[Book, Review] Ray Monk - Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty Of Genius

From: andrew cooke <andrew@...>

Date: Fri, 3 Nov 2017 08:59:38 -0300

This is a curious mix of a book.

On the one hand, it's well written - clear and coherent.  A deftly
constructed account of Wittgenstein's life, painting an apparently
complete picture of its subject.

On the other - at least to this reader - it fails to explain exactly
why Wittgenstein was (and is) so admired.  Trudging through the
details of his obsessions, neuroses and fears, you begin to wonder why
you are spending so much time (~600 pages) on such an unpleasant
person:

* Someone who gave up a huge amount of wealth, but continued to
assume the privilege and standing of his birth, repeatedly relying
on the influence of friends in high places.

* Someone pathetically useless in social situations who felt
qualified to tell others how they should behave.  Who was incapable
of being a good teacher yet encouraged others to follow the same
path.

* Someone who intimidated and brow-beat.  Whose philosophy appears to
be "I am right, you are wrong, but I cannot explain why."

* Someone who felt they were making major contributions to the
philosophy of mathematics yet lacked the technical ability to
understand Godel's work.

* Someone who could only connect emotionally with those who were
younger, weaker, and easier to intimidate.

A thoroughly unlikeable man.

I am not arguing that only the nicest people should have biographies,
but perhaps the author should more clearly explain why they are
interesting.  Reports of "genius" from others in the same privileged
milieu are not enough.

Andrew