Could You Go to a Flick?

“Wittgenstein was always disgusted with what he had said and with himself. Often he would rush off to a cinema immediately after the class ended. As the members of the class began to move their chairs out of the room he might look imploringly at a friend and say in a low tone, “Could you go to a flick?” On the way to the cinema Wittgenstein would buy a bun or a cold pork pie and munch it while he watched the film. He insisted on sitting in the very first row of seats, so that the screen would occupy his entire field of vision, and his mind would be turned away from the thoughts of the lecture and his feelings of revulsion. Once he whispered to me, “This is like a shower bath.” His observation of the film was not relaxed or detached. He leaned tensely forward in his seat and rarely took his eyes off the screen. He hardly ever uttered comments on the episodes of the film and did not like his companion to do so. He wished to become totally absorbed into the film no matter how trivial or artificial it was, in order to free his mind temporarily from the philosophical thoughts that tortured and exhausted him. He liked American films and detested English ones. He was inclined to think that there could not be a decent English film. This was connected with a great distaste he had with English culture and mental habits in general. He was fond of the film stars Carmen Miranda and Betty Hutton. Before he came to visit me in America he demanded in jest that I should introduce him to Miss Hutton.”

—Norman Malcolm, Ludwig Wittgenstein: A Memoir

2 responses to “Could You Go to a Flick?

  1. I love this Wittgenstein story — and the whole memoir. Thanks for this post, Matt.

  2. An intellectual giant with a soft spot for high-spirited, energetic, and charismatic women. He was just a man after all. Nice story. Wittgenstein is one of those people that I would put down on a “who I’d like to meet?” list (but not really).

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