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Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius.

Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius. New York: Penguin, 1991. xviii + 654 pp. $14.95--From the first page, Monk is faithful to his announced intention: "By describing the life and the work in the one narrative, I hope to make it clear how this work came from this man, to show--what many who read Wittgenstein's work instinctively feel--the unity of his philosophical concerns with his emotional and spiritual life" (p. xviii). With life and thought thus tightly linked, it is doubly important that Monk get the thought right as well as the life; and, with rare exceptions, he does.

Deft interweaving of life and thought is punctuated by perceptive sketches at successive stages of Wittgenstein's philosophical progress. Early pages dwell, for example, on the influence of Kraus, Schopenhauer, and Weininger (pp. 16-25). More frequent philosophical accounts dot the account of the later years, with a page or more given to Sraffa's influence (pp. 260-1); "Some Remarks on Logical Form" (p. 274); discussions with Schlick and Waismann (pp. 284-8, 306-8); Spengler's influence (pp. 299, 302-4); reflections on Frazer's The Golden Bough (pp. 310-11); the lectures that introduced "language-games" (pp. 330-1) and those on "Sense Data and Private Experience" (pp. 355-6); the first installment of Philosophical Investigations (pp. 363-7); Part 1 of Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics (pp. 380-81); the lectures on aesthetics, psychology, and religious belief, and their relation to a play by Rabindranath Tagore (pp. 403-12); lectures on the philosophy of mathematics (pp. 415-22); conversations about Freud (pp. 437-8); wartime work on the philosophy of mathematics (pp. 438-42); thoughts on religion (pp. 463-4); the 1944 shift from mathematics to psychology (pp. 466-9); the second installment of Philosophical Investigations (pp. 477-8); lectures on the philosophy of psychology (pp. 500-2), the lectures that led to Part 2 of Philosophical Investigations (pp. 507-16); their connections with humor, music, and culture (pp. 530-3); final writings on the philosophy of psychology (pp. 536-8); Part 2 of Philosophical Investigations (pp. 544-50); the conversations that initiated On Certainty (pp. 556-8); Goethe and the grammar of color (pp. 561-2); and, finally, On Certainty (pp. 569-71, 578-9), whose last remark was written two days before Wittgenstein died.

The philosophical content of Monk's work is therefore considerable. At the same time, he admirably captures the dark drama of Wittgenstein's life: his adolescent loss of faith, the life-saving discovery of his true calling, the inner transformation of the war years, his vain seeking before his return to philosophy, his troubled relationship with British academe, his estrangement from modern culture, his despairing efforts to perfect both himself and his later book, and the successive loves of his life--chiefly homosexual. On this last topic, of popular interest, an appendix offers a judiciously skeptical appraisal of Bartley's sensational allegations. A bibliography, an index, numerous illustrations, and full references complete this first-rate intellectual biography. As an introduction to Wittgenstein and his work, I know of nothing better.
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Author:Hallett, Garth
Publication:The Review of Metaphysics
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 1, 1992
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