25 October 1946

Are there any moral truths? On this day in history, the Moral Science Club–a formal discussion group for Cambridge University’s philosophers–held a meeting to explore this very question. British authors John Eidinow and David Edmonds wrote an entire book (their book is one of my favorite non-fiction books of all time) about this particular meeting, because it was the only time in history that Bertrand Russell, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Karl Popper were in the same room. These three great philosophers, along with several philosophy students and their professors, assembled in King’s College at 8.30pm, in a set of rooms in the Gibbs Building, number three on staircase H. In the words of Eidinow and Edmonds: “H3 was just as neglected as the other rooms in the building, squalid, dusty and dirty. Heating was dependent on open fires and the inhabitants protected their clothes with their gowns when humping sacks of coal. That evening, the guest speaker was Dr Karl Popper, up from London to deliver an innocuous-sounding paper, ‘Are There Philosophical Problems?’ *** Yet, to this day, no one can agree precisely what took place. What is clear is that there were vehement exchanges between Popper and Wittgenstein over the fundamental nature of philosophy. These instantly became the stuff of legend.” Bonus materials: Here is Adam Gopnik’s beautiful essay in honor of Popper. Also, philosopher John Wilkins recounts the H3 poker incident, starting at 5’36” in the video below:

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One Response to 25 October 1946

  1. jecgenovese says:

    I also enjoyed Wittgenstein’s Poker.

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