I confess to being a fan of this TV series many of whose episodes are now over 20 years old. I have seen every episode numerous times. I am not a student of the series as I am a student of the great Twilight Zone series, but then numerous episodes of Rod Serling's Twilight Zone, belonging as it does to the Golden Age of television, really are worthy of study.
What do I like about Seinfeld? Perhaps it is the utterly zany quality of the Jewish humor. Here is some of it in Yiddish (with subtitles).
And the political incorrectness I like. But things have changed in America, so much so that Jerry Seinfeld nowadays refuses to perform before college audiences.
Indeed, it must be jarring for a boomer like Seinfeld, who went to college in the early 70s, when students were debating real issues freely, to confront today’s college campuses, where students often invent issues about which to be aggrieved, many times on behalf of other parties, and then have to find "free speech zones" in which to discuss them.
Consider the uproar over a statue of a man talking to a woman at a Texas college, which some decided was a depiction of "mansplaining," or a man patronizingly explaining something to a woman. Paul Tadlock, the 79-year-old sculptor, said the piece — done for 20 years before its offense was "discovered" — merely depicted his daughter, a student at the time, talking to a friend.
Then there were the students at UC-Berkeley, who called for "an occupation of syllabi in the social sciences and humanities," which sounds serious. Rodrigo Kazuo and Meg Perret felt aggrieved that a classical philosophy course had the audacity to cover actual thought leaders from classical philosophy, including Plato and Aristotle — because they all happened to be white men.
I heard David Brooks on C-Span 2 last night. He uncorked a very funny line. "I am the conservative at The New York Times, which is like being the chief rabbi in Mecca."
By the way, it was a mention by Brooks in his latest book that got my friend Lupu onto Soloveitchik. Now I am reading the good rabbi. I have finished The Lonely Man of Faith and I've started on Halakhic Man. Impressive and important for those of us exercised by the Athenian-Hierosolymanic dialectic.
In other humor news, Heather Wilhelm reports, via Chelsea Clinton, that the Clinton family motto is, wait for it:
“We have a saying in my family—it’s always better to get caught trying (rather than not try at all).”
Full disclosure: When I first read that sentence, I laughed out loud. Next, I read it two more times, just to make sure it was not some glorious figment of my imagination. “Get caught trying?” Who makes this their family motto? Concerned that I was missing the popular resurgence of this wise old adage—a saying that ranks right up there with “There’s more than one way to obliterate an old email server” and “If the silverware is missing, Sandy Berger’s pants are a-jangling”—I decided to Google “get caught trying.” If you’re looking for lots of advice on how to do things like hide an affair from your spouse, illegally sneak over the border, or fight off a wild crow that is trying to eat your lunch, I suggest you do the same.
Here’s the thing: If you “get caught” doing something, it implies that you are doing something secretive, underhanded, or out-and-out bad. What kind of family, outside of the Corleone crime syndicate, instinctively associates “trying” with doing something surreptitious, or an action where one can get “caught”? Moreover, is there any one-liner in the history of the world—with the exception, of course, of “It depends what the meaning of ‘is’ is”—that better sums up the Clinton ethos?
What Miss Wilhelm fails to realize, however, is the signal impetus Bill Cinton gave to a renewed assault upon the question of the meaning of Being, die Frage nach dem Sinn von Sein, a question occluded and forgotten (Seinsvergessenheit!) in political precincts until Bubba re-ignited it with his penetrating inquiry into the manifold meanings of 'is.'
Wondering what had become of Colin McGinn, I poked around and came across this parody by him of somebody he variously refers to as Brigand Lighter, Brendan Lightweight, Barry Litebeer, and Professor Litesmear. Is he referring to some actual person? The post is dated 1 April 2015 which suggests that Professor McGinn might just be fooling around.
I wanted to bring to your attention a passage I came across in Nicholas Rescher’s Philosophical Standardism (Pittsburgh, 1994):
“The old saying is perfectly true: Philosophy bakes no bread. But it is also no less true that we do not live by bread alone. The physical side of our nature that impels us to eat, drink, and be merry is just one of its sides. Homo sapiens requires nourishment for the mind as urgently as nourishment for the body. We seek knowledge not only because we wish, but because we must. The need for information, for knowledge to nourish the mind, is ever bit as critical as the need for food to nourish the body.” (p. 67)
I was struck by what I believed was the distinctively Vallicellan retort, “But it is also no less true that we do not live by bread alone.” I’m curious: Is this a well-known retort among philosophers? If not, did you get that from Rescher, he from you, or is this just an instance of great minds thinking alike?
