Picture theory of language

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The picture theory of language, also known as the picture theory of meaning, is a theory of linguistic reference and meaning articulated by Ludwig Wittgenstein in the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. Wittgenstein suggested that a meaningful proposition pictured a state of affairs or atomic fact.[1][2] Wittgenstein compared the concept of logical pictures (German: Bilder) with spatial pictures.[3] The picture theory of language is considered a correspondence theory of truth.[4]

Wittgenstein claims there is an unbridgeable gap between what can be expressed in language and what can only be expressed in non-verbal ways. The picture theory of meaning states that statements are meaningful if, and only if, they can be defined or pictured in the real world.

Wittgenstein's later investigations laid out in the First Part of Philosophical Investigations refuted and replaced his earlier picture-based theory with a use theory of meaning. However, the second psychology-focused Part of Philosophical Investigations employs the concept as a metaphor for human psychology.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889—1951) (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
  2. ^ Keyt, D. (1964). "Wittgenstein's Picture Theory of Language". The Philosophical Review. 73 (4): 493. doi:10.2307/2183303. JSTOR 2183303.
  3. ^ V. Hope (April 1969). "The Picture Theory of Meaning in the Tractatus as a Development of Moore's and Russell's Theories of Judgment". Philosophy. 44 (168): 140–148. doi:10.1017/s0031819100024335. JSTOR 3750136.
  4. ^ Edna Daitz (April 1953). "The Picture Theory of Meaning". Mind. 62 (246): 184–201. doi:10.1093/mind/lxii.246.184. JSTOR 2251383.
  5. ^ Wittgenstein, Ludwig (1968). Philosophical Investigations. Translated by G.E.M. Anscombe (Third ed.). New York: Basil Blackwell & Mott, Ltd. p. 178. The human body is the best picture of the human soul.