Language and Solitude: Wittgenstein, Malinowski and the Habsburg Dilemma
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Ernest Gellner (1925-1995) has been described as "one of the last great central European polymath intellectuals." In this, his last book, he throws new light on two key figures of the twentieth century: the philosopher Wittgenstein, and Malinowski, founder of modern British social anthropology. Gellner shows how the thought of both men grew from a common background of assumptions about human nature, society, and language. He ties together themes that preoccupied him, epitomizing his belief that philosophy--far from "leaving everything as it is"--is about important historical, social and personal issues.
effective in this if the social and intellectual climate had not been so favourable ± but it was. It ensured that this vision was deeply and powerfully internalised in the hearts and minds of men ± those it favoured, but equally, or perhaps even more, those it rejected. It condemned them to self-hatred and selfhatred was their lot: as many of them had very considerable literary talents, they expressed and recorded it with eloquence. Most of the audience were of course not placed quite so
crawling over a mosaic and noting its repetitiveness. The Tractatus suggests the opposite: that is why its author feels such ennui with the world, and that is also why he is wrong. The world has structure or, rather, complex multiple structures of all kinds: the bits we bump up against are connected in all kinds of ways with other bits, and it is the exploration of these connections which makes up life and endows it with excitement. The structure is much more than the summation of propositions
populist: our conceptual customs are valid precisely because they are parts of a cultural custom. It is not merely the case that no other validation is available: no other validation is either possible or necessary. The very pursuit of such extra-cultural validation is the error of thought. Custom is all we have, all we can have, and all we need. And this use of the populist idea was both paradoxical and original. Never before was the use of populism so ambitious. Tolstoy may have thought that
ultimate, as a kind of new ultimate visual ®eld. So the solitude of the visual ®eld (co-extensive with both self and world) is replaced by the solitude of culture . . . There always has to be an ultimate base. It must be more than theoretical or tentative; it must represent a better and indubitable kind of truth. In the Tractatus, logical form, and the mystical, must be shown and not asserted, and are thus placed beyond either support or contestation. Wittgenstein appeared to have a psychic need
particularly pathogenic, means. These ideas and attitudes were there anyway, pervasive and in¯uential. Many men, under their in¯uence, would have felt ashamed to allow cold, barren reason dictate their affective life or their musical taste. There was no clear reason why one should not also extend this style to one's political life. And indeed many people did. Given this pervasive and in¯uential background picture, the idea that what would otherwise be praiseworthy intellectual achievement becomes