“Unerschütterlich”: Kafka's Proceß, Wittgenstein's Tractatus, and the Law of Logic

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Abstract

This paper offers an “analytic analysis” (that is, one that uses both the sources and methodology of the early analytic tradition in philosophy) of Kafka's Der Proceß. Specifically, the author uses the formal logic Ludwig Wittgenstein charted out in the Tractatus logico-philosophicus to show that while Josef K.'s arrest, trial and “execution” may seem unjust or even invalid when we refuse to consider pre-existing or self-determined guilt, Kafka's portrayal of logical contradiction actually reveals the proceedings to be entirely logically valid. The author accomplishes this through an identification of several key contradictions in Kafka's text combined with an exploration of Wittgenstein's proof (using truth-tables) that contradictions, though senseless (sinnlos), still belong to logical symbolism. Thus, while the Law (das Gesetz) of the novel's enigmatic and terrifying Court (das Gericht) remains as inscrutable as ever, Der Proceß does indeed heed another sort of law-the laws of formal logic.

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