Wittgenstein's Artillery

Wittgenstein's Artillery

Philosophy as Poetry

By James C. Klagge

How Wittgenstein sought a more effective way of reaching his audience by a poetic style of doing philosophy.





How Wittgenstein sought a more effective way of reaching his audience by a poetic style of doing philosophy.

Ludwig Wittgenstein once said, “really one should write philosophy only as one writes poetry.” In Wittgenstein's Artillery, James Klagge shows how, in search of ways to reach his audience, Wittgenstein tried a more poetic style of doing philosophy. Klagge argues that, in deploying this new philosophical “artillery”—Klagge's term for Wittgenstein's methods of influencing his readers and students—Wittgenstein moved from an esoteric mode to an evangelical mode, aiming for an effect on his audience that was noncognitive, appealing to the temperament in addition to the intellect.

Wittgenstein was an artillery spotter—directing artillery fire to targets—in the Austrian army during World War I, and Klagge argues that, years later, he became a philosophical spotter, struggling to find the right artillery to accomplish his philosophical purpose. Klagge shows how Wittgenstein's work with his students influenced his style of writing philosophy and motivated him to care about the effect of his ideas on his audience. To illustrate Wittgenstein's evolving approach, Klagge draws on not only Wittgenstein's best-known works but also such lesser-known material as notebooks, dictations, lectures, and recollections of students. Klagge then goes beyond Wittgenstein to present a range of literature—biblical parables and children's stories, Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche—as other examples of the poetic approach. He concludes by offering his own attempts at a poetic approach to addressing philosophical issues.


$45.00 X ISBN: 9780262045834 272 pp. | 6 in x 9 in


  • An original contribution to Wittgenstein scholarship that will interest both those who are curious about Wittgenstein's life as well as how it might have influenced his thinking and those who are interested only in the think-ing itself. It is clearly written, carefully researched... instructive, and a pleasure to read... It is refreshing, also, to see a novel approach to material that has been written about so much before.

    Duncan Richter

    Philosophical Investigations

  • "As is to be expected, the marvel of Klagge's forty-some years of original scholarship in Wittgenstein Studies...takes centre stage in Wittgenstein's Artillery....Klagge offers his readers a very unusual perspective on how to tackle material that all too often seems impenetrable....[T]here is much to admire, to debate, to generate surprise and even some discomfort: Wittgenstein's Artillery is astonishing both for its scholarship and its courage."



  • “In lucid, deeply informed prose, James Klagge recounts Wittgenstein's pedagogical journey from an esoteric to an evangelical mode—from monological thinking to writing and teaching in dialogue, in which the sometimes contentious contributions of his audience began to matter. In later years, Wittgenstein presented his work as a poetry rich in parables and similes, part of the relocation of his peacetime 'artillery'—i.e., the trajectory of his thought to his auditors. Wittgenstein had been an artillery 'spotter' during World War I: Klagge develops this simile in an ingenious and engaging way to organize his narrative.”

    Stanley Corngold,

    author of Walter Kaufmann: Philosopher, Humanist, Heretic

  • “In this highly personal and startlingly original treatment of Wittgenstein's relationship to his colleagues, his students, and his larger readership, James Klagge presents us with a Wittgenstein moving gradually from the esoteric method of the Tractatus to the more 'evangelical' mode of the later work—a writing more poetic than expository or argumentative that moves us less to agreement than to action. Wittgenstein's parables and aphorisms, his literary figures and surprising allusions endow his later work with their unique sense of mystery. Klagge, himself an inventor of parables and apt narratives, has here given us a genuinely beautiful book.”

    Marjorie Perloff

    Sadie Dernham Patek Professor of Humanities, Emerita, Stanford University

  • “In his strikingly original new book, James Klagge offers the first fully developed account of the literary dimension of Wittgenstein's writing. Along the way, Klagge opens up fascinating possibilities for thinking about the significance of poetry to philosophy. Wittgenstein's Artillery is a tour de force. It also happens to be a ton of fun to read.”

    John Gibson

    Professor of Philosophy, University of Louisville