© 2019

Wittgenstein and Lacan at the Limit

Meaning and Astonishment


Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xvii
  2. Maria Balaska
    Pages 1-14
  3. Maria Balaska
    Pages 15-31
  4. Maria Balaska
    Pages 33-65
  5. Maria Balaska
    Pages 163-166
  6. Back Matter
    Pages 167-171

About this book


This book brings together the work of Ludwig Wittgenstein and Jacques Lacan around their treatments of ‘astonishment,’ an experience of being struck by something that appears to be extraordinarily significant. Both thinkers have a central interest in the dissatisfaction with meaning that these experiences generate when we attempt to articulate them, to bring language to bear on them. Maria Balaska argues that this frustration and difficulty with meaning reveals a more fundamental characteristic of our sense-making capacities –namely, their groundlessness. Instead of disappointment with language’s sense-making capacities, Balaska argues that Wittgenstein and Lacan can help us find in this revelation of meaning’s groundlessness an opportunity to acknowledge our own involvement in meaning, to creatively participate in it and thereby to enrich our forms of life with language.


Wittgenstein’s philosophy Philosophy of Emotions Lacanian Theory Psychoanalytic Theory theology logic Language

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.University of HertfordshireHertfordshireUK

About the authors

Maria Balaska is Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Hertfordshire, UK.

Bibliographic information


“Maria Balaska’s book suggests an original and surprising pairing of Wittgenstein and Lacan by way of their common concern with the experience of astonishment. Balaska’s rich, sensitive and historically informed analysis of this affective state, convincingly supports her argument for its pertinence to the understanding of the ethical point of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus. This insightful book offers a rewarding discussion of the evaluative dimension of language.” (Eli Friedlander, Laura Schwarz-Kipp Professor of Modern Philosophy, Tel Aviv University, Israel)

“This profound and beautiful book seeks out the general significance of the moments when our difficulty to make sense is a function of our difficulty to make sense of reality as such, and delves into our temptation to deflect each of them, whether through trivialization or sublimation. It charts the unexplored territory of the affinities between Wittgenstein and Lacan with unparalleled thoroughness, cogency, and clarity.” (Jean-Philippe Narboux, Associate Professor in Philosophy, Université Bordeaux Montaigne, France)