Springer Verlag (2019)

Maria Balaska
University of Hertfordshire
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.
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ISBN(s) 978-3-030-16938-1   978-3-030-16939-8   3030169413   3030169383   9783030169381
DOI 10.1007/978-3-030-16939-8
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Having finished our story it might be useful to look back and remark that it began with astonishment and also ended in astonishment; but whereas in the beginning of the book, astonishment played the role of what generates a difficulty of expression and challenges the sense-making capacities of langu... see more

From Groundlessness to Creativity: The Merits of Astonishment for Lacan

The chapter discusses the ethical import of the experience of astonishment, through the Lacanian idea that the question of ethics can be articulated only from the point of view of one’s relation to the real, namely, to meaning as groundless. As discussed previously, the experience of astonishment br... see more

From Groundlessness to Creativity: The Merits of Astonishment for Wittgenstein

The chapter departs from Wittgenstein’s idea that “the running-up-against paradox is Ethics” to explore the ethical merits of an experience of astonishment. I argue that by the difficulty with meaning that these experiences present, they bring out the question “How am I involved in meaning?” I discu... see more

From Deflection to Reflection: A Creative Involvement with Language

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Groundlessness in the Tractatus

In this chapter I approach Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus as a story about the groundlessness of meaning. More specifically, I discuss how the Tractatus addresses the temptation to avoid the groundlessness of meaning through the idea that meaning can be grounded a priori, before exper... see more

The Expression of Astonishment

The chapter further explores the idea that an experience of astonishment brings about a difficulty of intelligible expression and can challenge language’s sense-making capacities. This, I argue, reveals a more general and chronic difficulty with meaning, namely the impossibility of finding an ultima... see more


This is a story about certain times or cases in the human life when expression through language seems inescapably inadequate, when words seem bound to fail us, and meaning to escape. Such a case is the experience of astonishment. I use the word “astonishment” to describe the experience of being stru... see more

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