Wittgenstein on "Imaginability" as a Criterion for Logical Possibility

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Jasmin Trächtler


Throughout his whole work, Wittgenstein seizes on a distinction between logical and physical possibility, and impossibility. Despite this continuity and although, Wittgenstein brings in this distinction in various contexts and from different vantage points, he often solely brushes over it without elaborating in detail. In the so-called Big Typescript, however, he dedicates himself not only to the distinction between logical and physical possibility but also to the distinction between logical possibility and impossibility in particular investigations. In the course of these investigations, another aspect arises and is tossed and turned repeatedly by Wittgenstein – namely, the place of “imaginability” in these considerations.

On the basis of three focussed chapters in the Big Typescript, I argue that “imaginability” as an utterance of the form “being able to imagine ‘what it would be like’” can be allocated the place of a criterion for logical possibility. To this end, I will first outline the chapters 96., 27. and 26. in one section each. Although in these chapters, Wittgenstein only indicates rather than claiming explicitly “imaginability” to be a criterion for logical possibility, I will discuss in the last section how this conclusion can be drawn by combining the results of the previous sections.

Author Biography

Jasmin Trächtler, Univeristy of Kassel & University of Bergen

Jasmin Trächtler is a PhD-candidate at the University of Bergen (Norway) and the University of Kassel (Germany). After studying art history and philosophy, she graduated in philosophy with a thesis on ‘The Problem of Negation in Picture and Language’ at the University of Kassel. Her PhD thesis is about ‘Wittgenstein’s Grammar of Other Minds’. She taught two seminars at the University of Kassel about the relation between pictures and language as well as Wittgenstein’s philosophy of psychology. She currently is editor of the book review section at the Nordic Wittgenstein Review, chair of the Bergen Network for Women in Philosophy and works at the Wittgenstein Archives Bergen as proofreader of the transcriptions of Wittgenstein’s manuscripts.