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Wittgenstein's Poker: The Story of a…
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Wittgenstein's Poker: The Story of a Ten-Minute Argument Between Two… (original 2001; edition 2001)

by David Edmonds, John Eidinow

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1,426169,278 (3.54)19
On 25 October 1946, in a crowded room in Cambridge, Ludwig Wittgenstein and Karl Popper came face to face for the first and only time. The encounter lasted only ten minutes, and did not go well. Almost immediately, rumours started to spread around the world that the two philosophers had come to blows, armed with red-hot pokers. But what really happened? Wittgenstein's Poker engagingly winds together philosophy, history and biography into a compelling piece of detective work. It ranges from the place of assimilated Jews in fin-de-siècle Vienna, to what happens to memory under stress, to a vivid portrait of Cambridge and its eccentric set of philosophy dons, including Bertrand Russell (who acted as umpire during the altercation). At the centre of the story stand the philosophers themselves, proud, irascible, larger than life, and spoiling for a fight. 'Those ten 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.' Irish Times 'A meaty, exceedingly well-researched and engaging book. In its dramatic readability Wittgenstein's Poker brings to mind Simon Winchester's The Professor and the Madman; in the depth and breadth of its scholarship it evokes Carl Schorske's Fin-de-si è cle Vienna . . . a marvel of passionate journalism.' San Francisco Chronicle… (more)
Member:PatrickF1982
Title:Wittgenstein's Poker: The Story of a Ten-Minute Argument Between Two Great Philosophers
Authors:David Edmonds
Other authors:John Eidinow
Info:Ecco (2001), Edition: 1st, Hardcover, 352 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:
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Wittgenstein's Poker: The Story of a Ten-minute Argument Between Two Great Philosophers by David Edmonds (Author) (2001)

  1. 00
    Kuhn vs. Popper: The Struggle for the Soul of Science by Steve Fuller (VanishedOne)
    VanishedOne: The recommendation will be stronger for those interested in Popper.
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» See also 19 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
Really fun, two sittings. ( )
  Jetztzeit | May 15, 2020 |
This was holiday gift from a girl back in 2001. I read it in an evening and then let the girl read it. We soon broke up and I haven't seen it since. Oh, the story is interesting despite the paucity of actual events or substance within the celerbated conversation. ( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
3.5 Stars.
Ostensibly about a 10 minute argument between philosophers Karl Popper and Ludwig Wittgenstein at Cambridge in 1946, but much wider in scope than that. The book delves extensively into the background of each. Both being Viennese Jews we get many pages on the treatment of Jews before and after the Anschluss. Their place of origin being pretty much all they had in common apart from their formidable force of personality bordering on a kind of bullying when it came to arguing their philosophies. Wittgenstein adamant that philosophy was nothing but puzzles emerging from the misuse or limitations of language. Popper firmly ensconsed in the old traditions of philosophy trying to make sense of real problems such as the nature of science, meaning of infinity, probability etc.

The book does a good job in setting the scene for the argument by detailing the differences between the two. Along the way we get a between the wars European history lesson, a skim through the main areas of western philosophy at the time, a flavour of life at Cambridge University and a glimpse into the minds of a couple of geniuses. ( )
  Lord_Boris | Feb 21, 2017 |
While it purports to be about an emphatic argument between Wittgenstein and Popper, the book actually uses that incident as a way into exploring the cultural background of both authors, especially the way they were both shaped by Vienna and the rise o the Nazis. There is some philosophy there, but it's treated very lightly and simply. I probably would have gotten more out of the book if it wasn't retreading so much of what I already sorta knew, but it remains a breezy & easy-to-read exploration of the issue. The one unfortunate part was near the end where having covered all the ground and context, the author tries to lamely circle back to the original encounter and reenact it novelistically; it feels both poorly-written and hollow, since most of the vigor at that point has gone to the comparatively more interesting backgrounds of our two antagonists.

As far as literary relatives go, pre-anschluss Vienna is described extensively and exquisitely in Clive James' Cultural Amnesia, itself a series of essays and recollections on important figures of the last century. Errol Morris, in his essays for the NY Times, also will circle topics in the same sort of fashion—albeit with more gumshoe detective work and exploration into the ideological issues underlying the ambiguity. Both authors, James and Morris, are highly recommended above this book. But don't let that scare you off; it's a super-fast, surprisingly short read.

EDIT: Upped it to four stars retrospectively because I was leafing through the book and enjoying the hilarious Wittgenstein epigraphs. Really, the reason I (and most others) are so entranced with him is because he is hilarious to read about despite being an asshole in real life. He just said the funniest shit! ( )
1 vote gregorybrown | Oct 18, 2015 |
A history of the in(famous) poker incident between Wittgenstein and Popper, in which the meeting in question is scrutinized intensely to see if some sort of undisputed version can be arrived at. The authors use the meeting as a focal point through which to offer up biographies of the two combatants and their schools of philosophical thought, and it does the trick nicely. Readable and very interesting. ( )
  JBD1 | Dec 7, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 16 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Edmonds, DavidAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Eidinow, JohnAuthormain authorall editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
I know that queer things happen in this world. It's one of the few things I've really learned in my life.

-Wittgenstein
Great men can make mistakes.

-Popper
Dedication
To Hannah and Herbert Edmonds and to Elisabeth Eidinow
First words
On the evening of Friday, 25 October 1946 the Cambridge Moral Science Club—a weekly discussion group for the university's philosophers and philosophy students—held one of its regular meetings.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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On 25 October 1946, in a crowded room in Cambridge, Ludwig Wittgenstein and Karl Popper came face to face for the first and only time. The encounter lasted only ten minutes, and did not go well. Almost immediately, rumours started to spread around the world that the two philosophers had come to blows, armed with red-hot pokers. But what really happened? Wittgenstein's Poker engagingly winds together philosophy, history and biography into a compelling piece of detective work. It ranges from the place of assimilated Jews in fin-de-siècle Vienna, to what happens to memory under stress, to a vivid portrait of Cambridge and its eccentric set of philosophy dons, including Bertrand Russell (who acted as umpire during the altercation). At the centre of the story stand the philosophers themselves, proud, irascible, larger than life, and spoiling for a fight. 'Those ten 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.' Irish Times 'A meaty, exceedingly well-researched and engaging book. In its dramatic readability Wittgenstein's Poker brings to mind Simon Winchester's The Professor and the Madman; in the depth and breadth of its scholarship it evokes Carl Schorske's Fin-de-si è cle Vienna . . . a marvel of passionate journalism.' San Francisco Chronicle

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