Aphorism and Anti-Aphorism: Language and Aesthetics      

Aphorism and Anti-Aphorism: Language and Aesthetics

Nicholas Romanos


Karl Kraus, the great Viennese satirist, poet, and aphorist, is still little read in the Anglophone world. This article argues that Kraus’ innovative ideas about aesthetics and language, generated in response to the problems of modernity, are of great interest to the contemporary philosopher of aesthetics. Kraus’ writing is discussed here as a basis for a theory of the aphorism, which is shown to be a literary form uniquely concerned with its own form (and thus with literary and linguistic aesthetics). Kraus uses the aphorism to ‘serve language’ and, along with quotation, it constitutes the foundation of his style. This vision of the aphorism is then tested on the style of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, which, it is concluded, is not aphoristic but ‘anti-aphoristic’, closely related but antithetical to the aphorism. This forms the opposing pole of our understanding of the aphoristic style, the value of which is then briefly discussed.

Key Words
aesthetics; aphorism; Karl Kraus; language; Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus; Ludwig Wittgenstein


1. “…and this wonder of the world, this monster, this genius bore the highly ordinary name of Karl Kraus.” (Canetti) [1]

Europe has never produced—and perhaps never will again—a satirist of such intellectual, literary, and moral stature as Karl Kraus; nor indeed of such interest to philosophy, despite Lucian’s Menippean tones and Voltaire’s Enlightenment caricatures. Kraus (1874-1936) was both a product and an enemy of his time and place, and yet, as he tirelessly catalogued the miscarriages of justice and journalistic misprints of Vienna in Die Fackel,[2] the satiric journal he edited for thirty-seven years and which for twenty-seven years he wrote entirely single-handedly, he rose to such depths of insight as to make him a writer for all ages. Kraus once wrote, “I shall have to wait until my writings are obsolete. Then they may acquire timelessness.”[3] And, indeed, now that we have forgotten many of the sources and targets of Kraus’ satire, we perhaps stand in greater need of him than ever.

At the center of Kraus’ project was language. He saw all around him the degradation, deformation and desecration of language by politicians, law courts, littérateurs, and most of all his arch-enemy, the press. For Kraus this was not merely symptomatic, but even the cause, of the corruption and moral degradation of his time. In the words of Erich Heller, “in every single case [of Kraus’ satire], his field of action is the ever-widening no-man’s-land between appearance and reality, expression and substance, word-gesture and personality.”[4] Linguistic form and literary style (which,on a fairly traditional definition of the term, may be viewed as ‘aesthetic’ matters) are thus intrinsically linked to moral value, and Kraus can say, “Something I cannot get over: that a whole line could be written by half a man. That a work can be built on the quicksand of a character.”[5]

This might seem a bold thesis, but ‘in these great times,’ when politicians communicate public policy via Twitter, we may be tempted to agree with Kraus that meaningless and cliché-ridden language not only betrays its moral and intellectual flaws but even erodes the intellectual capacity of its readers: “[W]e see only the spectacle of the intellect latching onto a catchword when a personality does not have the strength to keep silent and draw on its own resources.”[6]

Kraus’ systematic exposure of the linguistic abuses of his opponents often made for hilarious satire, but he was at his greatest when he tackled, with great pathos and often sublimity, the very serious issues of the First World War and later the rise of the Nazis. The First World War was only possible, Kraus thought, because of the insidious lies and catch-phrases of the press—‘these great times’ is the chauvinistic cliché he chose as the center of perhaps his greatest essay, “In These Great Times,” written in 1914 about the start of the war; and his monumental anti-war play, The Last Days of Mankind, is often considered his masterwork. In times of war, ideological twisting of language is at its highest and most dangerous. Kraus recalls, “At the door of a German military office I saw a poster on which the words stood out: ‘Free soldiers!’ But it meant that civilians were wanted to do clerical work so as to enable the soldiers working to go to the front.”[7] A fine concept of freedom! More chillingly still, Kraus shows us the distorted language of the Nazis, where ‘protective custody’ means ‘concentration camp.’[8] With war once again raging in Europe and aggressors attempting to indoctrinate their people through twisted language, Kraus’ “moral-linguistic imperative,” as J. P. Stern called it,[9] resonates strongly.

