In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Bookmarks Professor Peter Rickman of the City University of London is not a literary theorist but, as a noted historian of philosophy, he knows his Kant. His complaints in this issue about J. Hillis Miller's excursis on Kant vividly illustrate a problem that refuses to go away. Despite twenty years or more of academic praise-singing about interdisciplinary work between philosophy and literary criticism, the gap between them still now-and-again yawns to a gulf. Fault lies on both sides. Much can—and should—be said about literary folk who think they can pick up a work of philosophy and treat it as a disengaged "text," a novel or bit ofautobiography fresh for the lit-critical food processor. Philosophy is about argument and counter-argument, and textuality mavens are no use in understanding philosophy unless they are sooner or later willing to engage arguments. But much of the blame belongs with philosophers too. That, at least, is the view of Roger Scruton, whose most recent collection of essays, The Philosopher on Dover Beach (St. Martin's Press, $24.95), includes something to infuriate practically everybody. He says that if literary critics "now seem unable to appreciate the difference between genuine reasoning and empty sophistry, it is partly because philosophy . . . has long ago withdrawn itselffrom their concerns. When the agenda of philosophy is so narrow and specialized that only a trained philosopher can understand it, then is it surprising that those disciplines which— whether they know it or not—depend upon philosophy for their anchor, should have slipped away helplessly into the night?" Scruton quotes a paragraph of pseudotechnical aesthetics by an analytic philosopher to show how "there is, in the idiom of modern philosophy, such a poverty of emotion, such a distance from the felt experience of words and things, as to cast doubt on its competence as a vehicle for moral and aesthetic reflection." Ifwe are to trace this estrangement ofphilosophy from life, Scruton remarks, we should at least remember that the early modern philosophers most responsible for the science-derived recent history ofthe subject were themselves "practising participants in a literary culture." Descartes and Bacon were superb essayists, Leibniz wrote poetry, Locke's prose was a model of expressive clarity. Scruton says this in "Modern Philosophy and the Neglect of Aesthetics," an essay calling for renewed attention by philosophers to art: philosophy "ought Philosophy and Literature, © 1991, 15: 377-390 378Philosophy and Literature not to be the handmaiden of the sciences; it should be rather, the seamstress of die Lebenswelt." Memorable turns of phrase are just part of the attraction of this elegant, abrasive book. From almost any setded standpoint, there will be passages of Scruton to please and to enrage. The tide of The Philosopher on Dover Beach finds a religious element in, so far as I can see, virtually any act of veneration, including the appreciation by atheists of high art. Scruton, however, says it ever so much more nicely. His discussion of sexuality should see him picketed by homosexuals, his abuse ofStockhausen ("In Search ofan Audience") will anger die musical avant-garde, and as an expatriate who has chosen to live abroad, I find his remarks on nations and communities discomforting. Whether you consider him a blast ofcold wind, a breath offresh air, orjust a whiffofhalitosis, Roger Scruton keeps the mind awake. A friend recendy told me he couldn't take fat philosophers seriously: philosophers require a lean and hungry look. Vanity stung by his remark (Please, takemeseriously!), and pushed by domestic nagging, I picked up ThePhilosopher's Diet (Adantic Monthly Press, $7.95, paper), written by Richard A. Watson, Professor of Philosophy at Washington University in St. Louis. It is the most intelligent, literate weight-loss tome I've ever seen. A horrid blurb cliché to say it, but the book is as much about putting you in charge ofyourself as it is about getting thin: "it does not take a philosopher to figure out that the only way to get a grip on your life is by taking hold. . . . You must change your life." More than rational argument, this requires inspiration, and how pleasant it is to be inspired by an...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 377-390
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.