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Much like their second effort, Bobby Fischer Goes to War, the authors investigate a pivotal moment in 20th Century philosophy.
The book is very detailed, outlining the history of both Wittgenstien, Popper and others who witnessed an important argument between two philosophical giants. They also interview those still alive who witnessed the heated discussion that allegedly ended with Wittgenstien shaking a poker at Popper.
The authors also outline the importance of the exchange by explaining in depth why the two philosophical figures and their ideas mattered. They also address how the discussion continues to influence thought today.
Publishers Weekly, 2001-10-01 In October 1946, philosopher Karl Popper arrived at Cambridge to lecture at a seminar hosted by his legendary colleague Ludwig Wittgenstein. It did not go well: the men began arguing, and eventually, Wittgenstein began waving a fire poker toward Popper. It lasted scarcely 10 minutes, yet the debate has turned into perhaps modern philosophy's most contentious encounter, largely because none of the eyewitnesses could agree on what happened. Did Wittgenstein physically threaten Popper with the poker? Did Popper lie about it afterward? BBC journalists Edmonds and Eidinow use the controversy as a springboard to probe the whys and whats of these two great thinkers, weaving biography, journalism and philosophy to produce one of the year's most entertaining and intellectually rich books. The authors show that the debate was a clash at several levels. First, of personalities: each was "bullying, aggressive, intolerant and self-absorbed"; in other words, accustomed to winning and unlikely to back down. Second, of class: Wittgenstein was an Austrian aristocrat, Popper was bourgeoisie (each fled Vienna to escape Hitler). And third, of ideas: Wittgenstein believed that philosophy boiled down to nothing more than a series of linguistic puzzles, while Popper thought philosophy involved real problems that immediately affected the world at large. Clearly, the stakes were high for both men in that lecture hall especially because their common mentor, the aging icon Bertrand Russell, was also in attendance. The debate thus took on the character of a succession for the throne. Tightly constructed and extraordinarily well written, this is a marvelous blend of lay and academic scholarship. It has every chance of becoming a classic of its kind. (Nov.) Forecast: Smart, general readers will gobble up this latest addition to narrative nonfiction. It will surely find a place for itself among The Professor and the Madman and An Eternal Golden Braid. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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