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Liberating Language in Linji and Wittgenstein

James D. Sellmann & Hans Julius Schneider
Asian Philosophy, Vol. 13, Nos. 2/3, 2003

 ABSTRACT Our aim in this paper is to explicate some unexpected and striking similarities and equally important differences, which have not been discussed in the literature, between Wittgenstein's methodology and the approach of Chinese Chan or Japanese Zen Buddhism. We say 'unexpected' similarities because it is not a common practice, especially in the analytic tradition, to invest very much in comparative philosophy. The peculiarity of this study will be further accentuated in the view of those of the 'old school' who see Wittgenstein as a logical positivist, and Zen as a religious excuse for militarism or sadomasochism. If the second claim were true, the following investigation would not only be futile but also impossible. That the first claim, concerning the 'old school' perspective on Wittgenstein, is incorrect, we will demonstrate in the ensuing discussion. By now more experts have come to accept this claim and we hope that our comparative perspective will add even more momentum.

There is a net because it catches fish. Once you get the fish, forget the net. There is a snare because it catches rabbits. Once you get the rabbit, forget the snare. There are words because they catch meaning. Once you get the meaning, forget the words. I wonder where I can find a person who has forgotten words so that I might have a word with him?!

Zhuangzi 26/48-49/78

One day Yun Men asked, ëHow can we make the teachings proper? Answering himself, he shouted, Wu! (not).

A monk asked Zhao Zhou, Does a dog have Buddha-nature? Zhao Zhou shouted, Wu! (not).

Our aim in this paper is to explicated some unexpected and striking similarities and equally important differences, which have not been discussed in the literature, between Wittgenstein’s methodology and the approach of Chinese Chan or Japanese Zen Buddhism — for simplicity’s sake we use the more popular Japanese expressions Zen and kōan (ch: gongan). We say unexpected similarities because it is not a common practice, especially in the analytic tradition, to invest very much in comparative philosophy. The peculiarity of this study will be further accentuated in the view of those of the old school who see Wittgenstein as a logical positivist, and Zen as a religious excuse for militarism or sadomasochism. If the second claim were true, the following investigation would not only be futile but also impossible. That the first claim, concerning the old school perspective on Wittgenstein, is incorrect, we will demonstrate in the ensuing discussion. By now more experts have come to accept this claim, and we hope that our comparative perspective will add even more momentum.

[p104] The category-minded reader will naturally want to know which period of Wittgenstein is being compared with which Zen sect. We contrast the author of Philosophical Investigations, and On Certainty, that is, the later and more mature Wittgenstein, withthe contemporary Chinese, Japanese and American Zen Buddhist sect derived from the Tang dynasty master Linji Yixuan (previously Linchi Yi-hsüan, Jp: Rinzai Gigen, d. 866). Let the reader beware, however, because these hard and fast distinctions shall be melted here. We contend that the Wittgensteinian approach examined here is also contained in his early period, and the forthcoming discussion concerning the Rinzai sect’s kōan technique, which developed after Linji’s (Rinzai) death, is not restricted to any particular sect or Zen master. With respect to the early work of Wittgenstein, the reader will recall that in the Tractatus the mystical feeling is described as [t]he feeling of the world as a bounded whole...”  (T 6.45).1 A few paragraphs before that, we read a sentence that could easily have been formulated in the Zen tradition: “If by eternity we mean not endless temporal duration but timelessness, then to live eternally is to live in the present”. (T 6.4311). Therefore, we can safely say that the way Wittgenstein intended his readers to see the world was basically the same in his dissertation and in his mature work, but that the ways in which he tried to lead them to the intended point of view were quite different. Our subject matter here will be his method in the later writings.

We are aware of the changes in Wittgenstein’s philosophy. It may look as though a person should only compare Wittgenstein’s early reflections on the mystical with Zen Buddhism. But we claim that his understanding concerning ‘the mystical’ changed only insofar as that in his early philosophy his reaction was to keep silent, to resist the temptation to try to use language for a purpose (as he thought at the time) it cannot handle. Instead he built a house for his sister. Whereas in his later philosophy, he discovered that there are many legitimate ways to use language besides picturing states of affairs. One way he touches on this is seen in the following remark about religion (reported by his students): ‘(The question) “do you believe in the last judgement?” functions differently from “do you believe that what we see up there is a German plane?” ’. This is interesting: we have to understand how it is possible to take the step from the first (ordinary) to the second (religious) usage. This is not our topic, because Zen did not develop a tradition of teachings in this kind of ‘religious language’, the way other Buddhist sects did — we are not referring to prayer and chanting that occurs at Zen temples. Another approach is the one we bring forward, namely, that people can use expressions that are very different from the games played so far (e.g. ‘a fat Wednesday’ see, PI, ii, p. 216). One purpose among the more extreme ways for doing this is to shake people rather forcefully out of their habits, out of what they take for granted. A not so radical step in the same direction, recommended as a recipe especially for philosophers, is to look for the ‘ordinary us’ (instead of only thinking in terms of Descartes or Kant, i.e. staying inside the traditional philosophical language-games without asking for their relation to ‘real life’). Some mistakenly see a conservatism here, as if the ‘ordinary’ could not be wrong. However, sometimes the ‘ordinary use’ also needs to be ‘shaken up’; it depends on the case at hand.

