Monday, June 18, 2007
A Fact About The Philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein # 4
In early December 1941, Wittgenstein saw the cartoon short, All This And Rabbit Stew; he left the cinema in a state of desperate shock. He wrote in his diary that night: "If philosophy does not laugh, then what does it do?" He composed a short essay, which was never published, denouncing the cartoon.
But two months later he had a change of heart and wrote: "A serious and good philosophical work could be written consisting entirely of jokes." He became obsessed with Merrie Melody shorts, especially All This And Rabbit Stew, and by the time of his death was one of the largest private collectors of early Bugs Bunny memorabilia.
In 1943, Wittgenstein invited Bertrand Russell, John Maynard Keynes, and some promising students up to his large Cambridge office, where he told them he was to share a great discovery. The guests sat rapt at attention, while Wittgenstein stood before them, silent, for fifteen minutes, gnawing on some carrots with obvious distaste. He then pulled out a portable projector from behind a coat-rack, and showed All This And Rabbit Stew. When the film was finished, he left without a word.
As Wittgenstein was dying, he had a projector set up in his cottage, and would watch the film at least once a day. He was found dead as the credits of All This And Rabbit Stew were rolling, on April 29th, 1951. A sheet of loose paper sat in his lap, with drawings of rabbits and ducks filling almost every bit of white space. Scrawled in the lower corner - perhaps the last words Wittgenstein ever wrote - was this: "I have finally understood! That RASCALLY RABBIT!"