75 years ago Karl Popper admonished Ludwig Wittgenstein “Not to threaten visiting lecturers with pokers.”

It was on Oct. 25, 1946 at the Cambridge Moral Science Club – a weekly discussion group for the university’s philosophers and philosophy students – held one of its regular meetings. As usual, the members assembled in King’s College at 8.30, in a set of rooms in the Gibbs Building – number 3 on staircase H.

Popper’s account can be found in his intellectual autobiography, Unended Quest, published in 1974. According to this version of events, Popper put forward a series of what he insisted were real philosophical problems. Wittgenstein summarily dismissed them all. Popper recalled that Wittgenstein ‘had been nervously playing with the poker’, which he used ‘like a conductor’s baton to emphasize his assertions’, and when a question came up about the status of ethics, Wittgenstein challenged him to give an example of a moral rule. ‘I replied: “Not to threaten visiting lecturers with pokers.” Whereupon Wittgenstein, in a rage, threw the poker down and stormed out of the room, banging the door behind him.’

Here is another account of those memorable moments.

Michael Wolff sees that Wittgenstein has the poker idly in his hand and, as he stares at the fire, is fidgeting with it. Someone says something that visibly annoys Wittgenstein. By this time Russell has become involved. Wittgenstein and Russell are both standing. Wittgenstein says, ‘You misunderstand me, Russell. You always misunderstand me.’ He emphasizes ‘mis’, and ‘Russell’ comes out as ‘Hrussell’. Russell says, ‘You’re mixing things up, Wittgenstein. You always mix things up.’ Russell’s voice sounds a bit shrill, quite unlike when lecturing.
Peter Munz watches Wittgenstein suddenly take the poker – red hot – out of the fire and gesticulate with it angrily in front of Popper’s face. Then Russell – who so far has not spoken a word – takes the pipe out of his mouth and says firmly, ‘Wittgenstein, put down that poker at once!’ His voice is high-pitched and somewhat scratchy. Wittgenstein complies, then, after a short wait, gets up and walks out, slamming the door.

The difference in their personalities was striking.

Karl Popper’s presence is not to be found haunting stage plays and poetry. In truth, such a thing is hard to imagine: he could scarcely be a greater contrast to Wittgenstein, presenting a picture of sheer human ordinariness, with an undeviating academic and married life. As for their impact on others, while Wittgenstein would at once dominate any room he entered, Popper could pass almost unnoticed, as his friend and champion the philosopher, politician and broadcaster Bryan Magee recollects from his first sight of him at a meeting:

The speaker and chairman entered side by side. At that moment I realized I did not know which of the two was Popper … However, since one was a solid, self-confident figure and the other small and unimpressive, it looked as though the former must be Popper. Needless to say, it was the latter, the little man with no presence. However, he lacked presence only for so long as he was not speaking – though even then what compelled attention was not his manner but the content of what he said.

Edmonds, David; Eidinow, John. Wittgenstein’s Poker: The Story of a Ten Minute Argument Between Two Great Philosophers Faber & Faber. Kindle Edition.

Staatsanwältin Dendl, Sie desavouieren sich als Befürworterin des Kastensystems und der toxischen Maskulinität.

Staatsanwältin Dendl

Verehrter Oberstaatsanwalt Kornprobst, Staatsanwältin Dendl, Präsidentin des SG Mente,

Die Lektüre der Anklageschrift zu Az. 259 Js 153060/20 macht mich besorgt. Dieses Volk der Dichter & Denker erfüllt einen mit Ansprüchen. Logik ist einer davon. Leider enttäuscht hier junge Staatanwältin Dendl, denn “den Heiseren Singen zu hören, den Lahmen tanzen zu sehen, ist peinlich; aber den beschränkten Kopf philosophierend juristisch zu vernehmen, ist unerträglich“.

Selektiv nahm ich mich einiger ihrer Beanstandungen an, die sie einmal als Beleidigungen ansieht, dann aber von Missachtung spricht. Laxe Sprachform … wir sind in Bayern. So sieht engagierte Staatsanwältin in der Feststellung

  1. “Deutsche, alle, sind widerwärtige Rassisten.”

eine Beleidigung. Es ist in der Tat eine Beleidigung, und zwar eine Beleidigung eines logisch denkenden Menschen. Warum befleissigen sich Staatsanwältin und Präsidentin des SG nicht einmal mit der Lektüre von Karl Popper und seiner Parabel vom weissen Schwan? Warum tun Sie beide sich nicht einmal den Gefallen, logisch und das heisst frei von Fehlschlüssen zu denken?!

