Nietzsche and Wittgenstein : an anti-metaphysical approach to existential meaning
This thesis aims to analyze the similarity of the change in Nietzsche’s and Wittgenstein’s approaches to the meaning of life. The main argument is that their approach to the meaning of life changed from a metaphysical perspective to an anti-metaphysical one. Nietzsche gave a metaphysical interpretation of the meaning of life in the Birth of Tragedy. In this book Nietzsche conceived of Ancient Greek culture as the ideal culture since it was the product of the union of the two artistic deities: Apollo and Dionysus. This Primordial Unity (Ur-Eine), for Nietzsche, was the metaphysical essence of the world and the meaning of life was to be found in this unity. Nietzsche, later, with his new preface to the Birth of Tragedy called “An Attempt at a Self-Criticism” and Human All Too Human, criticized his earlier metaphysical approach to the meaning of life and shifted to an anti-metaphysical perspective. Wittgenstein had a similar shift in his thought. The Tractatus was written to explore the nature of reality and the world, and explain the relationship between the world and language. The Tractatus gave a metaphysical explanation of the nature of reality by dividing it into two levels, the world —the lower— and the mystical —the higher. Logic, ethics, aesthetics and religion are the mystical which is the scaffolding of the world. Language, on this view, can only state the world—totality of facts— and cannot state what is higher. Ethics is about the meaning of life thus the meaning of life is higher and cannot be attained within the limits of this world. Later Wittgenstein in Philosophical Investigations argued against this metaphysical interpretation of the meaning of life. From an anti-metaphysical point of view, Wittgenstein argued that the meaning of life can be found within the limits of this world.
DegreeMaster of Arts (M.A.)
CommitteeHowe, Leslie A.; Dayton, Eric; Renihan, Patrick
Copyright DateAugust 2004
meaning of life