Wittgenstein’s Poker: The Story of a Ten-Minute Argument Between Two Great Philosophers

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Wittgenstein’s Poker: The Story of a Ten-Minute Argument Between Two Great Philosophers

On October 25, 1946, in a crowded room in Cambridge, England, the great twentieth-century philosophers Ludwig Wittgenstein and Karl Popper came face to face for the first and only time. The meeting — which lasted ten minutes — did not go well. Their loud and aggressive confrontation became the stuff of instant legend, but precisely what happened during that brief confrontation remained for decades the subject of intense disagreement.

An engaging mix of philosophy, history, biography, and literary detection, Wittgenstein’s Poker explores, through the Popper/Wittgenstein confrontation, the history of philosophy in the twentieth century. It evokes the tumult of fin-de-siécle Vienna, Wittgentein’s and Popper’s birthplace; the tragedy of the Nazi takeover of Austria; and postwar Cambridge University, with its eccentric set of philosophy dons, including Bertrand Russell. At the center of the story stand the two giants of philosophy themselves — proud, irascible, larger than life — and spoiling for a fight.

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Anonymous says:

This was a light read, that could have benefitted by a bit more weight. The book goes deep into the background of the two sparring philosophers, delving into the social and historical milieu that spawned these two intellectual giants. Mr. Edmunds is at his best when describing the Vienna Circle; and the group of philosophers who made up that cadre of thinkers. But the descriptions of the competing world views is shallow, at best; with Mr. Edmunds skirting the harder questions; particularly…

Anonymous says:

On October 25, 1946, at a meeting of the Moral Science Club at Cambridge University, England, there was a confrontation between two of the great twentieth-century philosophers. They represented polar opposite views, views upon which each of them had built their life’s work and reputation. Other prominent philosophers were in attendance, among them Bertrand Russell. Both were Viennese Jews who’d fled Austria when the tide of antisemitism was overtaking Austria, Germany, and much of Europe in the…


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