David Ross (dyvyd) wrote,
David Ross

I Stew Netting, Dreizehn

Wittgenstein's Poker, by Edmonds and Eidenow, provides fascinating insight into W's ways.  I like the idea of the book, which is to create biography around a specific event-- a ten minute confrontation between W and the philosopher Karl Popper which took place on October 25, 1946.

I now know why friends gave me subtle warnings about W.  The book demonstrates well how one might get sucked in, overpowered, and spit out like a lifeless husk when dealing with W.  Even Lord Russell felt overmatched by him.  W wins only if you accept his game, so for sanity's sake you better have something else to prop you up when he kicks the ground out from under you.  Karl Popper evidently was immune to W's point of view.  W had the habit of dismissing anyone who would not accept his view as an idiot.  Students were falling all over themselves trying to win his favor, avoid his wrath.  It seems that W dispersed admiration just to those who could think more like himself than he could on a bad day.

While W found philosophy to be a kind of intellectual solvent that dissolved problems by showing them up as language errors, Karl Popper was still very much into the qualities of ideas as existing outside and beyond the influence of mere language.  W had little tolerance for such nonsense under his own roof, on his own turf, and grabbed a poker from the fireplace.

It is hilarous to think that a room full of metaphysicists with brilliant minds cannot agree upon what actually happened while W possessed the poker. Perhaps it only underlies the variety of their approaches to reality-- perhaps it was only inevitable.

It amazes me, as it did Russell, that W never took his own life.  It seems to me that he was always on the verge of that act, always knew that should he fail to find new methods, the only sure way to dissolve the final insoluble was with a bullet.

Many of the best minds claimed that W was above them.  Still it seems to me it was through a process of bafflement, the tools of  a Zen master, that he convinced them that he knew things they could not know.

It is fortunate for me that I am not brilliant enough to allow W to drive me mad.

Tags: wittgenstein

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