Wittgenstein's Poker: The Story of a Ten-Minute Argument Between Two Great Philosophers

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9780060936648: Wittgenstein's Poker: The Story of a Ten-Minute Argument Between Two Great Philosophers
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On October 25, 1946, in a crowded room in Cambridge, England, the great twentieth-century philosophers Ludwig Wittgenstein and Karl Popper came face to face for the first and only time. The meeting -- which lasted ten minutes -- did not go well. Their loud and aggressive confrontation became the stuff of instant legend, but precisely what happened during that brief confrontation remained for decades the subject of intense disagreement.

An engaging mix of philosophy, history, biography, and literary detection, Wittgenstein's Poker explores, through the Popper/Wittgenstein confrontation, the history of philosophy in the twentieth century. It evokes the tumult of fin-de-siécle Vienna, Wittgentein's and Popper's birthplace; the tragedy of the Nazi takeover of Austria; and postwar Cambridge University, with its eccentric set of philosophy dons, including Bertrand Russell. At the center of the story stand the two giants of philosophy themselves -- proud, irascible, larger than life -- and spoiling for a fight.

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Review:

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

Review:

'Those 10 minutes shook the world of Western philosophy literally to its foundations... Edmonds and Eidinow have a very good story to tell, and they tell it wonderfully well.' John Banville, Irish Times 'A brilliant idea. The authors seem to me to have an extremely good grasp of the philosophical ideas, and a tremendous ability to explain them.' Michael Frayn

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9780066212449: Wittgenstein's Poker

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ISBN 10:  0066212448 ISBN 13:  9780066212449
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9785867933326: Wittgenstein s Poker Story Ten Minute Argument Between Two Great Philosophers Kocherga Vitgenshtejna Istoriya Desyatiminutnogo Spora Mezhdu Dvumya Velikimi Filosofami

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