»the Greatest Jewish Thinker Is Only A Talent. « Wittgenstein’s Revoked Judaism

Phainomena 74 ()

Donatella Di Di Cesare
Università degli Studi di Roma La Sapienza
In the latest studies on Wittgenstein, the interest for his life has raised a question that had remained in the shadow: the question of his »Judaism«. This essay acknowledges Steven S. Schwarzschild’s suggestion, according to which Wittgenstein could be seen as an »alienated Jew«. Contrasting those who consider Wittgenstein’s Judaism as a negligible, if not insignificant, detail of his biography, it tries not to claim a Jewish identity for Wittgenstein, but rather to evaluate the effects elicited on his philosophy by his vision of Judaism. Why does Wittgenstein define himself a »Jewish thinker«? Why does he claim for himself the »Jewish reproductiveness«? Already Paul Engelmann in 1963 had invited to reframe Wittgenstein in the Jewish landscape of which he had been an »offshoot« and an »antipode«. Through a comparison with Weininger, but also with Hitler, and therefore with that most extreme anti-Judaism, which had in Hegel its antecedents, Wittgenstein moves from the impossibility of a conceptual definition of Being- Jew in order to let implode not only the concept, but also the very metaphysics of identity and the illusion of originality; Judaism becomes the way towards the »Übersicht«, the overview of similarities and differences
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