Laws of Nature, Causation and Induction in Tractatus



Assistant Professor and Faculty Member of The Iranian Institute of Philosophy, Tehran, Iran


In his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, Wittgenestein has some remarks on the nature of laws of nature. His main concern is to connect genuine laws of nature with logic. To illuminate and explain this connection, we suggest a distinction between two kinds of laws (inspired by Wittgenestein himself). On the one hand, general laws of nature (e.g. law of conservation) restrict applicability of other laws of nature. According to Wittgenstein, although we do not know whether these laws are true or not a priori, we know their logical forms in advance, and this fact is enough to guarantee a connection between these laws and logic (we know logical truths in advance as well). On the other hand, first order laws of nature (e.g. Newton's laws) have limited scope of applicability. Wittgenstein treats these laws as logical patterns with the ability to classify propositions about the world. As long as we take first order laws as nets with this ability, and dismiss their factual content, the connection between them and logic is obvious again. Having made this distinction, we go to consider the situation of two principles: induction and causation. It will be showed that according to Wittgenestein, there is no connection between these two and logic, and therefore these so-called laws are not among genuine ones. The next step is to compare Wittgenestein's account of laws with Poincare's conventionalism. Despite some similarities, it will be argued that the former cannot be taken seriously by a scientist or a philosopher of science who takes experimentation important in science.


انسکوم، جی. ئی. ام (1387)، مقدمه‌ای بر تراکتاتوس ویتگنشتاین، ترجمه: همایون کاکاسلطانی، تهران: گام نو.
گیلیس، دانالد (1381)، فلسفة علم در قرن بیستم، ترجمه: حسن میانداری، تهران: سمت و طه.
ماونس، هاوارد (1379)، درآمدی بر رسالة ویتگنشتاین، ترجمه: سهراب علوی‌نیا، تهران: طرح‌نو.
Bogen, J. (1996), 'Wittgenstein's Tractatus', in Parkinson, G.H.R. and Shanker, S.G. (Eds.), Routledge History of Philosophy, Vol. IX: Philosophy of Science, Logic and Mathematics in the 20th Century, London, 157-192.
‍Cary, A. And Read, R. (Eds.) (2000), The New Wittgenstein, London: Rutledge.
Glock, H. (1996), A Wittgenstein Dictionary, Oxford: Blackwell.
McGuinness, B. (2002), Approaches to Wittgenestein: Collected Papers, London and New York: Routledge.
Ostrow, M. (2002), Wittgenstein's Tractatus, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Poincare, H. (1902), Science and Hypothesis, English Translation , Dover, 1952, French edn, Flammarion, 1968.
Id. (1905), the Value of Science, English Translation: Dover, 1958.
Proctor, G. (1959), 'Scientific Laws and Scientific Objects in the Tractatus', the British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 10, 39, 177-193.
Wittgenstein, L. (1961), Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, Translated by Pears, D. and McGuinness, B., London and New York: Routledge and Kegan Paul, Revised edition 1974.
White, R. M. (2006), Wittgenstein's 'Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus': A Reader's Guide, London and New York: Continum.
Zahar, E. (2001), Poincare's Philosophy: From Conventionalism to Phenomenology, UK: Open Court.