How to read the Tractatus sequentially

This is a companion webpage for my paper “How to read the Tractatus sequentially”, which is forthcoming in the Nordic Wittgenstein Review. It’s open access and currently up for comments in their open review process here. (Update: The final version is now here.)

The paper joins the current debate on how to understand the structure of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus in general and the numbering system in particular. On the destructive side I argue against the tree reading as defended by Bazzocchi, Hacker and Kuusela (and to a lesser extent by Stern, as well). On the constructive side, I sketch and defend the sequential chain reading as an alternative to it. If you don’t know anything about this debate, you may want to have a look at two posts at Daily Nous (2015, 2016) or at Hacker’s paper “How the Tractatus was meant to be read” (2015).

In case you find the paper too long or boring or both, here is a reading guide: Section 1 introduces the topic, section 2 explains what the exegetical issues surrounding the numbering system are, section 3 sketches both the tree reading and the sequential reading, sections 4 to 6 discuss and reject the arguments for the tree reading one by one (Wittgenstein’s own explanation(s) of the numbering system, anaphoric references, the interpretation of 4.02, of 5.63–5.64 and of 6.54) and section 7 summarises my case for the tree reading. Thus, you should read sections 1 and 7. If you’re already familiar with the debate, you may want to skip sections 2 and 3.1 and choose those sections from 4 to 6 that deal with whatever argument(s) you are most interested in. If you’re unfamiliar with the debate, you may want to read Hacker’s paper first or my paper until section 3.2, and, again, choose those sections from 4 to 6 that deal with whatever argument(s) you are most interested in.

In case you want to check my claims about the number of “pages” (183) or anaphoric references (ca. 70 in total), here’s a 35-page document with all the nerdy details: “The Structure of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus: Some Lists and Tables”.