The Tractatus and the Problem of Universals

Eric Lemaire


The question we wish to raise here is the following: what are the objects of the
Tractatus ? This problem is old, and received a wide variety of solutions. But, there
is no consensus about it. The problem car reformulated as “What is the composition of
an elementary proposition?”. Does it contain only particulars or particulars and
universal or only universal? Unfortunately, Wittgenstein said that this question
cannot be answered a priori or by logical investigation. He
thought that we could discover the composition of elementary propositions by the
philosophy of psychology which he seems to conceive as an a
posteriori investigation. As long as we do logic, we cannot answer the
question “How many are there in the world?” because it is a matter of fact. Thus, the
problem of universal does not seem to be a problem for armchair
philosophers, contrary to logic. So, it seems that there is nothing to say
about it. Nevertheless, we should distinguish two questions. 1) Is there some
universal? 2) What universals exist? Do answers to these questions depend on an a posteriori investigation? An a posteriori realist as
D.Armstrong argue for the existence of universals and against nominalisms on a priori
grounds, even if he thinks that the second of our question can only be answered on
the basis of total science. So our enterprise may not be
hopeless. Our aim here will be to consider two simple arguments in favour of a
realist interpretation of the Tractatus.


philosophy; 20th century philosophy; Wittgenstein Ludwig; common sense; metaphysics; particular; universal; object

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