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books

Wittgenstein’s Vienna

Allan Janik and Stephen Toulmin, Wittgenstein’s Vienna (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1973), 314 pages, 17 black-and-white illustrations.

“Mahler’s Vienna” would be a quite thinkable title for a book. “Freud’s Vienna” makes an even more plausible one. Both would deal with famous, heroic, struggling innovators, effecting culture through the gradual conversion of their professions and audiences. And in the controversies they generated, what worshipful opportunities there are for piquant biographical, social, and intellectual reportage. But how is one to greet Wittgenstein’s Vienna, published earlier this year by Allan Janik and Stephen Toulmin? The name of this riddling philosopher and remote personality is mouthed fashionably by several of our Minimal and Conceptual artists. But it is the name of a man whose most characteristic human activity was to withdraw, and whose work deeply puzzled

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