One of my responses to Wittgenstein's Tractatus

5/11/20231 min read

Rehashing an old idea, but perhaps with greater clarity:

A sign cannot, in its own, indicate that it is meaningful. In order to determine that a sign is meaningless, or nonsense, one must grasp the sign. Or, rather, one must grasp the elements of the sign (regard these elements as meaningful) and their relations (as meaningful). Wittgenstein’s claim in the Tractatus that certain signs are meaningless must be rephrased. It is not a claim about the meaning of the signs. It is strictly a claim about the correspondence of signs to the things and states of affairs. But even to determine that a sign cannot correspond to anything in virtue of the kind of sign it is (a meaningless one, in this case), one must grasp the sign, even if one grasps the sign in virtue of grasping its elements and relations. It is not the elements and relations which are meaningless, but the sign they determine/constitute which is meaningless.

Perhaps, then, I do not endorse the existence of meaningless signs. Maybe there are only true and false signs, some of which are true or false in virtue of different ontological orders of the world: empirical, metaphysical, social…

Does this account force a view that the world has a formal order, in addition to its empirical and metaphysical orders? Perhaps. A contradiction is not meaningless. It is false because nothing corresponds to it.

“Nothing corresponds to it” in this world. Which world?