A Database for a Prototractatus Structural Analysis and the Hypertext Version of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus

Luciano Bazzocchi


In the preface to the second edition of the Prototractatus, McGuinness expresses hope
for “an electronic version which will facilitate the comparison of the various stages
[of the work], as well as permitting a number of other analyses both of this and of
the Tractatus itself”. By recording Prototractatus propositions in a database, it is
indeed possible to rebuild the evolution of the work point by point into its three
main structures: a) the chronological succession of composition; b) the sequential
reading by propositions’ numerical order; c) the organization into comment levels
according to the recursive decimals architecture. This third structural perspective
clearly stems from the strategy assumed in writing the Prototractatus notebook. In
fact, Wittgenstein first builds up the cardinal propositions. Next, he completes
first level comments and adds pages of comment to them. Finally, he inserts the
sequences of comments to detail comments according to a pattern that is very close to
the disposition which can be properly obtained from hierarchic hypertext pages. So a
reading by level views, induced by the hypertextual version of the Tractatus, is what
most closely corresponds to the composition method and to the parallel lines of
thought originally developed by Wittgenstein himself.


philosophy; 20th century philosophy; Wittgenstein Ludwig; hypertext; composition; text genesis; database

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