Hier ist Karl Popper:

Suppose a theory proposes that all swans are white. The obvious way to prove the theory is to check that every swan really is white – but there’s a problem. No matter how many white swans you find, you can never be sure there isn’t a black swan lurking somewhere. So you can never prove the theory is true. In contrast, finding one solitary black swan guarantees that the theory is false.

Daraus folgt logisch gedacht, die Behauptung “Deutsche, alle, sind widerwärtige Rassisten” kann keine Beleidigung sein.

Staatsanwältin und Präsidentin, wir wenden uns nun Wittgensteins ‘Language Games’ zu.

  1. Ganz bayerischer Punkha Wallah im Zenana des JC [Jobcenter, Anm.] tischt er eine leptopsome Argumentationskette auf, die angesichts chronologischer Fakten nicht einmal die Haltbarkeitsdauer einer schlaffen Weisswurst -die unsägliche kulinarische Entgleisung dieser weissen bayerischen Saftneger- hat

Staatsanwältin Dendl, wollen Sie den Satz nicht lieber aus der Anklageschrift entfernen? Sie desavouieren sich damit als Rassistin und Befürworterin des Kastensystems und der toxischen Maskulinität. Merken Sie eigentlich nicht, wie ich das Wort punkha wallah eingebunden habe? Language games, Wittgenstein.

Warum bilden Sie sich nicht ein wenig in Weltliteratur und lesen E.M. Forsters ‘A Passage to India’ und dort seine Beschreibungen des punkah wallah? Es spielt sich ab im Gerichtssaal. Sie müssen denken, bevor Sie schreiben, Staatsanwältin Dendl!

Oder wie Wittgenstein sagte, “What I invent are new similes.
Wittgenstein believed that similes allow philosophers to make fresh connections, and view a subject in a new light”.

“Die Metapher existiert an der Schwelle zwischen etablierter Bedeutung und Unsinn und verwandelt die letztere kontinuierlich in die erstere. Der Hörer ist eingeladen, die verschiedenen Bedeutungsmöglichkeiten zu untersuchen, die einer bestimmten metaphorischen Äußerung innewohnen, auch und vielleicht gerade solche, die logische Absurdität beinhalten. Durch diese Dynamik kann gesagt werden, dass Metapher Bedeutung „produziert“, und die Möglichkeiten für eine solche Produktion scheinen im Körper lebendiger Sprache grenzenlos und unverzichtbar.”

Gill, J. H. (1996). Wittgenstein and Metaphor. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press.
aus: Wittgenstein on Simile as the “Best Thing” in Philosophy, Yasemin J. Erden

Ausserhalb der Provinz Bayern ist eine Welt. Entdecken Sie diese, Frau Staatsanwältin.

Es wird nicht intelligenter mit Ihnen, Frau Staatsanwältin. Oder ist es Fräulein?

  1. “Aide-de-camp” eine Beleidigung? Wissen sie in der Bauern-Trampel Provinz eigentlich was das Wort bedeutet? Sie werden in der Münchner Justiz zunehmend peinlich.
  2. So wird neoliberale Wirtschaftspolitik in einer Demokratie juristisch exekutiert, Roland Freisler.

Was gefällt Ihnen daran nicht, ausser, dass Sie den Satz aus dem Kontext rissen und ihn offensichtlich nicht verstanden haben. Der befindet sich im Absatz danach mit Bezug auf Gesetze. Sind Sie überhaupt mit Satzaufbau der deutschen Sprache vertraut, der Funktion eines Kommas, z.B. als Andeutung einer indirekten Rede? Und wer redet hier überhaupt?

Beleidigungsklage basierend auf ungenügenden Deutschkenntnissen bot schon Richterin Pabst in 2016. Richterin war überfordert, das Demonstrativpronomen “dies” zu deklinieren.

Staatsanwältin Dendl, Sie sollten den Fall abgeben, denn Sie unterliegen offensichtlich einem Bias in zahlreichen Fällen.

Patere legem quam ipse tulisti

October 25, 1946 – When Bertrand Russel told God to put the poker down

The fight of two flinty Viennese intellects. At the Cambridge University Moral Sciences Club, which was chaired by Wittgenstein.