To the philistine's "Philosophy bakes no bread" you should not respond "Yes it does," for such responses are patently lame. You should say, "Man does not live by bread alone," or "Not everything is pursued as a means to something else," or "A university is not a trade school." You should not acquiesce in the philistine's values and assumptions, but go on the attack and question his values and assumptions. Put him on the spot. Play the Socratic gadfly. If a philistine wants to know how much you got paid for writing an article for a professional journal, say, "Do you really think that only what one is paid to do is worth doing?"
I wouldn't say that the not-by-bread-alone retort is standard among philosophers, especially not now when Christianity is on the wane and one cannot assume that philosophers have read the New Testament. Professor Rescher, of course, knows the verse at Matthew 4:4.
I didn't get the retort from Rescher: Philosophical Standardism is not a book of his that I have read. The retort occurred to me independently as I am sure it has occurred independently to many of a certain age and upbringing.
And of course Rescher did not get the line from me since his book was published in 1994 long before the blogosphere.
And it is not a case of great minds thinking alike since neither of our minds are great. It is more like above-average minds thinking alike, though I concede his to be more above-average than mine.
Is there anyone in philosophy more prolific than Rescher? Here is a list of just his books. Forty years ago I heard the joke about the Nicholas Rescher Book-of-the-Month Club. And he is still happily scribbling away. Here is another Rescher joke:
A student goes to visit Professor Rescher. Secretary informs her that the good doctor is not available because he is writing a book. Student replies, "I'll wait."
I Ain't Superstitious, leastways no more than Howlin' Wolf, but two twin black tuxedo cats just crossed my path. All dressed up with nowhere to go. Nine lives and dressed to the nines. Stevie Ray Vaughan, Superstition. Guitar solo starts at 3:03. And of course you've heard the story about Niels Bohr and the horseshoe over the door:
A friend was visiting in the home of Nobel Prize winner Niels Bohr, the famous atom scientist.
As they were talking, the friend kept glancing at a horseshoe hanging over the door. Finally, unable to contain his curiosity any longer, he demanded:
“Niels, it can’t possibly be that you, a brilliant scientist, believe that foolish horseshoe superstition! ? !”
“Of course not,” replied the scientist. “But I understand it’s lucky whether you believe in it or not.”
Robert Paul Wollf here replies with wit and lefty snark to a charming request by one Pamela N., a personal assistant, who wants to know who Immanuel Kant is referring to when he writes, "Caius is a man; man is mortal; therefore, Caius is mortal." Pamela confesses,
I will admit, I have not read Kant's works. I have, however, spent the last couple of hours combing through post after post after post about this particular quote from the book and cannot find a single soul who would say who they think Caius is.
In reading these many posts, I have come to the conclusion that Kant is probably referring to Pope Caius as he has been venerated by the Catholic Church as a Saint. Given that title, and the fact that Saint's [sic] are given to [sic] a quasi-immortal status [sic], I have ascertained that this is who Kant is most likely referring to. My question for you is, do you think that my assumption is correct? or do you have a deeper insight into who he is referring to?
Last night on The O'Reilly Factor, the sharpest comedian out there uncorked the following:
He makes Narcissus look like he invented self-effacement.
In battling the Left, it is not enough to have facts, logic, and moral decency on one's side; one must turn their own Alinsky tactics against them by the use of mockery, derision, contumely, and all the weapons of invective to make them look stupid, contemptible, and uncool. For the young especially, the cool counts for far more than the cogent. This is why the quintessentially cool Miller is so effective. People of sense could see from the outset that the adjunct law professor and community organizer, associate of former terrorist Bill Ayers and the 'reverend' Jeremiah Wright, raised on leftist claptrap and bereft of experience and knowledge of the world, would prove to be a disaster as president -- as he has so proven, and as even Leon Panetta the other night all but admitted. But Obama came across as a cool dude and that endeared him to foolish voters.
Civility is a prized conservative virtue, and one wishes that such tactics would not be necessary. But for leftists politics is war, and it is the foolish conservative who fails to see this and persists in imagining it to be a gentlemanly debate on common ground over shared interests. Civility is for the civil, not for its enemies.
Some time ago I heard Miller quip, in reference to Melissa Harris-Perry, that
She is a waste of a good hyphen.
