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Language and Solitude By Ernest Gellner

Language and Solitude by Ernest Gellner

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Ernest Gellner's last book, first published in 1998, focuses on two key figures of the twentieth century: Wittgenstein and Malinowski, showing how the thought of both men grew from a common intellectual and social background, epitomising his belief that philosophy is about important historical, social and personal issues.

Language and Solitude Summary

Language and Solitude: Wittgenstein, Malinowski and the Habsburg Dilemma by Ernest Gellner

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.

Language and Solitude Reviews

'... 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

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.

Additional information

Language and Solitude: Wittgenstein, Malinowski and the Habsburg Dilemma by Ernest Gellner
Cambridge University Press
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