Philosophy, lit, etc.
Infrequent literary reflections by an analytic philosopher
Thursday, September 23, 2021
Peter de Florez, mystery man behind MIT's De Florez Fund for Humor
Tuesday, September 7, 2021
Popular post-secondary programs among authoritarian rulers
I've compiled a list of what 20th- and 21st-century authoritarian leaders of nation states studied at the post-secondary level. I have not yet fully surveyed every region. I'm sure I must have made mistakes, and I'd appreciate corrections.
Most authoritarian leaders do not appear on this list, largely because they did not pursue a post-secondary education. Also, I have not included interim leaders or leaders who served for less than two years. Crucially, I'm leaving out the multitudes of authoritarian rulers who got their highest level of education at a military academy.
I classify leaders based on only their latest educational program. E.g., if someone studied Engineering and then Business, I'm just putting them in the latter category. A leader is listed twice if he (all the leaders in this list are male) studied two disciplines concurrently.
In some countries it's unclear whom to classify as the leader. In the case of Iran, I have considered both the Supreme Leader and the President to be leaders. Iran is the only country (so far) for which I've considered two national leaders.
I'm considering each national ruler as the leader of only his home country and not of countries that were subjugated by that home country. For instance, I'm not treating any Soviet ruler as a leader of Hungary. A key limitation of my method is that since I have examined only nation states, I have not included colonies, even though colonies were under authoritarian rule.
I found eight authoritarian leaders who received doctorates: Askar Akayev (Kyrgyzstan, Physics), John Magufuli (Tanzania, Chemistry), Laurent Gbagbo (Ivory Coast, History), Syngman Rhee (South Korea, History), Ilham Aliyev (Azerbaijan, History), Hendrik Verwoerd (South Africa, Psychology), Thongloun Sisoulith (Laos, 'History of International Relations'), and Thaksin Shinawatra (Thailand, Criminal Justice).
Most popular field: Law. Second most popular: Engineering. (I'm not counting rulers who studied engineering in military academies.) Engineering seems especially popular among leaders in Communist and formerly Communist countries.
Law (28): Jean-Claude 'Baby Doc' Duvalier (Haiti), Vladimir Lenin and Vladimir Putin (USSR or Russia), Fidel Castro (Cuba), Rodrigo Duterte (Philippines), Engelbert Dollfuss and Kurt Schuschnigg (both of Austria), Ante Pavelić (Croatia), Getúlio Dornelles 'Gegè' Vargas (Brazil), Juan María Bordaberry (Uruguay), Joaquín Balaguer (Dominican Republic), Ion Gheorghe Maurer (Romania), Manuel Estrada Cabrera (Guatemala), King Hassan II (Morocco), John Vorster and F. W. de Klerk (both of South Africa), Habib Bourguiba (Tunisia, concurrently with poli sci), Babrak Karmal (Afghanistan, concurrently with poli sci), Paul Biya (Cameroon), Ali Bongo Ondimba (Gabon), Moktar Ould Daddah (Mauritania), Lee Kuan Yew (Singapore), António de Oliveira Salazar and Marcello Caetano (both of Portugal), Slobodan Milošević (Federal Republic of Yugoslavia), Ferdinand Marcos (Philippines), Kaysone Phomvihane (Laos, did not finish), Viktor Orbán (Hungary, studied political science at Oxford but did not finish).
Engineering (20): Leonid Brezhnev (USSR, metallurgy), Mohamed Morsi (Egypt), Saparmurat Niyazov (Turkmenistan), Xi Jinping, Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin (all 3 of China), José Eduardo dos Santos (Angola, along with radio communications), Agustín Pedro Justo (Argentina), Gustavo Rojas Pinilla (Colombia), Islam Karimov and Shavkat Mirziyoyev (both of Uzbekistan), Rahmon Nabiyev (Tajikistan), Nursultan Nazarbayev (Kazakhstan), Kurmanbek Bakiyev (Kyrgyzstan), Isaias Afwerki (Eritrea), Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (Iran), Viktor Yanukovych (Ukraine), José Napoleón Duarte (El Salvador), Sukarno (Indonesia), Miguel Díaz-Canel (Cuba).
Physics (1): Askar Akayev (Kyrgyzstan, doctorate).
Chemistry (2): John Magufuli (Tanzania, doctorate), Yen Chia-kan (Taiwan).
