A Critical Assessment of Therapeutic (Anti-metaphysical) Interpretation of Tractatus and the Kierkegaardian Reading of Early Wittgenstein

Document Type : Original Research


Ph.D Candidate in Philosophy of Religion, Institute for Humanities and Cultural Studies, Tehran, Iran


During the 1980s, in opposition to the traditional interpretation of Tractatus, in which it is believed that Tractarian nonsense proposition can be divided into two groups of misleading and illuminating nonsense, a new interpretation (therapeutics or anti-metaphysical) has formed the proponents of which are in agreement upon two fundamental ideas about Tractatus: First, all nonsense propositions in Tractatus are mere nonsense, and there is no difference between them, and second, Tractatus aims at transmitting a practical knowledge to its reader, rather than a theoretical one. Some central figures of the therapeutic interpretation of Tractatus, such as James Conant, believe that early Wittgenstein should be treated within the Kierkegaardian lines and his Postscript. Both early Wittgenstein and Kierkegaard maintain that "ineffable truth" is an inconsistent idea that should be considered as a disease that should be treated. In this paper, I try to describe therapeutic interpretation and the Kierkegaardian reading of early Wittgenstein. Then, I focus on some of its failures and defects: Far from being compatible with what Wittgenstein has meant by "nonsense," therapeutic reading could not adhere to "resolute" meaning of "nonsense." Based on these remarks, I try to achieve to the conclusion that neither therapeutic interpretation nor its subsequent Kierkegaardian reading of early Wittgenstein is acceptable.


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