Wednesday, May 02, 2007

4.016 In order to understand the essence of the proposition, let us consider hieroglyphic writing, which depicts the facts it describes.

And from it came the alphabet, without losing the essence of picturing.

Real (Egyptian) hieroglyphic writing is in fact alphabetic and does not simply depict, image, or map the facts it describes. We might imagine the kind of writing Wittgenstein describes here, but it is possible that he knows we could not get very far this way. Writing does seem to have started with pictographs, but of course spoken language came before this, and is thought to have emerged from gestures (in the beginning was the deed, all very later Wittgensteinian). So it might be true that the (written) alphabet came from pictographs, and hence that (written) sentences began this way. This tells us nothing philosophically, surely, since logic is not concerned with such empirical matters. But the history lesson might be helpful all the same, as a kind of metaphor. The idea seems to be that the essence of propositions is to represent.

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