Biology (1): Abdiqasim Salad Hassan (Somalia).
Radio Electronics (1): Pol Pot (Cambodia, didn't finish).
"Technical Education" (1): Hassan Sheikh Mohamud (Somalia, Master of Technical Education, Bhopal University; he also attended, without completing, an MBA program).
Economics (8): Charles McArthur Ghankay Taylor (Liberia), Andrei Gromyko (USSR), Mátyás Rákosi (Hungary, specialization in external trade), Alexander Lukashenko (Belarus, concurrently with history), Emomali Rahmon (Tajikistan), Yoweri Museveni (Uganda, along with political science -- thesis on Frantz Fanon), Yumjaagiin Tsedenbal and Jambyn Batmönkh (both of Mongolia).
Management, Accounting, or Business Administration (4, 5 if we count Erdogan, whose claim to have a university degree is in dispute): Faure Gnassingbé (Togo), Anastasio Somoza García (Nicaragua, business administration), Sooronbay Jeenbekov (Kyrgyzstan), Pavel Filip (Moldova, also has a earlier degree in engineering). Recep Tayyip Erdogan (disputed).
Labour Administration or Labour Relations (2): Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo (Equatorial Guinea), Siaka Stevens (Sierra Leone).
Forestry (1): Nông Đức Mạnh (Vietnam).
Medicine (8): François 'Papa Doc' Duvalier (Haiti), Bashar Assad (Syria), Félix Houphouët-Boigny (Ivory Coast), Hastings Banda (Malawi), Mohammad Najibullah (Afghanistan), Agostinho Neto (Angola), Mahathir Mohamad (Malaysia), Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow (Turkmenistan, dentistry).
Physical Education (1): Pierre Nkurunziza (Burundi).
History (7): Heydar Alirza oglu Aliyev and Ilham Aliyev (both of Azerbaijan -- Aliyev the younger has a PhD), Alexander Lukashenko (Belarus), Laurent Gbagbo (Ivory Coast, doctorate), Syngman Rhee (South Korea, Princeton doctorate concurrent with seminary studies), Nguyễn Phú Trọng (Vietnam), Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed (Somalia).
Political Science & International Relations (3): Kassym-Jomart Tokayev (Kazakhstan), Habib Bourguiba (Tunisia, concurrently with law), Babrak Karmal (Afghanistan, concurrently with law), Thongloun Sisoulith (Laos, doctorate in the "History of International Relations").
Criminal Justice (1): Thaksin Shinawatra (Thailand, doctorate).
Psychology (1): Hendrik Verwoerd (South Africa, doctorate).
Philosophy (4): Kwame Nkrumah (Ghana, MA at the University of Pennsylvania, also studied with A. J. Ayer in London), Ruhollah (Ayatollah) Khomeini (Iran, studied philosophy at seminaries), Mohammad (Ayatollah) Khatami (Iran), Burhanuddin Rabbani (Afghanistan).
Teacher's College (1): Daniel arap Moi (Kenya).
Theology (7): Stalin (didn't finish), Jozef Tiso (Slovakia), Grégoire Kayibanda (Rwanda), Syngman Rhee (South Korea, concurrent with doctoral studies in history), Ruhollah (Ayatollah) Khomeini (Iran, studied philosophy at seminaries), Ali Hosseini Khamenei (Iran), Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani (Iran). **Kwame Nkrumah obtained a theology degree at Lincoln University before taking an MA in philosophy.
Enver Hoxha of Albania studied "natural science" at the post-secondary level, but I don't know what field of science he studied.
Sunday, May 30, 2021
Cutting sounds (Cicadas, pt. 3)
My last post included quotations in which the sound of cicadas was compared to that of a blade-grinding wheel. The blades being sharpened included scissors, knives, and razors.
Eugenio Montale likens cicadas to cutting instruments in his poem "L'ombra della magnolia": "On the treetop intermittently a cicada shrills ... . . . The thin cutting file will soon be hushed, the empty husk of the erstwhile singer will soon be dust, it is autumn, it is winter...." (trans. Glauco Cambon in Cambon's "Eugenio Montale's 'Motets': The Occasions of Epiphany," PMLA, v. 82 [Dec., 1967]: 471-484 at 482)
In her poem "Cicadas" (2000), Margaret Atwood complains of the male cicadas' "maddening racket" and "piercing one note of a jackhammer." In "Nocturne for Cicada," William Wright describes the insects as "Red-eyed dusk-chisels: they whittle the mind." In "The Cicadas" (1985), Jamie Grant says the insects are "raucous as lawnmowers."
