Amazon Book Description1
- On 25 October 1946, in a crowded room in Cambridge, Ludwig Wittgenstein and Karl Popper came face to face for the first and only time. The encounter lasted only ten minutes, and did not go well. Almost immediately, rumours started to spread around the world that the two philosophers had come to blows, armed with red-hot pokers. But what really happened?
- Wittgenstein's Poker engagingly winds together philosophy, history and biography into a compelling piece of detective work. It ranges from the place of assimilated Jews in fin-de-siècle Vienna, to what happens to memory under stress, to a vivid portrait of Cambridge and its eccentric set of philosophy dons, including Bertrand Russell (who acted as umpire during the altercation). At the centre of the story stand the philosophers themselves, proud, irascible, larger than life, and spoiling for a fight.
- Wittgenstein's Poker is a mini-biography of the lives of Karl Popper and Ludwig Wittgenstein leading up to their one and only meeting at the Cambridge moral science club in October 1946 where their loud and aggressive confrontation became the stuff of legend. What happened? Why did the two great philosophers behave as they did? What did Popper have against Wittgenstein? At stake was the meaning and direction of the analytic revolution – which had been led by Bertrand Russell – and, ultimately, the purpose of philosophy itself.
- Edmonds and Eidinow's treatment is a very clever and interesting way to introduce the history of philosophy in the first third of the 20th century. The 10 minute argument provides an effective and fascinating organising focus for the whole book – not only because one is curious to find out who said what and why – but because to understand what really happened involves finding out what kind of men these great philosophers were, and how they stood to the philosophic tradition. Popper's opposition to Wittgenstein however, was more than just a difference in philosophic views; on a deeper level Wittgenstein represented the Vienna that had been out of reach even to the son of a respected and socially responsible lawyer: "In Wittgenstein he saw the imperial city where riches and status commanded respect and opened doors, the separate territory where inflation-wrought poverty had no place and the Nazis could be bought off."
- It is the social and political background of the story, the class differences, as well as the philosophic differences between the two great philosophers which makes this book so unusual and interesting. Part biography, part social history, part history of philosophy Wittgenstein's Poker is informative, entertaining and accessible.
→ Larry Brown
In-Page Footnotes ("Edmonds (David) & Eidinow (John) - Wittgenstein's Poker")
Footnote 2: Related to the First edition!
- From the Sept 2002 Paperback edition, which maybe I should have bought, though I think the main text is the same.
- From what I can see on Amazon, the only difference – bar the pagination – is that the paperback has an Appendix of the correspondence in the Times Literary Supplement that took place during Feb-Mar 1998 after Popper’s death. The text is mostly available on-line (Link).
Faber & Faber; First Edition (19 Mar. 2001)
Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
- Blue: Text by me; © Theo Todman, 2019
- Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)