The same thing applies to word-wit. When we hear that “experience consists simply of experiencing what one wishes he had not experienced,” we are puzzled, and believe that we have learnt a new truth; it takes some time before we recognize in this disguise the platitude, “adversity is the school of wisdom” (K. Fischer). The excellent wit-activity which seeks to define “experience” by the almost exclusive use of the word “experience” deceives us so completely that we overestimate the content of the sentence. The same thing happens in many similar cases and also in Lichtenberg’s unification-witticism about January (p. 89), which expresses nothing but what we already know, namely, that New Year’s wishes are as seldom realized as other wishes.
We find the contrary true of other witticisms, in which obviously what is striking and correct in the thought captivates us, so that we call the saying an excellent witticism, whereas it is only the thought that is brilliant while the wit-activity is often weak. It is especially true of Lichtenberg’s wit that the path of the thought is often of more value than its witty expression, though we unjustly extend the value of the former to the latter. Thus the remark about the “torch of truth” (p. 115) is hardly a witty comparison, but it is so striking that