‘Logisch-philosophische Abhandlung,’ pp. 185-262 in: Annalen der Naturphilosophie, XIV Band, 3/4 Heft.

Leipzig: Reinhold Berger for Verlag Unesma, 1921.

First edition, very rare journal issue in original printed wrappers, and a remarkably fine copy, of the work later published as the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1922) – arguably the most important philosophical work of the twentieth century, and the only book by Wittgenstein published in his lifetime. “The Tractatus is a comprehensive work of extreme originality” (Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Vol. 8, p. 329). The Latin title was suggested by G. E. Moore as homage to Baruch Spinoza’s Tractatus Theologico-Politicus (1670). “The project had a broad goal: to identify the relationship between language and reality and to define the limits of science. Wittgenstein wrote the notes for the Tractatus while he was a soldier during World War I and completed it during a military leave in the summer of 1918. The Tractatus was influential chiefly amongst the logical positivist philosophers of the Vienna Circle, such as Rudolf Carnap and Friedrich Waismann. Bertrand Russell’s article ‘The Philosophy of Logical Atomism’ is presented as a working out of ideas that he had learned from Wittgenstein. The Tractatus employs an austere and succinct literary style. The work contains almost no arguments as such, but rather consists of declarative statements, or passages, that are meant to be self-evident. The statements are hierarchically numbered, with seven basic propositions at the primary level (numbered 1–7), with each sub-level being a comment on or elaboration of the statement at the next higher level (e.g., 1, 1.1, 1.11, 1.12, 1.13). In all, the Tractatus comprises 526 numbered statements. Only two copies have appeared at auction since 1975.

Following engineering studies at Linz, Berlin and Manchester, “Wittgenstein’s interest began to shift to pure mathematics and then to the philosophical foundations of mathematics. He chanced upon Bertrand Russell’s Principles of Mathematics and was greatly excited by it. He decided to give up engineering and to study with Russell at Cambridge. At the beginning of 1912 he was admitted to Trinity College, where he remained for the three terms of 1912 and the first two terms of 1913. Under Russell’s supervision he applied himself intensively to logical studies and made astonishing progress. Soon he was engaged in the research that culminated in the logical ideas of the Tractatus (ibid., p. 327).

“When war broke out Wittgenstein entered the Austrian army as a volunteer … During these years he continued to work at his book, writing down his philosophical thoughts in notebooks that he carried with him in his rucksack. He completed the book in August 1918” (ibid., p. 328). “Upon the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian army in November 1918, he was taken prisoner by the Italians. It was not until August of the following year that he could return to Austria. During the major part of his captivity, he was in a prison camp near Monte Cassino in south Italy. When Wittgenstein was captured he had in his rucksack the manuscript of his Logisch-philosophische Abhandlung ... While still in captivity he got in touch with Russell by letter and was able to send the manuscript to him, thanks to the aid of one of his friends of the Cambridge years, Keynes. He also sent Frege a copy” (von Wright, ‘Ludwig Wittgenstein, A Biographical Sketch’, The Philosophical Review, Vol. 64, No. 4, pp. 527-545).

After his return to Vienna, in August 1919, Wittgenstein immediately started trying to find a publisher, but his attempts were repeatedly frustrated until Russell offered to write an introduction to the work as an incentive to reassure publishers wary of the work’s potential profitability. The following May “Wittgenstein wrote to Russell that the introduction contained much misunderstanding. In 1921 Russell persuaded the editor C.K. Ogden to publish an English translation in the Kegan Paul series The International Library of Psychology, Philosophy and Scientific Method; in tandem with Russell, his friend Dorothy Wrinch was independently searching for a publisher. Following a rejection from the Cambridge University Press, she contacted three German journals, including Wilhelm Ostwald’s Annalen der Naturphilosophie. The only acceptance she received was from Ostwald, who replied to Wrinch that he would publish the work because of Russell’s introduction (which appears in German on pp. 186-198 of the present copy); as Ostwald wrote to Wrinch, ‘in any other case I should have declined to accept the article’ (R. Monk, Ludwig Wittgenstein, the Duty of Genius (1990), p. 203).

Wittgenstein (who never saw proofs of the work) evidently foresaw problems prior to publication, as his letter to Russell of 28 November 1921 makes clear: ‘Wenn auch Ostwald ein Erzscharlatan ist! Wenn er es nur nicht verstummelt! Liest Du die korrekturen? Dann bitte sei so lieb und gib acht, dass er es genau so druckt, wie es bei mir steht. Ich traue dem Ostwald zu, dass er die Arbeit nach seinem Geschmack, etwa nach seiner blodsinnigen Orthographie, verandert’ (McGuiness & von Wright (eds.), Ludwig Wittgenstein: Cambridge Letters (1996), p. 172). When the book finally appeared, his fears were fully justified. The text that appeared in Annalen der Naturphilosophie was riddled with errors; Wittgenstein had used the symbols available on a normal typewriter in place of those employed in Russellian logic, and Ostwald had simply them set as type - rather than substituting the correct symbols - and Russell ‘evidently had little time to read the proofs carefully, and in any case the book had already gone to print before he had received them’ (Monk, op. cit., p. 204). Wittgenstein was infuriated by the crassness of the errors introduced by Ostwald, exclaiming in a letter to Paul Engelmann that ‘Diesen Druck betrachte ich aber als Raubdruck, er ist voller Fehler’ (B.F. McGuiness, T. Nyberg & G.H. von Wright (eds.), Prototractatus (1971), p. 28).

