What is philosophy take homosexuality

Culture : The philosopher's belly

At first, Bertrand Russell had reservations about the young Austrian: "I don't want to vouch for his morality in the traditional sense," was his judgment on Ludwig Wittgenstein shortly after he began studying philosophy in Cambridge in 1911. In one of the illustrious debating clubs Wittgenstein met David Pinsent, a math student who was two years his junior. Both became inseparable, played tennis, read the same books, traveled together. And with the exception of the decidedly heterosexual Russell, hardly anyone in the male union circles at Trinity College cared about “morality in the conventional sense”. A tacit homoerotic relationship was almost good form.

The scandal did not occur until two decades after Wittgenstein's death. In his biography, published in 1973, William W. Bartley explores the supposed depths of the philosopher's personality, perceived by those around him as "unusually sublimated": Wittgenstein was therefore not just a homosexual, but one of the unpredictable kind. In his “dark years” after the First World War, he is said to have run out of his room as if “whipped by a demon” to look for “rough young men” in Vienna's Praterwiesen or in British pubs. Because he never revealed the names of his informants, the now deceased Bartley had to put up with the accusation, which is still irrefutable to this day, of having invented the hunt for the Prater boys, although not Wittgenstein's sexual orientation.

Wittgenstein's intimate life is currently being treated less mysteriously, but much more discreetly, in a place where the offensive thematization of homosexuality has been made an emancipatory duty: The Gay Museum in Kreuzberg is honoring the philosopher on the 60th anniversary of his death with an exhibition on life and work .

The title “Wittgenstein. Locations of a genius ”is initially to be understood literally. Large black and white photos document the spatial mobility of the master thinker, who was born in Vienna in 1889. Before the offspring of an assimilated Jewish steel magnate family followed his actual calling, he studied mechanical engineering in Berlin and Manchester; He has repeatedly doubted academic life and the meaning of philosophy, tried his hand at a monastery gardener, village school teacher and architect, and regularly fled to his wooden hut in the wilderness of Norway. Each time he returned to Cambridge, where he died in 1951.

In addition to the material-rich illustration of Wittgenstein's person, vita and charisma, his cultural and intellectual history, the attempt is made to characterize at least the beginning of the thoughts with which he revolutionized theoretical philosophy and formulated the foundations of speech act theory.

In view of the unobtrusiveness with which Wittgenstein's homosexuality is addressed in the abundance of media installations, text and image documents, it seems almost misleadingly brought to the fore by the exhibition location. In essence, all that is learned is that following David Pinsent's fatal plane crash towards the end of World War I, there were two more relationships with Cambridge students. Wittgenstein himself persistently refused to talk about sexuality in public, in some places he commented on it in his diary, but the entries, written in a now deciphered cipher, at most testify that the spirit man had problems with sexuality in general.

Wittgenstein loved not only men, but also chocolate and Hollywood films. In addition, both sexes fell in delight at the sight of it. No doubt he met enough criteria to be canonized as a gay icon. A number of comic artists, musicians and filmmakers have made use of this potential. Among others, Derek Jarman, whose biographical-satirical film “Wittgenstein” can also be seen in the Schwules Museum. Otherwise, however, the two curators Kristina Jaspers and Jan Dehmel opted for uncompromising seriousness, in no way to the detriment of their project.

Like so many of Wittgenstein's sentences, his all too often quoted formulation “What one cannot talk about, one must be silent about it” is more complex than it seems. A few years ago, the literary scholar George Steiner attempted a radical simplification of these words and declared that it was only Wittgenstein's attempt to cover up private moral inadequacies. The exhibition in the Schwules Museum proceeds completely differently, with it one of the innumerable components of meaning of this statement was at best emphasized suggestively. It is the last movement of the “Tractatus” that originated in the trenches of the First World War. Wittgenstein dedicated this epoch-making work to David Pinsent.

Schwules Museum Berlin, Mehringdamm 61, until June 13th. Daily except Tuesdays 2-6pm, Sat until 7pm. A richly illustrated, large-format catalog has been published by Junius Verlag (152 pages, € 19.80.)

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