Saturday, January 21, 2023

Highbrow Fluency (is Philosophy middlebrow?)

Philosophical questions posed by philosophers are properly answered in traditions with a "higher-level" of fluency than Philosophy allows.* 

Wittgenstein provides countless examples. Indeed, he is at his best when illustrating his points with examples of credulous understanding, the credulous use of language, confused language, and credulous questions rooted in the misapprehension of language.
Consider these representative examples of highbrow fluency:
See Jane Austen in Northanger Abbey. Begin with her gloss on Addison and Steele. More broadly, regard heroine Catherine Moreland and her struggles with the epistemology of sociology as she learns to deal with a world full of deceptive scoundrels.
See Jane Austen on the subject of "Sense and Sensibility" in, well, Sense and Sensibility.
See Christopher Marlowe on the subject of Renaissance studies and intellectual nostalgia for Greece and Rome in Dr. Faustus. Then compare Shakespeare in Hamlet, when Hamlet has the player recite the poem about Priam and Hecuba; compare that to the respective passage in Virgil; and then consider the meaning of Hamlet's failure...
See Dr. Johnson on "everything" in Rasselas.
See Hawthorne on the "individual vs. society" in The Scarlet-Letter.
See Hawthorne on human sexuality and love in The Scarlet-Letter.
See Hawthorne on epistemology in The Scarlet-Letter.
See Hawthorne on "the Good Old Cause and American political philosophy" in The Scarlet-Letter.
See Melville on "certainty" in The Confidence-Man.
See Melville on language and the epistemology of science in the "Cetology" chapter in Moby-Dick.
See Francis Bacon on the Idols of the Marketplace and the Idols of the Theatre.
See Roger Bacon on the four sources of philosophical/clerical/institutional ignorance [here they are: 1) Appeals to an unsuited authority. 2) The undue influence of custom. 3) The opinions of the unlearned crowd. 4) Displays of wisdom that simply cover up ignorance].
See St. Augustin on Cicero and Plato.
See Sir Philp Sydney on History, Philosophy and Poetry in his "Defense of Poesy".
See Rabelais on law, theology and medicine.
See Milton on freedom of speech.
See Milton on separation of church and state.
See Milton on the foundations of government.
See Milton on the anthropology of theology.
See Milton for a conceptual history of the comparative analysis of mythology and theology.
See Milton on the politics of church bureaucracy.
See Milton on the subject of sexual ambiguity, sexual identity and mortality, sexual activity and mortality, and the theological "substance" and "purpose" of gender roles.
See Nabokov on academic culture in Lolita, Pale Fire, and Pnin.
See Nabokov on the misapprehension of language and philosophical/theological credulity in Pale Fire.
See Philip K. Dick for his "anatomy" of human empathy in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
See Philip K. Dick on technocracy, media and social control in The Penultimate Truth.
See Philip K. Dick on technocracy, drugs, consumerism and social control in The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch.
See Orwell on politics and language in "Politics and the English Language".
See Lucian on Philosophers and schoolmen in Sale of Philosophies.
See Robert Burton on science, medicine, theology, and psychological disorder.
See Aristotle on Ethics. 
See Xenophon on education, economics, human nature... As well, contrast his Dinner Party to Plato's Symposium. Who "sets the record straight" regarding the subject of the latter?
See the Talmud.
See Edgar Allan Poe on aesthetics (everything he has to say), on Aristotle in "Melonta Tauta", on Arminianism in "The Black Cat", on love in "Ligeia", on the analysis of cyphers in "The gold Bug", on Emerson and "Transcendentalism" in his third review of Hawthorne, and on blockheads in general (passim).

* We will elaborate possible distinctions between "philosophy" and "academic philosophy" on another occasion.

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