As may be surmised, quotation was at the heart of Kraus’ satirical method. Since the corruption, he thought, was present in the language of his target, all he had to do was let it make itself manifest: “So I went and quoted them. And am I capable of exposing livelihoods to starvation simply by repeating verbatim what got them riches in the first place.”[10] This is indeed the source of much of his satire. But to say, with Walter Benjamin, “the whole world of this man’s culture is embraced by quotation”[11] would be to miss the more constructive side of Kraus’ style. The other pole of his linguistic aesthetics is the aphorism. In fact, the aphorism is a close cousin of the quotation—we might call an aphorism a quotation with rights of permanent residence—and the division is further blurred in Kraus’ works by the fact that his aphorisms, which he published in Die Fackel and collected in three books, are often adapted quotations from his own earlier essays, glosses, or even poems. Behind every aphorism lurks the shadow of a possible context or elaboration, and in every sentence resides the possibility of detachment and the assumption of independent aphoristic status.

2. “Word and Substance—that is the only connection I have ever striven for in my life.” (Kraus) [12]

What, then, are the characteristics of an aphorism? We may distinguish it from the maxim, which is always entirely general and consists of ‘equations’, such that a maxim from La Rochefoucauld, for example, could often be reversed and remain equally ‘true’.[13] For example, the first maxim that presented itself on opening a copy of La Rochefoucauld, “Our self-love submits less patiently to disapproval of our tastes than of our opinions,” could just as easily have been written with its key terms reversed: “Our self-love submits less patiently to disapproval of our opinions than of our tastes.” (Umberto Eco notes that Kraus’ aphorisms are less often ‘transposable’ than other writers, and even the examples he does reverse lose more of their sense than with others such as Oscar Wilde.)[14] We might rather characterize the aphorism as an experiment in thought, a spark, or a fragment that need not be a fragment of anything, a momentary impression expressed in language, though it is not necessarily tied to the single line as the maxim often is. Indeed, this is very much the picture of his aphoristic style that Kraus himself gives in the preface to his collection of aphorisms called Dicta and Contradicta,[15] the title of which may remind us of another of his aphorisms: “He who expresses opinions must not let himself be caught in contradiction. He who has ideas thinks amidst contradictions as well.”[16] Kraus, a man who said “I’m for prohibiting people from using my thoughts as their opinions,”[17] would surely agree that the merit of the aphorism as a literary (and philosophic) form is to force substantive thinking on the part of the reader, rather than simply to present a thesis to be accepted or declined: they must reconstruct in the mind the situations and reflections that might have given rise to the thought, think through and reformulate all the arguments. To read an aphorism properly is akin to writing an aphorism, and any ‘thesis’ that results must be as much the work of the reader as the writer. There are thus significant merits to the aphorism as a form of philosophical discourse (we think of Nietzsche, to whose intellectual ‘experimentalism’ the aphorism was particularly suited), though it presupposes a rather different aim to most ‘analytic’ philosophy, with the outstanding exception of the later Wittgenstein.

There is another key characteristic that we may instructively use to distinguish the ‘aphorism’ as we here conceive of it—a characteristic of particular interest from the point of view of aesthetics, and which best explains why the aphoristic form was so suited to Kraus: more than any other literary form in prose, the aphorism draws attention to its own form. That is to say, the successful aphorism, which must have some formal element that adds depth and wit and distinguishes it from an ordinary sentence, is always, whatever its apparent subject, also ‘about’ its own form. We may here remark that ‘form’ is in fact a useful term for defining the entire discipline of aesthetics, ranging as it does from visual and tactile form (painting, sculpture) to musical form, literary form, and even the form of ideas (which would provide a basis for the possibility of aesthetic appreciation of mathematics, for instance). Form is what is perceptible, in the sense of the Greek verb aisthanomai (the root of the word ‘aesthetics’), which includes intellectual comprehension as well as physical sense perception. (We may recall Nietzsche’s words at the end of the preface to The Gay Science: “What is required… is to stop courageously at the surface, the fold, the skin, to adore appearance, to believe in forms, tones, words.”)[18] Thus, if the aphorism is ‘about’ form—specifically linguistic and literary form—writing aphorisms proves to be a way of elaborating an aesthetics (though not a systematic aesthetics, to be sure).

