A sign from the 2018 March for Science (photo by Jason McGorty on Flickr):
A sign from the 2018 March for Science (photo by Jason McGorty on Flickr):
From Swift’s “apology” to A Tale of a Tub, in its fifth edition (1710):
The greatest part of that book was finished above thirteen years since, 1696, which is eight years before it was published. The author was then young, his invention at the height, and his reading fresh in his head. By the assistance of some thinking, and much conversation, he had endeavoured to strip himself of as many real prejudices as he could; I say real ones, because, under the notion of prejudices, he knew to what dangerous heights some men have proceeded. Thus prepared, he thought the numerous and gross corruptions in Religion and Learning might furnish matter for a satire, that would be useful and diverting. He resolved to proceed in a manner that should be altogether new, the world having been already too long nauseated with endless repetitions upon every subject. The abuses in Religion, he proposed to set forth in the Allegory of the Coats and the three Brothers, which was to make up the body of the discourse. Those in learning he chose to introduce by way of digressions. He was then a young gentleman much in the world, and wrote to the taste of those who were like himself; therefore, in order to allure them, he gave a liberty to his pen, which might not suit with maturer years, or graver characters, and which he could have easily corrected with a very few blots, had he been master of his papers, for a year or two before their publication.
Not that he would have governed his judgment by the ill-placed cavils of the sour, the envious, the stupid, and the tasteless, which he mentions with disdain. He acknowledges there are several youthful sallies, which, from the grave and the wise, may deserve a rebuke. But he desires to be answerable no farther than he is guilty, and that his faults may not be multiplied by the ignorant, the unnatural, and uncharitable applications of those who have neither candour to suppose good meanings, nor palate to distinguish true ones. After which, he will forfeit his life, if any one opinion can be fairly deduced from that book, which is contrary to Religion or Morality.
Preceding this is a satirical list of forthcoming works:
Treatises wrote by the same Author, most of them mentioned in the following Discourses; which will be speedily published.
A Character of the Present Set of Wits in the Island.
A panegyrical Essay upon the Number THREE.
A Dissertation upon the principal Productions of Grub-Street.
Lectures upon a Dissection of Human Nature.
A Panegyric upon the World.
An analytical discourse upon Zeal, histori-theophysi-logically considered.
A general History of Ears.
A modest Defense of the Proceedings of the Rabble in all ages.
A Description of the Kingdom of Absurdities.
A Voyage into England, by a Person of Quality in Terra Australis incognita, translated from the Original.
A Critical Essay upon the Art of Canting, philosophically, physically, and musically considered.
And from the long-last opening, after pages of other prefatory material:
WHOEVER hath an Ambition to be heard in a Crowd, must press, and squeeze, and thrust, and climb with indefatigable Pains, till he has exalted himself to a certain Degree of Altitude above them. Now, in all Assemblies, though you wedge them ever so close, we may observe this peculiar Property, that over their Heads there is Room enough, but how to reach it is the difficult Point; it being as hard to get quit of Number, as of Hell.
— Evadere ad auras,
Hoc opus, hic labor est.
To this End, the Philosopher’s way in all Ages has been by erecting certain Edifices in the Air; But, whatever Practice and Reputation these kind of Structures have formerly possessed, or may still continue in, not excepting even that of Socrates, when he was suspended in a Basket to help Contemplation, I think, with due Submission, they seem to labour under two Inconveniences. First, That the Foundations being laid too high, they have been often out of Sight, and ever out of Hearing. Secondly, That the Materials, being very transitory, have suffered much from Inclemencies of Air, especially in these North-West regions.
