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Wittgenstein, Tractatus

Prof  M. D. Potter

12 lectures, Michaelmas Term 2014, weeks 1 to 6, Thursdays at 9 a.m. in LB6 and Wednesdays at noon in LB12

Aim of the course

This course is aimed principally at those studying the Tractatus as a set text for the Part II Wittgenstein paper, but graduate students and students from other Faculties are also welcome to attend.


Although the Tractatus is in large part a response to the inadequacies Wittgenstein saw in the work of Kant, Frege and Russell, it also constitutes in its own right an account of logic and metaphysics of extraordinary elegance and sophistication. The book also offers a way of thinking about ethics and religion. Wittgenstein himself for a time believed that the book solved all the major problems of philosophy. The aim of this course is to get clear, at least in outline, about what the account offered in the Tractatus was and how Wittgenstein arrived at it.

Lecture notes

For anyone who misses a lecture a text approximating to what I said will be available here for downloading (from Cambridge web addresses only) shortly afterwards.

  1. Complex and fact
  2. Pictures
  3. Propositions
  4. Theory of judgment
  5. Atomism
  6. Sense
  7. The formal language
  8. Solipsism
  9. Ordinary language
  10. Ethics
  11. The self
  12. Religion
  13. The ladder

A book draft is available as a PDF here.

Reading list here