Poetics of Philosophy: Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, and the Art of Language

Philip Mills

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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My thesis elaborates a philosophy of poetry in two interrelated ways: a philosophical study of poetry and an exploration of the impacts of poetry on philosophical investigations. Whereas poetry was considered as one of the highest arts in the 18th and 19th century aesthetics, 20th century analytic aesthetics has left poetry aside, focusing much more on visual arts or music. The so-called ‘analytic-continental divide’ which has shaped the philosophical landscape in the 20th century provides an element of an answer to explain this disappearance: following the ‘linguistic turn,’ the dominant conception of language in the analytic tradition is the representational conception of language which fails to give an account of what happens in poetry. On the continental side, on the contrary, some philosophers such as Heidegger have gone as far as to consider philosophy as poetry. These two extremes map out two questions that a philosophy of poetry must answer: What conception of language can give an account of poetry? And how does poetry affect philosophical investigations, especially regarding the question of style? Nietzsche and Wittgenstein both offer interesting insights to answer these questions and bringing them together lead to reconsidering the analytic-continental divide and the ‘quarrel between philosophy and poetry.’ I approach poetry by transposing Wittgenstein’s notion of ’seeing-as’ to ‘reading-as,’ and bring this notion in relation to Nietzsche’s perspectivism. Following these ideas, I consider poetry as a way creating perspectives and elaborate the notion of ‘perspectival poetics’ in the etymological sense of poiesis, creation or making. Philosophy’s encounter with the language of poetry does not only entail a change in conception of language, but also a change in philosophy’s own use of language. Philosophy’s encounter with poetry brings the question of style to the fore and leads to reconsidering the relations between philosophy and poetry.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Bowie, Andrew, Supervisor
  • Sellars, John, Supervisor
Award date1 Apr 2019
Publication statusUnpublished - 2019


  • Nietzsche
  • Wittgenstein
  • Poetics
  • Philosophy of Language
  • Aesthetics
  • German Philosophy

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