Sawing devices are commonly invoked. Pablo Neruda mentions the cicadas' "sawing song." ("Oda a la luz encantada," c. 1957; trans. as "Ode to Enchanted Light" by Ken Krabbenhoft) In Henry George Fischer's "Cicada Cadence," cicada sounds are "ripsawing inspissated heat." For Martin Walls, in "Cicadas At the End of Summer" (2000), it is "as though a bandsaw cleaves a thousand thin sheets of titanium." In his sequence "Island of Summer" (Incarnations: Poems 1966-1968), Robert Penn Warren writes, "All day, cicadas, / At the foot of infinity, like / A tree, saw."
Thursday, March 25, 2021
Machine music (Cicadas, pt 2)
Cicadas figure in poetry as little artists singing with the Muses, but, for many, these insects' mechanical drone is the antithesis of music.
Here's Nathaniel Potter in 1839:
The cicadae breed annually, the locust once in seventeen years. ... The cicadae of Greece must have been highly gifted with musical powers to have been celebrated by Homer .... How differently would the ear of the imperial poet have decided, if he had been condemned to listen to the monotonous, protracted twang of the American locust! (Potter, Notes on the Locusta Septentrionalis Americanae Decem Septima [Baltimore: J. Robinson, 1839], p. 7)
In 1843, the noise of cicadas (i.e., seventeen-year locusts) in Staten Island impressed Henry David Thoreau, who describes them in a letter to his mother.
Pray, have you the Seventeen year locust in Concord? The air here is filled with their din. They come out of the ground at first in an imperfect state, and, crawling up the shrubs and plants, the perfect insect bursts out through the back. ... In a few weeks the eggs will be hatched, and the worms fall to the ground and enter it, and in 1860 make their appearance again. ... Their din is heard by those who sail along the shore, from the distant woods, Phar-r-r-aoh. Phar-r-r-aoh. They are departing now. Dogs, cats and chickens subsist mainly upon them in some places. (Thoreau, July 7, 1843)
While this plague of locusts' pharaonic din impressed Thoreau enough for him to mention the creatures in the Conclusion of Walden, he does not call their sound music.
The noise is often said to be metallic or mechanical. Walt Whitman calls it "that brassy drone" and compares it to "the whirling of brass quoits." (Specimen Days, Aug. 22, 1876) John Burroughs mentions "the brassy crescendo of the cicada." (Locusts and Wild Honey, 1884)
The entomologist Thomas Workman characterizes the sound of Brazilian cicadas this way:
There is a cicada or some other insect that goes on Ping-ing-ing-ing like a fine wire vibrating and a liliputian triangle working at the same time; there is also another insect making a somewhat similar sound, but not so mechanical or peculiar. (Workman, "A Recent Visit to Brazil," Report and Proceedings of the Belfast Natural History and Philosophical Society for the Session 1882-83 [Nov. 7, 1882], p. 16)
"A fine wire vibrating"—perhaps, then, it is a kind of music. For Archibald Lampman, "The dry cicada plies his wiry bow/ In long-spun cadence." ("Among the Timothy," 1888) " Or is it a strumming? "Cicadas strum the metal miles of air" in Chicago. (John Frederick Nims, "The Woolen Bug," 1944) The "metal miles" of industry, of whirring mechanisms and gears.
Robert Penn Warren imagines cicadas sawing and churning out "filings of brass." ("Island of Summer," Incarnations: Poems 1966-1968) In Japan, "a gross cicada tunes its brassy gear." (D. J. Enright, "Sumiyoshi [i]: First Impressions," Bread Rather Than Roses, 1956) In her novel The Clock Winder, Anne Tyler assimilates the noise to the "metallic, whanging sound" of a toy gun. Even in Greece, where cicadas used to be pastoral, they now grate and whirr:
It came from the shore in rhythmic, grating, metallic waves like the engines of an immense factory in a frenzy—the electric rattle of innumerable high-powered dynamos whirling in aimless unison. (Patrick Leigh Fermor, Mani, 1958, p. 41)
We link the cicada noise to that of "machines to power daylight," (Jamie Grant, "The Cicadas," 1985) "your electric razor," (Chungmi Kim, "Being In Love," 2004) an "electric appliance," (Dana Levin, "My Sentence," 2012), and "the dog days' electrical buzz." (Madeline Bassnett, "Life Cycle" -- scroll way down -- 2011)
Strange, that something so natural should call to mind such artifice.
