4. The trouble with Stove is that he is a positivist, an anti-philosopher, someone with no inkling of what philosophy is about. He is very intelligent in a superficial sort of way, witty, erudite, a pleasure to read, and I am sure it would have been great fun to have a beer with him. But he is what I call a philosophistine. A philistine is someone with no appreciation of the fine arts; a philosophistine is one with no appreciation of philosophy. People like Stove and Paul Edwards and Rudolf Carnap just lack the faculty for philosophy, a faculty that is distinct from logical acumen.
5. My tone is harsh. What justifies it? The even harsher tone this two-bit positivist assumes in discussing great philosophers who will be read long after he is forgotten, great philosophers he must misunderstand because he cannot attain their level.
The notion that Stove was the greatest philosopher of the 20th century is risible.
It puzzles me why conservatives as opposed to libertarians should so admire this anti-metaphysical religion-basher. You don't have to be a theist to be a conservative, but a conservative who doesn't respect religion is no conservative at all. Here is what R. J. Stove says about his father:
Diagnosed with esophageal cancer, and convinced beyond all reason that his announcement of this diagnosis to Mum had brought about her stroke, Dad simply unraveled. So, to a lesser extent, did those watching him.
All Dad's elaborate atheist religion, with its sacred texts, its martyrs, its church militant; all his ostentatious tough- mindedness; all his intellectual machinery; all these things turned to dust. Convinced for decades of his stoicism, he now unwittingly demonstrated the truth of Clive James's cruel remark: "we would like to think we are stoic...but would prefer a version that didn't hurt."
Already an alcoholic, he now made a regular practice of threatening violence to himself and others. In hospital he wept like a child (I had never before seen him weep). He denounced the nurses for their insufficient knowledge of Socrates and Descartes. From time to time he wandered around the ward naked, in the pit of confused despair. The last time I visited him I found him, to my complete amazement, reading a small bedside Gideon Bible. I voiced surprise at this. He fixed on me the largest, most protuberant, most frightened, and most frightening pair of eyes I have ever seen: "I'll try anything now."
(Years later, I discovered—and was absolutely pole-axed by —the following passage in Bernard Shaw's Too True To Be Good, in which an old pagan, very obviously speaking for Shaw himself, sums up what I am convinced was Dad's attitude near the end. The passage runs: "The science to which I pinned my faith is bankrupt. Its counsels, which should have established the millennium, led, instead, directly to the suicide of Europe. I believed them once. In their name I helped to destroy the faith of millions of worshipers in the temples of a thousand creeds. And now look at me and witness the great tragedy of an atheist who has lost his faith.")
Eventually, through that gift for eloquence which seldom entirely deserted him, Dad convinced a psychiatrist that he should be released from the enforced hospital confinement which he had needed to endure ever since his threats had caused him to be scheduled. The psychiatrist defied the relevant magistrate's orders, and released my father.
Within twenty-four hours Dad had hanged himself in his own garden.
This was in June 1994. I cannot hope to convey the horror of this event. It dealt a mortal blow to the whole atheistic house of cards which constituted my own outlook.
. . . that music was the moment at which Beethoven finally passed beyond the suffering of his life on earth and reached for the hand of God, as God reaches for the hand of Adam in Michaelangelo's vison of the creation.
Well, either the adagio movement of the 9th or the late piano sonatas, in particular, Opus 109, Opus 110, and Opus 111. To my ear, those late compositions are unsurpassed in depth and beauty.
In these and a few other compositions of the great composers we achieve a glimpse of what music is capable of. Just as one will never appreciate the possibilities of genuine philosophy by reading hacks such as Ayn Rand or positivist philistines (philosophistines?) such as David Stove, one will never appreciate the possibilities of great music and its power of speaking to what is deepest in us if one listens only to contemporary popular music.
Commenting on philosophy's alleged "deep affinity with lunacy," Australian positivist David Stove writes,
That the world is, or embodies, or is ruled by, or was created by, a sentence-like entity, a ‘logos’, is an idea almost as old as Western philosophy itself. Where the Bible says ‘The Word was made flesh’, biblical scholars safely conclude at once that some philosopher [Stove’s emphasis] has meddled with the text (and not so as to improve it). Talking-To-Itself is what Hegel thought the universe is doing, or rather, is. In my own hearing, Professor John Anderson maintained, while awake, what with G. E. Moore was no more than a nightmare he once had, that tables and chairs and all the rest are propositions. So it has always gone on. In fact St John’s Gospel, when it says’In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’, sums up pretty accurately one of the most perennial, as well as most lunatic, strands in philosophy. (The passage is also of interest as proving that two statements can be consistent without either being intelligible.) (From The Plato Cult and Other Philosophical Follies, Basil Blackwell 1991, p. 32.)
John Greco (How to Reid Moore) finds Barry Stroud's interpretation of G. E. Moore's proof of an external world implausible:
According to him [Stroud], the question as to whether we know anything about the external world can be taken in an internal or an external sense. In the internal sense, the question can be answered from “within” one’s current knowledge —- hence one can answer it by pointing out some things that one knows, such as that here is a hand. In the external sense, however, the question is put in a “detached” and “philosophical” way.
If we have the feeling that Moore nevertheless fails to answer the philosophical question about our knowledge of external things, as we do, it is because we understand that question as requiring a certain withdrawal or detachment from the whole body of our knowledge of the world. We recognize that when I ask in that detached philosophical way whether I know that there are external things, I am not supposed to be allowed to appeal to other things I think I know about external things in order to help me settle the question.5
According to Stroud, Moore’s proof is a perfectly good one in response to the internal question, but fails miserably in response to the external or “philosophical” question. In fact, Stroud argues, Moore’s failure to respond to the philosophical question is so obvious that it cries out for an explanation -- hence Malcolm’s and Ambroses’s ordinary language interpretations. Stroud offers a different explanation for Moore’s failure to address the philosophical question: “He [i.e. Moore] resists, or more probably does not even feel, the pressure towards the philosophical project as it is understood by the philosophers he discusses.”6 Or again, “we are left with the conclusion that Moore really did not understand the philosopher’s assertions in any way other than the everyday ‘internal’ way he seems to have understood them.”7 The problem with this interpretation, of course, is that it makes Moore out to be an idiot. Is it really possible that Moore, the great Cambridge philosopher, did not understand that other philosophers were raising a philosophical question? (bolding added)