|Poker Poems (in 3/4 time) more|
Wittgenstein, who had been awarded a medal for bravery in the First World War, was forced to buy his family out by the Second; they were considered Jewish by the Nuremberg Laws. In Ury's poem Adolf Hitler substitutes Karl Popper, contender for the philosopher's crown, in a notorious poker game of words with Wittgenstein that took place during a Moral Science Club Seminar 1946, in Cambridge, England. It was the only time that the two emigrant Austrian Jews were to meet. Their views were diverging; where Wittgenstein aspired to decipher puzzles, Popper aimed to solve problems. This was for him more than the mere untangling of linguistic equations; Popper believed that philosophy should be practical, that a philosopher's moral duty was to assist in the realisation of democratic rule. He felt that Wittgenstein's theory of language was dangerous in its abstraction and disinterest of political actualities. The war was only just over; England was still living under rationing. It was cold and the only source of heat in H3, the room where the dispute took place, was from a small open fireplace. A fierce vocal exchange, which quickly developed into a serious duelling of words, occurred within moments of the debate opening. Wittgenstein seeking to illustrate a point seized the poker, hot from the fire and appeared to threaten Popper with it. While wishing to demonstrate their supremacy in the field of philosophy, Wittgenstein and Popper will nonetheless have reminded each other, of philosophy's failure in the face of Hitler's brute power. Was this the true cause of their conflict?
"In Jewish terms, he (Wittgenstein) could be seen as a traditional
wilderness-wandering tsaddik, a holy man." (P.18: Wittgenstein's
Poker, Edmonds and Eidinow, 2001 Faber and Faber UK). Wittgenstein,
who was probably a latent homosexual, embodied everything anathema to
the principle in Hitler's National Socialist civilization.