Last night I finally turned the last page on Ray Monk's monumental biography of Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius. It was touted as a book that finally could hold together his strange and compelling life along with this difficult philosophical work. That Monk does with brilliance. Yet the great surprise to me was the way the book read as a spiritual biography, almost a biography of a very troubled saint. Not of course in any traditional sense of sainthood, but in the sense that, as Monk writes, "in a way that is centrally important but difficult to define, he had lived a devoutly religious life" (580). As one way to see the sense in which this was true, an anacdote from near the end of his life is telling. He was in these last months living with his friend and student Elizabeth Anscombe's house in Oxford. Gravely ill, he asked Anscombe, who was Catholic, if she could find him a priest to speak with--a 'non-philosophical priest' as he put it. He did not want to discuss the finer points of Catholic doctrine, but rather to be introduced to someone to whose life religious belief had made a practical difference. Fr. Conrad, a Dominican, came by twice to talk.
Highly recommended book.
Anon, and peace,