The Life of Ludwig Wittgenstein

The most infamous “episode” in the life of Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889–1951) occurred during a meeting of Cambridge University's Moral Science Club on October 25, 1946, when Wittgenstein, according to some, threatened fellow-Austrian Karl Popper with a fireplace poker during a philosophical dispute. (A whole book, a very good one, was written about this: Wittgenstein's Poker: The Story of a Ten-Minute Argument Between Two Great Philosophers by David Edmonds and John Eidinow.) Some present at the meeting dispute that Wittgenstein threatened Popper; they say he was wont to brandish the poker in the air during the meetings and that it was just a sign of his passion for philosophy. The story ends when Bertrand Russell tells Wittgenstein, his former collaborator, to put the poker down, and soon after this Wittgenstein leaves the meeting in a huff. One could make a Rashomon-type movie based on the various descriptions of what took place at the meeting, but the main point, philosophically, was what the two philosophers were arguing about.

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