Future, Present, & Past:

~~ Giving itself latitude and leisure to take any premise or inquiry to its furthest associative conclusion.
Critical~~ Ready to apply, to itself and its object, the canons of reason, evidence, style, and ethics, up to their limits.
Traditional~~ At home and at large in the ecosystem of practice and memory that radically nourishes the whole person.

Oυδεὶς άμουσος εἰσίτω

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Every once in a while Brian Leiter stirs up some snake-pit of like-minded sneering controversy, seemingly just for the self-righteousness spectacle of it. It's quite ingenious how this time he did it just by throwing out a one-liner (really just a single word, "Discuss," since the line --"It is no secret that contemporary philosophy is under the spell of the Other"-- is just the first sentence of the book review he's holding up for contempt) and letting his commenters have a go.

I chanced on this first via Harman's blog (where Harman says, rightly, that it's an index of why any talk of healing the breach between Analytic and Continental is premature) and then ventured a comment (reproduced below) on Perverse Egalitarianism's post. I would have commented on Leiter's blog but I've given up, the three or so comments I have tried to make there have none of them made it past moderation. I assume this is because of the terror the glinting scythe of my prose stikes into the hearts of my opponents; but of course the cover story is that Leiter screens out webonymns (albeit inconsistently).

Mercifully, a number of sensible people chimed in to call the let's-all-laugh-at-the-deconstructionists party the flippant shallowness that it is. Leiter responded lamely to one such critique that "bad philosophy should be ridiculed," which just begs the question of how we know the bad from the good (most criteria I see offered are themselves part of the flippant dismissal game: e.g., bad philosophy uses the word 'precisely' er, precisely when it's making a vague generalization. Get it?!). I don't deny that there is a difference, nor that ridicule, like every other rhetorical ploy, has an honored place in the philosopher's quiver. But when the very same arrow finds its mark over and over, and goes so very deep, one is entitled to wonder if the target might not be stuffed with straw, and carefully placed by the marksman. Preferably up-close.

What I wrote on P.E. was: CS Lewis puts into the mouth his devil Screwtape the observation (I paraphrase): Only someone very clever can make a joke about virtue, but anyone can talk as if virtue were funny. This sort of flippancy functions as a surrogate for argument all too often. [So often online, in fact, that it is downright disheartening. I can think of three or so examples off the top of my head, to which I forebear to link. One can only blame "blog culture" for this so many times before I want to scream, Take some bloody responsibility, man!] I realize of course that it’s also true that anyone can talk as if they are imparting great and profound truths, and I would not want to conflate deconstruction with virtue [to say the least]; but I find this sort of snide, in-crowd, self-congratulatory, “how clever we are to see through all that,” to be well on the down-slide to the nadir of integrity.

To which, notwithstanding my struck-out copy above, Leiter could justly respond to me (if he'd condescend), Physician,heal thyself. But I blame the blog. I'm much more, ahem, nuanced in person.

1 comment:

  1. Paregoric would be an apt remedy for the Leiter folk as it cures logorhea in a soothing fashion. Its etymology is from the Greek 'paragorein' to speak soothingly to the assembly.