The project shall be to draw out the resemblances and variances in their respective “... use of shock effects...to jar students into seeing things differently...”.2 First, we present a summary of the philosophical methodology of Wittgenstein; as far as it is relevant to this study. We then use some of Wittgenstein’s terminology to clarify the Zen master’s mode of instruction. In conclusion, we shall see how the two approaches complement and conflict with each other.

[p105] Ludwig Wittgenstein was only a single person. Although he was somewhat moody, as far as we can tell, he was not schizophrenic,3 so there is no good reason to speak of two Wittgenstein’s. Each of Wittgenstein’s philosophical works can be seen as an elaboration of his doctoral thesis. With the Tractatus, he believed he had found the decisive solution to all philosophical problems.4 Since Wittgenstein saw philosophy as an activity, he could no sooner finish philosophy than he could finish his life,5 although with respect to his later work he claims to have discovered a method that enabled him to stop his philosophical activity when he pleased (PI 133).6 This might be wishful thinking. As far as his own mental life is concerned; it is quite obvious from his notes and diaries that he suffered very much during the times when he was unable to work, but surely his later works are a refinement of the dissolution of conceptual problems. The pragmatic account of language that can be extracted from the Philosophical Investigations does not contradict the Tractatus, but, rather, it complements the latter. ‘In philosophy the question “Why do we really use that word or that sentence?” always leads to valuable insights’ (T 6.211).7 This linguistic reflection is the key to understanding Wittgenstein’s methodology. He wants to strip away the familiarity of language to uncover “... the prodigious diversity of all the everyday language-games...” (PI II xi 224).8 “Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language” (PI 109).9 Through his philosophical investigations, Wittgenstein makes three crucial discoveries that allow for the elaboration of his method. These discoveries are: (i) in most, but not all, cases the meaning of a word or statement is its use (PI 43);10 (ii) the activity of language is tied up with living (T 4.112, PI 23);11 and (iii) there are no absolute and abstract rules of language that distinguish sense from nonsense (PI 80-85). Instead, the relevant non-linguistic practices, into which the linguistic utterances are embedded as their context, have to be taken into account to correctly understand the meaning of an utterance, and there will always be the possibility of new and ‘undecided’ utterances the meanings of which are not determined by established practices (PI 40-43 and 53, and C 477, 501, and 554).12 ‘I shall call the whole consisting of language and the actions into which it is woven, the “language-game” ’ (PI 7).13 Communication can be verbal or non-verbal in both inclusive or exclusive senses. In the language-game of departing a person can say ‘good-bye’, or wave a hand, or do both. Wittgenstein’s philosophical approach is also of this twofold, linguistic and lived, nature. As he remarks, ‘Here the term ‘language-game’ is meant to bring into prominence the fact that the speaking of language is part of an activity or form, or form of life’ (PI 23).14 Thus, Wittgenstein dispels philosophical problems, such as the naiveté of Newtonian mechanics, and Kant’s problem concerning the incongruence of the right hand and the left hand, by manipulating the linguistic aspects of these language-games (T 6.341, and 6.63111).15 The ‘problem of life’, on the other hand, he dissolves through living (T 6.521);16 or both approaches can be used simultaneously. ‘What we do is to bring words back from their metaphysical to their everyday use’ (PI 116).17 He would take a conceptual perplexity and interject it into a contextual setting (form of life/particular way of living) and see what insight could be gained. Linguistic confusion, whether it be a philosophical problem or a joke, is always profound because it is intimate with one’s life (PI 111).18

In the final analysis, the Wittgensteinian approach can only be used to clear up one’s own confusions. It cannot be used to argue against another unless the arguer can enter the other’s form of life. If someone follows the advice of an oracle rather than a physicist, we have no grounds on which to attack him. ‘If we call this ‘wrong’ are we not using our language-game as a base from which to combat theirs?’ (C 609).19 [p106] Such an attack would be a category confusion of language-games and life styles. So the next appropriate step is an attempt to find some shared forms of life (like eating and drinking) and to go on from there to enlarge the common ground.

