Books: Pokers Wild

What happens when geniuses attack

If Jacques Derrida had been born a Kennedy, he might have come close to matching Ludwig Wittgenstein's curious combination of affluence and intellect. Wittgenstein was both a philosopher of towering importance and the scion of one of the wealthiest and most influential families in Europe. He was also a scarily intense guy. On Oct. 25, 1946, he attended a Cambridge University discussion group at which Karl Popper, another major thinker, was the guest speaker. The evening ended in bedlam when Wittgenstein threatened Popper with a poker.

Or did he? In Wittgenstein's Poker (Ecco; 340 pages; $24), the British journalists David Edmonds...

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