“I Wanted to Hear Your Judgement”: Waismann, Kafka and Wittgenstein on the Power and Powerlessness of Language

  • Géza Kállay
  • Katalin G. Kállay
Part of the History of Analytic Philosophy book series (History of Analytic Philosophy)


Waismann’s “A Philosopher Looks at Kafka” issued in 1953—the same year that Wittgenstein’s literary executors published the Philosophical Investigations for the first time, as Géza Kállay notes in what is also the very first evaluation of Waismann’s literary piece. It appeared in the Oxford literary journal Essays in Criticism that was founded only two years earlier and is to this day one of the most distinguished British journals in literary criticism. Kállay points out that the journal’s editor-in-chief at the time, the Wordsworth-scholar Frederick Wilse Bateson, would never have published any nonsense. Waismann analyzes the different layers of meaning in The Trial that can be accessed by following a trail of ambiguities. The very title, he notes, in German Der Prozess can mean a trial in the legal sense as well as a pathological process in a medical sense. Kállay provides us with a discussion of three points he highlights from this essay: Waismann’s rejection of the psychoanalytic reading of the novel because he fears that such an interpretation would reduce what Kafka tells us. That at a certain point, Kafka reaches the ineffable, the limits of language and that for Waismann this results in a curious attitude taken towards reality. Linguistic meaning seems to exceed what is said in any particular statement—an outlook reminiscent of Waismann’s later views in “How I See Philosophy”.


Frederick Wilse Bateson The Trial Psychoanalysis The novel Fiction Kafka 

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Géza Kállay
  • Katalin G. Kállay
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Institute of English StudiesKároli Gáspár UniversityBudapestHungary
  2. 2.IES ViennaJohannesgasseAustria

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