Karl Kraus was a master of the formal aspects of the aphorism; this is because he took linguistic and literary form so seriously. He wrote, “My language is the common prostitute that I turn into a virgin.”[19] His satiric campaign against the deformed and empty language of the press partially accounts for this striking statement. (He considered that the writer who put himself at the service of the public’s tea-time entertainment in daily print-runs prostituted his intellect for commercial gain).

But how does Kraus achieve linguistic purity in his own writing? Examination of a few aphorisms he wrote specifically about language itself will give us clues:

“Let language be the divining rod that finds the source of thought.”[20]

“‘He masters the German language’—that is true of a salesman. An artist is the servant of the word.”[21]

“Language is the mother of thought, not its handmaiden.”[22]

“I master only the language of others. Mine does with me what it wants.”[23]

Clearly Kraus’ ideal is to let language guide thought rather than try to dominate it and distort it in the process: Kraus wants to be a servant of language. I would suggest that the aphorism is the perfect medium for this, and that this explains Kraus’ attraction to it. Its brevity allows each aphorism to be a new linguistic experiment, and its preoccupation with form means that it has a natural tendency to follow and play with language. A word strikes the author. Each word, as Heller expressed it, “has a range of its own, and once struck, opens up numberless trains of thought.”[24] The aphorist then follows one of these trains of thought until it leads him to a sentence. That this is indeed Kraus’ method becomes clear as soon as we consider some examples:

“If I return some people’s greetings, I only do so to give them their greeting back.”[25]

—This makes use of the ambiguities inherent in ‘return’ and takes literally a standard idiom.

“Contemporaries live from second hand to mouth.”[26]

—This follows an idiom and adds a word to change the meaning.

“I put my pen to the Austrian corpse because I persist in believing there’s life in it.”[27]

—The image of the autopsy drives the phrase (with a pen for a scalpel), but with the paradoxical twist that Kraus believes the corpse is not dead.

Thus we see Kraus’ vision of language in action. To achieve harmony with the “true spirit of language,” rather than abusing it in the “representative idiom of his society,”[28] he deploys perfectly the formal qualities of the aphorism and follows the associations and suggestions of words and phrases. Or rather, out of his critique of the language of others and his aesthetic decisions as regards the aphoristic style, his vision of the true spirit of language arises. And, as Heller is quite correct to note, “His unfailing and instinctive response to what are ‘strictly moral’ questions was the result of his having pondered over them endlessly in ‘strictly amoral’ fields: in the sphere of aesthetics and language.”[29]

3. “Nestroy’s words ought to apply to an artist and an idea: ‘I have made a prisoner, and he won’t let go of me.’” (Kraus) [30]

Karl Kraus dealt with the problems of modernity. Systemic injustice, social hypocrisy, the deceitful and distorted language of press and politicians (all amplified beyond proportion by the consequences of industrialization), the dangers of mass media to the intellect, the struggle to define the role of literature, technology, destructive capitalism, world war, the rise of totalitarianism, our relationship to nature: his issues are our issues. The American writer Jonathan Franzen reminded us of Kraus’ direct relevance to our time when he published, in 2013, a translation of some of Kraus’ essays with detailed annotations discussing contemporary issues.[31] Kraus tackled these problems, unsystematically but methodically, by means of his belief in the inextricability or even identity of aesthetic and moral issues, founded on a preoccupation with (linguistic and literary) form. This is why his literary and satirical work is valuable for the contemporary philosopher of aesthetics who faces a similar set of problems. Indeed, amidst much current discussion of the role of the artist in environmental and social issues, Kraus’ satires provide an excellent model of art that is fundamentally ‘socially engaged’ and yet entirely independent.

