Did Wittgenstein Like Spaghetti Westerns?

From The Spaghetti Western Database

by Simon Gelten · April 5, 2013

Did he? One of the readers of my Dutch Blog thought so. Wittgenstein came from a special family, so you never know. His father Karl, an industrial tycoon, was one of the richest people from the 19th Century, and the family led an intense artistic and cultural life. They were often visited by artists such Johannes Brahms and Gustav Mahler and Ludwig’s brother Paul became a sensation as a one-armed pianist. Ludwig first studied mechanical engineering in Vienna, then aeronautical research in Manchester, but finally turned to studying logic in Cambridge, were he met Bertrand Russell and (much later) Karl Popper, like Wittgenstein himself an Austrian expatriate. Today he is often called the most important and influential philosopher of the 20th Century. As a philosopher, Wittgenstein was above all interested in the limitations of human knowledge. The limitations of my knowledge, are the limitations of my language, was one of his axioms. To him mathematics and logic were languages too.

His most important work, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, ends with the following, thunderous statement:

   Was sich überhaupt sagen lässt, lässt sich klar sagen; und wovon man nicht reden kann, darüber muss man schweigen (What can be said at all, can be said clearly; and about that of which one cannot speak, one must stay silent)

One thing Wittgenstein was absolutely sure of, was that one could not foresee the future. He therefore categorically refused to say things like ‘See you tomorrow’. One cannot say what tomorrow will bring, therefore one must stay silent about it. The first spaghetti western, as we all know, was made in 1964, by Sergio Leone. Wittgenstein died in 1951. We can therefore be sure: No, Wittgenstein did not love spaghetti westerns. He liked westerns though, but in his time, the genre was still one hundred percent American. It is said that was particularly fond of Tom Mix‘ movies. Some say he envied western heroes because they were leading an adventurous life. Wittgenstein himself had been thinking about philosophical problems in the trenches of WWI. He was an adventurer in the mind.

Why do I love westerns? I’ve never envied western heroes for their adventurous way of life, so that’s not it. Why does somebody love spaghetti westerns in particular? A friend of Moroccan descent, Woestijnroosje (Desert Rose), once told me her father loved spaghetti westerns because they made him think of the landscape of his native soil. Many spaghetti westerns were shot in the South of Spain, in the Almeria desert, which bears some resemblance to the Moroccan landscape, but I was born and raised in the South of Holland, and I can assure you it doesn’t look like Almeria at all.

I guess the spaghetti western is to me a sort of fetish. It seems logical that a cinematographic fetish is caused – like any other fetish – purely by accident. A young man who experiences his first spontaneous orgasm when he’s touched by a woman in a nurse uniform, may well become addicted for life to nurse porn. When I was a boy, and became a frequent film-goer, spaghetti westerns were the talk of the town. Moreover most of them got an 18-rating, while I was only 14 years old. They were, so to speak, a sort of forbidden fruit. To me they seemed as exciting as a woman in nurse uniform. I still remember myself watching the publicity photos for a movie called Death Rides a Horse, a title as mysterious and promising as the film itself: but I wasn’t allowed to see it.

I grew up, and could pick up some movies I had missed as a boy a decade later: One cinema in my hometown started screening spaghetti westerns late at night in the early seventies, and I became a loyal fan and visitor. Those screenings started around midnight and inevitably some of the visitors were drunk. Often the atmosphere among the them, was as heated as the atmosphere on screen. The seventies were followed by the eighties, a decade that brought us VHS and full-frame versions of a genre that was made for the small screen. We watched porn movies, using the fast-forward button to spice them up. In my mind VHS is synonymous to porn, full-frame, full-frontal, fast-forward and freeze frame. The eighties were followed by the nineties, but I was so busy with other things that no spaghetti western passed my mind, but then, a couple of years into the new millennium I bought a DVD player and a widescreen TV. All of a sudden those almost forgotten movies could be admired in their full widescreen beauty, and once more I became addicted to the genre – this time forever.

In 2007 I discovered the Spaghetti Western Database. That seemed an interesting place to be. I wasn’t the only one addicted to the genre, I shared the fetish with hundreds of others, all over the globe. I became a man called Scherpschutter and I wouldn’t call the rest history, but what followed can be read on the pages of this wonderful website.


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