In most cultures the word or human sound is of exalted spiritual significance. This significance is commonly expressed through ritual usage, such as chanting. The principal Zen technique, the kōan exercise, appears to have its historical origin in the Indian Mantram.20 ‘In fact, in a certain sense no living religion attaches greater importance to speaking and talking than Zen Buddhism.’21 This does not apply to idle talk, but decisive statements that spring from the depths of one’s nature and disclose one’s development.22 The kōan  is often characterised as an intellectual paradox, a riddle or joke that the disciple is given to contemplate, meditate upon, chant, and so on, until it is ‘broken’, entered into, or gone beyond.23 A kōan  is an aspect of a mondō, a question and answer type discussion between Zen masters, or a master and a disciple. A kōan  may be a segment of a mondō, and both can consist of nothing more than a sound — a yell — such as the various mondō, made kōan, that conclude with a shout such as ‘Wu!’ (Jp: ‘Mu!’). Linji is notorious for the ‘hard training’ he subjected his advanced students to. He often hit or yelled (Ch: he; Jp: kaa) at them when they did not respond appropriately. Linji employed short paradoxical statements or, what we would now call, kōans to jar his students; later Dahui used kōans in meditation.24 That the mondō exercise bears a resemblance to Wittgenstein’s approach to philosophy can be seen in his remark: ‘So in the end when one is doing philosophy one gets to the point where one would like just to emit an inarticulate sound. — But such a sound is an expression only as it occurs in a particular language-game, which should now be described’ (PI 216).25 An example from the opening passage of the Linji lu is:

A monk asked: ‘What is the major idea of the Buddha-dharma?’ The master [Linji] yelled. The monk bowed.
The master said, ‘This monk can hold his own in debate’.26

There is no way nor any need to explain or justify that the kōan  can be used as, or indeed is, a language-game. For Wittgenstein, it is of little value to explain or justify a language-game just by giving more words, for the crucial thing is to see the language-game as primary; to point out that such and such a language-game is in fact played (PI 654).27 Thus, ‘[t]he question is: “In what sort of context does it occur?” ’ (PI part II, ix).28 We shall discuss how a language-game can be played with the kōan  by using Wittgenstein’s three philosophical reminders concerning language: (1) ‘meaning as use’, (2) ‘the form of life’, and (3) ‘the contextuality of rules’.

When a Zen practitioner speaks, she utters words ‘...as it were in limit-situations’.29 The Zen speaker is not concerned with what was said yesterday or what is to be said tomorrow. A person speaks in the lived present, moment as a constant now. Thus, the words of Zen are not of the conventional usage. The words are everyday commonplace words, but they are used to show an unsayable truth about each lived moment, their meaning is that of each fully lived moment that transcends conventional usage. Speech in the Zen context is an unusual situation: (1) the dichotomy of encoder and decoder is relinquished ñ speaking is no longer speech; (2) the distinction of the representation and the represented, or the word and the referent, does not apply; (3) the consequence is that Zen speech is more than a semantic entity; it acts as a way, a path, to the experience of enlightenment called satori.30 The Zen usage synthesises what the discursive mind views as mutually exclusive, eternity in the moment, the absolute in the [p107] moment, the absolute in the particular, or the sacred in the profane.31 As Linji says it would be better not to label them at all.

... The most essential thing is that you refrain from making labels, such as fine or coarse, worldly or sacred, and (mistakenly) think that by naming them you now know them. But the fine and the coarse, the worldly and the sacred cannot be known to man by the names only. Followers of the Way, realize this and make use of it, but do not slap labels on it, for these tend to be like pen-names, only creating mystery.32

A form of life for Wittgenstein is not a general ideal, but any liveable style of life that is presupposed by a playable language-game. The life style of the Zen practitioner is an example of a liveable form of life. This form of life is characterised by struggle and harmony. The Zen disciple is constantly on the spiritual battlefield.33 Never allowed to rest, the disciple must struggle mentally and physically with a kōan. The master/disciple relation is analogous to that of the scolding wife and the henpecked husband. The disciple is spiritually ‘battered’ verbally and physically by the master; yet the disciple does not fight the antagonism. The disciple does not succumb to the perplexity of the kōan nor the abuses from the master. With undivided concentration on whateveractivity she performs, the disciple harmonises ‘mind-and-body’ with the existential situation or to use Dōgen’s expression ‘drops the body-mindí, 34 thereby becoming an integral and inseparable component of the situation at hand. The spiritual tension of the Zen lifestyle allows the practitioner to live as a unified whole in harmony with whatever circumstances arise. ‘And this existential transformation is effectuated by means of kōans'. 35 To reference Linji’s teachings again:

The master said: ‘To attain is not to attain’.... ‘It is because you are running about seeking everywhere and cannot put your heart at rest that the patriarchs say “My, the fellow with his head on his shoulders is looking for his head!” When on hearing this you turn your own light in upon yourself, and do not seek for anything special, you will know that in your body and heart you do not differ from the patriarchs and Buddhas. All at once you will have nothing further to see. That is what is called attaining the Dharma!' 36