More specifically, Kraus’ work provides a solid foundation for a theory of the aphorism as a genre, when as great a theorist as Umberto Eco has said that “There is nothing more difficult to define than the aphorism.”[32]A development of this, broadened so as to encompass the form’s full diversity, would be of some use in the interpretation of the several great philosophers who have employed the aphorism, as well as its more purely literary authors. (A comparison—and contrast—between Kraus and Friedrich Schlegel in this respect would perhaps be particularly fruitful.) The pertinence of study of the aphorism for modern aesthetic and literary issues—with a particular focus on ‘modernist’ styles and themes in literature—has recently been argued at length in a pioneering scholarly collection, Aphoristic Modernity: 1880 to the Present.[33]

Kraus also provides a particularly instructive model of a writer’s engagement with their language; that is, he raises the question of how far the literary creative process relies on aesthetic possibilities already formed, by tradition, in a language. This feeds into the age-old question of the role historical context should play in the aesthetic appreciation or exegesis of a text. More broadly, Kraus reminds us of how broad the possible boundaries of aesthetic inquiry can be, and how far—into what might seem purely linguistic areas—a preoccupation with form can take us.

4. “…to run against the boundaries of language…” (Wittgenstein) [34]

The contemporary philosopher who studied Kraus would in fact be following the example of one of the greatest philosophers of the last century—Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951). Wittgenstein was a keen reader of Kraus, arranging for copies of Die Fackel to be sent to him during his isolated stay in Norway.[35] After the publication of the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, which he had submitted first to Kraus’ publisher, Wittgenstein wrote to his friend Engelmann that he “would dearly like to know what Kraus said about it,”[36] and Engelmann was convinced that Wittgenstein remained deeply influenced by Kraus’ thought.[37] Indeed, in 1937, Wittgenstein himself wrote, “I know of course how much the aphoristic way of writing—especially through Kraus—is a part of our time. And how much I am myself influenced by him. Also in a bad sense.”[38] (Clearly his engagement with Kraus was not only positive.)

This is not the place for a detailed historical study of Kraus’ influence of Wittgenstein, but the style of the early Wittgenstein provides an interesting test of the ideas of the aphorism that we developed through a reading of Kraus. The importance of the literary form of the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus has often been neglected, though Wittgenstein himself famously wrote to a potential publisher (Ludwig von Ficker) that “The work is strictly philosophical and, at the same time, literary.”[39] Of those commentators who have discussed this aspect of the Tractatus, many have referred to its numbered propositions as ‘aphorisms’. Thus Marjorie Perloff refers to Wittgenstein’s “aphorisms—terse and often gnomic utterances,”[40] and in his excellent companion to the Tractatus, published just this year, James Klagge speaks of the book’s “aphoristic style;”[41] Alfred Nordmann makes it a central feature of his interpretation.[42] Nordmann sees the propositions of the Tractatus as aphorisms because, he claims, they represent a faithful record of isolated mental events when certain ideas “occurred” to Wittgenstein, challenging the reader to undergo a thought experiment and “reenact” Wittgenstein’s own process of thought, thus allowing them to grasp the elucidation of the Tractatus even if, as Wittgenstein claims, its propositions are strictly nonsense (see below).

Wittgenstein’s notebooks may well be read as examples of aphoristic thinking (certainly much of the later Culture and Value is fully aphoristic in spirit), but the Tractatus is more difficult. First, we may note that the sentences of the Tractatus are necessarily general in scope. The aphorism, as Nordmann admits, can never fully leave behind the realm of specific experience, and Nordmann thinks that this is retained because Wittgenstein records thoughts as they occurred to him. This is not, however, entirely convincing. In the wartime notebooks we see Wittgenstein’s thoughts emerge from his life;[43] in the Tractatus, we see just the crystallized proposition, divorced from any original context. Cardinal proposition 1, “The world is all that is the case” (Pears/McGuiness translation), reads not like an aphorism, but rather a ‘maxim’, or even a definition.

