Wittgenblogging: The Second Proposition

Here we go. Right around halfway through the second proposition—which is a good eight or nine times longer than the first—things start to get complicated.

Here Wittgenstein introduces several new concepts into his list of the constituent parts of the universe. In the last proposition we got facts and things (AKA objects). Now we also have:

  • States of affairs: Arrangements of objects in some definitive relationship to one another. All possible states of affairs are encoded into the relevant objects regardless of whether or not those states occur.
  • Form: ”The possibility of structure.” I think of form as the distinguishing characteristics by which we can organize objects. So for example, color is a form because we can identify commonalities between different objects based on their proximity on the spectrum of color. Time is one because it is one of the major organizing principles of our experience, but doesn’t appear to have any substance to it. Speaking of which:
  • Substance: ”What subsists independently of what is the case.” Also: “Objects make up the substance of the world.” I think substance is that which is empirically observed and not really open to interpretation.
  • Pictures: Models of reality we construct in our heads, be they accurate or inaccurate.
  • Sense: That which a picture represents. “The agreement or disagreement of its sense with reality constitutes its truth or falsity.”

But what strikes me most about the second proposition isn’t what Wittgenstein identifies as constituting reality, but what he  excludes. For example, Wittgenstein writes that, “It is essential to things that they should be possible constituents of states of affairs.” And also: “The sum-total of reality is the world.” This “reality” doesn’t include anything like values, God, or any other sort of metaphysical propositions.

And here’s something else: Wittgenstein argues that pictures, even if they are not intended to correspond with the world as it actually is, most still borrow some form from them. So, as he says in the last line of the second proposition: “There are no pictures that are true a priori.” That leaves me with the question: Does Wittgenstein think all a priori reasoning is impossible? Or just pictures?

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