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Language and Solitude

Language and Solitude
Wittgenstein, Malinowski and the Habsburg Dilemma


  • Date Published: November 1998
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521639972

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About the Authors
  • Ernest Gellner (1925–95) has been described as 'one of the last great central European polymath intellectuals'. His last book, first published in 1998, throws light on two leading thinkers of their time. Wittgenstein, arguably the most influential and the most cited philosopher of the twentieth century, is famous for having propounded two radically different philosophical positions. Malinowski, the founder of modern British social anthropology, is usually credited with being the inventor of ethnographic fieldwork, a fundamental research method throughout the social sciences. In a highly original way, Gellner shows how the thought of both men grew from a common background of assumptions - widely shared in the Habsburg Empire of their youth - about human nature, society, and language. Tying together themes which preoccupied him throughout his working life, Gellner epitomizes his belief that philosophy - far from 'leaving everything as it is' - is about important historical, social and personal issues.

    • Last work of one of Europe's great social philosophers, interested in understanding the context of thought
    • Throws new light on two of the most written-about thinkers of their time, Wittgenstein and Malinowski
    • It reflects an intimate understanding of Wittgenstein, both in the details and in its spirit, is not dazzled by the brilliance and is ruthless in exposing the flaws
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    Reviews & endorsements

    '… at once a synoptic interpretation of the thought of Wittgenstein and Malinowski; a comparative assessment of their world-views - of their accounts of knowledge, language and 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

    'The theme of this book - the tension between philosophies of individualism and holism - is both timely and very important. No-one 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

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    Product details

    • Date Published: November 1998
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521639972
    • length: 230 pages
    • dimensions: 228 x 152 x 17 mm
    • weight: 0.33kg
    • availability: Available
  • 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.

  • Author

    Ernest Gellner


    David Gellner


    Steven Lukes

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