Wittgenstein TS201 online (1996)

Michael Biggs: Editorial Notes

"Notes on Logic", catalogue item 201, was written by Wittgenstein while he was a student of Russell's in 1913. The core of the work was the outcome of Wittgenstein's first visit to Norway; a working holiday with his friend David Pinsent, the dedicatee of the Tractatus. Wittgenstein then decided to stay in Norway over the Winter in the town which would become his retreat at various times in his life: Skjolden.

The group of items which form 201a developed over the next few months in correspondence with Russell in Cambridge. They consist of a dictation and a recorded conversation (201a-1), a unified typescript (201a-2); and a later typescript (201a-3) which is closest to the text published in 1979. 201a-1 & 2 are in the collection of The Bertrand Russell Archives, McMaster University, Canada. 201a-3 is in the collection of G H von Wright and a copy is held by the Wittgenstein Archives at the University of Bergen. Russell later made a grammatically and conceptually clearer rearrangement of 201a-2, as shown by marginalia, which formed 201b. 201b was the first arrangement to be published, in 1957. The original script is now lost.

In 201 Wittgenstein introduces the idea of the "bi-polarity" of propositions. The same proposition may be true or false according to its correspondence with facts. Negating a proposition does not alter its meaning or reference, but it does alter its sense by reversing its polarity (cf. Frege). It also clarifies the difference between "names" which refer to objects, and "propositions" which describe relationships or "states of affairs" which may or may not correspond to reality. Bi-polarity was initially expressed graphically in a diagram showing the truth- combinations of two propositions ("a" is true and "b" is false, "a" is false and "b" is true, etc.). However this diagram proved unwieldy and was misunderstood by both Russell and Moore as their notes on Wittgenstein's work at the time show. The diagrams may still be found in the later Tractatus (e.g. TLP 6.1203) but were superseded by the more perspicuous "truth tables" (e.g. TLP 4.31). These truth tables are one of Wittgenstein's most important contributions to formal logic.

Edited versions of both arrangements of "Notes on Logic" (based on 201a and 201b) have been published. That based on 201b first appeared in 1957 in "The Journal of Philosophy". Both are included in Wittgenstein's posthumously edited "Notebooks 1914-1916". 201b formed Appendix I of the first edition in 1960. The relationship between 201b and 201a was discussed by Brian McGuinness in 1972 in the journal "Revue Internationale de Philosophie". Subsequently, in 1979, a revised second edition was published in which Appendix I was based on 201a. The exact correspondence between the various scripts, the differentiation of the elements within catalogue item 201a, and McGuinness' article, are discussed by Michael Biggs in "Editing Wittgenstein's Notes on Logic", Working Papers from the Wittgenstein Archives at the University of Bergen, No. 11, 1996.

We thank the Trustees for the permission to publish samples from Wittgenstein's Nachlass here. Thanks also to Kenneth Blackwell of The Bertrand Russell Archives at McMaster University, Canada, for copies from their holdings of Russell's Nachlass, and for their permission to publish parts of them here.

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