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Wittgenstein's Vienna Paperback – September 1, 1996


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Wittgenstein's Vienna + Fin-De-Siecle Vienna: Politics and Culture + A Nervous Splendor: Vienna 1888-1889
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 315 pages
  • Publisher: Ivan R. Dee (September 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1566631327
  • ISBN-13: 978-1566631327
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.7 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #491,421 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

A brilliantly conceived project admirably brought off. (Peter Caws)

A striking premise...challenging, new, and useful. (The New York Times)

About the Author

Allan Kanik is now at the Research Institute of the Brenner Archives at the University of Innsbruck in Austria. Stephen Toulmin teaches philosophy at the University of Southern California.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Esquire on November 15, 2001
Format: Paperback
From the turn of the century until the Nazi Anschluss Vienna was a city of amazing artistic and intellectual creativity. The psychological theories of Freud and Adler, the final development of "Jugendstil" or "art nouveau" in art and architecture, authors such as Schnitzler, Friedell, Kraus and Altenberg, the philosophic and scientific thinking of the Vienna Circle, the "Kaffeehaus" culture...this was all a part of Wittgenstein's Vienna. Vienna at this time was truly a phenomenon, exceeding any other city (including Berlin and Paris) in its intellectual and cultural ferveur. This book discusses this phenomenon with a view towards its effects on Wittgenstein and his philosophy. It is well-researched and scholarly in style, i.e. no tourist book. For a more biographical approach, "The Duty of Genius" by Ray Monk is also excellent.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Peter Czipott on November 15, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book is indeed a model for the writing of intellectual and cultural history. The manner in which it unites its disparate threads -- plastic arts, music, literature, philosophy, politics -- is breathtaking. Such other classics as Carl Schorske's _Fin-de-Siecle Vienna_ pale by comparison, precisely because the unification of different themes is not carried out with such panache or such success. Janik and Toulmin top off their cultural history with a convincing demonstration that Wittgenstein's thought is most important precisely where it departs from the analytic tradition it helped spawn: that is, where it points _beyond_ the limits of language and analysis.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By D. R. Greenfield on August 28, 2005
Format: Paperback
As someone with a strong interest in modern philosophy as well as modern classical music, art and literature, I received more honest pleasure and enlightenment from reading this book than from any other book in recent memory. It is not per se a book about Wittgenstein, but rather an in-depth analysis of the milieu and mind-set of Vienna and its cultural elite circa 1900. Before immersing yourself into this delightful book, it might be a good idea to review the history of Austria-Hungary, how it came to be, the key events surrounding it, the emporer Franz Josef, and the territories which made up the dual monarchy. It also helps if you have some acquaintance with the German language, since German terms are used liberally throughout, often without denoting what those terms mean in English. Not being familiar with German, I found this mildly annoying, but certainly not enough to dampen my enthusiasm for this book.

Some of the most interesting sections of the book concern Viennese social philosophers and the artists whose works were a commentary on the corruption of the "gilded age": Otto Weininger, Kokoschka, Klimt, Schoenberg, Fritz Mauthner, and of course the unforgettable Karl Krauss. There is also a lengthy section on the scientific work of Mach and Hertz, the development of Hertz's "model" theory and its influence on Wittgenstein's Tractatus, as well as a beautifully written synopsis of Schopenhaur's philosophy.

And this is only the barest overview of a stupendously rich and rewarding book, one which all thoughtful people should and must read. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Robert J. Crawford on April 15, 2006
Format: Paperback
This is a dazzlingly dense intellectual history of a time when there was an explosion of new ideas in both the arts and sciences. The place was Vienna, at the end of the Habsburg monarchy, where not only Sigmund Freud (psychlology) but also Loos (design), Schoenberg (music), Kochoscka (painting), and many others were establishing what we now call "modernism." It is also a philosophical tract of great depth, focusing on Wittgenstein. What is so remarkable is how commonplace their ideas and techniques have become in our everyday vocabulary - think "unconscious", but also "form follows function" - and how they all originated there, at the end of the 19C.

According to the authors, the starting point of the modernist movement is to be found in the deterioration of the Habsburg monarchy, spread as it was across a vast central european empire with dozens of languages and ethnic groups. To keep it all together in the face of rising nationalisms, the Habsburgs strove to maintain appearences of power and cohesion at all costs. This created a kind of living falsehood, in which issues were avoided by the use of code words and empty symbolic rituals.

Add to this the rise of new bourgeois fortunes, whereby a new middle classe arose based on industries. They too constructed their own private worlds within their homes, mimicing the Habsburgs and ignoring issues - in particular sexuality - to the point that it generated a latent hysteria in its women and anxiety in the working men, whose children despised them as fakes. Their houses were studded with overly ornate decorations, which were designed to ape the lifestyles of aristocrats, and they lived by elaborate codes of conduct and narrow career choices.
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20 of 25 people found the following review helpful By henrique fleming on August 25, 1998
Format: Paperback
I propose that this book be read simultaneously with "The Conscience of Words", by Elias Canetti. They cover about the same theme, Toulmin's, analytically, Canetti's, poetically. Prepare yourself to an intellectual feast!
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