For Zen, ‘each kōan  in this aspect is a kind of artificially devised means for giving a psychological shock to the disciple'. 37 Their meaning depends on a particular usage in the context of a form of life. Accordingly, as Wittgenstein would say, the ‘rules’ that govern the language-game of the kōan  practice are not only of the type we ‘...make up as we go along...’, but are also of the kind that ‘...we alter...as we go along’ (PI 83).38 The rules are contextual. Although the rules for a zen-sesshin are extremely rigid and the kōans themselves have a long tradition of being used, the concrete working with a kōan  in each particular case must be of this highly flexible nature in order to effectively stir up the disciple. If any rules for the concrete use of a kōan  were firmly established and known in advance, the kōan  would lose its shock effect, and would fulfil an empty ritual function only. The concrete personal context of the kōan  must be spontaneous and authentic as it pertains to the present occasion. Someone undergoing kōan  practice would probably even disagree with this description because it is a generalisation.39 The spontaneity is like that of a well-trained athlete and not that of a child. The master catches the disciple off-guard by reacting to a complex or meaningless question with some paradoxical or irrelevant answer.40 Thus, the disciple is stripped of her explana-[p108]tions and rationalisations, and left alone naked in the wind of lived life — where the spiritual battle of Zen takes place. Linji asked a nun:

‘Welcome? Not welcome?’ The nun gave a shout. The master held up his stick and said: ‘Speak, speak!’ The nun shouted again. The master hit her.41

The language-game of shock treatment or using language to liberate can be employed in the remedy of ‘conceptual illnesses’ commonly called philosophical problems. In Wittgenstein’s attempt to bring about, as he himself says, a therapeutic dissolution of philosophical problems (PI 133), and in the well-known remark: ‘[t]he philosopher’s treatment of a question is like the treatment of an illness’ (PI 255), Wittgenstein not only felt and lived the intensity and perplexity generated, but he also made his students experience the struggle and torment.42 In similar fashion, the Zen master uses kōans to activate and jar the disciple.43 What are the ‘family resemblances’, if any, between these two language-games? Someone could contend that there are no similarities since Wittgenstein and the Zen master come from completely different cultural forms of life —  the former from European culture and the latter from Asian cultures. Such a statement would be stacking the deck; we should follow Wittgenstein’s ‘look-and-see’ advice and investigate for ourselves.

As was noted  above,  they both  make use of a shock technique, and  this is the first similarity  between  the  two,  that  is, they use language  to jolt their  followers  out  of an uncritical  acceptance of conventions that  do not fit the respective concrete, individual contextual setting  — they  use  language  to  shock  and  thereby  to  liberate  others.  In Wittgenstein’s case  such  conventions are  similarities  of  ways  of  expression   on  the ‘surface’  of language  that  lead  the  philosopher to  a misguided  conception about  the nature or even the  meaningfulness of a philosophical problem. An expression  of this kind of ‘shock-therapy’ is his remark:  ‘Only by thinking  much  more crazily even than the  philosophers, can  you solve their  problems.’44    The  result  he intends  is either  the dissolution (i.e. the vanishing)  of the problem  or an understanding of its correct  form. In  both  cases  the  philosopher has  come  to  see  what  Wittgenstein calls  the  ‘depth grammar’  of the relevant  language-game (PI  664).

On  the  other  hand,  it has  been  said  that  ‘the  most  important  difference  between Wittgenstein’s philosophy,  and Buddhism seems to center  around his unwillingness  to make the conceptual realm (or realm of language)  any less “real” than the phenomenal realm’.45    What  is the  sense  of this  difference?  As we  pointed   out  above,  the  higher reaches  of Zen Buddhism do not discard  language in place of the world,  but  unify the two. Furthermore, as Canfield  states very clearly, although  Wittgenstein did emphasise the  realm  of  language,   he  was  deeply  concerned with  the  nonlinguistic.46     In  fact, linguistic  silence is the more important half of the thesis of the Tractatus.47    The  heart of the difference between Wittgenstein’s use of language  and  the Zen  use of language in the shake-up  game, in our view, is: Wittgenstein often uses, as a contrast to what he takes to be misguided  philosophical ways of expression,  language  games from our plain everyday  practices,  as acted  out  in common activities,  in which  language  ‘works’. In contrast, the Zen usage of language  does not follow any cultural convention — it builds upon  the social convention (i.e. normal  words)  to create  its own kind of language  use without  being tied down  by existing conventions.

