Monk, Mystic, Mechanic

1687071034 Avner Shapira in Ha'aretz:

Ludwig Wittgenstein may have declared at the beginning of his book “Philosophical Investigations” that “explanations come to an end somewhere,” but as far as his philosophy is concerned, the finish line is still nowhere in sight. Since his death 60 years ago, on April 29, 1951, numerous explanations and interpretations of his philosophy, or to be more precise, his philosophies, have been proposed. His influence has seeped into other spheres of knowledge and his unique personality has also been the subject of many analyses and portrayals.

The exhibition “Ludwig Wittgenstein: Contextualizations of a Genius,” at the Schwules Museum in Berlin offers new keys to understanding one of the 20th century's greatest intellects, who helped lay the foundations for the linguistic revolution that occurred in the world of philosophy. It underscores the connections between his philosophy and his life and sheds light on two key yet murky aspects of his biography: his ambivalent attitude toward his family's Jewish origins and his sexual identity.

At the entrance to the exhibition, a series of self-portraits of Wittgenstein, taken in 1922, are screened in a continuous loop. His changing expressions allude to the exhibition's aim – exposing the many facets of his personality. “On the 60th anniversary of his death, we wished to sketch character by means of observation not only of his pioneering theories, but also of his family, the culture from whence he came, the historical and intellectual sources that influenced him, his social connections and the many places that he lived,” says Kristina Jaspers, the exhibition's co-curator and the co-editor of the book of the same title (with Jan Drehmel ).

Jaspers says that making a connection between the philosophy and the biography of the philosopher is apt in Wittgenstein's case because he himself discerned such an affiliation. “He believed that in order to do philosophy properly, you had to live properly – in other words, that life and philosophy go hand in hand. The changes that occurred in his philosophical views could become clear in light of his biography: On the one hand, there is the indecision, the doubts and fear of mistakes that constantly haunted him, in life as well as in his theoretical pursuits; and on the other hand, whenever he felt that he needed to change his life or when he became convinced that he had erred in his philosophical conclusions, he made firm decisions and resolutely stuck to them.”