“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.

Author Biography

Peter K Westergaard, University of Copenhagen

Peter K. Westergaard is associate professor at the Department of Cross-cultural and Regional Studies, University of Copenhagen, Denmark. His areas of research are the history of ideas and the philosophy of religion. Westergaard’s interests centre on the philosophy of Nietzsche and Wittgenstein. His most recent publications are Mennesket er et ceremonielt dyr. Ludwig Wittgensteins Bemærkninger om Frazers ‘Den gyldne gren’ [Man is a ceremonial animal. Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Remarks on Frazer’s The Golden Bough], Copenhagen 2013, and Kritik og tro. Hume, Kant, Nietzsche og Wittgenstein [Critique and Belief. Hume, Kant, Nietzsche and Wittgenstein], Copenhagen 2015.


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