Yet even this contrast is not quite as sharp as it has just been stated. Wittgenstein repeatedly stresses the fact that there is no clear boundary between sense and nonsense on an abstract and purely linguistic level. A characteristic observation is the remark: ‘We have not settled anything about this’(PI 41). It might well be argued that the [p109] absurd ring in the following quotation comes close to what we know from the Zen-kōan : ‘Given the two ideas ‘fat’ and ‘lean’, would you be rather inclined to say that Wednesday was fat and Tuesday lean, or the other way ‘round?’ (PI ii, p. 216). As the context makes clear, Wittgenstein here stresses with regard to language an aspect of freedom, the fact that language is always more than what can be captured by existing conventional rules. The phenomenon of metaphor (in its usual semantic as well as its seldom recognised syntactic form) 48 is an obvious case in point. To understand the way metaphors work is not an additional conceptual achievement, not one more concept on the same level as given concepts, but it is an insight into how conceptual language works,49 and that insight allows a person to transcend given boundaries, to use a word like ‘fat’ to classify the days of the week. In a parallel fashion we can say that the satori experience leads the disciple to see that the world is always more than what can be captured by existing conventional ways of looking at and talking about it. The conventional tracks of experience are what must be broken, what the disciple has to be freed from in Zen. As Linji said:

Followers of the Way, do not be deceived. In and out of the world there is not a thing that has a self-nature, nor a nature that is productive of a self. All is but empty names, and the very letters of these names are also empty. If you take these empty names for real, you make a big mistake. For though they exist, they belong in the realm of dependent change, are like robes to put on and off... .50

The next resemblance is in their respective uses of shock treatment as a catalyst or pedagogical device to elicit experiences in their followers. As a pedagogical device, Wittgenstein used the ‘philosophical problem’ on himself and his students.51 ‘He did his utmost to insure that they were thoroughly perplexed by a philosophical problem. They had to actually feel and live it and work their way into and through it.'52 It is important to keep in mind that Wittgenstein’s method is part language analysis and part lived life. A philosophical problem can be dissolved by appealing to the workings of everyday language or to the enjoyment of a lived experience of everyday life. (You stop doing philosophy and go see a movie, PI 133.)53 Likewise, the kōan  is used to jolt the novice out of discursive intellect and into an experience of satori. In the midst of this resemblance there is a variation to be noted. For Wittgenstein the effect of the shock treatment carries a definite intellectual facet. Even though the rational aspect is not as immediately functional as the lived side, it still plays a role. Since Zen is concerned with unifying a human being as an interrelated whole, it does not deny people the ability to rationalize. Yet, the intellect has no move to make in the kōan  game. The intellect is present, but if someone rationally analyzes a kōan , then he misses the point. For Zen, the momentarily lived experience of life is beyond the limits of the intellect.54

The concretely lived experiences of life are beyond the limits of the intellect, i.e. the limits of language, for Wittgenstein also. The transcendental similarity between Wittgenstein and Zen uncovers a striking dissimilarity between the two. Namely, Wittgenstein uses shock therapy as a philosophical method; whereas Zen uses it as a ‘liberative technique’ — a skilful means, for whoever will try it, to hold in check an excessive emphasis on self-centredness. There is, however, a similarity as to the purpose of using the shock effect. In both cases the shock is administered as a type of vaccination against preoccupations with oneself. That is to say, they both give out a diluted form of, for lack of a better expression, ‘beneficial, temporary psychosis’. Thus, when the student or disciple battles with a particular shock, she or he strengthens [p110] oneself. The student becomes a fuller, more stable human being who is not so easily shaken by the troubles of daily living. The philosophical problem and the kōan  can be used to sharpen one’s wits and personality, to ‘improve’ the quality of one’s life without complacency and rationalisations. There is no doubt that Wittgenstein belongs to the philosophical tradition according to which the goal of the philosopher, the lover of wisdom, is more than an intellectual insight. It is a transformation of the philosopher’s personality, as Pierre Hadot has pointed out, according to this ancient understanding, philosophy itself is a ‘way of life’.55 Finally the Buddhist tradition and Linji in particular acknowledge the need for ‘therapeutic treatment’. The teachings act as a type of cure or medicine. In a passage that echoes Wittgenstein, Linji says: ‘I have no Dharma to give to men. I only cure disease and undo knots'.56

From this examination a case can be made for the compatibility of Wittgenstein and Zen. Their differences are not of a mutually exclusive nature. The similarities of the two are of a complementary character. Since the satori experience upon which Zen is based seems to lend itself to anti-philosophy, Zen has no established philosophy in the ordinary sense. Therefore, Wittgenstein’s philosophy proves invaluable in constructing a Zen meta-philosophy — a philosophical potential derived from the Zen experience.57 The Zen approach to life most definitely sheds some light on what Ludwig Wittgenstein was ‘pointing’ at or trying to show through his kōanic or kōan-like use of philosophical problems. Wittgenstein’s analysis provides a way for understanding what the Zen master is doing.


Earlier drafts of this paper were improved by comments from Thomas Tominaga, David Loy, and David Putney.
James D. Sellmann, Department of Philosophy, College of Arts and Sciences, University of Guam, UOG Station, Mangilao, Guam 96923.
Hans Julius Schneider, Universita®t Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany.