Nordmann also underestimates the extent to which the Tractatus constitutes a complete and coherent system. The book is divided up by means of a complex system of numbering, with seven ‘cardinal propositions’, and sub-propositions commenting on these, indicated by means of decimal numbers (1.1, 1.11 etc.). Wittgenstein more than once stressed the significance of this arrangement, and now the work of Luciano Bazzocchi has shown, culminating in the publication of a new edition of the book last year, that it possesses a logical-tree structure. A grasp of this is necessary to understand the work, and the numbers indicate this structure.[44] That is to say, the Tractatus cannot reasonably be read as a series of “records of isolated mental events”[45] but forms a highly sophisticated and coherent logical system.

In line with this, “thought experiments” does not seem a fitting characterization of the propositions of the Tractatus, though it could well stand as a definition of the aphorism. Wittgenstein began his preface with the words: “Perhaps this book will be understood only by someone who has himself already had the thoughts that are expressed in it—or at least similar thoughts.” Nordmann uses this as a basis of his interpretation, trying to explain how the sentences of the Tractatus, if they are strictly nonsense, can communicate Wittgenstein’s vision.

It seems to me that a simpler answer is in order. Wittgenstein believed that the logical form of propositions was made manifest by those propositions, and that pseudo-propositions void of sense (such as tautologies) likewise made manifest their lack of sense. If his sentences, void of sense (because they try to state what cannot be stated, what makes itself manifest—logical form), cannot convey what he wants to express, Wittgenstein hopes that an intelligent language-user might already have grasped what language makes manifest. All he needs to do, then, is to prompt an intuition, or even a recollection.[46] Indeed, it seems to me that what most commentators have overlooked is the deeply intuitive nature of the Tractatus’ progression (at least when read without preconceived expectations).

Nordmann is not without reason, however, in thinking of the Tractatus as aphoristic. Its propositions were originally conceived, before they were divorced from that context, in individual moments of thought, the general often prompted by the specific (e.g.: the picture theory of propositions was prompted by a dynamic model of a car crash). This ensures that they are profoundly related to aphorisms. We said earlier that the aphorism is supremely concerned with its own literary and linguistic form. Wittgenstein’s sentences, in the final analysis, make manifest their lack of proper propositional form. Where Kraus’ aphorisms followed language, Wittgenstein runs against it, for to express what he wants to express—the inexpressible: logical form—he must try to use language in a way it cannot properly be used, producing sentences void of sense.[47] Thus the best characterization of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus would perhaps be as a book not of aphorisms but of anti-aphorisms, antipodes in the Nietzschean sense, “profoundly related and profoundly antagonistic”[48] to the aphoristic spirit and style. If we are to understand fully the nature and possibilities of the aphoristic form, it is essential to grasp its antithesis.

We may additionally consider briefly some of the commonalities of the substance of Kraus’ and (the early) Wittgenstein’s thought—what makes them worth reading together, even if the one was a satirist and the other a philosopher. Most evident, and most significant, is their overwhelming and enduring preoccupation with language, clarifying and delineating its nature and proper function. They both took aesthetics seriously, and, in their separate ways, argued for the identity—or at least continuity—of ethics and aesthetics. Moreover, as Engelmann pointed out,[49] both were concerned not just with what is stated in language, but what makes itself manifest in any sentence: for Kraus, intellectual and moral character; for Wittgenstein, logical form. Indeed, these very preoccupations make themselves manifest in Kraus’ and Wittgenstein’s use of the aphoristic and anti-aphoristic form.

5. “Someone who can write aphorisms should not fritter away his time writing essays.” (Kraus) [50]

No literary form is quite so uniquely modern as the aphorism. Certainly, maxims, fragments, meditations go back to earliest antiquity, but the “Aphorisms” of Hippocrates have nothing more in common than a name[51]  with the aphorism as we have defined it—the darting experiment in thought, “cold baths,” as Nietzsche would have it (quickly in and quickly out).[52] Indeed, the authors of Aphoristic Modernity go so far as to claim that “modernity is, itself, constructed on aphoristic premises.”[53] Be that as it may, when older forms of writing have seemed inappropriate for new ways of thinking, time and again thinkers have turned to the aphorism (or for Wittgenstein, whose difficulty of content and expression—his subject being the inexpressible—was even greater, its antithetical cousin). Friedrich Schlegel, Nietzsche, Kraus, Kafka, Shestov, Cioran: taken together the aphorists hold undeniable significance for our current literary and philosophical discourse.