A nasty thing to say, no doubt, but not as nasty as the slanderous and delusional things she had to say about the supposedly racist overtones of the word 'Obamacare.'
Conservatives should not allow themselves to be hobbled by their own civility and high standards. As one of my aphorisms has it:
I was one of those who saw "Last Tango in Paris" when it was first released, in 1972. I haven't seen it since and I don't remember anything specific about it except one scene, the scene you remember too, the 'butter scene,' in which the Marlon Brando character sodomizes the Maria Schneider character. In a post from February, 2011 written on the occasion of her death, I had this to say:
Islamic culture is in many ways benighted and backward, fanatical and anti-Enlightenment, but our trash culture is not much better. Suppose you are a Muslim and you look to the West. What do you see? Decadence. And an opportunity to bury the West.
If Muslims think that our decadent culture is what Western values are all about, and something we are trying to impose on them, then we are in trouble. They do and we are.
This brings me to the Jewish comedienne Joan Rivers who died recently at the the age of 81. No conservative can celebrate her life and influence without qualification. For she played a role in making our culture cruder and trashier. By how much? I'll leave that for you to ponder. And of course the comediennes among her admirers will take it, and have taken it, further still, and without the curbs on excess deriving from her education and upbringing.
That being said, conservatives of my stripe defend her right to free speech as against both the Islamists and their leftist enablers who have shown time and again that they have no interest in free speech except insofar as it politically correct free speech.
One of the ironies of the present day is that we conservatives are the 'new liberals,' 'liberal' being used in the good, old-fashioned sense to mean a person who champions toleration.
But of course you must never forget that toleration has limits. Ought one tolerate those who do not respect the principle of toleration? Of course not. If toleration is truly a value, then one ought to demand it not only of oneself but of others. My toleration meets its limit in your intolerance. I cannot tolerate your intolerance, for if I do, I jeopardize the very principle of toleration, and with it the search for truth.
Radical Islam, in its fanaticism and murderous intolerance, has no claim on the West's tolerance. It is no breach of tolerance on our part to demand that they behave themselves. We must also demand of them that if they want to be tolerated, they must tolerate others, Jews for example. They must not be allowed to benefit from the West's tolerance in order to preach intolerance and hate. Just as they have a right to their beliefs, we have a right to ours, and a right to enforce our beliefs about toleration on them if they would live in our midst.
Toleration is a value because truth is a value. A toleration worth wanting and having is therefore not to be confused with indifference towards truth, or relativism about truth. The great Leszek Kolakowski makes this point very well:
It is important to notice, however, that when tolerance is enjoined upon us nowadays, it is often in the sense of indifference: we are asked, in effect, to refrain from expressing -- or indeed holding -- any opinion, and sometimes even to condone every conceivable type of behaviour or opinion in others. This kind of tolerance is something entirely different, and demanding it is part of our hedonistic culture, in which nothing really matters to us; it is a philosophy of life without responsibility and without beliefs. It is encouraged by a variety of philosophies in fashion today, which teach us there is no such thing as truth in the traditional sense, and therefore that when we persist in our beliefs, even if we do so without aggression, we are ipso facto sinning against tolerance.
This is nonsense, and harmful nonsense. Contempt for truth harms our civilization no less than fanatical insistence on [what one takes to be] the truth. In addition, an indifferent majority clears the way for fanatics, of whom there will always be plenty around. Our civilization encourages the belief that everything should be just fun and games -- as indeed it is in the infantile philosophies of the so-called 'New Age.' Their content is impossible to describe, for they mean anything one wants them to; that is what they are for. ("On Toleration" in Freedom, Fame, Lying, and Betrayal, Penguin 1999, pp. 36-37.)
Lincoln and Obama share the Illinois connection. There the similiarity ends. And the Maureen Dowd parody begins:
FORE! Score? And seven trillion rounds ago, our forecaddies brought forth on this continent a new playground, conceived by Robert Trent Jones, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal when it comes to spending as much time on the links as possible — even when it seems totally inappropriate, like moments after making a solemn statement condemning the grisly murder of a 40-year-old American journalist beheaded by ISIL.
I am critical of giving feminism and race the extra attention and insulation from criticism that comes from designating these topics as “entire sub-disciplines of philosophy.” Given that it’s considered impolitic to criticize “entire sub-disciplines of philosophy,” we should vigorously debate what deserves to be considered as such. Knowledge, ethics, and being-qua-being deserve that distinction. It’s not obvious that feminism and race do.
