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

3.73  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,103 Ratings  ·  165 Reviews
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 confron ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published September 17th 2002 by Harper Perennial (first published 2001)
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Apr 03, 2007 Conrad rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned, philosophy, history
Karl Popper's a sad case. One of the greatest geniuses of the last century, he was an analytical philosopher par excellence at the exact moment when everyone started to ignore analytical philosophy. But at least he got to survive to see himself become extinct.

Wittgenstein and Popper were from opposite sides of the tracks in Vienna, both had taught school for a little while, both Jews who escaped the Anschluss (Wittgenstein with a bit more dignity than Popper), but beyond some superficial biogra
Jan 23, 2009 Troy rated it did not like it
Shelves: history
This book was incredibly vapid.

The book is a fluffy soap opera that doesn't attempt to seriously describe either man's thoughts, and what it did describe was subpar to any "Philosophers for Beginners" comic books. The authors' characterization of Wittgenstein vacillated between gross simplification to flat out wrong, yet not only did the authors mis-characterize Wittgenstein's work, but they failed to show how either Wittgenstein or Popper's philosophy changed philosophy (and the world) as we k
Hamid Isfahani
پوپر و ویتگنشتاین دو فیلسوف بزرگ قرن بیستم، تنها یک بار در یکی از انجمنهای دانشگاه کمبریج با هم ملاقات میکنند. این ماجرا، همان طور که از اسم کتاب پیداست، به جدل میکشد. نویسندهی کتاب حاضر تلاش کرده است علتهای این جدل را بررسی کند. در این بررسیها، گاه مسائل فلسفی بیان میشود و گاه مسائل تاریخی و اجتماعی و حتی روانی. کتاب حول یک موضوع واحد میچرخد اما برای بررسی موضوع، از هر دری سخنی میگوید... . ...more
Jul 04, 2016 Apeiron rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite reads this year, it's delightful.

Apparently it's a legendary anecdote: Karl Popper triumphantly debunking the whole foundation of Wittgenstein's philosophy so brutally that the latter, in impotent rage, threatened him with an iron poker and stormed out.

The main reason it's legendary is because Popper himself wouldn't let it die. He was certain he single-handedly overthrew logical positivism and its conviction that there are no real philosophical problems, merely linguistic ri
Dec 26, 2008 Mari rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Those studying Wittgenstein or Popper
Recommended to Mari by: Mel
Recently (re)discovering a keen interest in Wittgenstein and his work, I found myself once again lacking when I tried to confront the material head-on, as it were. I poured over the same books I'd studied in classes (now more than a decade ago) only to find myself asking the same questions. Am I really understanding any of this the way it was intended to be understood?

Then recommendations came from a family member on a more helpful approach to Wittgenstein - that is, approaching from the side. S
Joshua Nomen-Mutatio
I found the historical sketches which were basically book-ended with descriptions of "the poker incident" to be well worth the read. Very interesting little insights into the lesser known (or even thought of) effects of WWI and WWII. I learned some valuable things about European history, specifically the intellectual and political climate of Vienna leading up to and during WWII.

I also got some useful ideas through broad overviews of both Popper's and Wittgenstein's careers of their philosophica
Bob Nichols
The authors take a brief moment in time (Wittgenstein's ten minute confrontation with Popper, his philosophical opponent, which involved a fire poker) as a platform to explain the philosophies, biographies and personalities of these two individuals, and the event's moderator, Russell. Here and there, the authors may engage in some journalistic license to add to the story (e.g., "physically small..., neither man was capable of compromise," which comes off as gratuitous prejudice), but generally t ...more
Anand Gopal
Jul 31, 2008 Anand Gopal rated it liked it
Shelves: philosophy
In 1946 philosopher Karl Popper gave a short lecture addressing the central questions of philosophy to a small audience at Cambridge University. When attendee and legendary philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein stormed off in just ten minutes, apparently bristled by Popper's remarks, the meeting became the stuff of legend.

In this slim volume Edmonds and Edinow, a pair of journalists, attempt to reconstruct the fateful meeting, proceeding in detective-like fashion to uncover the details. They really hi
Greg Brown
Apr 29, 2011 Greg Brown rated it really liked it
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 explorat ...more
Jul 19, 2012 Brandon rated it really liked it
This is a stellar book about a legendary story in academic philosophy: the confrontation between Karl Popper and Ludwig Wittgenstein, two of the twentieth century's biggest philosophers -- and two of the most different.