Later comparisons invoke later machines. In the 19th century, the machines in question were pushed through neighborhoods by scissor-grinders, tradesmen who went door-to-door offering to sharpen household blades. The machines contained a metal wheel, which enters into Whitman's description of the cicada's sound:
A single locust is now heard near noon from a tree two hundred feet off, as I write—a long whirring, continued, quite loud noise graded in distinct whirls, or swinging circles, increasing in strength and rapidity up to a certain point, and then a fluttering, quietly tapering fall. Each strain is continued from one to two minutes. ... Let me say more about the song of the locust, even to repetition; a long, chromatic, tremulous crescendo, like a brass disk whirling round and round, emitting wave after wave of notes, beginning with a certain moderate beat or measure, rapidly increasing in speed and emphasis, reaching a point of great energy and significance, and then quickly and gracefully dropping down and out. Not the melody of the singing-bird—far from it; the common musician might think without melody, but surely having to the finer ear a harmony of its own; monotonous—but what a swing there is in that brassy drone, round and round, cymballine—or like the whirling of brass quoits. (Whitman, Specimen Days, 1876)
In a passage from which I quoted at the start of this post, Nathaniel Potter says,
How differently would the ear of the imperial poet have decided, if he had been condemned to listen to the monotonous, protracted twang of the American locust! He would have been as much pleased with the scraping of a scissor-grinder, or the grating of a file. (Notes on the Locusta Septentrionalis Americanae Decem Septima, 1839, p. 7)
He adds that the sound "rises and falls through the gradations; crescendo, minuendo et cadendo."
About thirty years later, Cuthbert Collingwood writes,
There are two or three species of Cicada which are no whit inferior in noisy powers .... I shall never forget the first time of hearing the scissor-grinder in the jungle at Pappan when approaching the island in a boat, the noise being distinctly audible for at least a quarter of an hour before we reached the shore, and when there the resounding whir-r-r--whir-r-r--whir-r-r of the insect .... After continuing this deafening sound for some time, it winds up with a protracted whiz-z-z, which dies away just like the scissor-grinder's wheel when the treddle stops. (Rambles of a Naturalist on the Shores and Waters of the China Sea [London: John Murray, 1868], p. 176)
Writing from Guyana in 1883, Sir Everard Ferdinand im Thurn mentions
certain curious insects, locally called razor-grinders (Cicada), from the extraordinary sounds that they make, ... The whole place rings with the whirr of these insects, as though fifty pairs of scissors were being sharpened at once on half a hundred grindstones. (Among the Indians of Guiana: being sketches, chiefly anthropologic from the interior of British Guiana, 1883, p. 153)
The simile recurs in Babette Deutsch's poem "July In Dutchess County":
Late, the dry / Timbal of the cicada, / Like the pledge of the knifegrinder's wheel, / Refines / Summer's declining edge. (Coming of Age, 1959, p. 111)
Thursday, March 18, 2021
Singing cicadas (Cicadas, pt 1)
Singing cicadas abound in ancient Greece. Already, before the CE, they sing like a king in Anacreon's "Ode to the Cicada" (6th century) and sing ... well ... better than donkeys in the prologue to Callimachus' Aetia (3rd century).
Cicadas prefer singing to eating in Plato's Phaedrus (259b-e). One there finds them liaising with the Muses while, in Meleager of Gadara's "To the Cicada" (1st century), they're singing to the nymphs. They "pour forth their lily-like voice" in the Iliad (3.151, trans. A. T. Murray). (Wait ... their voice sounds like a lily...?)
Further afield, cicadas sing themselves hoarse in Virgil's second Eclogue. One "sings all his life" in Richard Wilbur's "Cigales" (1947) and another "sang itself utterly away" (Basho, trans. R. H. Blyth).
Singing cicadas greet the dusk in Tennyson's "Mariana In the South" (1842), accompany dry grass in Eliot's Waste Land (1922, lines 354-5), and fill the night with "insensate zest" in Aldous Huxley's "The Cicadas" (1931).
