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Foreword

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 February 2022

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Summary

On the centenary of the definitive completion of Wittgenstein's masterpiece, the present edition intends to comply strictly with the prescriptions afforded by the decimal codes of the Tractatus. If it is true that ‘only the decimal numbers give the book perspicuity and clarity, and without them the Tractatus would be only an incomprehensible mess’, as Wittgenstein wrote to a possible editor, then one cannot understand the Tractatus logico-philosophicus by reading it sequentially, as if its numbers did not exist. In fact, decimal codes dispose the text across various logical lines, which are connected in a system of strongly expressive hierarchical dependencies. Traditionally, the Tractatus is printed in its most compact form, as a list of propositions in a strict order of numbering. This leaves the task of finding, throughout the decimal numbers, the right way of connecting propositions entirely to the reader. By contrast, this centenary edition does this bit of the reader's work for her. To this end, the propositions have already been arranged in the precise connections dictated by Wittgenstein's peculiar codes.

Wittgenstein took three years to develop the exact formal hierarchy that has been handed down to us. Furthermore, in the final phase of restructuring, virtually all of Wittgenstein's attention went to the arrangement of the text and its detailed articulation. It follows, then, that the Tractatus is, in fact, a hypertext, bearing a precise logical tree structure:

The ‘homepage’ of the hypertext is represented by the seven cardinal propositions, which must be carefully read and analysed for their internal logical progression. Starting from this first page, one can choose to further explore one of its propositions by turning to its corresponding page, and so on, in cascade. Thus, Figure 1 illustrates the form in which the text is logically articulated.

The decimal numbers moreover provide the cognitive map of the text. In the present edition, every virtual page of the map fits onto one physical page of paper, and vice versa. The text is, as it were, displayed according to its own cognitive map. Thus, at long last, the reader can take pleasure in reading and understanding it (thereby heeding Wittgenstein's expressed wish in the preface).

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Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus
Centenary Edition
, pp. ix - xxviii
Publisher: Anthem Press
Print publication year: 2021

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