Ostwald did not send Wittgenstein any copies of the work when it was published, and when Wittgenstein heard from Russell that the issue of the journal was in print he had to resort to asking Ludwig Hansel to search the bookshops of Vienna for a copy. The search was unsuccessful, and Wittgenstein did not see a copy until C.K. Ogden sent him one in April 1922.

“Ostwald had published it under Wittgenstein’s German title ... Russell had suggested ‘Philosophical Logic’ as an alternative, while G.E. Moore – in a conscious echo of Spinoza’s Tractatus Theologico-Politicus – had put forward “Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus” as “obvious and ideal”. It was not, of course, a title that would reassure the public of the book’s accessibility ... The matter was settled by Wittgenstein: “I think the Latin one is better than the present title”, he told Ogden” (Monk, op. cit., p. 206).

Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus was first published in German in 1921 … Coming out of Wittgenstein’s Notes on Logic (1913), ‘Notes Dictated to G. E. Moore’ (1914), his Notebooks, written in 1914–16, and further correspondence with Russell, Moore and Keynes, and showing Schopenhauerian and other cultural influences, it evolved as a continuation of and reaction to Russell and Frege’s conceptions of logic and language. Russell supplied an introduction to the book claiming that it ‘certainly deserves … to be considered an important event in the philosophical world.’ It is fascinating to note that Wittgenstein thought little of Russell’s introduction, claiming that it was riddled with misunderstandings …

“The book addresses the central problems of philosophy which deal with the world, thought and language, and presents a ‘solution’ (as Wittgenstein terms it) of these problems that is grounded in logic and in the nature of representation. The world is represented by thought, which is a proposition with sense, since they all – world, thought, and proposition – share the same logical form. Hence, the thought and the proposition can be pictures of the facts” (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).

“In the Tractatus, sentences are treated as ‘pictures’ of states of affairs. As in Frege’s system, the basic elements consist of referring expressions, or ‘logically proper’ names, which pick out the simplest parts of states of affairs. The simplest propositions, called ‘elementary’ or ‘atomic,’ are complexes whose structure or logical form is the same as that of the state of affairs they represent. Atomic sentences stand in no logical relation to one another, since logic applies only to complex sentences built up from atomic sentences through simple logical operations, such as conjunction and negation (see connective). Logic itself is trivial, in the sense that it is merely a means of making explicit what is already there. It is ‘true’ only in the way that a tautology is true – by definition and not because it accurately represents features of an independently existing reality.

“According to Wittgenstein, sentences of ordinary language that cannot be constructed by logical operations on atomic sentences are, strictly speaking, senseless, though they may have some function other than representing the world. Thus, sentences containing ethical terms, as well as those purporting to refer to the will, to the self, or to God, are meaningless. Notoriously, however, Wittgenstein pronounced the same verdict on the sentences of the Tractatus itself – thus suggesting, to some philosophers, that he had cut off the branch on which he was sitting. Wittgenstein’s own metaphorical injunction, that the reader must throw away the ladder once he has climbed it, does not seem to resolve the difficulty, since it implies that the reader’s climb up the ladder actually gets him somewhere. How could this be – what could the reader have learned – if the sentences of the Tractatus are senseless? Wittgenstein denied the predicament, asserting that in his treatise the logical form of language is ‘shown’ but not ‘said.’ This contrast, however, remains notoriously unclear, and few philosophers have been brave enough to claim that they fully understand it.

Despite these difficulties, in the 1920s and ’30s Russell’s program, and the Tractatus itself, exerted enormous influence on a philosophical discussion group known as the Vienna Circle and on the movement it originated, logical positivism” (Britannica).

One interesting aspect of the present volume is the appearance of the truth-tables on pp. 224 and 225; “the truth-table is Wittgenstein’s only formal device to have found its way into logic books” (Glock, A Wittgenstein Dictionary (1996), p. 68), and this is the first use of them by Wittgenstein in print.

For a sketch of the contents of the work see Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Vol. 8, pp. 329-334.



8vo (233 x 164mm), pp. [185]-308, [4], woodcut diagrams and letterpress truth-tables. Original orange printed wrappers, almost completely unopened (slight chipping to margins). Housed in a protective cloth folder.

Item #5375

Price: $85,000.00

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