Further Reading


1. WITTGENSTEIN, LUDWIG (1966) Tractatus logico-philosophicus. The German text of Logisch -philosophische Abhandlung, with a new translation by D. F. Pears and B. F. McGuinness (London, Routledge and Kegan Paul), and see KOLAK, DANIEL (trans.) (1998) Wittgenstein's Tractatus (Mountain View, CA, Mayfield), p. 49. We cite the passage number in thetext to assist the international reader in finding the passages. Tractatus will be denoted by ‘Tí, Philosophical Investigations by ‘PIí, and On Certainty by ‘C'.

2. FINCH, HENRY LEROY (1977) Wittgenstein — The Later Philosophy (Atlantic Highlands, NJ, Humanities Press), p. 265.
The following description of Linji's teaching method sounds something like Wittgenstein's method. ‘But rather than lip-service and routine learning, he [Linji] demands genuine insight into the scriptures, and a life lived out of this insight. If at times he seems to deride — it is not the scriptures, but his students, who were apt to piously and tenaciously cling to the words rather than attempt to understand them.' SCHLOEGL, IRMGARD, (1976) Introduction, in: The Zen Teaching of Rinzai (The Record of Rinzai), trans. from the Chinese Lin-chi Lu (Berkeley, CA, Shambhala, p. 7.)

3. MALCOLM, NORMAN   &  VONWRIGHT, GEORG  HENRICK   (1962) Ludwig Wittgenstein: A Memoir (London, Oxford University Press), pp. 27 and 42; and MONK, RAY (1990) Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius (London, Jonathan Cape).

4. WITTGENSTEIN, op. cit., note 1, pp. 3 and 5.

5. Ibid., p. 49, and see KOLAK, op. cit., note 1, pp. xxv-xxvii.

6. WITTGENSTEIN, LUDWIG (1968) Philosophical Investigations. Trans. By G.E.M. Anscombe. With German and English Indexes (New York, Macmillan), p. 51e.

7. Following KOLAK, op. cit., note 1, p. 44.

8. WITTGENSTEIN, op. cit., note 6, p. 224e.

9. Ibid., p. 47e.

10. Ibid., pp. 20eñ21e.

11. WITTGENSTEIN, op. cit., note 1, p. 115; WITTGENSTEIN, op. cit., note 6, p. 11e.

12. WITTGENSTEIN, op. cit., note 6, pp. 20e and 26e; and WITTGENSTEIN, LUDWIG (1969) On Certainty , trans. DENIS PAUL & G.E.M. ANSCOMBE (New York, J & J Harper), pp. 62e, 66e, and73e. See, SCHNEIDER, HANS J. (1997) The situatedness of thinking, knowing, and speaking: Wittgenstein and Gendlin, in: DAVID MICHAEL LEVIN (Ed.) Language Beyond Postmodernism: Saying and Thinking in Gendlin Philosophy (SPEP) (Evanston, Northwestern University Press), pp. 97 -116.

13. WITTGENSTEIN, op. cit., note 6, p. 5e.

14. Ibid., p. 11e.

15. WITTGENSTEIN, op. cit., note 1, pp. 139 and 141.

16. Ibid., p. 149.

17. WITTGENSTEIN, op. cit., note 6, p. 48e.

18. Ibid., p. 47e.

19. WITTGENSTEIN, op. cit., note 12, p. 80e.

20. SUZUKI, DAISETZ TEITARO (1976) Essays in Zen Buddhism ( Third Series) (New York, Samuel Weiser), pp. 233-237. It is well known that the Laozi and Zhuangzi influenced Zen Buddhism, especially in regard to language, and one should not overlook the possible impact that the logical puzzles of Hui Shi and Gongsun Long may have had. For an enlightening analysis of Gongsum Long's essays with a comparison to Wittgenstein see, THOMPSON, KIRILL OLE (1995) When a ‘white horse' is not a ‘horse', Philosophy East and West, 45(4), October, 481-500.

21. IZUTSU, TOSHIHIKO (1977) Toward a Philosophy of Zen Buddhism (Tehran, Imperial Iranian Academy of Philosophy), p. 98.

22. Ibid., p. 98.

23. SELLMANN, JAMES D. (1985) A pointing finger kills the Buddha: a response to Chung-ying Cheng and John King-Farlow, Journal of Chinese Philosophy, 12(2), 223ñ228.