From Rabelais’s prologue to the first book of Gargantua and Pantagruel, translated in 1653 by Sir Thomas Urquhart:
Most noble and illustrious drinkers, and you thrice precious pockified blades (for to you, and none else, do I dedicate my writings), Alcibiades, in that dialogue of Plato’s, which is entitled The Banquet, whilst he was setting forth the praises of his schoolmaster Socrates (without all question the prince of philosophers), amongst other discourses to that purpose, said that he resembled the Silenes. Silenes of old were little boxes, like those we now may see in the shops of apothecaries, painted on the outside with wanton toyish figures, as harpies, satyrs, bridled geese, horned hares, saddled ducks, flying goats, thiller harts, and other such-like counterfeited pictures at discretion, to excite people unto laughter, as Silenus himself, who was the foster-father of good Bacchus, was wont to do; but within those capricious caskets were carefully preserved and kept many rich jewels and fine drugs, such as balm, ambergris, amomon, musk, civet, with several kinds of precious stones, and other things of great price. Just such another thing was Socrates. For to have eyed his outside, and esteemed of him by his exterior appearance, you would not have given the peel of an onion for him, so deformed he was in body, and ridiculous in his gesture. He had a sharp pointed nose, with the look of a bull, and countenance of a fool: he was in his carriage simple, boorish in his apparel, in fortune poor, unhappy in his wives, unfit for all offices in the commonwealth, always laughing, tippling, and merrily carousing to everyone, with continual gibes and jeers, the better by those means to conceal his divine knowledge. Now, opening this box you would have found within it a heavenly and inestimable drug, a more than human understanding, an admirable virtue, matchless learning, invincible courage, unimitable sobriety, certain contentment of mind, perfect assurance, and an incredible misregard of all that for which men commonly do so much watch, run, sail, fight, travel, toil and turmoil themselves.
Whereunto (in your opinion) doth this little flourish of a preamble tend? For so much as you, my good disciples, and some other jolly fools of ease and leisure, reading the pleasant titles of some books of our invention, as Gargantua, Pantagruel, Whippot (Fessepinte.), the Dignity of Codpieces, of Pease and Bacon with a Commentary, &c., are too ready to judge that there is nothing in them but jests, mockeries, lascivious discourse, and recreative lies; because the outside (which is the title) is usually, without any farther inquiry, entertained with scoffing and derision. But truly it is very unbeseeming to make so slight account of the works of men, seeing yourselves avouch that it is not the habit makes the monk, many being monasterially accoutred, who inwardly are nothing less than monachal, and that there are of those that wear Spanish capes, who have but little of the valour of Spaniards in them. Therefore is it, that you must open the book, and seriously consider of the matter treated in it. Then shall you find that it containeth things of far higher value than the box did promise; that is to say, that the subject thereof is not so foolish as by the title at the first sight it would appear to be.
And put the case, that in the literal sense you meet with purposes merry and solacious enough, and consequently very correspondent to their inscriptions, yet must not you stop there as at the melody of the charming syrens, but endeavour to interpret that in a sublimer sense which possibly you intended to have spoken in the jollity of your heart. Did you ever pick the lock of a cupboard to steal a bottle of wine out of it? Tell me truly, and, if you did, call to mind the countenance which then you had. Or, did you ever see a dog with a marrowbone in his mouth,—the beast of all other, says Plato, lib. 2, de Republica, the most philosophical? If you have seen him, you might have remarked with what devotion and circumspectness he wards and watcheth it: with what care he keeps it: how fervently he holds it: how prudently he gobbets it: with what affection he breaks it: and with what diligence he sucks it. To what end all this? What moveth him to take all these pains? What are the hopes of his labour? What doth he expect to reap thereby? Nothing but a little marrow. True it is, that this little is more savoury and delicious than the great quantities of other sorts of meat, because the marrow (as Galen testifieth, 5. facult. nat. & 11. de usu partium) is a nourishment most perfectly elaboured by nature.
In imitation of this dog, it becomes you to be wise, to smell, feel and have in estimation these fair goodly books, stuffed with high conceptions, which, though seemingly easy in the pursuit, are in the cope and encounter somewhat difficult. And then, like him, you must, by a sedulous lecture, and frequent meditation, break the bone, and suck out the marrow,—that is, my allegorical sense, or the things I to myself propose to be signified by these Pythagorical symbols, with assured hope, that in so doing you will at last attain to be both well-advised and valiant by the reading of them: for in the perusal of this treatise you shall find another kind of taste, and a doctrine of a more profound and abstruse consideration, which will disclose unto you the most glorious sacraments and dreadful mysteries, as well in what concerneth your religion, as matters of the public state, and life economical.