On October 25, 1946, in a crowded room in Cambridge, England, the great twentieth-century philosophers Ludwig Wittgenstein and Karl Popper came face to face for the first and only time. The meeting — which lasted ten minutes — did not go well. Their loud and aggressive confrontation became the stuff of instant legend, but precisely what happened during that brief confrontation remained for decades the subject of intense disagreement.

There are several versions of this incident. Coincidentally, both were Jews but there was a huge difference between them. At least according to no less than the economist Keynes who observed Wittgenstein’s appearance:

God has arrived. I met him on the 5:15 train – John Maynard Keynes

Popper put forward a series of what he insisted were real philosophical problems. Wittgenstein summarily dismissed them all. Popper recalled that Wittgenstein ‘had been nervously playing with the poker’, which he used ‘like a conductor’s baton to emphasize his assertions’, and when a question came up about the status of ethics, Wittgenstein challenged him to give an example of a moral rule. ‘I replied: “Not to threaten visiting lecturers with pokers.” Whereupon Wittgenstein, in a rage, threw the poker down and stormed out of the room, banging the door behind him.’

Peter Munz (one of Popper’s closest friends is also present) watches Wittgenstein suddenly take the poker – red hot – out of the fire and gesticulate with it angrily in front of Popper’s face. Then Russell – who so far has not spoken a word – takes the pipe out of his mouth and says firmly, ‘Wittgenstein, put down that poker at once!’ His voice is high-pitched and somewhat scratchy. Wittgenstein complies, then, after a short wait, gets up and walks out, slamming the door.

Wittgenstein’s Poker: The Story of a Ten-Minute Argument Between Two Great Philosophers, highly recommended if you are into Wittgenstein.

In case you wonder what Wittgenstein thought about the meeting with Karl Popper.

‘a lousy meeting … at which an ass, Dr Popper, from London, talked more mushy rubbish than I’ve heard for a long time. I talked a lot as usual …’

‘Not to threaten visiting lecturers with pokers.’

Someone – was it Russell? – said, ‘Wittgenstein, put the poker down.’
Wittgenstein was conscious of pain, a constant distress, as if he were listening to a gramophone record playing at just the wrong speed. This mushy thinking! It was bad enough that this ass, this Ringstrasse academic, was expounding a theory, was trying to say things which couldn’t be said, was deluding himself into believing that there were hidden depths into which he could delve – like a man who insisted on digging an underground shaft in an open-cast mine … In itself this was bad enough. But not even attempting to open his mind to clearing out this rubbish, not to listen to what he himself was saying … This had to be stopped, the malignancy cut out.

Somewhere in the back of his mind Popper knew he was going too far. Tomorrow he would feel remorse for failing to control himself, just as after the Gomperz evening in Vienna – though he had never managed to admit that to poor Schlick. This Wittgenstein was real enough. But who would have said ‘mystic’? All the dogmatism of a Jesuit. And the fury of a Nazi. A maniac misleading philosophy – he had to confess he was completely wrong. Just one more push, one more brick knocked out of this tower of chit-chat. And now the madman had picked up the poker and was jabbing away as he tried to interrupt. Jab, jab, jab, in time with his syllables. ‘Popper, you are WRONG.’ Jab, jab … ‘WRONG!’

Unattended, the fire was almost out. It was no matter: being at the meeting was now like being trapped in a hothouse and entangled in jungle creepers. With the clash of angry voices, the running interjections from Wittgenstein’s disciples, the unprecedented crowd – those standing (the ‘wallflowers’) pressing in not to miss a blow being struck – the audience was caught in a blinding confusion. A literary-minded undergraduate took refuge in Matthew Arnold:

… a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

He wondered again if he shouldn’t change to English for Part II.
Hang on! ‘Flight’ was right, for Wittgenstein had thrown down the poker and was now on his feet. So was Russell. In a sudden moment of quiet, Wittgenstein was speaking to him.

‘You always misunderstand me, Russell.’ There was an almost guttural sound to ‘Hrussell’.

Russell’s voice was more high-pitched than usual. ‘No, Wittgenstein, you’re the one mixing things up. You always mix things up.’

The door slammed behind Wittgenstein.

Excerpt from the superb book “Wittgenstein’s Poker: The Story of a Ten-Minute Argument Between Two Great Philosophers” by David Edmonds and John Eidinow. A riveting read.