Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Dirac and Wittgenstein

Ludwig Wittgenstein famously insisted at the end of his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent."

Ironically, then, Graham Farmelo's recent biography of the British physicist Paul Dirac, reports that Dirac's verdict on his Cambridge contemporary was:

"Awful man. Never stopped talking."

6 comments:

elberry said...

i think old Ludo never really got the hang of conversations as give & take. He was all give give give, which was really a take take take - taking someone's attention and not letting it go. He liked to dominate people, though he was generally nice enough if people LET themselves be dominated.

Having said that, on the few occasions people stood up to him he sometimes kind of liked it, being shaken up a bit. He just couldn't stand other dominating people, naturally enough.

Gordon McCabe said...

I never thought of him as the loquacious type. I've always had this image of him sitting sternly on a very hard chair, silently pondering Logico Tractor Beamicus, or whatever he happened to be working on.

elberry said...

He swung from one extreme to another. He'd spend months alone, relishing his solitude in some godforsaken mud hut somewhere, then he'd go back to Cambridge, or one of his friends would visit, and he'd talk for hours.

On average (ie the mean) he was probably about normal, but if you plotted it on a graph it would have only two states: complete silence and impassioned monologues. Well, he also did a kind of small talk, but it was his own idea of small talk ie nuts.

Gordon McCabe said...

Ah, a bimodal distribution.

6.54 said...

I don't think W had many friends, at least during the first part of his life, so was grateful for the opportunity when it presented itself.

His notion of fun social activity was completely off the wall as well. As I recall, one of his first activities with his long-time companion to be, David Pinsent, consisted in dragging him to just about every furniture store in London looking for a chair that was simple enough to suit W's tastes. Apparently, even the simplest ones were all too ornamental or complicated.

Gordon McCabe said...

Wasn't David Pinsent the guy wot rowed with Steve Redgrave in the Olympics?