From Moliere’s Le Bourgeois gentilhomme, translated by A. R. Waller:
Teacher of Philosophy: […] What do you wish to learn?
Monsieur Jourdain: Everything I can, for I am intensely anxious to be learned; it troubles me that my father and my mother did not see that I was thoroughly grounded in all knowledge when I was young.
Teacher of Philosophy: An admirable sentiment: Nam sine doctrina vita est quasi mortis imago. Doubtless you know Latin and understanding that.
Monsieur Jourdain: Yes, but proceed as thought I did not know it: explain to me what it means.
Teacher of Philosophy: It means, Without knowledge, life is little more than the reflection of death.
Monsieur Jourdain: That Latin is right.
Teacher of Philosophy: Do you not know some of the principles, some of the rudiments of knowledge?
Monsieur Jourdain: Oh! Yes, I know how to read and write.
Teacher of Philosophy: Where would you like us to begin? Would you like me to teach you logic?
Monsieur Jourdain: What is logic?
Teacher of Philosophy: It teaches that which educates the three operations of the mind.
Monsieur Jourdain: What are the three operations of the mind?
Teacher of Philosophy: The first, the second and the third. The first is to have a proper conception of things, by means of universals; the second is to judge accurately, by means of categories; and the third is to draw a conclusion accurately by means of the figures Barbara, Celarent, Durii, Ferio, Baralipton, etc.
Monsieur Jourdain: Those words are regular jawbreakers. That logic does not appeal to me. Let us learn something nicer.
A too abbreviated list of book-length studies by philosophers on (visual) artists:
Danto, Andy Warhol
Lyotard, Sam Francis: Lessons of Darkness
Valéry, Introduction to the Method of Leonardo da Vinci
The other direction, (visual) artists on philosophers, is even more neglected. Beyond depictions of Socrates, I think only of Paolozzi on Wittgenstein.
Then there is the adjacent question of the (visual) art of philosophy: how to visualize, represent, paint philosophy—the activity, the practice, the discipline, as a body of knowledge, storehouse of concepts, gallery of methods.
From the opening of Nozick’s Philosophical Explanations:
Children think an argument involves raised voices, anger, negative emotion. To argue with someone is to attempt to push him around verbally. But a philosophical argument isn’t like that—is it?
The terminology of philosophical art is coercive: arguments are powerful and best when they are knockdown, arguments force you to a conclusion, if you believe the premisses you have to or must believe the conclusion, some arguments do not carry much punch, and so forth. A philosophical argument is an attempt to get someone to believe something, whether he wants to believe it or not. A successful philosophical argument, a strong argument, forces someone to a belief.
Though philosophy is carried on as a coercive activity, the penalty philosophers wield is, after all, rather weak. If the other person is willing to bear the label of “irrational” or “having the worse arguments,” he can skip away happily maintaining his previous belief. He will be trailed, of course, by the philosopher furiously hurling philosophical imprecations: “What do you mean, you’re willing to be irrational? You shouldn’t be irrational because…” And although the philosopher is embarrassed by his inability to complete this sentence in a noncircular fashion—he can only produce reasons for accepting reasons—still, he is unwilling to let his adversary go.
Wouldn’t it be better if philosophical arguments left the person no possible answer at all, reducing him to impotent silence? Even then, he might sit there silently, smiling, Buddhalike. Perhaps philosophers need arguments so powerful they set up reverberations in the brain: if the person refuses to accept the conclusion, he dies. How’s that for a powerful argument? Yes, as with other physical threats (“your money or your life”), he can choose defiance. A “perfect” philosophical argument would leave no choice.
