Wittgenstein’s Argument for the Context Principle in the Tractatus

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The “Context Principle”, as the author understands it in this paper, is the claim that sub-sentential linguistic expressions (roughly speaking, words) have meaning only in the context of complete meaningful sentences. The author reconstructs the version of the Context Principle that Wittgenstein holds in the Tractatus, shows that it has intuitive plausibility and can be defended against alleged counterexamples, and develops an argument for its truth that can be found in the Tractatus. In short, the author argues that the “fit” between the meanings of sentences and the meanings of the expressions they contain can only be adequately explained if one acknowledges that for a sub-sentential expression to have meaning is for it to make a contribution to the meaning of a sentence.

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