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New Left Review I/73, May-June 1972

New Left Review

Introduction to Moran

Ludwig Wittgenstein’s person and life have on the whole been sedulously shrouded in obscurity by his admirers and devotees. Much less is known about his biography and character than that of most of the philosophers who were his predecessors or contemporaries. In part, this has doubtless been due in England to a throttled puritanism, fearful of disclosures of heterodoxy in Wittgenstein’s personal relationships. But in the main, the atmosphere of mystery officially entertained about Wittgenstein has had a more positive function: to inculcate reverence for the legendary thinker, and insulate his work from all profane associations with the material and cultural conditions in which it was produced. John Moran’s painstaking and scrupulous attempt to probe the question of Wittgenstein’s political beliefs—if any—must therefore be welcomed, as a refreshing break with the piety of the established cult of the philosopher in the Anglo-Saxon world, and its officiants. It is a straightforward and honest investigation of the evidence for Wittgenstein’s political outlook, which does not conceal the contradictions and incoherences in the testimony of those who knew him, and were willing to speak on the topic. As such, it is a document of obvious interest to anyone concerned with contemporary positivist philosophy.

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