Get access

Nominalism and Realism. How Not to Read the Tractatus' Conception of a Name



This paper focuses on a central aspect of the “picture theory” in the Tractatus – the “identity requirement” – namely the idea that a proposition represents elements in reality as combined in the same way as its elements are combined. After introducing the Tractatus' views on the nature of the proposition, I engage with a “nominalist” interpretation, according to which the Tractatus holds that relations are not named in propositions. I claim that the nominalist account can only be maintained by rejecting the “identity requirement.” I then consider an opposite – “realist” – interpretation, according to which Tractarian names include names of properties and relations. I argue that, although it can accommodate the “identity requirement,” the realist interpretation falls short of providing a correct interpretation of the Tractatus' conception of a name. I conclude by presenting an alternative account (to both nominalism and realism) of the Tractatus' conception of a name.