“The Suffering of an Ascetic”: On Linguistic and Ascetic Self-misunderstanding in Wittgenstein and Nietzsche

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Peter K Westergaard


This paper outlines an interpretation of Ludwig Wittgenstein’s remark in the Big Typescript in which he compares the philosopher bewitched by the workings of language to “the suffering of an ascetic”. The interpretation takes as its starting point Friedrich Nietzsche’s terse account of the philosopher, the history of philosophy, and his diagnosis of ascetic self-misunderstanding, from the Third Essay, “What do ascetic ideals mean?”, in On the Genealogy of Morality. In its assumption of an affinity between Wittgenstein’s remark and Nietzsche’s descriptions, and in its analysis, this paper introduces a “method of voice borrowing” to approach the question: “Wittgenstein and Nietzsche?” The juxtaposition of Wittgenstein’s conception of the philosopher’s linguistic self-misunderstanding with Nietzsche’s notion of the ascetic self-misunderstanding leads finally to the question of what is gained by introducing this method, and hence by reading Wittgenstein’s remark on the suffering of an ascetic with the help of Nietzsche’s voice.

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Nietzsche Friedrich; Wittgenstein Ludwig; ascetism; linguistic misunderstanding