Books December 2017
Ludicrous, but interesting
A review of Exact Thinking in Demented Times: The Vienna Circle and the Epic Quest for the Foundations of Science by Karl Sigmund.
The Vienna Circle, like the Bloomsbury Group, came in for a lot of criticism, especially from those not invited to their parties. Cliquish, precious, arrogant, excessively convinced of their own central place in the scheme of things, it was said. All true. But both groups included several geniuses and did achieve something outstanding.
Although the two groups spoke different languages and found themselves on opposite sides in the Great War, they were closely associated with two men crucial to both. Bertrand Russell, later in and out of the beds of Bloomsbury and busy writing potboilers on marriage and morals, had in 1910 co-authored Principia Mathematica, a massive book on symbolic logic and the foundations of mathematics which the Vienna Circle took as a model for their project of exactitude in thinking. From the other direction, Ludwig Wittgenstein brought his...
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