.

My will determines how I value the world and my life, which in turn partially determines the “substance” of the world by partially determining the nature of the objects.

In this way, the world of the happy person, e.g., is essentially distinct from the world of the unhappy person.

Here we can see that although the constitution of the facts is dual, with language on the one side, and the objects or things on the other.

The metaphysical subject or ego ultimately grounds both of the dual inputs by acting both as the language-user and also as the determiner of the specific character of the objects.

So the solipsistic metaphysics of the Tractatus is also a form of idealistic monism.

I’ll come back to the will‘s independence from the facts, which is the basis of a fundamental fact-value dichotomy in the Tractatus, when I discuss Wittgenstein’s views on aesthetics, ethics, and the meaning of life.


Mr Nemo, W, X, Y, & Z, Saturday 29 August 2020

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