24. Linji and many other masters (of whatever house) used as a part of their instruction, short, often paradoxical statements. The disciples of these teachers, later, gathered together collections of these sayings. There is no evidence, however, that these ‘kōans' were used in meditative practice during the early period. Later Yuanwu Koqin (1063-1135) put together the generalised ‘kōan' collection known in Japanese as the Hekiganroku. Wumen Huikai compiled the Mumonkan. There were a number of other collections made such as the Shōyoroku. Dōgen brought a collection called the ‘Three-hundred verses' (also known as Master Dogen's Shinji Shobogenzo) with him. In all these cases the ‘kōans' were used for teaching purposes, basically as Dōgen did. The differences between the early Chinese Rinzai and Sōto schools were largely a function of who happened to be the main teacher at that time as opposed to a distinction in method or doctrine. It was not until Dahui Zonggao (1089-1163) that kōans were made the object of meditative practice. He taught that this was the most direct way to enlightenment. He was opposed by Hongzi Zhengjue (1091-1157) who taught ‘mokushō Zen' or ‘silent meditation Zen'. The present day practice of using kōans in meditation only goes as far back as Dahui. Whereas the use of kōans for instructional purposes has been used since around the time of Linji and his contemporaries. A good discussion of this history can be found in DUMOULIN, HEINRICH (1990) Zen Buddhism: A History. 2 Volumes: v. 1 India and China. v. 2 Japan. (New York, Macmillan), and HEINE, STEVE (1994) Dogen and the Koan Tradition: A Tale of Two Shobogenzo Texts (Albany, State University of New York Press). Thus, the old stereotype that Rinzai uses kōans and Soto does not is false. They use them in different ways. Personal correspondence from David Putney, 11 November 1998.

25. WITTGENSTEIN, op. cit., note 6, p. 93e. This is reminiscent of Ralph Waldo Emersonís statement: ‘Sometimes a scream is better than a thesisí.

26. SCHLOEGL, op. cit., note 2, p. 13. We modified Irmgard Schloegl's translation. The Buddhists deny essentialism; so tayi is not the ‘essence of Buddhism', but a major idea of the Buddha-dharma. She also translates ‘the yell' (he) with the Japanese expression for a yell, i.e. ‘katsu'. In fact the text does not tell us what sound was made; only that a sound was uttered. See the Linji lu, with a modern Chinese translation by ZHANG, BOWEI(1997) Linji lu (Gaoxiung, Taiwan,Foguang), p. 21.

27. WITTGENSTEIN, op. cit., note 6, p. 167e.

28. Ibid., p. 188e.

29. IZUTSU, op. cit., note 21, p. 97. The authors have in mind the German term ‘Grenzsituationení (limit situation) as it was introduced by Karl Jaspers.

30. Ibid., pp. 97-101.

31. TOMINAGA, THOMAS  T.  (1978)  Wittgenstein's  Tractatus  and  Buddhist  ‘Four-Fold'  Logic,  in: Wittgenstein  and  His  Impact  on  Contemporary  Thought  (Wein, Holder-Pichler-Tempsky), p. 189.

32. SCHLOEGL, op. cit., note 2, p. 25.

33. IZUTSU, op. cit., note 21, p. 162. The battlefield is an appropriate metaphor not only because of the spiritual battle and the physical struggle between master and disciple, but also Linji uses the image. For example see the opening passage of his record where he challenges the audience ‘... is there some skillful general to deploy his troops...?'. SCHLOEGL, op. cit., note 2, p. 13.

34. WADDELL, NORMAN  & ABE, MASAO  (1972) Shōbogenzō Texts Genjokōan, Eastern Buddhist, 2, October, pp. 134-135.

35. IZUTSU, op. cit., note 21, p. 166.

36. SCHLOEGL, op. cit., note 2, pp. 55-56.

37. IZUTSU, op. cit., note 21, p. 168.

38. WITTGENSTEIN, op. cit., note 6, p. 39e.

39. ‘Kōans do not just exhaust and bypass the conceptualizing mind; it's more complicated than that. For one thing, engaged in kōan  practice, I find it difficult to generalize about them at all, since there are many different types which seem to work in different ways. Personal correspondence from David Loy, 4 November 1998.

40. SHIBLES, WARREN (1970) Wittgenstein and Zen, in: Wittgenstein Language & Philosophy (Iowa, Kendall/Hunt), p. 95. CHENG, HSUEH-LI (1982) Zen, Wittgenstein and neo-orthodox theology: the problem of communicating truth in Zen Buddhism, Religious Studies, 18, pp. 133-149.

41. SCHLOEGL, op. cit., note 2, p. 74. We modify the translation, changing ‘katsu' to ‘shout'.

42. HUDSON, H. (1973) Wittgenstein and Zen Buddhism, Philosophy East and West, 23(4), p. 478. That Wittgenstein wanted to affect his students' personalities, not only their way of thinking, is also defended in CARRY, ALICE & READ, RUPPERT (Eds) (2000) The New Wittgenstein (London, Routledge).

43. SCHARFSTEIN, BEN-AMI (1975) Introduction ‘Zen: the tactics of emptiness', in: The Sound of the One Hand: 281 Zen Koans with Answers, trans. YOUL HOFFMANN (New York, Basic Books), pp. 5-37.

44. ‘Nur wenn man noch Viel verrckter denkt, als die Philosophen, kann man ihre Probleme losen’ WITTGENSTEIN, LUDWIG (1998) Vermischte Bemerkungen / Culture and Value, Ed. GEORG HENRIK VON WRIGHT in collaboration with HEIKKI NYMAN (rev edn, ALOIS PICHLER) (Oxford, Blackwell), 86e. The remark is from Ms. 137 102a, dated 20 November 1948.

