For an important task of the Zen philosopher is to police the border between the factual and the non-factual, between the sayable and the non-sayable, between the contingent and the necessary. But this task cannot be reduced to just policing. The Zen master must somehow point the disciple to the realm of the non-sayable while at the same time keeping him or her firmly anchored in the sayable.

Looking at Wittgenstein’s Tractatus logico-philosophicus and Philosophical Investigations, this article compares the philosopher’s analysis of language to that of Zen Buddhism, particularly “koan Zen.” The author begins by highlighting the seeming resemblance between Wittgenstein’s idea of only saying “what can be said” and Zen’s attempts to use words to point to what is beyond words. Much of the remaining article compares Wittenstein’s methodology with Zen’s usage of koans.