Marie McGinn: Wittgenstein and Internal Relations


The new issue of European Journal of Philosophy includes an essay by Marie McGinn (Philosophy, University of East Anglia) entitled “Wittgenstein and Internal Relations.”

Here is the abstract:

Interpretations of the Tractatus divide into what might be called a metaphysical and an anti-metaphysical approach to the work. The central issue between the two interpretative approaches has generally been characterised in terms of the question whether the Tractatus is committed to the idea of ‘things’ that cannot be said in language, and thus to the idea of a distinctive kind of nonsense: nonsense that is an attempt to say what can only be shown. In this paper, I look at this dispute from a different perspective, by focusing on the treatment of the concept of internal relations. By reference to the work of Peter Hacker, Hidé Ishiguro and Cora Diamond, I show how this concept is understood quite differently in each of the two interpretative traditions. I focus particularly on how Wittgenstein’s idea of the ‘internal relation of depicting that holds between language and the world’ (Tractatus 4.014) might be understood within the two interpretative approaches. I offer some reasons in support of the anti-metaphysical treatment of the concept.

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