45. FINCH, op. cit., note 2, p. 266.

46. CANFIELD, JOHN V. (1975) Wittgenstein and Zen, Philosophy, 50(194) p. 407.

47. WITTGENSTEIN, op. cit., note 1, ‘Introduction', p. 3.

48. SCHNEIDER, HANS J. (1990) Syntactic metaphor: Frege, Wittgenstein, and the limits of a theory of meaning, Philosophical Investigations, 13, pp. 137ñ153; and SCHNEIDER, HANS J. (1992) Phantasie und Kalkül (Frankfurt, Suhrkamp).

49. We would like to direct the reader's attention to the work of Eugene Gendlin (see note 12, above). For his relation to Wittgenstein see SCHNEIDER, HANS J. (1997) ‘Zwischen den Zeilení: Wittgenstein und Gendlin über die nicht-regelhafte Seite der Sprachkompetenz, Deutsche Zeitschrift für Philosophie, 45, pp. 415-428.

50. SCHLOEGL, op. cit, note 2, p. 38.

51. MALCOLM  & VON WRIGHT, op. cit., note 3, pp. 24-28.

52. HUDSON, op. cit., note 42, p. 478.

53. WITTGENSTEIN, op. cit., note 6, p. 51e; MALCOLM  & VONWRIGHT, op. cit., note 3, p. 27.

54. IZUTSU, op. cit., note 21, p. 149.

55. HADOT, PIERRE  (1995) Philosophy as a Way of Life: Spiritual Exercises from Socrates to Foucault (Oxford, Blackwell).

56. SCHLOEGL, op. cit., note 2, p. 44. There are other passages in which Linji compares his method to medicine. For example:

It is truly apparent now without any further delay. All I am talking about is only medicine appropriate for curing specific ailments. In my talks there is nothing absolutely real... (p. 28) Though things exist, they are only as names and words, sentences and catch phrases to attract little children; or expedient remedies for treating diseases, superficially revealed as names and phrases. (p. 58) Followers of the Way, Buddha is not to be attained. The Three Vehicles and the Five Natures, as well as the Complete and Sudden Teachings are only traces. All are but expedient means, temporary remedies for curing diseases. There is no real Dharma; it is all but surface manifestations, like printed letters on a sign board to indicate the Way. This is my teaching. (p. 61)

57. This understanding of ‘meta-philosophy' is derived from discussions with Thomas Tominaga at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Further Readings

Chung-ying Cheng: On Zen (Ch’an) Language and Zen Paradoxes

this essay inquires into the logical and semantical significances of the dialogic exchanges (kung-an, koan) in Zen language and discourse as well as to clarify their methodological and ontological basis…In what logically intelligible way does a puzzle or a paradox as generated in a dialogic exchange derive its extraordinary meaningfulness as a tool for reaching or revealing the ultimate truth?…How is the paradoxicality or puzzlement of such a puzzle or paradox to be rationally explained and logically dissolved?

Carl Hooper: Koan Zen and Wittgenstein’s Only Correct Method in Philosophy

Koan Zen is a philosophical practice that bears a strong family resemblance to Wittgenstein’s approach to philosophy.Both koan Zen and Wittgenstein’s method set limits to the reach of philosophical discourse. Each rules metaphysical speculation out of bounds. Neither, however, represents a rejection of the metaphysical. Where Wittgenstein enjoins silence in the face of the unsayable, a silence that allows the metaphysical to show itself, koan Zen calls for concrete demonstrations of that which cannot be captured in rational discourse.

Philip Goodchild : Speech And Silence In The Mumokan: And Examination of the Use of Language In Light of the Philosophy of Gilles Deleuze 

This essay attempts to "extract interpretative methods and concepts from Deleuze's work in order to make use of them in observing exactly how language is used in the Mumonkan" — a language-based interpretation of koans.

Jin Y. Park: Zen Language in Our Times: the case of Pojo Chinul's huatau meditation 

Park discuss the role of language in huatau meditation, focusing on Korean Zen Buddhism.

Dale S. Wright: Rethinking Transcendence: The Role of Language in Zen Experience

 Wright questions whether enlightenment "stands altogether beyond the shaping power of language and culture". He also looks at the role language played in the origins and development of the monsastic community, a community that made the Zen experience of awakening possible.

Desheng Zong: Three Language-Related Methods In Early Chinese Chan Buddhism 

The primary concern of this essay is the history and philosophical significance of three language-related methods widely used in Chan practice during the golden age of Chinese Chan Buddhism, roughly from the eighth to the twelfth centuries. Zong looks at "the Bodhidharma Method", "the naming game" and "the four ways of Ju and Yi".