New Statesman, 18 October 1974

Wittgenstein never did much to encourage the fossicking of amateurs, and in particular loathed phrase-making dilettantes. Yet people of a literary turn with no training in or indeed capacity for rigorous philosophy (let me hasten to include myself among them) will probably go on finding him of high interest. He said that we shouldn’t be seduced by language-an admonition which will continue being useful to those whose business it is to be seduced by language every day of the week. Wittgenstein is The Cure. He is a rhetorician’s way of going on the wagon.

This new volume of letters to Russell, Keynes and Moore is a companion piece for the slim collection of letters to Ogden and Ramsay. Those, being mainly technical, were stiff going for the non-professional. These-especially the substantial sheaf of letters to Russell-are of much more various interest. The reader will find himself drawn to speculate about all aspects of Wittgenstein’s strange life. The problem of his personality is, I am sure, eventually insoluble, but that doesn’t mean people are going to stop trying.

Most of the letters to Russell stem from the years 1912-21-i.e., from the first Cambridge period up until the publication of the Tractatus. In 1922 came a break in their relationship, of the same kind that severed Wittgenstein from G. B. Moore in Norway in 1914. (Apparently he also quarrelled with Russell in 1914, but Russell’s part of that exchange is not available.) All the intensity of Wittgenstein’s focussed intellect is there from the first moment: ‘There is nothing more wonderful in the world than the true problems of Philosophy’. Engelmann was quite right in saying that thinking was Wittgenstein’s poetry. ‘I feel like mad’. He accuses himself of having ‘half a talent’ for thought.

Entire review here.

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