Categorial Indeterminacy, Generality and Logical Form in Wittgenstein's Tractatus


  • Christopher Campbell

Christopher Campbell

Department of Philosophy

Glendon College, York University



Many commentators have attempted to say, more clearly than Wittgenstein did in his Tractatus logico-philosophicus, what sort of things the ‘simple objects’ spoken of in that book are. A minority approach, but in my view the correct one, is to reject all such attempts as misplaced. The Tractarian notion of an object is categorially indeterminate: in contrast with both Frege's and Russell's practice, it is not the logician's task to give a specific categorial account of the internal structure of elementary propositions or atomic facts, nor, correlatively, to give an account of the forms of simple objects. The few commentators who have hitherto maintained this view have mainly devoted themselves to establishing that this was Wittgenstein's intention, and do not much address the question why Wittgenstein held that it is not the logician's business to say what the objects are. The present paper means to fill this lacuna by placing this view in the context of the Tractatus's treatment of logic generally, and in particular by connecting it with Wittgenstein's treatment of generality and with his reaction to Russell's approach to logical form.