Sunday, March 28, 2010
Wittgenstein and "careers"
Speaking of creative types having "careers," I was interested to learn a few things about Wittgenstein's view of the matter from Severin Schroeder's review, published in the March 19th TLS, of Wittgenstein in Cambridge: Letters and Documents, 1911-1951. You'll love this!
"His high opinion of manual labour and his reservations about academic teaching are reflected in his encouragement of his former student Rush Rhees's decision to take on work in a factory, and later, in Rhees's fear of Wittgenstein's disapproval when he had given up his factory work for a temporary post at Swansea University (because his 'welding kept on being bad.')"
I guess it takes someone with an academic career to advise somebody to get a real life. Less competition that way?
Here's more fun stuff about the old master -
He had a big paradigm change owing to an experience with the Italian economist Piero Sraffa, whom Keynes had brought to Cambridge. The two didn't get along that well, but were in touch over a long period of time till Sraffa quit the relationship.
"To a pupil Wittgenstein described how Sraffa broke the hold on him of his earlier view that a sign and what it stands for must have the same logical form - by making a Neopolitan gesture of contempt, brushing his chin with his fingertips, and asking: 'What is the logical form of that?'. Wittgenstein said that Sraffa made him feel like a tree stripped of its leaves."
And looking back over his damaged relationship with Sraffa, Wittgeinstein wrote this:
"The older I grow the more I realize how terribly difficult it is for people to understand each other, and I think that what misleads one is the fact that they all look so much like each other. If some people looked like elephants and others like cats, or fish, one wouldn't expect them to understand each other and things would look much more like what they really are."
Was he blind??!!
Anyway, the book looks marvy; but the thing is that like most, er, academic books, it's expensive. In fact, it costs as much as the entire multi-volume set of Eigner's poems that everyone says costs too much. I still say it's one of the biggest bargains around.