Friday, February 05, 2016

History of Philosophy.

Leiter 2004
And please bear in mind that I take neither Dr. Lillehammer nor Professor Dennett to be disputing Timothy Williamson's point in his contribution to The Future for Philosophy that, "Impatience with the long haul of technical reflection is a form of shallowness, often thinly disguised by histrionic advocacy of depth...."
Leiter 2016
I have no crystal ball, so I can’t tell you whether there will be...a return to the core values of robust expression and debate which are essential for academic life, as even Herbert Marcuse realized in his famous polemic against “Repressive Tolerance.” There is some portion of the younger generation of professional philosophers (grad students and assistant professors) who consistently have the wrong views on these questions. They may well take over the discipline, that I cannot predict. It’s ironic, because other humanities fields, like English, went through this totalitarian catastrophe in the 1980s while philosophy remained a paragon of wissenschaftlich seriousness.
The comment he quotes approvingly, without linking, (he explains why) is a series of numbered points. No. 2 refers to a "Specialization exhaustion" in the humanities.  No. 6 begins:  "In both cases, the proponents of the new approaches are basically of two sorts: those already powerful and those not already powerful." That's the foundation of every conservative argument against elite liberalism since the 50s.  Left wing cynics have always understood white anger. Derrick Bell etc., etc.

Philosophy and economics are the last of the Modernist ideologies. The crisis in literature in the 80's was a response to change.
The girl yelling at him has the anger of a campus anti-porn campaigner in 1985. It's the anger of someone fully vested in the system, already a member of the elite, demanding and still struggling for full equality within  it.  It's the anger of a moralizing bourgeois reformer of her own class.
Jason Stanley 2006 "In Defense of Baroque Specialization"  [repeats]

Leiter 2016
"I'm grateful to Jonny Thakkar for calling my attention to this nicely written essay by a recent Oxford DPhil."
It wasn’t that one could only be profound in German, or that philosophers interested in the sciences were doomed to wade in the shallows. It was rather a point about style—that some styles of thought and writing in philosophy, more than others, are able to convey that mysterious thing, depth.

The British moral philosophy of the early postwar years, the years in which Williams began his career, was many things—clever, incisive, often funny—but it was rarely deep. It was as if the aspiration to depth had been tarnished, with much else that was the tiniest bit Germanic, by its vague association with fascism.

...The hardest thing in philosophy, Williams wrote in the preface to Morality, published twenty years after The Language of Morals, was finding the right style, “in the deepest sense of ‘style’ in which to discover the right style is to discover what you are really trying to do.”
Leiter links to this because the author spends a bit of time mocking the "effective altruism" and other moralists. He makes them sound as if they've all taken vows of poverty, when I thought the point was that they hadn't. And according to Nakul Krishna the answers to Oxonian scholasticism include E.M. Forster. The eternal struggle between pedants to fops; not much has changed in 140 years. And then there's this.
The cover of my Pelican edition of Williams’s Morality bears two details from Marcel Duchamp’s Rotoreliefs, a set of double-sided discs that, when spun on a turntable at a specified speed, created the impression of depth. 
 That's just bizarre; appropriate, but not in any intended way.
What made the years of grad school bearable was the jokey solidarity among those of us unsympathetic to this understanding of ethics, the ones who wrote on Aristotle and Nietzsche and Wittgenstein, on ambivalence, alienation and anger, and who didn’t see morality wherever they looked.
Nietzsche and Wittgenstein by choice or not lived burdened lives. Aristotle is something else.
As Aristotle saw a long time ago, there’s no place in ethics for intellectual precocity. I had once seen a book-length gripe about everything other philosophers were getting wrong. I saw now that focusing on the errors of philosophers was a way of getting at something much more important: the evasions of human beings in their hankering after certainty and system. My favorite aphorism of Williams’s, almost a throwaway line in Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy, goes, “The only serious enterprise is living, and we have to live after the reflection; moreover (though the distinction of theory and practice encourages us to forget it), we have to live during it as well.”
The Baroque is an aristocratic performance ethic, less than a virtue ethic. It's Catholic as opposed to Protestant, which is appropriate for a philosopher in an age of the decline of philosophy (philosophy defined as prescriptive and authoritarian). Theater and law re-stage philosophical argument as a debate among equals, in a world without kings.
The decadence of mannerism presents as the self-narrativizing of a concrete idealism, attempting to inoculate itself against increasingly dominant narrative (relativist) culture. Mannerism is the model of aristocratic art in an age of incipient democracy. The baroque is the same model of conservatism in the age of a fully ascendant democracy: the age of theater.
"...we shall begin with the republican state, which has virtue for its principle."

