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Ludwig Wittgenstein

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Ludwig Wittgenstein

These following two descriptions, of philosophers he knew and admired, come from Norman Malcolm. Both are described as men of integrity, but Wittgenstein’s integrity renders him ‘awesome and …. terrible’ while Moore’s makes him ‘naive’ and slightly comic.

Wittgenstein’s severity was connected, I think, with his passionate love of truth. He was constantly fighting with the deepest philosophical problems. The solution of one problem led to another problem. Wittgenstein was uncompromising; he had to have complete understanding. He drove himself fiercely. His whole being was under a tension. No one at the lectures could fail to perceive that he strained his will, as well as his intellect, to the utmost. This was one aspect of his absolute, relentless honesty. Primarily, what made him an awesome and even terrible person, both as a teacher and in personal relationships, was his ruthless integrity, which he did not spare himself or anyone else.

Malcolm, Norman 1958. Ludwig Wittgenstein: A Memoir (OUP),p. 26.

I believe that what gave Moore his stature as a philosopher was his integrity, an attribute of character rather than intellect. He had a depth of seriousness. When he addressed himself to a philosophical difficulty what he said about it had to be exactly right… His labor on any piece of philosophical writing was intensive and prolonged. To one paper … he applied himself for some fifteen years.

The address that Moore delivered to the British Academic … caused him a great deal of torment in its preparation. He worked hard at it, but the concluding portion displeased him, and he could not get it right … On the day of the lecture he was still distressed about the ending of the paper. As he was about to leave the house to take the train to London, Mrs Moore said, in order to comfort him, “Cheer up! I’m sure they will like it.” To which Moore made this emphatic reply: “If they do, they’ll be wrong!”

Malcolm, Norman 1963. ‘George Edward Moore’, in his Knowledge and Certainty (Cornell UP), p. 165-6.

Suggested reading

  • Norman Malcolm 1963. ‘George Edward Moore’, in his Knowledge and Certainty (Cornell UP).
  • Norman Malcolm 1958. Ludwig Wittgenstein: A Memoir (OUP).
  • Alexander Waugh, The House of Wittgenstein
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