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Showing posts from May 5, 2013

The whole society deal

An old post - but one I am putting up as a squint eyed comment concerning the controversy concerning Vivek Chibber's recent book on Marxism and post-colonial studies. In Ma Nuit chez Maud , Jean-Louis, the Catholic engineer, bumps into an old college friend of his, Vidal, who is now a philosophy professor. Jean-Louis confesses that he is still an observing Catholic; but, he says, he has his own ideas about Catholicism. For instance, he recently read Pascal and felt that if Pascal’s rigorism was Christianity, he would rather be an atheist. Vidal, on the other hand, claims that, as a Marxist,   Pascal has a peculiar meaning to him.   His choice of Marxism, he claims, was decided by something like Pascal’s wager about the existence of God. As Vidal sees it, there are two ways of looking at history. Either it doesn’t make sense or it does. If the first view, A, has an 80 percent sense of being true, and the second a 20 percent chance, it is still rational to bet on the second vi

Bite the hand that feeds you

Plato, when doing philosophy, often used a method familiar to any 17 year old with a passion for music: he would pull out a line from one of his favorite singers – Heraclitus, Democritus, Parmenides, et al. and finger it until it gave up its meaning. Unfortunately, the history of philosophy, from Heraclitus to Elvis Costello, shows that philosophers are less and less inclined to linger over these gnomic spasms that come in – as though fully formed in a whole other universe - from the outside, while they are more and more concerned about creating logically coherent structures in this world that they can argue for and against. However, I, like Plato, think it is worthwhile pondering the weighty obscurities summoned like spirits in a great phrase. For instance – to return to Elvis Costello for a moment – it seems to me that the proper measure of that phrase in his song, Radio Radio, which goes: I want to bite the hand that feeds me – has not yet been attempted. Of course, the naï