Kaufmann, Wittgenstein

I can’t help but feel that another could be misled by the epilogue of Walter Kaufmann’s Nietzsche. A remark about Friedrich Nietzsche’s “similarities to Ludwig Wittgenstein” appears between talk of language, grammar and ordinary language in Analytic Philosophy. But consider the careful language of the following translation from Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morals.

…the cause of the origin of a thing and its eventual utility, its actual employment and place in a system of purposes, lie worlds apart; whatever exists, having somehow come into being, is again and again reinterpreted to new ends, taken over, transformed, and redirected by some power superior to it; all events in the organic world are a subduing, a becoming master, and all subduing and becoming master involves a fresh interpretation, an adaptation through which any previous “meaning” and “purpose” are necessarily obscured or even obliterated. (From Walter Kaufmann’s translation of Friedrich Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morals, Second Essay, section 12, page 77)

The example which the translation generalizes on is punishment—which is taken up as a natural and observable phenomenon. The translation builds upon several meanings of punishment, creating a story of punishment. Yet the passage asks for an origin of this historical entity (“somehow”) and cannot answer it.

The passage leaves open the mystery of how any thing first comes to be at all. When I think on Wittgenstein’s remarks on Martin Heidegger’s question on the meaning of being, I find that both texts draw my attention to something of a boundary of language. This prevents expression of the “what” of an entity before it came to be as it is—and further, the “how” of that becoming.

I can very well think what Heidegger means by Being and Angst. Man has the drive to run up against the boundaries of language. Think, for instance, of the astonishment that anything exists. This astonishment cannot be expressed in the form of a question, and there is no answer to it. All that we say can, a priori, be nonsense. Never the less we run up against the boundary of language. (From Brian McGuinness and Joachim Schulte’s translation of Ludwig Wittgenstein and the Vienna Circle: Conversations Recorded by Friedrich Waismann.)

This boundary lies behind my reading of all three authors, yet there is an appeal in the method of argumentation in Wittgenstein which is lacking in the other two (and only with Heidegger do I read a possible way to talk of this organic, primordial and unspeakable entity—my understanding of the ready to hand). This is why to merely mention language, grammar and ordinary language in Analytic Philosophy overlooks the more interesting possibility of reading out of these works the grounds of a similar ontological understanding.