A cicada goes solo in Richard Aldington's "To a Greek Marble" (1912). Another serenades "the absent" in John Haines' "Cicadas" (1977). They're used to it, singing their "rustic song that sounds in lonely places" (Meleager again, "The Cricket to the Cicada," trans. Rory B. Egan).
A whole choir of them break the surface "already singing" in David Lunde's "Cicadas" (1999), and "the cicada, that brazen jongleur of the trees, shaking his iridescent rapture" (Conrad Aiken, "The Cicada," 1958) keeps singing all the way up a "persimmon tree" in George Scarborough's "The Cicada" (1977).
From such heights, the "insistent song" spins "a web of silver o'er the silence" (Sir Charles G. D. Roberts, "The Cicada in the Firs," 1893).
Robert Hass anticipated "maniacal cicadas tuning up to tear the fabric of the silence" ("Between the Wars," 1989), and Gary Snyder heard "cicada singing / swirling in the tangle" ("Song of the Tangle," 1968). Truman Capote utterly lost patience with them:
A cicada called. Another answered. "Shut up, bettle-bugs! Whut you wanna be makin' so much racket fer? You lonesome?" (Truman Capote, "Preacher's Legend," 1945)
Billions of cicadas will soon be singing in the eastern USA.
Wednesday, September 16, 2020
The High Priori road
Let others creep by timid steps, and slow,
On plain experience lay foundations low,
By common sense to common knowledge bred,
And last, to Nature's Cause through Nature led.
All-seeing in thy mists, we want no guide,
Mother of Arrogance, and Source of Pride!
We nobly take the high Priori Road,*
And reason downward, till we doubt of God
Alexander Pope ("The Dunciad" 1742, IV, lines 465-72)
In a footnote, Pope refers to Hobbes, Spinoza, and Descartes.
"Allow me to congratulate you upon the felicity with which you have thus 'taken the high priori road,' and endeavoured to depreciate an anonymous letter, by declaring the correspondent to be drunk." John Cam Hobhouse (A defence of the people, in reply to Lord Erskine's "Two defences of the Whigs", 1819)
"The second, or physical part of science, embracing all those inductive studies respecting unliving or unorganized bodies, which proceed mainly through out ward observation or experiment, and can as yet make little progress in 'the high priori road'." Sir William Hamilton ("Inaugural Address," Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, 1838)
"With the economists who take the 'high priori road,' and anticipate the results of science by assuming the facts from which their principles are deduced, I presume not to contend." Robert Torrens ("A letter to the Right Honourable Lord John Russell on the ministerial measure forestablishing poor laws in Ireland...,"1838)
"He promised to lead us up to the great truth of all religion by a new path, -- to 'nobly take the high priori road, and reason downwards'; but, after a little digression, he conducts us back again to the old travelled way, where alone we can obtain firm footing." (anon, Review of On Natural Theology by Thomas Chalmers, The North American Review, 1842)
"I am unable to see why we should be forbidden to take the shortest cut from these sufficient premises to the conclusion, and constrained to travel the 'high priori road,' by the arbitrary fiat of logicians." John Stuart Mill (A System of Logic, 1843)
"Those who have been led to regard the method of empirical psychology as the only method which preserves the reality of things, by preventing the thinker from overriding and destroying the facts of life, minister to their own self-satisfaction by taunting the speculative thinker with going along the 'high priori road' he has constructed for himself above and beyond the real world. The charge can only provoke a smile in those who know how wide of the mark it really is. Speculative philosophy makes no pretensions to the 'construction' of reality in the ordinary sense of the word, but only to such an explanation of reality as shall account for the facts in their completeness." John Watson (Journal of Speculative Philosophy, 1878)
The "scientific claims [of Spencer's method] are plainly declared in chapter v., on 'Ways of judging Conduct'; from which we learn that Mr. [Herbert] Spencer's way of judging it is to be a high priori road." Henry Sidgwick (Mind, 1880) (Spencer's reply)
"A good many evolutionists have been floored by a serious interruption to the continuity of their 'high priori' road, and not a few of them do not yet know just what has hurt them. That such an evanescent and unsubstantial condition as consciousness should have the gravity necessary to throw a triumphant army of advance into confusion, could hardly be suspected." A. S. Packard, Jr. and E. D. Cope (The American Naturalist, 1882)
"If, now and again, frequenters of 'the high priori road' have been less vocal in [Mind's] pages, it is only because they have not chosen to make use of the opportunity of utterance here afforded." George Croom Robertson (Mind, 1891)
"In view of these facts it seems advisable to travel the 'high priori road' as far as it will take us, and for the rest, to rely on our best experience and judgment." Archibald Lamont Daniels ("The Measurement of Saw Logs and Round Timber," Journal of Forestry, 1905) (Daniels was a math professor at the University of Vermont, see pp. 43-44 of this pdf published by his dept.)
