Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

John Holt

Committee Members

Richard Gale, Allen Dunn, Richard Aquila, Kathleen E. Bohstedt


The Tractatus Logico Philosophicus is primarily the expression of a transcendental perspective with respect to language and the world - "viewing the world sub specie aeterni" (6.45) - that has an aesthetic-ethical aspect to it - "feeling the world" sub specie aeterni (6.54). Interpreting the Tractatus in this way enables me to explain, in a way that no other interpretation of his early work has (1) why Wittgenstein regarded the Tractatus as an "ethical deed" or as having an "ethical point"; (2) how his 'propositions' about the connection between language and the world are nonsense but at the same time intelligible; (3) how his 'propositions' about value, ethics and Das Mystische are nonsense but at the same time intelligible; (4) why he identifies ethics with aesthetics and what this means; and (5) why "resolute" or "austere" readings of the Tractatus are fundamentally wrong. Viewing or contemplating the world "sub specie aeterni" or as a "limited whole" ( 6.45) is to view it as a collection of all the facts and at the same time to take an aesthetico-ethical perspective with respect to the world. It is in this sense that Wittgenstein regards ethics and aesthetics as identical. The aestheticoethical aspect of this perspective amounts to our "feeling the world as a limited whole" (6.54). What it means to "feel" the world in this way cannot be given any descriptive meaning, and is indeed characterized by Wittgenstein as" the mystical", but there are certain experiences that point toward it. According to Wittgenstein, it is our sense of wonder that the world is that is the quintessential mystical experience. And it is in virtue of taking the transcendental perspective on language and the world that the mystical "shows" itself (6.522) in this way. Thus, "seeing the world aright" (6.54) is to see it from the "right" perspective both logically and aesthetico-ethically.

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