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Wittgenstein's 'Picture-Theory' and the Aesthetic Experience of Clear Thoughts

Wilson, Dawn



Richard Heinrich

Elisabeth Nemeth

Wolfram Pichler

David Wagner


In the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus Wittgenstein appeals to clarity when he characterises the aim, task and results of philosophy. In this essay I suggest that his ‘picture theory’ of language implies that clarity has aesthetic significance in philosophical work. Wittgenstein claims that the task of philosophy is to make thoughts clear. In the‘picture theory’ of thought and language, a thought expressed in language is aproposition with a sense and a proposition is a picture of reality. The question I pose is: how should we construe clarity, if making a thought clear is making clear a picture of reality? Following a close analysis of the picture theory, paying particular attention to the notions of depicting, presenting and mirroring, I conclude that the result of philosophical work – the clarification of propositions – will be pleasurable, inexpressible and intrinsically valuable. For these reasons I suggest that the attainment of a clear thought is an aesthetic experience.


Wilson, D. (2011). Wittgenstein's 'Picture-Theory' and the Aesthetic Experience of Clear Thoughts. In R. Heinrich, E. Nemeth, W. Pichler, & D. Wagner (Eds.), Image and Imaging in Philosophy, Science and the Arts. Volume 1 (143-161).

Conference Name 33rd International Ludwig Wittgenstein-Symposium, 2010
Conference Location Kirchberg
Publication Date 2011
Deposit Date Dec 19, 2014
Publicly Available Date Oct 27, 2022
Publisher De Gruyter
Pages 143-161
Series Title Publications of the Austrian Ludwig Wittgenstein Society – New Series
Series Number 16
Book Title Image and Imaging in Philosophy, Science and the Arts. Volume 1
ISBN 978-3-86838-115-3
Public URL