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Language, Image and Silence

Kierkegaard and Wittgenstein on Ethics and Aesthetics

Onno Zijlstra

This study examines the relation of image and language as well as the relation of ethics and aesthetics through a discussion of the positions of Kierkegaard and Wittgenstein.
In the Tractatus Wittgenstein pursues the idea that the image can show what language cannot express and defends an aesthetic unity of ethics and aesthetics. Is he right? Is there not much to be said in favour of the opposite position, represented by Kierkegaard’s pseudonymous author Judge William (in Either/Or)? William criticizes the image and argues in favour of language and of an ethical unity of aesthetics and ethics. William shows that the word has a decisive surplus when compared to the image. However, this position has its shortcomings too: language is not the only place of authentic communication.
Looking for an alternative to ‘logoclasm’ (the early Wittgenstein) and ‘iconoclasm’ (William), Zijlstra explores Wittgenstein’s later work and Kierkegaard’s œuvre as a whole and presents a new way of thinking about the relation of ethics and aesthetics.
Contents: The ineffable: the way of the arts in the early Wittgenstein – Wittgenstein on religion, ethics and aesthetics – The iconoclasm of Kierkegaard’s pseudonymous author Judge William: the way of language – Word and image: the later Wittgenstein – Kierkegaard’s Either/Or and Fear and Trembling revisited. From a theory of language to Kierkegaard’s idea of communicating by all media – Ethics and aesthetics: silence image and language.