Wednesday, June 13, 2007
A fact about the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein
One night Wittgenstein broke into Bertrand Russell's estate, made himself a cup of tea, and sat in Russell's bedroom, watching the older philosopher sleep. When Russell woke up in the morning, he noticed the young eccentric and let out a shocked yelp. Wittgenstein calmly asked Russell if he'd ever watched a Bugs Bunny cartoon, and if he had, did it make him think of how philosophy should be practiced? Russell blinked a couple times and asked, "Ludwig, can't this wait until I've gotten out of bed?" Wittgenstein was confused: "Well, you wouldn't be in bed then, would you?"
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I'm not sure if that last response of Wittgenstein's makes any sense, but funny/interesting nonetheless.
So says Russell, in the second volume of his autobiography. Rhees, however, in vol. 19 of his unpublished diaries, pp. 238-239, gives Wittgenstein's side of the story. Russell, it seems, had already leapt out of bed and was standing when he shouted "Ludwig, can't this wait until I've gotten out of bed?" Thus, Wittgenstein's retort. Rhees confides that Wittgenstein broke down and wept at that point, a fact that Russell delicately omits from his published account.
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