At a meeting of the Cambridge Moral Sciences Club in 1946, Karl Popper gave a lecture entitled "Are there philosophical problems?", in which he propounded a view which he knew would be directly opposed to Wittgenstein's, who believed that philosophical problems are merely a result
Oct 06, 2012 Koen rated it it was amazing
Di Cambridge, ada klub filsuf serius, yang dinamai Moral Science Club (MSC). Tiap Kamis malam, mereka melakukan diskusi di ruang H3 di King’s College. Tahun 1946 itu, ketua klub tak lain adalah Ludwig Wittgenstein, dengan sekretaris orang Palestina bernama Wasfi Hijab. Di bulan Oktober, Hijab mengundang salah satu filsuf tenar, yang saat itu berposisi di London (LSE): Karl Popper. Popper dan Wittgenstein sama2 berasal dari Austria, dan berkeliaran akibat perang. Namun selama PD II, Popper berada ...more
Ahmad Sharabiani
Wittgenstein's poker: the story of a ten minute argument between two great philosophers, David Edmonds, John Eidinow
عنوان: ویتگنشتاین - پوپر و ماجرای سیخ بخاری: ده دقیقه جدال میان دو فیلسوف بزرگ؛ اثر: دیوید ادموندز؛ جان آدینو؛ مترجم: حسن کامشاد؛ مشخصات نشر: تهران، نشر نی، 1383، در 358 ص، مصور، جدول، عکس، شابک: 9643127230 و 9789643127237، کتابنامه ص 333 تا 341 و به صورت زیرنویس، نمایه دارد، موضوع: لودویگ ویتگنشتاین و کارل ریموند پوپر، فلسفه آلمانی قرن 20 م
Jan 15, 2009 James rated it really liked it
This is notable for its clear presentation of the ideas of both Karl Popper and Ludwig Wittgenstein. I discussed it with our Wednesday Study Group and we all found it insightful and entertaining. The book is very well researched having received praise from some of the foremost Wittgenstein scholars, including Ray Monk who wrote the critically acclaimed biography of Wittgenstein's life. However, it is aimed a general reader and those who are looking for detail discussions and defense of the philo ...more
Dec 14, 2015 David rated it it was amazing
How Nazi Germany and attitudes towards Jews, teaching, Vienna and the Vienna circle (Logical Empiricism) affected two of the greatest philosophers and their place in the 20th century. Cast list of Turing, Godel, Schoenberg, Freud.......
Sep 07, 2014 Tony rated it liked it
Shelves: science
WITTGENSTEIN’S POKER: The Story of a Ten-Minute Argument Between Two Great Philosophers. (2001). David Edmonds & John Eidinow. ***.
This should probably have gotten four stars, but I kept stumbling over characters who were prominent in the world of academia in the mid-1940s that I hadn’t heard of. I was forced to try and keep track of them all since each of them added testimony to what had occurred at Cambridge in October of 1946. The occasion was a guest lecture by Karl Popper – a then renow
David Rush
On October 25,1946, in a crowded room in Cambridge, England, Ludwig Wittgenstein and Karl Popper came face-to-face for the first and only time. The encounter lasted just ten minutes. So these two bigwigs of philosophy had an argument in Cambridge, so why do we care?

I don't know, but it was fun to read about it. Really it is just an excuse to take a superficial tour of that era of philosophy. It seem this Popper character is a big deal with the Philosophy of Science and Wittgenstein was so charis
Jun 05, 2014 Amber rated it really liked it
I've heard some philosophers refer to themselves as either an analytic philosopher or a continental philosopher. I think the divide is more clearly whether one is a student of Popper or a Wittgenstein. That is, whether the divide is necessary or not.

This book was a lot of fun to read. I've become a fan of the short biography and Wittgenstein's Poker offers an interesting, comparative study of two giants in the field. Much context comes in that explores similarities and differences to ask "What
Sep 20, 2012 Christopher rated it it was amazing
I very much enjoyed this book. The authors do a good job in contextualizing the meeting of Popper and Wittgenstein within the history of the continent, the story of their individual lives, and the philosophical projects they were each working on. Philosophy often seems so divorced from life - the authors show that philosophy is integeral in that it has an effect on the men and women who profess it and the organization of society and it's methods.
Jim Parker
Jun 21, 2014 Jim Parker rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An extremely enjoyable book. Actually kind of hard to put down.

Some philosophy in the book but mostly an exploration into the lives and times of Wittgenstein and Popper. Depending of which camp you fall into I image your reading of the book will support your point of view. I think the author of the book though trying to be unbiased would fall into the Wittgenstein camp.

I was fascinated and appalled at the efforts that the Wittgenstein family went through to escape Austria after the takeover by N
Daniel Clark
Sep 09, 2014 Daniel Clark rated it it was ok
I am still a bit confused to the purpose and audience of this book.