Against my argument that Nakul Krishna is just a mannered fop.
The success of Doniger’s opponents in having her book withdrawn from the Indian market is not a simple triumph of bullying; at least in this case, their means were constitutional ones. Their success is, rather, the product of the slow accrual of power to an emigrant intelligentsia with its fact-checkers and open letters on the one hand, and an Indian vanguard with its legal notices and hurt sentiments on the other. Doniger’s liberal defenders need to confront the fact that her opponents too claim the moral and political high ground. Not for the first time, it looks like liberalism is awkward when confronted with the question of power, at a loss about what to say to those to whom liberty is not the highest value.
That's smart.

Leiter again, 2016
"A nicely written piece by philosopher V. Alan White--do take a look."
In a very forceful sense of what's contingent, I should not be writing this sentence. I'm writing this one as well only because my mother finished the interior of a casket in a way that displeased someone, the wife of the factory's owner. Had this one person said, "Well, I wouldn't have tacked that fabric that way, but it's ok," or the like, I would not be writing this sentence either. But she didn't say that to my mother. She said something like "You need to redo that lining--it's not right." To my now long-lost mother, whose intricately crocheted doilies sit on my furniture as I write these sentences, that was needless comeuppance. She defended her work, and was sent home for the day.

And that is why I'm writing this sentence. One small moment that could have happened--the boss's wife might have caved and acknowledged my Mom was doing a good enough job--did not. And that's why I'm writing this sentence.
The fact of a working class childhood, described in uninteresting language. Like Laurie Paul.
The "discovery" by philosophers of fiction and "art", not as idea but practice and heuristic.

Leiter: "condescension from below"

I'm not much interested in Williams, or the rest. Amusing to find out he was a "harsh" critic of Rorty. They obviously had too much in common to get along. He took form and formality seriously in a way Rorty didn't (and I say that without reading either beyond a glance). Googling Williams and Rorty, the third link down, following Williams' review of Rorty in 1989, and Rorty reviewing Williams in 2002, both in the LRB, and above Williams reviewing Rorty again in the NYRB in 1983 , was CT, and Bertram confirming my lazy assumptions.
I’m very puzzled by the claim, repeatedly made in this thread, that Rorty was anathematized by the anglo-american philosophical mainstream because he challenged their methods and their conception of the boundaries of the subject. First, I don’t think it is true that he was anathematized, just that he wasn’t taken as seriously as his fans would have liked. Second, it is very easy to point to philosophers who reject scientism and who also challenge those same boundaries and who have always been treated with the utmost respect by “insiders”. To name but one: Bernard Williams.

...My experience of reading Williams is, in some respects, akin to my experience of reading Nietzsche, in that he had the power to say something (often, merely by the lightest of comments in passing) that is profoundly unsettling. My experience of reading Rorty does not involve being unsettled in the least, just thinking “no, that’s wrong”, “what’s the _argument_ for _that_?” etc. Lots of people are even more “open-faced” in their “dissent” than Rorty, but I find it hard to believe that degree of open-faced dissent is a good predictor of long-term impact. Really having something to say, and saying it well, on the other hand, probably is.
Bertram is saying that Williams took writing seriously, and was able therefore to communicate his desires for some things to be just so, with the result that a reader who disagreed would at least understand the desire, and the complexity of Williams' person and experience. That's what good writing does.

And of course Krishna was raised to be a technocrat.
My parents were part of the educated Indian middle class who approved of books only as long as they were called, say, Advanced Statistics; when they caught me with a copy of Middlemarch they told me I oughtn’t to be reading storybooks at my age.
Modernism and progress, "backward" peoples. "Engineering the Revolution" or Jihad.


This is the age of reality
But some of us deal with mythology
This is the age of science and technology
But some of us are stopped by antiquity

LKJ was a Modernist. Nakul Krishna may be too close to Naipaul. But he's facing contradictions that Leiter et al. do their best to avoid. And Maybe N+1 has gotten a little better, since their days of publishing art reviews by managing directors in private equity.

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