What useful purpose do philosophical arguments serve? Do we, trained in finding flaws in history’s great arguers, really believe arguments a promising route to the truth? Does either the likelihood or arriving at a true view (as opposed to a consistent and coherent one) or a view’s closeness to the truth vary directly with the strength of the philosophical arguments? Philosophical arguments can serve to elaborate a view, to delineate its content. Considering objections, hypothetical situations, and so on, does help to sharpen a view. But need all this be done in an attempt to prove, or in arguing?
Why are philosophers intent on forcing others to believe things? Is that a nice way to behave toward someone? I think we cannot improve people that way—the means frustrate the ends. Just as dependence is not eliminated by treating a person dependently, and someone cannot be forced to be free, a person is not most improved by being forced to believe something against his will, whether he wants to or not. The valuable person cannot be fashioned by committing philosophy upon him.
The opening of Felix S. Cohen, “Transcendental Nonsense and the Functional Approach” (1935):
Some fifty years ago a great German jurist had a curious dream. He dreamed that he died and was taken to a special heaven reserved for the theoreticians of the law. In this heaven one met, face to face, the many concepts of jurisprudence in their absolute purity, freed from all entangling alliances with human life. Here were the disembodied spirits of good faith and bad faith, property, possession, laches, and rights in rem. Here were all the logical instruments needed to manipulate and transform these legal concepts and thus to create and to solve the most beautiful of legal problems. Here one found a dialectic-hydraulic-interpretation press, which could press an indefinite number of meanings out of any text or statute, an apparatus for constructing fictions, and a hair-splitting machine that could divide a single hair into 999,999 equal parts and, when operated by the most expert jurists, could split each of these parts again into 999,999 equal parts. The boundless opportunities of this heaven of legal concepts were open to all properly qualified jurists, provided only they drank the Lethean draught which induced forgetfulness of terrestrial human affairs. But for the most accomplished jurists the Lethean draught was entirely superfluous. They had nothing to forget.
Von Jhering’s dream has been retold, in recent years, in the chapels of sociological, functional, institutional, scientific, experimental, realistic, and neo-realistic jurisprudence. The question is raised, “How much of contemporary legal thought moves in the pure ether of Von Jhering’s heaven of legal concepts?” One turns to our leading legal textbooks and to the opinions of our courts for answer. May the Shade of Von Jhering be our guide.
Kierkegaard in The Sickness Unto Death:
A person can go on living fairly well, seem to be a human being, be occupied with temporal matters, marry, have children, be honored and esteemed — and it may not be detected that in a deeper sense this person lacks a self. Such things do not create much of a stir in the world, for a self is the last thing the world cares about and the most dangerous thing of all for a person to show signs of having. The greatest hazard of all, losing one’s self, can occur very quietly in the world, as if it were nothing at all. No other loss can occur so quietly; any other loss — an arm, a leg, five dollars, a wife, etc. — is sure to be noticed.
Bacon’s 55th aphorism in the Novum Organum, translated by Joseph Devey, some two centuries before Darwin on lumpers and splitters:
The greatest and, perhaps, radical distinction between different men’s dispositions for philosophy and the sciences is this, that some are more vigorous and active in observing the differences of things, others in observing their resemblances; for a steady and acute disposition can fix its thoughts, and dwell upon and adhere to a point, through all the refinements of differences, but those that are sublime and discursive recognize and compare even the most delicate and general resemblances; each of them readily falls into excess, by catching either at nice distinctions or shadows of resemblance.
from Kripke’s Naming and Necessity (1980):
If one was determining the referent of a name like ‘Glunk’ to himself and made the following decision, ‘I shall use the term “Glunk” to refer to the man that I call “Glunk”‘ this would get one nowhere. One had better have some independent determination of the referent of ‘Glunk’. This is a good example of a blatantly circular determination. Actually sentences like ‘Socrates is called “Socrates”‘ are very interesting and one can spend hours talking about their analysis. I actually did, once, do that. I won’t do that now, however, on this occasion. (See how high the seas of language can rise. And at the lowest points too.)