Today the short form of writing is king, buoyed by the atomizing tendencies of the internet. But real aphorisms have become scarce (one is tempted to think that they require too much thought for the age of ‘inspirational quotes’), and a philosopher who published aphorisms today would, particularly in the so-called ‘analytic’ tradition, be a rare beast. It is no coincidence that Schlegel, Nietzsche, Kraus (and Wittgenstein) took aesthetics seriously: the aphorism forces the writer and the reader to pay attention not only to thought itself but also to the form of thought, the form of language and of literature. This, along with its role in instigating and recording experiments in thought (it is in a sense the ideal educational form), is one of its greatest merits. It reminds us of the aesthetic possibilities inherent in the very nature of language, and obliquely builds its own aesthetic vision by following or subverting the tendencies of a shared linguistic history. The last century or so of Western philosophy has been conspicuously marked by a tendency to focus on language, and yet the aesthetic element—arguably central to our interactions with language—has often been overlooked. To revive interest in the aphorism is quite simply to revive interest in the aesthetics of language.


Nicholas Romanos

Nicholas Romanos is an undergraduate student of Literae Humaniores at the University of Oxford. In addition to studying the productions of antiquity, he also has a keen interest in modern literature and philosophy, particularly aesthetics. His “Revolution and Aesthetics” was published in Contemporary Aesthetics, Vol. 18 (2020).

Published August 28, 2022.

Cite this article: Nicholas Romanos, “Aphorism and Anti-Aphorism: Language and Aesthetics,” Contemporary Aesthetics 20 (2022), (accessed date).



[1] From a section of Canetti’s memoir, The Torch in My Ear, translated by Joachim Neugroschel and published online by Granta: https://granta.com/karl-kraus-and-veza/ accessed 03/07/2022.

[2] “The Torch.”

[3] Karl Kraus, Half-Truths & One-and-a-Half Truths, trans. Harry Zohn (Manchester: Carcanet, 1986), p. 34.

[4] Erich Heller, The Disinherited Mind (Cambridge: Bowes and Bowes, 1952), p. 188.

[5] Half-Truths, p. 49. (Compare Nietzsche’s remarks on style and character, and the problem of the decadent.)

[6] Karl Kraus, “In These Great Times,” trans. Harry Zohn in In These Great Times, ed. Harry Zohn (Manchester: Carcanet, 1984), p. 80.

[7] Half-Truths, p. 83.

[8] Karl Kraus, The Third Walpurgis Night, trans. Fred Bridgham and Edwards Timms (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2020), pp. 147-160.

[9] J. P. Stern, “Karl Kraus’s Vision of Language,” The Modern Language Review, 61, 1 (1966), 71-84; ref. on 79.

[10] Karl Kraus, “Far be it from me to read Professor Bernhardi,” trans. Peter Winslow (with slight modifications): https://www.abitofpitch.com/172-Far_be_it_from_me_to_read_Professor_Bernhardi  accessed 26/03/2022.

[11] Walter Benjamin, “Karl Kraus,” in One Way Street and Other Writings, trans. Edmund Jephcott and Kingsley Shorter (London: NLB, 1979), p. 286.

[12] Half-Truths, p. 36.

[13] Cf. Albert Camus, “Préface,” in Chamfort, Maximes et pensées, Caractères et anecdotes (France: Gallimard, 1965), pp. 5-15.

[14] Umberto Eco, On Literature, trans. Martin McLaughlin (London: Vintage, 2006), pp. 69-70.

[15] Karl Kraus, Dicta and Contradicta, trans. Jonathon McVity (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2001), pp. ix-x. The title (Sprüche und Widersprüche in the German) could also be translated as Sayings and Gainsayings.

[16] Half-Truths, p. 59

[17] In “Night,” trans. Peter Winslow: https://www.abitofpitch.com/182-Night accessed 26/03/2022.

