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David Edmonds and John Eidinow

Wittgenstein's Poker

W (who has been fidgeting with the poker) asks for an example of a moral rule. P replies 'Not to threaten visiting lecturers with pokers', at which W storms out. In Wittgenstein's Poker Edmonds and Eidinow explain that it probably didn't happen quite that way. But this book is far more than just a discussion of a 10 minute incident involving Karl Popper and Ludwig Wittgenstein in Cambridge in 1946. Rather it gives a critical look at the lives of the two philosophers, including their upbringings (both came from Jewish families in Vienna, and so both were faced with the problems of the rise of Hitler), their points of view, and how they interacted with those around them.

Sometimes, I have to say, I wondered what the point of this book was. It isn't really a 'learn philosophy via biography' sort of a book. And if the question is whether individual incidents such as this particularly matter in the development of philosophy, well the impression I got was that no, they don't, in which case the authors seem to be sawing off the branch on which they are sitting. But it was a thought provoking book. For example, why does someone become a professional philosopher, rather than a cabinet maker (which Popper was for a while) who just likes to think about things. If such questions interest you then you should have a look at this book.

Amazon.com info
Paperback 368 pages  
ISBN: 0060936649
Salesrank: 384235
Weight:0.6 lbs
Published: 2002 Harper Perennial
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Amazon.co.uk info
Hardcover 267 pages  
ISBN: 057120547X
Salesrank: 351325
Weight:1.01 lbs
Published: 2001 Faber & Faber
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Amazon.ca info
Hardcover 224 pages  
ISBN: 057120547X
Salesrank: 1162656
Weight:1.01 lbs
Published: 2001 Faber & Faber
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Product Description

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-siƩcle 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.