Thesis Abstracts

Abstract PhD Thesis Dr Ian Mulholland

‘The Word Is All That Is The Case: A reading of Wittgenstein’s “Tractatus Logico Philosophicus”‘

By Dr Ian Mulholland

Abstract PhD Thesis Dr Ian Mulholland

CIRCL PhD student Ian Mulholland passed his PhD on 10-10-2023 with his PhD thesis on ‘The Word Is All That Is The Case: A reading of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico Philosophicus‘. Supervisor: Professor Karin Lesnik-Oberstein; External Examiner: Professor Peter Buse of Liverpool University; Internal Examiner: Dr Neil Cocks.

Abstract of thesis

This thesis was inspired by an article in Science that claimed that reading literary fiction improves one’s ability to accurately form an opinion on another’s state of mind. In my reading of this scientific discourse I came to question the ways in which the ability to test and measure an outcome not only limits what can be discussed but defines the direction of further discourse. Asking these questions led me to investigate the theoretical basis of current scientific discourse and, eventually to Wittgenstein’s Tractatus. This small volume has been one of the most analysed philosophical texts of the twentieth century and this interpretive effort shows no sign of slowing in the twenty-first century. My own contribution to this work is a close reading of a large section of the Tractatus and a part of Cora Diamond’s ‘Throwing away the ladder’. I have linked these interpretations to my readings of critics such as Jacqueline Rose and Jacques Derrida. In this thesis I have explored the Tractatus’ claims concerning sense and nonsense and the scholarly conversation surrounding these claims. While I can make no claim to completeness, I believe this thesis offers a perspective on the Tractatus that is not present in the pre-existing Wittgenstein scholarship. My reading questions the underlying assumptions of an extra-textual author and an extra-textual world to which the Tractatus is often understood to refer and in doing so opens a space for a different understanding of this text.