Little Wittgenstein Quote

"Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darueber muss man schweigen."

It's sentence 7, the last one, from the TractatusLogicoPhilosophicus, it's immediately preceded by WittgensteinsLadder.

Apparently the canonical english translation is, "What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.", but "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof must one be silent.", might be easier to understand. It might be worth mentioning that the above doesn't mean that the Tractatus is only 7 sentences long. It's subdivided: as well as 1,2,3,4,5,6,7 there are 1.1, 4.1221, 5.2341, etc. See TractatusLogicoPhilosophicus.

That's actually in a larger context (from the foreword):

"Was sich ueberhaupt sagen laesst, laesst sich klar sagen: und wovon man nicht reden kann, darueber muss man schweigen... Die Grenze wird also nur in der Sprache gezogen werden koennen, und was jenseits der Grenze liegt, wird einfach Unsinn sein."


"What can be said, can be said with clarity: What can't be said, must remain unsaid ... The language defines the limit, beyond that limit is nonsense."


"Anything you can say at all, you can say clearly. Don't speak of things you can't discuss. People will only be able to see from what you say where the border lies. Everything beyond that border is simply nonsense."

The second sentence is hard, and I'm translating "Sprache" in the third as "what you say" instead of "language". Another go at the translation:

"What is sayable at all, lets itself be said clearly; and what you cannot speak of, of that one should remain silent... The border is only possible to draw in language, and what lays outside the border, is simply madness."

This isnt' the first time I find myself wondering how it is that Wittgenstein arises as though the spokesperson for via negativa. Here'a a line from the homepage of a site by that name:

"we have to accept that there is far more of God that we will never know or understand. When we get to that position we may often find that the best communication is wordless, actionless and happens in complete stillness"

Contributors: MichaelSchuerig, AlistairCockburn, FridemarPache, JuttaEckstein, BarneyFinucane, ...

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