As many suspected, I am an expert in neither philosophy of race nor feminist philosophy. I need not be. One could have principled reservations about a discipline called “conservative studies” without being an Edmund Burke scholar. If you know that conservatism is a position in political philosophy, you might reasonably think it shouldn’t also be a discipline unto itself.
That is essentially the point I’m pressing against feminism as a sub-discipline of philosophy. Let feminism be discussed alongside conservatism, libertarianism, liberalism, fascism, and socialism in political-philosophy classes. Why must feminism, alone among these “isms,” also have its own brand of epistemology, ethics, literary theory, and biology? I doubt feminists would tolerate libertarian counterparts to any of these.
I think Case is making two logically distinct points here, points that ought to be explicitly distinguished.
The first is that, just as conservatism is not a philosophical subdiscipline unto itself, neither should feminism be. The second is that, whether or not feminism is its own subdiscipline, it is dubious to suppose that it entails its own epistemology, ethics, and ontology.
The second point invites parody. If Jewish philosophy implied its own epistemology, etc., what would that look like?
Jewish epistemology: Your mother has privileged access. Jewish ethics: ‘can’ implies ‘don't.' Jewish logic: if not p, what? q maybe? Jewish decision theory: maximize regret.
What principles would a feminist ontology include? That male entities are entia non grata? That they are unnecessary posits? I am tempted to make further jokes about razors and nomological danglers, but I'll leave that to the reader.
Surprisingly, Brian Leiter adopts a civil tone in his discussion of Case. Perhaps the taste of his own medicine administered by me and others has had a salutary effect on him.
Philosophers should be sure to avail themselves of the Transcendental Deduction this year as it has been substantially increased, the truculent opposition of the NRA (National Realist Association) notwithstanding. But to take the deduction philosophers will need the Platonic Form. Be advised that attempts to copy the Platonic Form have been known to cause the dreaded glitch commonly referred to as the Third (Tax) Man.
George Bush, Queen Elizabeth, and Putin all die and go to hell.
While there, they spy a red phone and ask what the phone is for. The devil tells them it is for calling back to Earth. Putin asks to call Russia and talks for 5 minutes. When he is finished the devil informs him that the cost is a million dollars, so Putin writes him a check.
Next Queen Elizabeth calls England and talks for 30 minutes. When she is finished the devil informs her that the cost is 6 million dollars, so she writes him a check.
Finally George Bush gets his turn and talks for 4 hours. When he is finished the devil informs him that the cost is $5.00. When Putin hears this he goes ballistic and asks the devil why Bush got to call the USA so cheaply. The devil smiles and replies, "Since Obama took over, the country has gone to hell, so it's a local call."
Here is part of a sentence I encountered in an article on mid-life suicide: "When Liz Strand’s 53-year-old friend killed herself two years ago in California, her house was underwater and needed repairs, she had a painful ankle that was exacerbated by being overweight . . ."
But if one's house were underwater, one could just swim from room to room. How then could being overweight exacerbate ankle pain?
A house fit for normal human habitation cannot be literally underwater. But it can be 'underwater,' i.e., such that the mortgagee owes more to the mortgager than the house is worth.
The marks signify a semantic stretch unto a sneer. This is not a case of mentioning the word 'city,' but of using it, but in a extended sense. Had old Koch said that, he would have been suggesting that Boston is a city in a merely analogical or even equivocal sense of the term as compared to the city, New York City.
3. So the third use of single 'quotation' marks is the semantically stretching use. The sentence I just wrote illustrates it inasmuch as this use of 'quotation' marks does not involve quotation, nor does it involve mentioning a word as opposed to using it.
This is a much trickier topic than you might think, and I can go on. You hope I won't, and in any case I don't feel like it. But I can't resist a bit of commentary on this example from the blog cited above:
This might just be an example of a misuse of 'quotation' marks. But it could be a legitimate use, an example of #3 above. They want your excrement.
If you want to emphasize a word or phrase, italicize, or bold, or underline it. Don't surround it with 'quotation' marks. Or, like Achmed the Dead Terrorist, I kill you!
You've heard of Robert Zimmerman, better known as Bob Dylan, and the 'white-Hispanic' George Zimmerman whose nomen has proven to be one bad omen indeed. (Would we have heard about him at all had his name been Jorge Ramirez?)
Permit me to introduce you to Jára Cimrman whose Czech surname, if I am not badly mistaken, is pronounced like 'Zimmerman' when the latter is pronounced as it is in German.
