Wittgenstein's Poker: The Story of a Ten-Minute Argument Between Two Great Philosophers

By David Edmonds, John Eidinow

On October 25, 1946, in a crowded room in Cambridge, England, the nice twentieth-century philosophers Ludwig Wittgenstein and Karl Popper got here nose to nose for the 1st and purely time. The assembly -- which lasted ten mins -- didn't move good. Their loud and competitive war of words grew to become the stuff of fast legend, yet accurately what occurred in the course of that short war of words remained for many years the topic of extreme disagreement.

An attractive mixture of philosophy, heritage, biography, and literary detection, Wittgenstein's Poker explores, during the Popper/Wittgenstein disagreement, the background of philosophy within the 20th century. It conjures up the tumult of fin-de-siécle Vienna, Wittgentein's and Popper's birthplace; the tragedy of the Nazi takeover of Austria; and postwar Cambridge collage, with its eccentric set of philosophy dons, together with Bertrand Russell. on the middle of the tale stand the 2 giants of philosophy themselves -- proud, irascible, higher than existence -- and spoiling for a fight.

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T h e proposal that Jews inherently imagine in a definite demeanour used to be certain into his Some jew'. " three consistent self-torment, and he describes "Jewishness" (integrally a part of him) as a restricting or distorting mechanism. His dawning reputation of his Jewish descent within the 1 nine three zero s isn't really effortless to fathom, for his relatives had performed their top to place their Jewishness at the back of them. His paternal great-grandfather was once initially referred to as Moses Maier, yet in 1 eight zero eight the relations took the identify Wittgenstein —after their neighborhood princelv familv in Hesse, the SaynWittgensteins, for whom Moses Maier was once property supervisor. Many wrongly assumed that Ludwig used to be a scion of that princely apartment. the days recorded in his obituary that he got here from a popular Austrian relatives: "his ancestors incorporated the Prince Wittgenstein who fought opposed to Napoleon. " Ludwig's paternal grandparents switched over to Protestantism. T h e Jewish facet of his mother's relatives had lengthy been switched over to Christianity and had seriously intermarried with Christian households; she used to be a Roman Catholic, and Ludwig used to be baptized into her religion. In orthodox Jewish phrases, as Wittgenstein's maternal grandmother, Marie Stallner, used to be no longer Jewish by means of descent, nor used to be he —not that this may have saved him out of Nazi clutches, as we'll see. Reflecting on Ludwig's relatives historical past and his baptism, Fania Pascal, his Russian instructor in Cambridge, didn't position him as a Jew. As a Jewish baby within the Ukraine, she had skilled the complete strength of Slav anti-Semitism, and commented that her grandmother may have acknowledged of Ludwig, " S o m e Jew! " What Ludwig, his brother and sisters made up of their Jewish history is open to a few interpretations. a place to begin could be the tale of the teenage Ludwig and his brother Paul eager to subscribe to a Viennese athletic membership that used to be "restricted. " Ludwig proposal they could pull off access with a white lie; Paul concept now not. they discovered one other membership. If that tale is correct, how- ever, what's one to make of the truth that, quickly after the German takeover of Austria, the Anschluss, Paul, "pale with horror," introduced to his sisters, "We count number as Jews. " His horror used to be justified. In Germany, the Nuremberg legislation have been already 3 years previous: thev had disadvantaged these labeled as Jews in their rights as electorate (while leaving them as German nationals). In influence, the legislation made it very unlikely for Jewish live performance pianists to accomplish in public. Paul should have been accustomed to a few of these barred. Vienna and Prague have been packed with German Jewish musicians looking paintings. yet his obvious shock turns out curious, making an allowance for his realism over the athletics membership. . one other anecdote tells how considered one of Ludwig's aunts, Milly, requested her brother, his Uncle Louis, "if the rumors she had heard approximately their Jewish origins have been precise. 'Pur sang [full-blooded], Milly,' he answered. 'Pur sang. ' " Later, Milk's granddaughter's view of the family's Jewishness was once to end up of the 1st significance to them. T h e n there's Ludwig himself. Early within the First global warfare, while he was once in uniform as a volunteer, he recorded gloomily, "We can and may lose, if no longer during this yr, then subsequent 12 months.

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