Nietzsche and Wittgenstein are the forerunners of two very different philosophical traditions. However, they share a fragmentary way of writing which forces us to reconsider the importance given to the literary form of thinking. Motivated by criticism of the egalitarianism and scientism of western culture, both authors’ ways of writing question the capacity of everyday language to express thoughts and transform authenticity into something almost indescribable. In this paper we will analyse the characteristics of Nietzsche and Wittgenstein's works, as well as the reading conditions which they require, with the aim of determining the role that literary style plays in their respective proposals.

Highlighted notes:

  • There is no doubt that we are faced with two writers who are interested in making their thoughts take on a certain form.
  • Nietzsche is sure that “better writing means better thinking” (Nietzsche 1999 2-592).
  • In a similar sense, Wittgenstein insists that the value of his thoughts will be all the greater, the better expressed they are, although he feels obliged to grant them a margin of imperfection: “of all of the sentences that I write here”, he points out, “only one or the other will make any kind of progress” (Wittgenstein 1980 §384).
  • This is why, although he acknowledges that he is captivated by his way of guiding his thoughts towards philosophy, he says that he is not captivated by his own style (Wittgenstein 1997 100).
  • In the prologue of Philosophical Investigations, he confesses in that respect his inability to make his thoughts progress in a natural seamless sequence
  • His reflections tend, on the contrary, to “jump all around the subject”, finding themselves spread around on “loose notes” and breaking themselves up into “countless pieces” which are impossible to piece back together, like “excerpts from an enormous landscape” in which it is difficult to find one's way (Wittgenstein 1980, §§ 156, 317 & 452).
  • He introduces himself as “master” of the aphorism and the sentence that guides thought along an unhindered path which only a particularly conscientious reader could follow (Nietzsche 1999 6-153).
  • Nietzsche also shares this tendency towards fragmentation and criticises philosophical systems.
  • “I really want my copious punctuation marks to slow down the speed of reading. Because I should like to be read slowly (As I myself read.)” (Wittgenstein 1980 §393).
  • style may be best justified as a discriminatory measure.
  • Nietzsche wrote that “all the nobler spirits select their audience when they wish to communicate; and choosing that, one at the same time erects barriers against the others” (Nietzsche 1999 3-633).
  • Wittgenstein writes along the same lines that: “The book must automatically separate those who understand it from those who do not. […] If you have a room which you do not want certain people to get into, put a lock on it for which they do not have the key” (Wittgenstein 1980 §34).
  • Wittgenstein dedicates the book to those who are closest to him in a cultural sense: “my fellow citizens as it were, in contrast to the rest who are foreign to me” (Wittgenstein 1980 §495).
  • “It will fall into hands which are not for the most part those in which I would like to imagine it. May it soon – this is what I wish for it – be completely forgotten by the philosophical journalists, and so be preserved perhaps for a better sort of reader.” (Wittgenstein 1980 §384).
  • Nietzsche and Wittgenstein’s styles make an effort to express their thoughts which seems to bring them close to the imaginative or suggestive register typical of poetry.
  • philosophy ought really to be written only as a form of poetry
  • Nietzsche also seems to number his words and reserves them to tell of some experiences, warning that “one should only speak where one cannot remain silent, and only speak of what one has conquered”. The rest is all “chatter”, “literature”, bad breeding” (Nietzsche 1999 2-369).
  • indicating a road to the mystic which suggests, precisely through the obscurity of his writing, an indisputable clarity.
  • synoptic vision which provokes understanding, an understanding that consists of “seeing connections” and depends on “finding and inventing intermediate cases”
  • The hermeneutic key to aphorism is, in fact, the capacity to provide examples which forsake an explanation in favour of a merely descriptive illustration
  • forces philosophy to adapt its writing not to a chain of inferences, but to a collection of images which intends to appeal to the personal point of view.
  • In this sense, Wittgenstein warns his reader that he merely intends to be the “mirror” where he can see his own thoughts with all of their errors, so helping him to correct them (Wittgenstein 1980 §93).
  • With this it is acknowledged that an author’s way of writing allows for the understanding of their own particular circumstances and their aspirations to be placed in perspective, seen from outside the ordinary logic of words, reaching a compromise with the undescribable: with the sphere of values, with the mystic.
  • “This book is written for those who are in sympathy with the spirit in which it is written. This is not, I believe, the spirit of the main current of European and American civilization” (Wittgenstein 1980 §§29 & 34).
  • written “in the obscure knowledge of premonition and it may only be understandable to a few”
  • We are speaking about a world which is impervious to value and to feeling, in which the light has gone out: “it is as if the shine were erased from everything, everything is dead” and “one suddenly realizes that one's mere existence is still completely empty, deserted” (Wittgenstein 1997 198-199).
  • For this reason, in these dark and desolate coordinates, authenticity, the value of the individual, becomes an arduous task: “For in times like these, genuine strong characters simply leave the arts aside and turn to other things and somehow the worth of the individual man finds expression” (Wittgenstein 1980 §29).
  • For Wittgenstein, cultural disappointment prevails, but he believes that the individual may still have the chance to express himself. It is a question of raising oneself to the higher and undescribable perspective of the mystic, touching upon aesthetic and religious hope. The price to be paid, however, is the creation of something from this feeling which cannot be communicated, cannot be said in the everyday common language, which is the language of argumentation and criticism.

Source: http://wab.uib.no/agora/tools/alws/collection-8-issue-1-article-32.annotate