Language and Solitude: Wittgenstein, Malinowski, and the Habsburg Dilemma

Language and Solitude: Wittgenstein, Malinowski, and the Habsburg Dilemma

Language and Solitude: Wittgenstein, Malinowski, and the Habsburg Dilemma

Language and Solitude: Wittgenstein, Malinowski, and the Habsburg Dilemma

Synopsis

Ernest Gellner (1925-1995) has been described as "one of the last great central European polymath intellectuals." In this, his last book, he throws new light on two key figures of the twentieth century: the philosopher Wittgenstein, and Malinowski, founder of modern British social anthropology. Gellner shows how the thought of both men grew from a common background of assumptions about human nature, society, and language. He ties together themes that preoccupied him, epitomizing his belief that philosophy--far from "leaving everything as it is"--is about important historical, social and personal issues.

Excerpt

My father left two unpublished book-length manuscripts when, on 5 November 1995, he died in his flat at the Central European University, Prague. One manuscript required relatively little work and was published) by Weidenfeld in 1997 as Nationalism. This is the other.

This book is in many ways a fitting—almost autobiographical—last work. In the first place, it brings together themes that he worked on throughout his academic career, from Words and Things, the attack on Wittgensteinianism that made his name in 1959, through Nations and Nationalism (1983) and Nationalism (1997), to studies of the development) of his adopted discipline, social anthropology, and in particular the canonical place of Bronislaw Malinowski within it (published in various articles over the years). But in the second place, the Habsburg social background to the thought of Wittgenstein and Malinowski that he describes here was also his own background, or, strictly, that of his father. The choice that faced Wittgenstein and Malinowski was also the choice that faced every member of his family. On both sides my father was descended from secularised, German-speaking Jews, as was common in Bohemia, though less so further east in Poland. His grandfather) was a loyal subject of Franz Josef who had nine children. The men became lawyers, doctors, even, in one case, a theatre director. One of his aunts was an active Zionist. His father, Rudolf, went to Berlin to study history and sociology the year after Max Weber died. Later he studied in Paris and made some money by writing for German newspapers The birth of my father meant that his parents had to have a more regular income, so his father gave up being a student and returned to Bohemia. They endured real poverty, with Rudolf selling his books so they could eat. Eventually he began a small business and also started a Czech-language law review. Rudolf had had to learn Czech as an adult, after the creation of the Czechoslovak state, but his sympathies were with it rather than with Zionism.

As the 1930s progressed, the threat from the Nazis became clear and Rudolf prepared the family's flight to England, where one of his sisters . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.