FOM: Influence of Wittgenstein's Tractatus

Charles Parsons parsons2 at
Thu Apr 2 22:47:31 EST 1998

I owe the FOM some response to Neil Tennant's remarks about my brief
comment about the influence of Wittgenstein's _Tractaus_.  Recall what the
claim was:

> The _Tractatus_ is another matter; [its] view of logic was the model for the
> Vienna Circle's view of mathematics, and so indirectly it had very great
> influence.

This is a very specific claim, not about the global influence of the
_Tractatus_. What I had in mind was the conception of the propositions of
logic as tautologies and as lacking factual content. Carnap confirms it
with regard to himself in his autobiography (P. A. Schilpp (ed.), _The
Philosophy of Rudolf Carnap_ (Open Court,, 1963), p. 25).

In talking of Rose Rand's diagram, Neil doesn't single out this issue.

Regarding the influence of the _Tractatus_ on the view of mathematics of
the Vienna Circle in general, I refer you to Warren Goldfarb, "The
philosophy of mathematics in early positivism," in Rondald N. Giere and
Alan W. Richardson (eds.), _Origins of Logical Empiricism_ (Minnesota
Studies in the Philosophy of Science, vol. 16, Univ. of Minnesota Press,

Charles Parsons

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