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Linz, Vienna and style

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Linz is the official “friendship town” of Tampere. In 1904 the Austrian Empire was on its last legs, degenerate by most accounts. Still Linz and Vienna managed to produce and educate some of the most (in)famous political and philosophical figures of the 20th century. Two of them pose here in a common school photo.

How well the boys knew each other is a matter for speculation. Kimberly Cornish makes much of the connection in the book The Jew of Linz, rife with rumour, guesses and intrigue. In any case, both of the semi-Viennese youngsters subsequently felt that some of their best and clearest moments were spent in the trenches of WWI. Why does that usually reflect badly on one, and not on the other? Because one went on being bad and the other not?

The architect-to-be W and the architect-never-to-be H must have made similar sketches of buildings at one point or another. Two opinions. First, Hitler’s drawings and paintings are sometimes unncessarily undervalued and vilified. They are not great, but they are not very bad either. Same goes for his writings, which are not the totally incoherent ramblings of a mad hatter they are sometimes presented to be. There are bad and evil things there, and propagandist, tabloidist and manipulative passages, to be sure. However, neither Hitler’s pictures nor his writings stick completely out of the Viennese genre they are a part of. Theorists who claim to be able to read the signs of the Holocaust from Hitler’s drawings are kidding themselves. Second, Wittgensteins philosophy is often somewhat overrated. His questions are not new, and his lonely, overconfident, overnervous and fragmentary search for new vistas – without referring to other work or trying to provide systematicity – is not only impressive, but sometimes naive. As if the idea of language embedded and embodied in social uses and games was never presented before Philosophical Investigations. Wittgenstein’s architecture is of good quality, but does not stick out, either.

Something dark oozing from the pre- and postwar atmosphere around Linz and Vienna. The roots of evil are long and re-entrant.

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