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Doing Logic with a Hammer: Wittgenstein's Tractatus and the Polemics of Logical Positivism

From: Journal of the History of Ideas
Volume 66, Number 2, April 2005
pp. 285-300 | 10.1353/jhi.2005.0038


This essay situates Wittgenstein's Tractatus and other writings of the Vienna Circle in the context of various political and artistic avant-garde movements of the early twentieth century. Despite the Circle's emphasis on logical analysis, its writings were drawn into the polemics that characterized avant-garde groups, in particular their reliance on manifestos. The essay uses the manifestos of the Vienna Circle as a lens through which to uncover the polemical and performative nature of central texts of logical positivism, including the Tractatus, whose condensed, numbered, and pointed sentences echo central features of twentieth-century manifestos.