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Wittgenstein and Popper

An interesting review of a book on an apparently famous dispute over a dispute between Ludwig Wittgenstein and Karl Popper.

The book, Wittgenstein's Poker, describes the varying claims of the various witnesses who saw a talk Popper gave in Cambridge in 1946, during which he and Wittgenstein went at it, and Wittgenstein, according to some but not all of the witnesses, menaced Popper with a poker.

The dispute was about "the fundamental nature of philosophy — whether there were indeed philosophical problems (Popper) or merely puzzles (Wittgenstein)." But this is exactly the sort of question whose answer will be determined by one's "first" philosophy, and which can seldom even be amended in a 10-minute exchange in a lecture hall. Ah, so it goes....

Still, a description of Wittgenstein I liked: " ... Wittgenstein ... wrestles visibly with his ideas, holding his head in his hands, occasionally throwing out staccato remarks, as though each word were as painful as plucking thorns, and muttering, 'God I am stupid today' or shouting, 'Damn my bloody soul!... Help me someone!' " This I can all understand; it is behavior symptomatic of wanting to get something right.

December 6, 2001 11:39 AM

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Copyright ©2001-2003 Matt Pfeffer

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