Some Thoughts on Wittgenstein in Exile by American Litterateur




What is curious in Mr. James Klagge’s book Wittgenstein in Exile is that he explores very thoroughly the notion of exile as the master idea in the life of Ludwig Wittgenstein, but he leaves utterly and inexplicably unexplored the fact that Mr. Wittgenstein lived in the existential, internal exile of the closet. That Wittgenstein was ‘homosexual’ and I use that term in quotation marks as gay is a product of late 20th Century thinking, as an indicative not pejorative descriptor. Mr. Ray Monk’s revelatory biography makes completely clear Wittgenstein’s sexual orientation and documents his emotional perversity that could be traced back to the traps of the closet. As Philipp Blom makes clear in his book The Vertigo Years Europe, 1900-1914 pages 176 through 179 homophobia was rampant throughout Europe, at the turn of the century. Wittgenstein was born in Austro-Hungarian empire in 1889, the Oscar Wilde trial commenced in 1895 , Mr. Blom’s history tells the stories of Archduke Ludwig Victor, Fritz Krupp, Eulenburg, General Dietrich Hülsen-Haeseler, Alfred Redl and Roger Casement. The environment for ‘uranists’ i.e. homosexuals was punitive in the extreme, so the closet was an act of self-preservation, but a deforming act nonetheless. What I can say with a feeling of confidence is that Mr. Klagge may be an accomplished writer on philosophical subjects but he proves in Wittgenstein in Exile that he has an absolute ignorance of the existential position of a particular closeted homosexual , Ludwig Wittgenstein. Mr. Klagge’s book is indeed a well written, informative and rewarding reading experience and as far as it goes a highly credible, careful account of the life and thought of Wittgenstein , but it is limited, proscribed by Mr. Klagge’s ignorance, cultivated or actual.

American Litterateur



About stephenkmacksd

Rootless cosmopolitan,down at heels intellectual;would be writer. 'Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.'
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1 Response to Some Thoughts on Wittgenstein in Exile by American Litterateur

  1. Dear American Litterateur, I just noticed this post and would like to respond: Thanks for your attention to my book and interest in Wittgenstein. To begin with, I do mention Wittgenstein’s sexual relations with a man on p. 97. And I also mention Wittgenstein two intimate relationships in the 1930’s on p. 58–one with a man, the other with a woman. So this isn’t a question of ignorance, especially cultivated ignorance. I think what bothers you is that I did not consider Wittgenstein’s sexuality to be a source of his feelings of exile and alienation. I did not mean to rule that out, but in fact I was able to tie his feelings of cultural exile and alienation to important aspects of his philosophy. That is the burden of my book. But I have not been able to tie his sexuality to his philosophy. I know others have tried to make this case, but I have not found it convincing, and in any case that was not something I had to contribute to the scholarly discussion. So it was not pursued in my book. I hope you do not take this as a lack of concern for the difficulties this can create for a person, especially at that time. While this is no part of my professional research, I did publish this op-ed piece in the Roanoke Times on July 17, 2002: which may interest you.
    Best, Jim Klagge.

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