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The Journal of Nietzsche Studies 26 (2003) 55-63

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Nietzsche and the Later Wittgenstein:
An Offense to the Quest for Another World

Aydan Turanli

One of the most important Wittgensteinian themes is the idea that we are being held captive by a picture. Being held captive by a picture is the product of thinking that there can be an external standpoint in analyzing concepts. This idea of "the view from nowhere" directs our investigation in philosophizing. The cure is an escape from a platonic cave, and seeing the connections. In this article, I argue that both Nietzsche and the later Wittgenstein share the idea that perspicuous representation is possible only if we free ourselves from this craving for generality. In Nietzsche this view finds its expression in On the Genealogy of Morals, which is designed to show that concepts regarding moral issues cannot be analyzed in a vacuum. In the later Wittgenstein, this view is enlarged so as to cover all kinds of concepts. I also maintain that, unlike Wittgenstein, Nietzsche provides an account of how this craving arises.

The thoughts of Friedrich Nietzsche and Ludwig Wittgenstein are not supposed to be similar at all. One is a philosopher, especially in his early period, thought to belong to the analytic camp of thinking, while the other is supposed to be a literary rather than an academic philosopher. But clearly they both tried to transform our vision of philosophy: one in the nineteenth century and the other in the twentieth century. They attack traditional ways of doing philosophy from all directions, and in this sense both can be regarded as revolutionary thinkers. In the beginning of the twenty-first century their agenda is still important: we still did not achieve to see the "world rightly" [End Page 55] as Wittgenstein tries to get us to see in the Tractatus. We behave as if we are eliminating metaphysics, but it shows itself under different disguises.

I see Wittgenstein's and Nietzsche's views as therapeutic in the sense that by attacking several dogmas of traditional philosophy they try to get us to see that we are actually being held captive by a picture. Their critiques of traditional philosophy focus on several issues, including knowledge and morality, all of which intend to show that "language is like an engine idling" (PI ยง132) when we analyze concepts concerning these topics from an external standpoint. I want to deal with their reaction to traditional philosophers regarding issues of knowledge and morality.


Traditionally, knowledge had been regarded as justified true belief. According to this understanding, there are three components of knowledge as belief, truth, and justification. After the Gettier objections in 1963, epistemologists revised their view and tried to add the fourth component to their theory of knowledge, but even the revised version of the traditional definition of knowledge would not do for Nietzsche and Wittgenstein.

According to traditional philosophers, knowledge is possible either through grasping abstract propositions existing independently in another world or through awareness of mental propositions. The Platonic worldview, for example, presupposes the "pure, will-less, painless, timeless" (GM III 12) knower. Knowledge, in this sense, requires a philosophical method that enables us to achieve objectivity and a God's-eye view of things. Wittgenstein and Nietzsche oppose this otherworldly explanation of knowledge. This type of knowing presupposes "pure reason" and "absolute intelligence." It entails Thomas Nagel's a "view from nowhere." For Nietzsche, such super-knowing requires "an eye turned in no direction at all" (ibid.). But there cannot be such an eye because "There is only a perspective seeing" (ibid.). Perspectivism, on the other hand, necessitates seeing-something-as something. It needs the human being's perspective. Wittgenstein appeals to the Gestalt Switch analogy in order to underline that absolute knowledge is not possible, and there are no ideas the grasping of which guarantees our knowing once and for all.

The categories of pure reason, which guarantee absolute knowledge, are not a priori. For Nietzsche, logical rules and categories are useful devices that help preservation...


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pp. 55-63
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