"Ryle's extraordinary confidence that he knows what is a 'howler' and what isn't contrasts very oddly with the delicacy of a philologist's discussion of synonyms. The 'high priori road' is not yet dead in Oxford, after all." John Passmore ("Professor Ryle's Use of 'Use' and 'Usage'," Philosophical Review, 1954)
"We cannot then take a 'high priori road' out of our dilemma, by defining 'free' in terms of paradigm cases." A. C. MacIntyre (Mind, 1957)
Also, in 1967, R. S. Crane titled a book chapter "Criticism as Inquiry; or, The Perils of the 'High Priori Road'" (in The idea of the humanities, and other essays critical and historical)
"In literature, as in other subjects, the best students are those who respond to intellectual honesty, who distrust the high priori road, and who sense that there may be some connection between limited claims and unlimited rewards." Northrop Frye (Contemporary Literature, 1968)
Sunday, September 13, 2020
Ipsedixitism, Part 1
"Ipsedixitism: dogmatic assertion or assertiveness" (Merriam-Webster).
"Ipse dixit: an arbitrary and unsupported assertion" (Collins).
"Ipsedixitism: ... the practice of dogmatic assertion" (The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia: The Century dictionary, 1889).
The charge applies when one makes an assertion without giving supporting reasons.
The word 'ipsedixitism' was introduced into English by Jeremy Bentham. He used the word and several of its cognates in his Deontology; or the Science of Morality, a manuscript that was edited by his literary executor, Sir John Bowring, and published posthumously in 1834.
In an essay that he contributed to that edition, Bowring traced the expression to Cicero:
The appellative of ipse-dixitism is not a new one; it comes down to us from an antique and high authority, —it is the principle recognised (so Cicero informs us) by the disciples of Pythagoras. Ipse (he, the master, Pythagoras), ipse dixit, —he has said it; the master has said that it is so; therefore, say the disciples of the illustrious sage, therefore so it is.(Bowring, "History of the Greatest-Happiness Principle," [pp. 287-331, at pp. 322-323], in Jeremy Bentham, Deontology; or, The Science of Morality: in which the Harmony and Co-Incidence of Duty and Self-Interest, Virtue and Felicity, Prudence and Benevolence, are explained and exemplified. Vol. I. 'Arranged and edited by John Bowring.' London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Browne, Green, and Longman, 1834)
Bowring's aetiology resembles the one given in Bentham's "Article on Utilitarianism: Long Version," according to which:
This appellative is not a new one invented for the present purpose, but an old one borrowed from an antique and consequently high authority. It is the principle pursued, so Cicero informs us, by the disciples of Pythagoras. 'Ipse' (referring to Pythagoras) 'ipsedixit': 'He has said the matter is so and so, therefore', said a disciple of the illustrious sage, 'so it is'. ("Article on Utilitarianism: Long Version," in The Collected Works of Jeremy Bentham, Vol. 5, Deontology together with A Table of the Springs of Action and Article on Utilitarianism, ed. Amnon Goldworth [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983], p. 305, n. 43)
It is difficult to determine the author of this last remark. Is it Bentham or Bowring? The editor of the quoted volume, Amnon Goldworth, writes that Bowring wrote sections of Bentham's posthumous works (and did not note when he had done so), adding that since parts of the original manuscript no longer exist, it is impossible sometimes to determine whether a given passage was penned by Bentham or by Bowring. Even if it was written by Bowring, Goldworth says that Bowring had discussed these works with Bentham many times and took himself, when he added material, to be adding only what Bentham had said.
