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Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius Paperback – November 1, 1991
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
- Leon H. Brody, U.S. Office of Personnel Management Lib., Washington, D.C.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
Monk's is a tough job. If you know anything about Wittgenstein, you know he is enigmatic - both in terms of his personality and lifestyle, and also his perplexing, yet genius, philosophical views. Yet Monk presents both in as transparent a manner as is perhaps possible, given the nature of his subject. The book is eminently readable, which makes it length a ~positive~ feature. For example, I read the book a chapter at a time, to savour it. The readability comes in large part through Monk's extensive quotations from Wittgenstein's own diary and letters, and the letters of those who corresponded with him. This means that one is transported back to Wittgenstein's world, instead of reading just the dry prose of a biographer (Monk's own writing, of course, is anything but dry).
Most importantly, though, Monk presents Wittgenstein in such a way that many people will be able to befriend this incredible and mysterious man. Wittgenstein was driven by passions - his need to express his thought in a way intelligible and meaningful to others drove him close to suicide on several occasions. He was a man deeply in need of feeling that he was 'understood' - both philosophically and humanly - which were the same for him. (Thus his mentor for a time Bertrand Russell failed on both accounts, as Monk finely illustrates). He loved his friends and detested all things which he considered base.Read more ›
Contrary to the one reviewer below, the Bartley biography is one of the most notorious and irresponsible biographies of any philosopher of the 20th century. It is a travesty of scholarship, and an embarrassment to anyone with an critical eye. It is no secret that Wittgenstein was gay, but Bartley tries to prove (with no proof existing to this effect) that Wittgenstein engaged in a kind of sexual activity of the most promiscuous kind. His proof is of the sort: some guy I ran into in a gay bar in Manchester said he knew a guy who looked like Wittgenstein who liked to take rough boys out for a bit of fun. In short, we are not told who these sources were, which means that they cannot be further assessed as to reliability and veracity, not to mention the fact that his depiction of Wittgenstein contrasts markedly with what we know of Wittgenstein from well-documented sources. Not exactly the kind of evidence that scholars like to utilize in making their assertions. The Bartley biography suffers in equal parts from a lack of philosophical understanding on the part of Bartley and a willingness to credit the flimsiest sort of hearsay.
The Toulmin and Janik book is much better than the Bartley (I am somewhat biased as I took two seminars with Toulmin), but it is an attempt to articulate Wittgenstein's intellectual and cultural background, and is more of a supplement to a biography rather than actually being a biography.
The Monk biography is wonderfully human biography, which makes Wittgenstein come alive as a flesh and bone individual. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in Wittgenstein or in 20th century philosophy.
Ray Monk is professor of philosophy at the University of Southampton in England. He studied Wittgenstein at Oxford University, and has also written an extensive biography about Russell. In an interview I did with Monk for a Norwegian newspaper, Monk emphasized that he admired Wittgenstein's intensity, and that he sees two important traits in Wittgenstein's personality: (1) his demand for intellectual clarity, (2) his demand for ethical perfection.
The book gives you insight into the person and philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. One learns that Wittgenstein's life and philosophy are intimately connected, and one may wonder whether it is possible to understand Wittgenstein's work without knowing something about his life. Monk describes how the young Wittgenstein came into philosophy from engineering and mathematics. Wittgenstein showed an intense interest in philosophical problems, as Betrand Russell said "he had to understand or die". Wittgenstein studied in Cambridge, lived as a hermit in Norway, was a soldier under the first world war, a school teacher in Austria and professor in Cambridge. Monk describes Wittgenstein's life, and one may see how his life and philosophy are connected - for instance how the last part of Tractatus may be understood in light of the fact that Wittgenstein devloped a religious attitude to life and read Tolstoy intensively during the first world war.
Wittgenstein was a true philosopher. He gave himself to the problems, and he truly struggled with them. The book may be very inspiring for serious scholars in many fields, as well as writers, poets, philosophy students and many others.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Reading this has helped me understand the Tractatus A lot better. I don't like bios for the most part but this one was very interesting. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Eric William Staeger
Book was in excellent condition, and it is a great read if you are at all interested in Wittgenstein! Overall, no complaints.Published 6 months ago by Miranda Bronicki
Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius (1990), by Ray Monk, is a superb biography that illuminates both the life and the work of a modern genius. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Roy E. Perry
I loved the book just as I love the man. Much of his philosophical writing & all his math are over my head. But when I do understand I find myself mostly in full agreement. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Thomas M. Lane
makes about as much sense as ludwig. but interesting stuff about his eras.Published 8 months ago by marc l. resnick
Monk wrote a highly detailed account of Wittgenstein that is a force to be reckoned with......five stars.Published 8 months ago by LondonDreamer