Cimrman is quite a character with many noteworthy accomplishments to his credit. One of them is authorship of the philosophy of non-existentialism. As one reputable source has it:
Long before anyone had heard about Camus or Sartre, in 1886, Cimrman wrote pieces like 'The Essence of the Existence', which became the basis for his "Cimrmanism" philosophy, also referred to as "non-existentialism" (the main premise of this philosophy is that: "Existence cannot not exist").
But if truth be told, this Cimrman is a plagiarist. He stole the idea from me! In Does Existence Itself Exist? I defend the thesis that existence does indeed exist, and necessarily. The despicable Cimrman passed off my idea as his own and tried to hide his crime by packaging my thesis under the verbally different but logically equivalent 'Existence cannot not exist' He then falsely claimed to have developed his theory in 1886 long before my birth.
Apparently, the online magazine Slate will no longer be referring to the Washington Redskins under that name lest some Indians take offense. By the way, I take offense at 'native American.' I am a native Californian, which fact makes me a native American, and I'm not now and never have been an Indian.
But what about 'guinea pig'? Surely this phrase too is a racial/ethnic slur inasmuch as it suggests that all people of Italian extraction are pigs, either literally or in their eating habits. Bill Loney takes this (meat) ball and runs with it.
And then there is 'coonskin cap.' 'Coon' is in the semantic vicinity of such words as: spade, blood, spearchucker, spook, and nigger. These are derogatory words used to refer to Eric Holder's people. In the '60s, southern racists expressed their contempt for Martin Luther King, Jr. by referring to him as Martin Luther Coon. Since a coonskin cap is a cap made of the skin of a coon, 'coonskin cap' is a code phrase used by creepy-assed crackers to signal that black folk ought to be, all of them, on the wrong end of a coon hunt.
'Coonskin cap' must therefore be struck from our vocabulary lest some black person take offense.
But then consistency demands that we get rid of 'southern racist.' The phrase suggests that all southerners are racists. And we must not cause offense to the half-dozen southerners who are not racists.
But why stop here? 'Doo wop' is so-called because many of its major exponents were wops such as Dion Dimucci who was apparently quite proud to be a wop inasmuch as he uses the term five times in succession starting at :58 of this version of 'I Wonder Why' (1958). The old greaseball still looks very good in this 2004 performance. Must be all that pasta he consumes.
I could go on -- this is fun -- but you get the drift, unless you are a stupid liberal.
There is an old joke that goes "the Anglo-Saxon philosopher will accuse the continental of being insufficiently clear, while the continental philosopher accuses the Anglo-Saxon of being insufficiently."
The members of the philosophy department were so convinced by the lecturer's case against personal identity that they refused to pay him his honorarium on the ground that the potential recipient could not be the same person as the lecturer. This from a piece by Stanley Hauerwas:
It is by no means clear to me that I am the same person who wrote Hannah's Child. Although philosophically I have a stronger sense of personal identity than Daniel Dennett, who after having given a lecture to a department of philosophy on personal identity, was not given his honorarium. The department refused to give him his honorarium because, given Dennett's arguments about personal identity, or lack thereof, the department was not confident that the person who had delivered the lecture would be the same person who would receive the honorarium.
That has to be a joke, right? It sounds like the sort of tall tale that Dennett would tell.
My understanding of character, which at least promises more continuity in our lives than Dennett thinks he can claim, does not let me assume that I am the same person who wrote Hannah's Child. I cannot be confident I am the same person because the person who wrote Hannah's Child no doubt was changed by having done so. While I'm unable to state what I learned by writing the book, I can at least acknowledge that I must have been changed by having done so.
Hauerwas is confusing numerical and qualitative identity. Yes, you have been changed by writing your book. No doubt about it. Does it follow that you are a numerically different person than the one who wrote the book? Of course not. What follows is merely that you are qualitatively different, different in respect of some properties or qualities.
Perhaps there is no strict diachronic personal identity. This cannot be demonstrated, however, from the trivial observation that people change property-wise over time. For that is consistent with strict diachronic identity.
In the off-chance that you haven't had an occasion to bust your gut over Jeff Dunham's ventriloquy, check this out.
Mockery and derision are important weapons in the culture war. It is not enough to argue rigorously and patiently against the liberal-left enablers and apologists of radical Islam. Also needed is to make them and their clients look stupid. The young are more impressed by the cool than the cogent.