Wednesday, August 2, 2017

First Rule of Philosophy

Last fall I took a Philosophy class. I thought it would be a piece of cake because I'd been reading so much philosophy with the Great Books work. was ok. We mostly covered philosophical concepts and I can understand those to some extent. In fact, it's often much easier to understand a description of a philosophical concept than it is to understand the original philosopher's writings about it.
I wanted to mention a part of it though. One of the books that we worked with is a small volume called  'The Practice of Philosophy' by Jay Rosenberg. Rosenberg is very good at the descriptions that I mentioned above and the book is well worth your time. Much of the book is an expanded look at logic and logic forms.
The highlight for me though, was what he formulated as Rule One of philosophy:
Any opinion for which one can give reasons is admissible in philosophy, but once a claim has been supported by an argument, subsequent criticism must then engage the argument.

So if I tell you that X is better than Y for reasons 1, 2 and 3, you must then grapple with reasons 1, 2 and 3 if you're going to tell me that Y is in fact better than X. This makes complete sense, of course. If an intelligent reader sees you argue against 1 and then pretend that everything is settled, then they should be skeptical that you couldn't argue against 2 and 3.
Or worse, they may see someone dismiss any possible argument without even bothering to engage. That's absolutely plaguing our discourse today.
Would that this rule was taught in every school!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

To Be Or Not To Be

I'm reading Harold Bloom's 'Shakespeare, The Invention of the Human' and finding it fascinating. Bloom has a chapter on each play, grouped by category but also chronologically. This allows him to compare characters to previous characters and, in part, charts how Shakespeare's progress developed. I'm hugely enjoying it, and (once again) am thankful that I read all of the Bard's plays last year.
One very interesting idea that Bloom uses has to do with the Shakespearian soliloquy. He believes that the character, while talking to themselves, overhears what they are saying and then reacts to that. In turn, they develop their character based on what they've learned. In effect, they ideas that they lay out are not fully developed. They may even come as a surprise.
I'm imagining Hamlet's famous line then as something like this: "To be or not to be, that (?!?) is the question?" Hamlet is surprised that he has come to a question of suicide as a way out. He then weighs the pros and cons and continues.
Frankly I love this idea.

Bloom is also in love with Falstaff, especially of Henry IV, part 1. He loves Falstaff's vitality and life force. I can't blame him. Bloom also says that we are wrong to see Falstaff as a coward and I can't quite read that version out of what the text tells me. Which isn't to say that Bloom is wrong. Merely that I need to reread the play.