Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Wittgenstein's Poker

On the evening of the 25th of October 1946 that great Hospital Porter (and occasional part-time philosopher) Ludwig Wittgenstein was a philosopher’s meeting with one of his contemporaries, Sir Karl Popper having a debate, God knows what about! I didn’t realize this, but philosophers’ debates can sometimes become very vitriolic, and in this case the hot-headed Hospital Porter became so enraged that he walked over to the room’s hearth, picked up a poker, and moved to attack his civilian colleague with it. What happened next is a bit vague, but one version of events relates that another philosopher, maybe the famous Bertrand Russell who was also in the room, managed to hold Wittgenstein back and pacify him. Wittgenstein then stormed out of the room. If something like that got his goat, then I wonder how he maintained his poise with the fickle and arrogant pharmacists at Guys! The story was related in a bestselling book in 2001:

This story has an interesting conclusion. During the intervening sixty-six years the room where the meeting took place has been refurbished and the poker was removed and lost, as often happens renovations, but amazingly it has recently resurfaced and Alan McFarlane has put a label on it; I imagine he’ll mount it on the wall in pride of place or put it in a museum or something. See:

Background article:


Clare said...

Hi Ben,
My name is Clare and I am 18 and could really do with some help from you if that is possible. I am from Santa Fe in New Mexico and came across your work around Roswell but I didn't realise you were a Wittgenstein bod. Only I need help to pass my final grades in English Lit and have to do a short study (about 500 words) on Witt's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, only I don't know where to begin. I'm sure you understand it better then me and could you just give me some idea of what he is trying to get across, please? This could mean the difference between me graduating and getting to the top uni of my choice (I want to get into Yale to read Philosophy and Biology). Please, I would be most grateful for any ideas you can toss my way. Love Roswell Revealed btw!
xxx Clare.

Ben Emlyn-Jones said...

Hi Clare.
Thanks for getting in touch and I'm really glad you liked Roswell Revealed. Have you read the first book, Roswell Rising?
I do have an interest in Wittgenstein, but I'm afraid I am still only beginning in my study of his work. I'm sure I know considerably less about him than you do. Sorry I can't help you there, but good luck with your studies. I hope you find somebody else who is useful.
Best wishes.
Ben xxx