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Possibility in the Tractatus : A Defense of the Old Wittgenstein

Recently, a number of commentators on the early Wittgenstein have tried to make the Tractatus more palatable than it actually is; they have blurred the lines between exegesis and philosophical defense. As a corrective to this tendency, this paper attempts to retrieve the early Wittgenstein's true understanding of the ontology of possibility. Focusing upon the two kinds of metaphors he uses in the Tractatus, object-based and space ones, the first part of this paper emphasizes the philosophical problems that motivated his ontology of possibility, especially the "Parmenidean" question of how false propositions make contact with reality. The second part addresses two novel interpretations of the early Wittgenstein's views of ontology and possibility—the non-ontological reading of McGuinness, Ishiguro and the "New" Wittgensteinians, and Raymond Bradley's "third degree possibilist" reading—and shows why they are exegetically unsound.