Wittgenstein as a (failed) teacher

For our own part, we struck Wittgenstein as intolerably stupid.1 He would denounce us to our faces as unteachable, and at times he despaired of getting us to recognize what sort of point he was trying to get across to us. For we had come to his sparsely furnished eagle’s-nest of a room at the top of the Whewell ‘s Court tower with philosophical problems of our own; and we were happy enough to lap up the examples and fables which comprised so large a part of his lectures and bring them to bear on those preconceived, Anglo-American questions. His denunciations we ignored. At best we treated them as jokes; at worst they seemed to us at the time one more manifestation of the intellectual arrogance that had led him to speak of ”the truth of the thoughts” set out in the Tractatus as “unassailable and definitive” and as “the final solution” to the problems of philosophy.

1 Stephen Toulmin was a student of Wittgenstein in Cambridge in the 1940s

Allan Janik and Stephen Toulmin Wittgenstein’s Vienna p21


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