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Language and Solitude: Wittgenstein, Malinowski and the Habsburg Dilemma

Overview

Ernest Gellner (1925-1995) has been described as "one of the last great central European polymath intellectuals." In this, his last book, he throws new light on two key figures of the twentieth century: the philosopher Wittgenstein, and Malinowski, founder of modern British social anthropology. Gellner shows how the thought of both men grew from a common background of assumptions about human nature, society, and language. He ties together themes that preoccupied him, epitomizing his belief that philosophy—far ...

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Overview

Ernest Gellner (1925-1995) has been described as "one of the last great central European polymath intellectuals." In this, his last book, he throws new light on two key figures of the twentieth century: the philosopher Wittgenstein, and Malinowski, founder of modern British social anthropology. Gellner shows how the thought of both men grew from a common background of assumptions about human nature, society, and language. He ties together themes that preoccupied him, epitomizing his belief that philosophy—far from "leaving everything as it is"—is about important historical, social and personal issues.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The theme of this book - the tension between philosophies of individualism and holism - is both timely and very important. No on else I know could approach it with the depth and width of Ernest Gellner, taking on philosophy, anthropology and history with such confidence and ability. The book is full of his characteristic wit, insight, lucidity and clarity of vision...This is a provocative, deeply felt and important work (which) continues the tradition of his major onslaught on some of the closed systems of our century." Alan Macfarlane

"Language and Solitude is at once a synoptic interpretation of the thought of Wittgenstein, and Malinowski; a comparative assessment of their world-views - their accounts of knowledge, language, a culture; a brilliant sociological sketch of the common socio-political and intellectual background which they shared; a view of their influence upon their respective disciplines; and a passionate and polemical argument with them and some of their successors, in which Gellner once more and for the last time eloquently and succinctly expresses his own world view." Steven Lukes

Paul Mattick
...[T]his posthumous bookstudded with ideas like a little roast with truffleswill pleasurably provoke those who persevere....What social transformations gave rise to both scientific universalism and nationalism? This question doesn't arise in Gellner's way of thinkingbut Language and Solitude has the virtue of leading us right to it. —The New York Times Book Review
Library Journal
In this book, Wittgenstein and Malinowski meet at the intersection of their ideas about language and the intellectual climate of the (late) Habsburg era, by which both were influenced. The book is primarily a highly negative appraisal of Wittgenstein's work--both the earlier and later phases--contrasted with a positive appraisal of Malinowski's. The anthropologist, in this account, is seen to have been "far more original" and, ultimately, more important than the philosopher. This view would, of course, be anathema to many contemporary philosophers--and not only because Wittgenstein has provided them with a lucrative cottage industry. Be that as it may, Gellner's grasp of both men's work and of history and politics, together with a marvelously fluid and engaging prose style, make this a book most academic libraries will want for their philosophy, anthropology, and intellectual history collections. (Gellner, after a distinguished career in philosophy and anthropology, died in 1995.)--Leon H. Brody, U.S. Office of Personnel Mgt. Lib., Washington, DC
Paul Mattick
...[T]his posthumous book, studded with ideas like a little roast with truffles, will pleasurably provoke those who persevere....What social transformations gave rise to both scientific universalism and nationalism? This question doesn't arise in Gellner's way of thinking, but Language and Solitude has the virtue of leading us right to it. -- The New York Times Book Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521639972
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 8/28/2012
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 209
  • Sales rank: 592,454
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.47 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface David Gellner; Foreword Steven Lukes; Part I. The Habsburg Predicament: 1. Swing alone or swing together; 2. The rivals; 3. Genesis of the individualist vision; 4. The metaphysics of romanticism; 5. Romanticism and the basis of nationalism; 6. Individualism and holism in society; 7. Crisis in Kakania; 8. Pariah liberalism; 9. Recapitulation; Part II. Wittgenstein: 10. The loneliness of the long-distance empiricist; 11. The poem to solitude, or: confessions of a rranscendental ego who is also a Viennese Jew; 12. The ego and language; 13. The world as solitary vice; 14. The mystical; 15. The central proposition of the Tractatus: world without culture; 16. Wittgenstein mark 2; 17. Tertium non datur; 18. Joint escape; 19. Janik and Toulmin: a critique; 20. The case of the disappearing self; 21. Pariah communalism; 22. Iron cage Kafka style; Part III. Malinowski: 23. The birth of modern social anthropology; 24. The Malinowskian revolution; 25. How did Malinowski get there?; 26. Whither anthropology? or: wither Bronislaw Malinowski?; 27. The difference between Krakow and Vienna; 28. Malinowski's achievement and politics; 29. Malinowski's theory of language; 30. Malinowski's later mistake; 31. The (un)originality of Malinowski and Wittgenstein; Part IV. Influences: 32. The impact and diffusion of Wittgenstein's ideas; 33. The first wave of Wittgenstein's influence; 34. A belated convergence of philosophy and anthropology; Part V. Conclusions: 35. The truth of the matter; 36. Our present condition; General bibliography; I. Jarvie, Bibliography of Ernest Gellner's writings on Wittgenstein, Malinowski, and nationalism.

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