The title suggests this to be the story behind an argument between to great thinkers. I was hoping to have a detailed back and forth. I was hoping for a firm winner. As history shows us that neither of my hopes were possible. The argument was too short to fill up a whole book, and one of the people left right when it was getting good.

The majority of the book is a biography of the two philosophers comparing and contrasting their
Michael Anderson
Mar 03, 2015 Michael Anderson rated it really liked it
I bought this in a rush and thought the argument was over a card game. I thought that would be an interesting read. Then I find out the poker belongs in a fireplace, got waved around by Wittgenstein during an argument with Popper over conflicting philosophies, was taken as a threat by Popper, and Wittgenstein stormed from the room. As usual in these sorts of book, most of the space is taken up with histories and relationships of each participant leading up to the incident, in this case, Ludwig W ...more
Sep 15, 2015 Anicius rated it really liked it
(Препрочетена 15.09.2015)
Книгата по-скоро е за 3 звездички заради дразнещата обемност от биографични факти. Не обичам във философски книги да ми разказват живота на философите - искам контекст, искам основни положения във философията.
Но за първи сблъсък с философските възгледи на Витгенщайн, що се отнася до "Трактата" книгата на Едмънс е добър вход, показвайки основната идея на ранния период от творчеството на Витгенщайн, че формалната структура на езика не може да бъде изказана, а само показан
Jul 19, 2016 Brian rated it really liked it
Read this book while on holiday in Portugal. Sounds like a 'heavy' read but not so. Biographical in approach with historical developments through the twentieth century providing a fascinating backdrop, it discusses the philosophical stances of two great Viennese philosophers - Wittgenstein and Popper. The focus is a meeting in Cambridge where the 'poker' brandished by Wittgenstein adopts iconic importance. The book homes in on the meeting to illustrate the differences between the protagonists, s ...more
Mar 14, 2014 M rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although I always like books of the "intellectual history" sort, I might not have even picked this one up at the bookstore if I hadn't been told of the incident for the first time a couple of years ago by an erudite friend - who held a fireplace poker and acted it out with dramatic flair, so that it stuck in my mind. This book is very well-written and manages to convey to the intelligent but ignorant layman like me the gist of the philosophical disagreements involved, as well as weaving into the ...more
Jan 01, 2015 Daphne rated it really liked it
A seemingly unimportant incident with a fire-poker turns into... what? One of the most important moments in the history of philosophy? I was initially skeptical that the face-off (for lack of a better word) between Wittgenstein and Popper, boiled down to the jabbing of the poker in H3 could have much significance. Through the socio-political context given by the author, however, I was wowed by the enormity of the moment. I was also impressed by these two geniuses and how their stories crossed on ...more
Jon Jacobs
Apr 05, 2016 Jon Jacobs rated it it was amazing
For those interested in Wittgenstein this book is a must read. I'm not sure what to say to everyone else about whether they should read the book.

It's an odd book. The book is 294 pages long (at least that is the case with my paperback edition) and it's about an argument that took place at a meeting of the Cambridge Moral Science Club. The argument lasted about 10 minutes and there isn't much agreement about what took place.

I found the book very easy to read and I learned a lot about what went in
Feb 18, 2016 Michael rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy, biography
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 ...more
Jun 02, 2015 Ali rated it it was ok
If you're a serious and regular reader of philosophy and have picked up this book to get to know the thoughts and philosophies of Wittgenstein or Popper better, put down the book and pick up literally any other "beginner's guide to Wittgenstein/Popper" (for Wittgenstein, Wittgenstein: A Very Short Introduction comes to mind) as this book doesn't even try to approach their thoughts and influences on the field of philosophy(and that's good a thing; read on...) and on those rare occasions that it d ...more
Sep 23, 2014 Rama rated it it was ok
Shelves: own
This doesn't work much either as a biography to which it is mostly directed to or as a convincing compilation of historical/personal events in the lives of Popper and Wittgenstein that are pointers to the poker event.

If written as college notes, one could say the following:

Popper - believer in philosophical problems, enjoyed validation, intolerant, grudge-holding, probably conditioned by bourgeois comforts and hardships due to loss thereof, a huge influence on the practical avenues in life but r
Mark Russell
Jun 26, 2012 Mark Russell rated it it was amazing
A dual biography of two of the 20th century's most prominent philosophers, culminating in their infamous confrontation. Karl Popper and Ludwig Wittgenstein were equally brilliant opponents and when the two expatriate Austrians squared off at Cambridge's Moral Science Club in 1946, everyone piled into the room to watch the two toughest kids in school fight. Bertrand Russell held Popper's coat. GE Moore fanned Wittgenstein with a towel.

To Wittgenstein, the most revered philosopher of his generatio
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Goodreads Librari...: Cover problem 2 20 Jan 06, 2012 08:18PM  
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