Thursday, April 13, 2006
The Advantages and Disadvantages of Enlightenment’s Discontents and Dan Brown For Life
Amusing meditation on Habermasian phlegmatics at theoria:
My goal for this afternoon was to read a significant chunk of On the Logic of the Social Sciences; I have, as of yet, made it a full seven pages into the book. Tortuous prose. Infinite digressions into the needlessly obscure. And then, what does he say? Essentially, “Well, really, we didn’t need to do all this. People aren’t neo-Kantians anymore. And, besides, most can’t even spell Rickert’s name.”
Section 1.2, however, begins with a neo-Kantian, viz, Ernst Cassirer. I’m sure it will end in the same way. “No need to have done this. People haven’t ever been and won’t ever be Cassirerian. They likely couldn’t find his books in the library.”
Richard Rorty has a similar problem, minus the ponderosity. An impulse to public sphere-worthy public intellectual, generalist plenitude treads on the toes of a refined attachment to a salon-sized set of philosophical figures and problems. The moment comes when Rorty declares: ‘but we polypragmatic, post-Wittgensteinian, post-Heideggerian, ironist, liberal, progressive, Dewey-reading, Davidson-quoting, secular ... ‘; a thought which completes itself thusly: ‘me and whose liberal ironist army?’ Habermas, to his credit, often completes the thought. But I prefer Rorty for the fresher prose stylings.
Speaking of the fate of Enlightenment, Chris Brooke has initiated an interesting discussion at the Virtual Stoa. He solicits answers to eight questions. I am particularly interested in #5: “Do you think the idea of the “Counter-Enlightenment” is a useful category or not, either intellectually or historiographically?” Since I make use of the notion, it would be inconvenient for some of my work if it turned out not to be usable.
Dan Brown doesn’t come terribly well out of the judgment at all (see §§197-217, 315-327, 343-5 especially), but fortunately for him he was up against Claimants like Michael Baigent, whose performance as a witness is described here:“Mr Baigent was a poor witness. Those are not my words: they are the words of his own Counsel in his written closing submissions (paragraph 111). Those words do not in my view do justice to the inadequacy of Mr Baigent’s performance...” (§213)
And the judge observed a bit later
“I make allowances for the fact that Mr Baigent performed so badly he plainly missed obvious points when answering questions… Nevertheless the Defendants are right in their submissions even when taking in to account the factors mentioned above to submit that he was a thoroughly unreliable witness. They say that they do not know whether he was deliberately trying to mislead the court or was simply deluded and that he is either extremely dishonest or a complete fool. I do not need to decide that issue...” (§232)
There’s this, too, which I liked, when the judge was commenting on the evidence of Mr Ruben, a senior person at Random House, Dan Brown’s publisher: “His enthusiasm of the book [The Da Vinci Code] knew no bounds. I am not sure that it is as good as he says but then I am no literary person.” (§354)
If you missed it, Kieran Setiya has collected some exquisitely mean reviews. It might be funny to have a ‘most passive-aggressive legal decisions’ competition. Some judges really shine when it comes to radiating contempt within the confines of their duties.
I guess I somehow mentally skipped “If that’s too heavy for you...,” so I spent a couple minutes puzzling on the possible relationship between the two parts of the post.
I loved the judge in that one Intelligent Design case, too.
Sorry - are you calling me a liberal ironist!?
Nope. Are you one?
Not the best of my knowledge! It’s been a long thirty-six hours. Just yesterday I was accused of being a “byatch post-modern Kantian”. Being called a “liberal ironist” wasn’t far from the realm of possibility, all things considered.