There are certain remarks in Culture and Value in which Wittgenstein writes about Jews and about what he describes as their ‘Jewish mind’. In these remarks he appears to be trying to make a distinction between two different spiritual forces which operate in Western culture and which give rise to two different types of artists and works of art. On one side of the divide are Jews and works of art imbued with Jewish spirit. On the other side are men of culture and works of art which exhibit a non-Jewish spirit. Among the various remarks made in this context, he offers the following thoughts about the spiritual nature of Jews, their mentality, character and artistic achievements:
‘You get tragedy when a tree, instead of bending, breaks. Tragedy is something un-Jewish’ (1). Following Renan he writes: ‘The Semitic races have an unpoetic mentality, which heads straight for what is concrete’ (6). This, he explains, is because Jews are attracted by ‘pure intellectualism’. ‘I think it would be possible now to have a form of theatre played in masks. The characters would simply be stylized human types.’ (In his opinion this suits Karl Kraus's plays and their abstract nature.) ‘Masked theatre is anyway the expression of an intellectualistic character. And for the same reason perhaps it is a theatrical form that will attract only Jews’ (12). ‘The Jew is a desert region, but underneath its thin layer of rock lies the molten lava of spirit and intellect’ (13). ‘It is typical for a Jewish mind to understand somebody else's work better than that person understands it himself.’ But intellect, it seems, is not a mental attribute providing for genius and true creative powers. ‘Amongst Jews “genius” is found only in the holy man. Even the greatest of Jewish thinkers is no more than talented. (Myself, for instance.) … It might be said (rightly or wrongly) that the Jewish mind does not have the power to produce even the tiniest flower or blade of grass; its way is rather to make a drawing of the flower or blade of grass which has grown in the soil of another's mind and to put it into a comprehensive picture. We aren't pointing to a fault when we say this and everything is all right as long as what is being done is quite clear. It is only when the nature of a Jewish work is confused with that of a non-Jewish work that there is any danger, especially when the author of the Jewish work falls into the confusion himself, as he so easily may. (Doesn't he look as proud as though he had produced the milk himself?)’ (18–19).