Both of the above quotations mention Cicero's criticism of the Pythagoreans, which appears in paragraph 10, Book I, of Cicero's De Natura Deorum (The Nature of the Gods). Cicero wrote as follows:
Those who seek my personal views on each issue are being unnecessarily inquisitive, for when we engage in argument we must look to the weight of reason rather than authority. Indeed, students who are keen to learn often find the authority of those who claim to be teachers to be an obstacle, for they cease to apply their own judgement and regard as definitive the solution offered by the mentor of whom they approve. I myself tend to disapprove of the alleged practice of the Pythagoreans: the story goes that if they were maintaining some position in argument, and were asked why, they would reply: 'The master said so', the master being Pythagoras. Prior judgement exercised such sway that authority prevailed even when unsupported by reason. (Cicero: The Nature of the Gods, ed. and trans. Peter G. Walsh, [Oxford University Press, 1997; electronic: 2016], Book I, paragraph 10; DOI: 10.1093/actrade/9780199540068.book.1)
Here is the same passage in H. Rackham's 1933 translation (in the Loeb series), with the original Latin on the facing page (and also available here).
According to Cicero, a Pythagorean was prone to appeals to authority, resting his/her claims on their assertion by someone whose word provides insufficient support. This error of reasoning is not the same one as making assertions without giving supporting reasons. After all, the Pythagoreans did offer a reason for their claims ('Pythagoras said it!') even if not a very good one. So, the error of ipsedixitism, as defined at the beginning of this post, is not the error that Cicero charged the Pythagoreans with committing.
Thursday, June 11, 2020
Afterwit: knowledge that comes too late
The OED offers these two definitions:
Recognition of a mistake made earlier, leading to a change in one's actions, views, etc.and
Wisdom acquired after the event, typically too late to be of use.Most of the OED's examples of the word's use are drawn from the 1500s and 1600s.
Here are some other definitions:
Websters: "wisdom or perception that comes after it can be of use";
The American Encyclopaedic Dictionary: "wisdom, which comes after the event which it is designed to affect"; and
The Treasury of Knowledge and Library of Reference: "wisdom that comes too late."
The ever resourceful Samuel Johnson defined 'afterwit' as, "The contrivance of expedients after the occasion of using them is past."
I like the gloss given by T. J. B. Spencer in his 1980 edition of John Ford's play The Broken Heart (1633), where 'afterwit' is "knowledge that comes too late." (Manchester University Press, p. 160 n. 12)
The word made it to America, where it was used by Captain Edward Johnson (1599-1672) in his Wonder-working providence of Sions Saviour in New England. (1654). The word lingered long enough in American memory to make it into the writings of Benjamin Franklin, who took the pseudonym 'Anthony Afterwit.'
As a fictional character's name, 'Afterwit' appears to have been a popular satirical device. In his journal Champion (1739), Henry Fielding took the name Afterwit while penning a letter to Captain Hercules Vinegar (another of Fielding's pseudonyms). A 'Mrs. Afterwit' figures in Issue No. 652 of Addison and Steele's Spectator. (Feb. 28, 1715, pp. 76-77) More than fifty years earlier, John Wilson applied the name to a royalist character in The Cheats (1663). And William Burnaby had two characters discuss a Sir Humphrey Afterwit in Act IV (Scene I) of his 1700 play, The reform'd wife a comedy.
In 1600, Samuel Nicholson wrote a poem called 'Acolastus his after-wit'. We also find the word 'afterwit' in this passage from Ch. 12 of Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy: "Trust me, dear Yorick, this unweary pleasantry of thine will sooner or later bring thee into scrapes and difficulties, which no afterwit can extricate thee out of." Finally, in the 9th episode of his Ulysses ('Scylla and Charybdis'), James Joyce writes, "Afterwit. Go back."
In the 20th century, the word survived in the dialect of Yorkshire, where it was said that "Durham folks are troubled with afterwit."
Such dialect uses preoccupied an anonymous author in the Guardian in 1943. On Sept. 20 and 22, 'afterwit' is the focus of the column headed 'Miscellany'. In the first entry, 'afterwit' is defined as realizing a witty retort too late to be of use and, so, is assimilated to Diderot's l'esprit de l'escalier. The author credits a correspondent from Lancashire with bringing 'afterwit' to his attention. In the second entry, the author reports that (according to some readers) the word occurs more often in Yorkshire than Lancashire. S/he adds that 'afterwit' is sometimes replaced by 'latter-wit', especially when preceded by the phrases 'troubled with ...' and 'plagued by ...'. The author then says, "In the OED version the 'wit' of afterwit has to do with knowledge rather than repartee; the word means after-knowledge as opposed to fore-knowledge." (p. 3)
On March 20, 1931 (p. 6), the Washington Post reprinted a piece from the London Times under the heading 'Afterwit'. The author uses the phrase "the pangs of afterwit" and "troubled by afterwit" and asks "whether afterwit is a blessing or a curse." S/he adds, "Is it preferable to go on in blithe unconsciousness that we might have done so much better, or to become painfully aware of opportunity gone by; to be permanently stupid, or to be wise too late? The choice is hard."
