Ludwig Wittgenstein on Race, Gender, and Cultural Identity. Philosophy as a Personal Endeavor

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This book challenges conventional portraits of Ludwig Wittgenstein that narrowly depict him as a philosopher’s philosopher. Rather, this study demonstrates Wittgenstein’s engagement with social, ethical and cultural questions, including aspects of otherness.


“In the early 1930s Wittgenstein wrote several remarks about his own Jewishness and about Jewishness in general. When these remarks were published in 1977, I heard a Viennese philosopher say, ‘He should have known better than to write such things.’ This attitude is also taken by Ray Monk, a fine biographer of Wittgenstein. Szabados, in a distinguished piece of analysis, shows us just how superficial is this reading of the texts in question. This alone makes the book worth having.” – Prof. Steven Burns, Dalhousie University

“Szabados has written an intelligent and sensitive book that surveys and takes seriously the wide range of so- called “cultural” remarks by Wittgenstein on topics such as autobiography, women, Judaism, music, morality, and religion. . . . This necessary book about the essential unity of Wittgenstein’s work is full of striking insights into Wittgenstein’s life, motivations, and thought.” – Prof. James C. Klagge, Virginia Tech University

“ By examining the nooks and crannies of Wittgenstein’s thought, Szabados illuminates many important philosophical issues and throws much needed light on the nature of the mind . . .” – Prof. Andrew Lugg, University of Ottawa

"If you already have a special interest in Wittgenstein, this is surely one to add to your reading list. But even if Wittgenstein, his personal history and his writings, are not among your [s]pecial interests, it is still one that you should find rewarding for the stimulas that it may provide to further philosophical as well as autobiographical thinking about your own relations to philosophy." -- Prof. Alan Montefiore, Balliol College, Oxford

Table of Contents

Preface by Steven Burns
1. Autobiography and Philosophy: Variations on a Theme of Wittgenstein
The Philosophical and the Personal
Similarities between Autobiography and Philosophy
Working on Oneself
Self-Deception and Philosophy
Philosophy as Mirror
Shared Sources
The Disappearance of the Self
Running in the Family
The Philosopher as Stranger
2. Wittgenstein and Autobiography
Wittgenstein and Literature
The Eclipse of Traditional Autobiography: Wittgenstein Reads
Saint Augustine and Rousseau
God, Autobiography and Philosophy
Writing Objectively About Oneself?
Wittgenstein Reads Notes from Underground
The Fear of Living a Lie: Practical Implications of Autobiography
Life as a Poem: Rorty and Autobiographical Remaking
Envois: Related but Different Therapies
3. Wittgenstein’s Women
Wittgenstein as Misogynist
The Idea of Woman in the Western Philosophical Tradition
The Wittgenstein/Weininger Riddle
A Change in Our Own Attitude
Dangerous Phrases
What is so Great about Weininger?
Sex as a Violation of the Categorical Imperative
Differences: Sow a Seed in my Soil and it Will Grow Differently
4. Wittgenstein’s Judaica: The Significance of Anti-Semitism
for Wittgenstein’s Philosophy
The Portrait of Wittgenstein as Anti-Semite
Wittgenstein’s Judaica
The Personal and the Philosophical Again
Weininger and Wittgenstein on Characterology
Wittgenstein in Transit
Was Wittgenstein a Philo-Semite?
5. Wittgenstein Listens to Mahler: Music and Philosophy in the Breakdown of Tradition
Questions from Sparshott
Why is Mahler’s Music Worthless? Wittgenstein on Mahler
Wittgenstein’s Music Criticism: A Wagnerian Resonance?
Musical Self-Deception: Hearing Mahler in Mahler’s Music
Breakdown of Tradition: Music and Philosophy Family Differences
Tensions and Attempts at their Resolution
6. Was Wittgenstein a Closet Moral Philosopher?
Self-Deception and Ethical Orientation
Rupture: The “Two Wittgensteins” Solution
Is the Later Wittgenstein Silent About Ethics?
Rupture Denial: The New Wittgensteinians
Ethics and the Early Wittgenstein
Ethics and the Later Wittgenstein
The Sense of Ethics: Anti-Theory, Methods and Examples
Struggles with Self-Deception: Moral and Aesthetic Contexts
Does Wittgenstein Bypass the “Real Problem” About Self-Deception?
Retrieving the Language-Game
Wittgenstein’s Ethical Orientation: Encounters with the Perfect One
Self-Deception and Philosophy
7. After Religion: Reading Kai Nielsen Reading Wittgenstein
The Early Portrait of Wittgenstein on Religion
The Recent Portrait: Wittgenstein as an Atheistic Friend of Fideism
Fideism and its Vicissitudes
Culture and the Possibility of Religion
Biography and Philosophy
Throwing Doctrine Overboard or a Fresh Perspective on Doctrine?
Quietism or a Different Pursuit of Justice?

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