Wittgenstein's Poker

Wittgenstein's Poker

The Story of A Ten-minute Argument Between Two Great Philosophers

Book - 2001
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On October 25,1946, in a crowded room in Cambridge, England, Ludwig Wittgenstein and Karl Popper came face-to-face for the first and only time. The encounter lasted just ten minutes, and did not go well.

Their loud and aggressive confrontation became the stuff of instant legend. Almost immediately, rumors spread around the world that the two great philosophers had come to blows, armed with red-hot pokers.

Twenty years later, when Popper wrote an account of the incident, he portrayed himself as the victor, provoking intense disagreement. Everyone present seems to have remembered events differently.

What really happened in those ten minutes? And what does the violence of this brief exchange tell us about these two men, modern philosophy, and the significance of language in solving our philosophical problems?

Wittgenstein's Pokeris an engaging mix of philosophy, history, biography. and literary detection. David Edmonds and John Eidinow evoke with dazzling clarity the tumult of fin-de-si#65533;cle Vienna, Wittgenstein's and Popper's birthplace; the tragedy of the Nazi takeover of Austria; and Cambridge University, with its eccentric set of philosophy dons, including Bertrand Russell, who acted as umpire at the meeting. At the center of the story stand the two philosophers themselves -- proud, irascible, larger-than-life -- and spoiling for a fight.

Publisher: New York : CCCO, c2001
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 9780066212449
Characteristics: x, 340 p. : ill., ports. ; 19 cm
Additional Contributors: Eidinow, John


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Jun 29, 2019

News traveled quickly within academic philosophy that on the night of October 25, 1946, in Room H3 (number 3; staircase H) of the Gibbs Building, at Kings College, Cambridge, Ludwig Wittgenstein and Karl Popper had gone at each other with red-hot fireplace pokers. Of course, that is not what happened. Yet, the true sequence of events remains uncertain and contested. The incident is described on pages 16-20 in Chapter 2, “Memories are Made of This.”

Juries are swayed by eye-witness testimony. Yet it is highly unreliable – and is known to be subject to simple error as well as police misconduct and prosecutorial fraud. Over the past 15 years, thanks largely to the Innocence Project, and the advocacy of academic criminologists, some changes in police procedure have been written into law. However, on the streets, in the lock-ups, in the courtrooms across America, at the local level, tradition rules. If you do not know the case of Jennifer Thompson and Ronald Cotton - “What Jennifer Saw” PBS Frontline – you need to understand the limits of witness identification.

In the matter of Wittgenstein’s Poker, an audience of perhaps 30 academics - students, dons, professors - fifteen professional philosophers at one of the world’s best universities, all of them at some level specialists in the theory of knowledge, did not agree on the details of a 10-minute drama.

Jun 15, 2018

Really interesting, even if one doesn't know much about either philosopher, and often very funny. Two intelligent men who seem to have been born to irritate each other!

Jan 19, 2014

two of, arguably, the most significant philosophers of the XXth Century meet in Cambridge in 1946, both by then Viennese ex-patriates by virtue of being Jewish, clash inexorably before even Bertrand Russell, their commanding predecessor, at an unprepossessing symposium, it is riveting, the stuff of legend, faithfully, and meticulously, told


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