[lit-ideas] Re: Wittgenstein's humour

  • From: Robert Paul <rpaul@xxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Wed, 19 Feb 2014 19:52:18 -0800

Donal wrote

While Wittgenstein is serious in what he writes, that does not foreclose
his work having something akin to a sense of humour. My view accepts what
Chris illustrates with his anecdote from Russell - that the younger
Wittgenstein was almost entirely devoid of humour, as is his Tractatus
(apparently he was the only one in the family who did not fall about
laughing on hearing that Paul, the concert pianist brother, had lost an arm
in the First World War). But while there is nothing playful about the
Tractatus, there is something playful (or possibly playful) in aspects of

*Norman Malcolm writes, in *Ludwig Wittgenstein--a Memoir*

*A curious thing, which I observed innumerable times, was that when
Wittgenstein invented an example during his lectures in order to illustrate
a point, he himself would grin at the absurdity of what he had imagined.
But if any member of the class were to chuckle, his expression would change
to severity and he would exclaim in reproof, 'No, no; I'm serious!'


*It is worth noting that Wittgenstein once said that a serious and good
philosophical work could be written that would consist entirely of
jokes (*without
being facetious).*


*When in very good spirits he would jest in a delightful manner. This took
the form of deliberately absurd or extravagant remarks uttered in a tone,
and with a mien, of affected seriousness. On one walk, he 'gave' to me each
tree that we passed, with the reservation that I was not to cut it down or
do anything to it, or prevent its previous owners from doing anything to
it; with those reservations it was henceforth *mine*. Once when we were
walking across Jesus Green, at night, he pointed to Cassiopeia and said
that it was a 'W' and that it meant Wittgenstein. I said that I thought it
was an 'M' written upside down and that it meant Malcolm. He gravely
assured me that I was wrong. [pp. 29, 32]

Robert Paul

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