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Saturday
Dec122009

Wittgenstein Labors at Guy's During WWII

[… continuing a segment that might be called, “Wittgenstein at War, Again.” – sw]

 Wittgenstein thought it intolerable to teach philosophy during World War II when Britain was being blitzed. He wanted to help with the civilian war effort. In September of 1941, he therefore obtained a job at Guy’s Hospital in London, working as a dispensary porter. Monk writes,

     “Wittgenstein’s job as a porter was to deliver medicines from the dispensary to the wards, where, according to John Ryle’s wife, Miriam, he advised the patients not to take them. His boss at the pharmacy was Mr. S F. Izzard. When asked later if he remembered Wittgenstein as a porter, Izzard replied, ‘Yes, very well. He came and worked here and after working here three weeks he came and explained how we should be running the place. You see, he was a man who was used to thinking.’ After a short while, he was switched to the job of pharmacy technician in the manufacturing laboratory, where one of his duties was to prepare Lassar’s ointment for the dermatological department. When Drury visited Wittgenstein at Guy’s, he was told by a member of the staff that no one before had produced Lassar’s ointment of such high quality. “ (433)

 Wittgenstein’s work was physically grueling. He was 52 years old and had said to Rowland Hutt, “When I finish work about 5 … I’m so tired I often can hardly move.” (434).

 Source: Ray Monk, The Duty of Genius, 433-434. 

Dr. Sean Wilson, Esq.

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