Wittgenstein: A Wonderful Life

This 1989 BBC Horizon documentary (see below) is an absolute gem. I must have seen it in the day but viewing it again with the benefit of the intervening quarter century, is so rewarding. It’s television at its best — very tightly presented, it is neither pretentious nor dumbed down as so many programmes on LW are wont to be. Of course, the programme is replete with LW’s aphorisms and wonderful extracts from the Bertie-LW correspondence. It also features the immensely cultivated mind that is Michael Tanner who kindly kept me in snout at an early Nietzsche Society of GB meeting. Three things struck me about this programme. First, it’s very easy to see how the “cult” of LW arose. Second, whatever the vital foundations Russell (and Whitehead) laid in Principia Mathematica, Russell’s genius was that he recognized true genius in LW at the outset. According to the programme, Russell’s ego was somewhat bruised by being eclipsed by LW manifest by his pooh-poohing the Investigations. Last, but by no means least, LW’s existential commitment to philosophy shows just how shallow, ideological and intellectually dishonest “professional” philosophy has increasingly become over the past 40 or so years — of course there are exceptions. (The image that always springs to mind when considering the generic climbing-the-greasy-pole-academic-cum-public-intellectual, typically in the humanities and social sciences, is one of a kid traipsing about in their parents’ garb).

P.S. Here’s a bit of LW news that eluded me: Lost archive shows Wittgenstein in a new light.