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

Article excerpt

David Edmonds and John Eidinow. Wittgenstein's Poker: The Story of a Ten-Minute Argument Between Two Great Philosophers. New York: Ecco, 2001.

On October 25, 1946, philosophers Ludwig Wittgenstein and Karl Popper confronted each other at Cambridge University at a meeting of the Moral Science Club. They were there, along with the eminent philosopher Bertrand Russell and a number of philosophy dons and students, to discuss the direction of twentieth-century philosophy. The confrontation lasted ten minutes and ended with Wittgenstein leaving the room.

Wittgenstein, a forceful and domineering debater, believed there were no such things as philosophical problems, just puzzles caused by the spell of language. Popper strongly disagreed, and had come with a paper that argued for the existence of philosophical problems (e.g., the logic of scientific discovery, ethical questions about the organization of society, induction, causation, etc.). Popper had also recently published a topical volume of political philosophy, The Open Society and Its Enemies, and thought meeting with Wittgenstein would help to further his own career and views. …