The Points of the Picture: Hertz and Wittgenstein on the Picture Theory

Matthew McCall


It is well documented that during his engineering training, Ludwig Wittgenstein was
introduced to and deeply influenced by Heinrich Hertz’s writings. What Wittgenstein
read as a youth came to later shape the philosophy of the Tractatus
Logico-Philosophicus. The Bildtheorie, or picture theory, as described in the
Introduction to the Principles of Mechanics is Hertz’s most noticeable influence on
the early Wittgenstein. In this paper I outline Hertz and Wittgenstein’s picture
theories and then show that Wittgenstein’s is an ontologically richer and stronger
version than Hertz’s. Moreover, I argue that this must be the case due to Hertz’s
insistence that two (or more) pictures can correctly picture a state of affairs,
whereas Wittgenstein claims that there is only one correct picture for any given
state of affairs.


philosophy; 20th century philosophy; Wittgenstein Ludwig; picture theory; The Principles of Mechanics; early 20th century physics; influence; correspondence theory of truth; early Wittgenstein

Full Text:



  • There are currently no refbacks.