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

3.72 of 5 stars 3.72  ·  rating details  ·  1,579 ratings  ·  132 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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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...more
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...more
Dec 26, 2008 Mari rated it 4 of 5 stars
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...more
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...more
Anand Gopal
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...more
Greg Brown
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
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
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...more
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
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...more
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...more
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
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...more
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
Mark Russell
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...more
This book starts with an encounter between Wittgenstein and Popper which didn´t go well. From this starting point, the author-team describes the political, social and philosophical circumstances preparing and following this encounter.

For students of philosophy, the autobiographies of famous philosophers are normally not important. It may be interesting to read about the several illnesses of Nietzsche or about Kant´s most favourite dishes, but it should´t have an influence on the grasp of their...more
A beginner-friendly and amusing introduction to 20th century philosophy, the study of which can often be so abstruse, and eventually so specialized, that pursuing this subject often only interests the most diehard of academics. However, the setting for this book’s approachable overview of that era’s central philosophical perspectives is the legendary clash between Ludwig Wittgenstein and Karl Popper. When these two intellectual behemoths tangled, the concussion was enough to stun, enrage, and em...more
Read this book in Bulgarian. It was a present to my boyfriend by an American friend, but it turned out my boyfriend already had the exact same copy, so he gave this one to me.

The subject of this very thorough journalistic investigation seemed a bit strange and pretentious to me at first. How can you write a whole book about a ten-minute argument between two men (Wittgenstein and Popper). As I was getting further into the book though, I got more and more fascinated by the story - all the informa...more
Mike Moore
I don't like Simon Winchester. I respect what he tries to do, I don't begrudge him his success, but I don't like his books. I mention this because Wittgenstein's Poker is a perfect example of what I wish Winchester's books would be like. The similarities are fairly striking: historical central characters with strong and belligerent personalities, a historical backdrop that mixes the commonplace with legends of days gone by, large and small events tied together by a narrative that is as much char...more
Wittgenstein's Poker begins with the now legendary confrontation between philosophical heavyweights Ludwig Wittgenstein and Karl Popper, which allegedly resulted in Wittgenstein threatening the latter with a red hot poker before the very eyes of such big shots as Bertrand Russell. The book is an examination of the two intellectuals, their background in Vienna, further intellectual pursuits, and finally the classic confrontation. Occasionally the book comes across as an exercise in appealing to b...more
Not sure exactly what to say about this book. Unlike "Rousseau's Dog," the first book I read by this pair, this book left me... wanting more, I suppose. It could just be that it's harder to grasp the philosophy in this one. Hume is fairly deep, but I was already familiar with his ideas on causality when I read "Rousseau's Dog", and Rousseau is not especially hard to grasp either. But Wittgenstein... well, here's an anecdote from the book. Wittgenstein wrote his major work, the only one published...more
Patricia Joynton
Read this is English. Wittgenstein's Poker. Was a 10 minute argument between Wittgenstein and Karl Popper. Wittgenstein gets top billing. They are both egotistical men. This was when I was a thinking woman.

From Wikipedia:
Wittgenstein's Poker: The Story of a Ten-Minute Argument Between Two Great Philosophers is a 2001 book by BBC journalists David Edmonds and John Eidinow about events in the history of philosophy involving Sir Karl Popper and Ludwig Wittgenstein, leading to a confrontation at the...more
I almost did not buy this book because I was intimidated by its title. My knowledge of philosphy is scant,limited to the few classes I attended as an engineering underegrad. People who know a lot about philoshpy may be disappointed by this book, but I found it very interesting - like a historical novel.
The authors walk you through the events of early twentieth century Austria and Germany to discuss how they may have influenced these two philosphers, from the assimilation of Jews in the Austrian...more
I'm kind of like the philosophy version of that stupid kid in middle school who asks, "But when am I ever going to use algebra, anyway?" I'm really not interested in philosophical discussion... except when I am. This is really a four-star book, but I'm only a three-star reader.

The book was very interesting and engaging, but can't be read in snippets while talking about pirate dinosaurs, so it took me rather a long time to read. It's full of names I'll never remember and arguments I didn't try to...more
The University of Pittsburgh often boasts that it has the second-best philosophy department in the U.S. The two courses I took - Social Philosophy and Medieval - lacked a certain historical element. Major theories were developed in an apparent vacuum. Clearly I should have taken History of Philosophy courses, but I saw no distinction. Like poetry, philosophy often needs context to make any sense. Thus, WITTGENSTEIN'S POKER.

It's almost refreshing to learn that Ludwig Wittgenstein, Karl Popper and...more
For several reasons, this book is worth reading, but it's not for everyone. The portraits of these two men--one clearly larger-than-life and the other aspiring to be so (in academia at least)--were fascinating and well-told. Their philosophical differences were also explained without dumbing them down too much. The book's structure was unique, although not universally a strength. I like the way the author began by teasing the drama of their famous 10-minute argument, but then delved into their b...more
Duncan Berry
When I first ran across this title it was in German which, to my mind, was peculiar due to the clearly British origins of the authors.

At any rate, having spent a post-grad year at the University of Vienna and having been enthralled with Toulmin and Janik's account of Wittgenstein's Vienna since the early '80s, I secured a copy of the German version and was unable to put it down until I had finished it! It was an exhilarating read, and as such, it was hardly an exercise in plumbing the depths of...more
This was a fun book to read. As the title says, it tells the story of a brief argument between two of the 20th century's most influential philosophers: Karl Popper and Ludwig Wittgenstein. In telling the story of that argument, it becomes a biography, telling their individual stories: growing up in Vienna, living through the second world war, developing their ideas and so on. The bulk of the book is more biography, though near the end there are a few chapters on their philosophies. They disagree...more
Monkey C
Aug 04, 2007 Monkey C rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: poets, philosophers, history channel buffs
Starring Ludwig Wittgenstein as Goliath and Karl Popper as David. Co-starring Bertrand Russell as the man who brought the demon into existence and then later called for his exorcism. Biography, history, sociology, and philosophy all get thrown into a pot with Anti-Semitic Jews, Nazis, homosexuality and detective novels, reaching a boiling point when the two meet at a stuffy philosophical society. It erupts into a flurry of arguments and accusations, ending with a poker drawn from the fire used t...more
I could have skipped to chapter 18 and read to the end and been happy. I'm not interested in Popper (yawn) and the background information about Wittgenstein was oddly focused on the dullest things. It was interesting to learn of his association with Keynes--who has been getting a lot more media play these days because of the economic bailout. I'll probably read A Treatise on Probability now. It was kind of amusing to find out Wittgenstein admired Agatha Christie. (I think I chuckled.)

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