This one is a somewhat speculative post, as indicated by the title which doubles as a warning. One of the ideas in the Tractatus is that propositions that presuppose their own truth (or falsity) are nonsense. For example, the proposition that x is an object is an illicit proposition, because either a non-object term goes in for x, in which case it is non-sense, or an object term goes in for x, in which case it is true. Elementary propositions must be capable of truth and falsity, but this particular proposition isn’t capable of both, only one. (The speculative part begins now.) I wonder if this is a point on which Wittgenstein’s thought remained constant throughout his philosophical life. Late Wittgenstein is associated with the idea that a rule or concept can be normative for one only if it is possible to violate the norm of that rule or concept. This is one of the ideas in the private language considerations. Representation is a partially normative concept. Something can be represented well or poorly, accurately or inaccurately. Propositions in the Tractatus are supposed to represent the way the world is, through the picturing relation. The elementary propositions must be capable of both representing and misrepresenting the world, that is truly or falsely representing the world. But, certain apparent propositions, ones that use formal concepts, e.g. x is an object, cannot misrepresent the world. Instead of misrepresenting, they don’t represent at all due in part to grammatical misfire. I wonder if Wittgenstein is employing, perhaps only implicitly, his idea that normative concepts must admit the possibility of violation. Some apparently elementary propositions are such that they cannot misrepresent reality, so they cannot represent it either.

I’m not sure how this idea would fit into either a reading of the Tractatus or Wittgenstein’s philosophy as a whole. This is in part because I’m still not at home either in the Tractatus or in Wittgenstein’s philosophy as a whole. But, if there is something to the idea that there are many points of continuity between early and late Wittgenstein, as defended by the so called New Wittgensteinians, then there might be some further support for this idea in Wittgenstein’s other writings.

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