[18] Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, trans. Walter Kaufmann (New York: Vintage Books, 1974), p. 38.

[19] Half-Truths, p. 69.

[20] Ibid., p. 63.

[21] Ibid., p. 64.

[22] Ibid., p. 64.

[23] Ibid., p. 68.

[24] Heller, op.cit., p. 189.

[25] Half-Truths, p. 37.

[26] Ibid., p. 118.

[27] Ibid., p. 32.

[28] Heller, op.cit., p. 187.

[29] Ibid., p. 199.

[30] Half-Truths, p. 52.

[31] Jonathan Franzen, The Kraus Project: Essays by Karl Kraus (London: 4th Estate, 2013).

[32] Eco, op.cit., p. 62.

[33] Kostas Boyiopoulos and Michael Shallcross, eds., Aphoristic Modernity: 1880 to the Present, (Leiden: Brill, 2019).

[34] Edoardo Zamuner, Ermelinda Valentina di Lascio and D. K. Levy, eds., Ludwig Wittgenstein: Lecture on Ethics, (Chichester: John Wiley & Sons, 2014), p. 51. Text also available freely online at ‘The Ludwig Wittgenstein Project’: https://www.wittgensteinproject.org/w/index.php?title=Lecture_on_Ethics accessed 03/07/2022.

[35] Paul Engelmann, Letters from Ludwig Wittgenstein: with a memoir (Oxford: Blackwell, 1967), p. 123.

[36] Ibid., p. 15.

[37] Ibid., p. 123.

[38] Ludwig Wittgenstein, “Movements of Thoughts: Diaries, 1930–32, 1936–37,” in Public and Private Occasions (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2003), p. 301. Cf. Ludwig Wittgenstein, Culture and Value, trans. Peter Winch (Oxford: Blackwell, 1980), p. 19.

[39] Ludwig Wittgenstein, “Letters to Ludwig von Ficker,” trans. Bruce Gillette, in C. G. Luckhardt, ed. Wittgenstein: Sources and Perspectives (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1979), pp. 82-98; ref. on p. 94.

[40] Marjorie Perloff, “Writing Philosophy as Poetry: Literary form in Wittgenstein,” in The Oxford Handbook of Wittgenstein, eds. Oskari Kuusela and Marie McGinn (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), pp. 714-728; ref. on p. 716.

[41] James C. Klagge, Tractatus in Context (New York: Routledge, 2022), p. 21 et alibi.

[42] Alfred Nordmann, Wittgenstein’s Tractatus: An Introduction (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), esp. pp. 92-125.

[43] Klagge’s companion (op.cit.) provides fascinating detail in this respect.

[44] Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus: Centenary Edition (London: Anthem Press, 2021). See Bazzocchi’s “Foreword,” pp. ix-xxvi, and “Historical Note,” pp. 25-38, and P.M.S. Hacker’s “Introduction,” pp. 1-24.

[45] Nordmann, op.cit., p. 100.

[46] An anamnesis, we might say. (Wittgenstein was a keen reader of Plato.) Engelmann glimpsed this when he called proposition 6.421 “a reminder recalling to the understanding reader an insight which he is assumed to possess in any case.” (op.cit., p. 125.)

[47] I have assumed throughout a broadly traditional reading of the Tractatus, as opposed to the newer ‘resolute’ reading, which I take to be exegetically untenable, but this is not the place to add to the already copious literature on the subject.

[48] Nietzsche, letter to Brandes, Feb. 19, 1888, in Georg Brandes, Friedrich Nietzsche, trans. A. G. Chater (New York: Macmillan, 1915), p. 72.

[49] Op.cit., 124-127.

[50] Half-Truths, p. 66.

[51] Indeed, the second of the Hippocratic collection, on spontaneous disorders of the bowels and vomiting, is much more representative of the whole than its famous beginning, “Life is short, the art long.”

[52] Gay Science, §381, p. 343.

[53] K. Boyiopoulos and M. Shallcross, “Introduction,” in Aphoristic Modernity, p. 2.