Friday, April 17, 2020
Misology - a hatred of argument, reasoning, or enlightenment
Misology [Gr. ...] : Ger. Misologie ; Fr. misologie ; Ital.misologia. Hatred and despair of reason.Sometimes applied to intellectual PESSIMISM. (v. 2, The Macmillan Company, 1902)Closely related is "misologia: an aversion to speaking or arguing" (APA Dictionary of Psychology).
The Wikipedia entry for misology provides an interesting history of the word. It notes the occurrence of the ancient Greek μισολογία in Plato's Phaedo (89d). Wikipedia also identifies Kant's use of the German "Misologie" in the Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten (395.32, 1785), where Kant defines it as a 'hatred of reason.' According to Henry Hitchings, Samuel Taylor Coleridge based his use of "misology" on Kant's misologie.
Webster's pegs the introduction of the English "misology" as being "circa 1834." The online version of Webster's does not identify the source. I believe the author of the Webster's entry had in mind the appearance of "misology" in an article in The Quarterly Review by Henry Nelson Coleridge, nephew and son-in-law of the great romantic poet. ("The Poetical works of S. T. Coleridge," The Quarterly Review, No. 103 , p. 21) The article was published anonymously in 1834, but here is a cleaner copy of it with H. N. Coleridge identified as its author.
Henry Coleridge used "misology" while quoting his famous uncle's assessment of Goethe's epic poem: "The intended theme of the Faust is the consequences of a misology, or hatred and depreciation of knowledge, caused by an originally intense thirst for knowledge baffled." (Ibid.) Henry C. seems to have based the quotation on some written record of his uncle's 'table talk', since the same passage appears in the "Table Talk" entry for February 16, 1833. Apparently, S. T. Coleridge also applied "misology" to some religious sects in his book annotations.
In his 1992 article, James McKusick counts "misology" among Coleridge's "merely bizarre" coinages. (James C. McKusick, "'Living Words': Samuel Taylor Coleridge and the Genesis of the 'OED' Modern Philology, Vol. 90 : 1-45, at 20) In fact, though, Coleridge was not the first author to use the word in English.
I found an earlier use of "misology" in John Richardson's 1819 translation of Kant's Logik (1800): Logic from the German of Emmanuel Kant. (London: Printed for W. Simpkin and R. Marshall, 1819) Here is an excerpt from Richardson's translation:
Who hates science, but does not love wisdom the less on that account, is named a misologist. Misology commonly arises from a want of scientific knowledge, and from a certain sort of vanity therewith conjoined. And sometimes those, who at first cultivated the sciences with great diligence and success, but in the end found no satisfaction in all their knowledge, fall into the fault of misology. (p. 32)I have consulted Thomas Taylor's 1793 translation of Plato's Phaedo (esp. 89d2-3), and did not find any use there of "misology." Rather than using a single word for Plato's term, Taylor uses the phrase "hatred of reason." (Four Dialogues of Plato: The Cratylus, Phædo, Parmenides and Timæus, , pp. 197-8) It may be, though, that some earlier translator of Plato's work into English used "misology."
Professor Mark Mercer has a pdf entitled "In Defence of Misology."
Thursday, April 16, 2020
Misosophy: hatred of wisdom. A label applied to Voltaire, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Papists, Positivists, and Calvinists
There are, and can be, only two schools of philosophy, differing in kind and in source. Differences in degree and in accident, there may be many; but these constitute schools kept by different teachers with different degrees of genius, talent, and learning; — auditories of philosophizers, not different philosophies. Schools of psilology (the love of empty noise) and misosophy are here out of the question.About forty years before Coleridge's coinage, Bertrand Capmartin de Chaupy wrote a book called Philosophie des lettres, qui aurait pu tout sauver. Misosophie voltairienne, qui n'a pu que tout perdre, which translates roughly as Philosophy of letters, which could have saved everything. Voltairian misosophy, which could only lose everything. (Paris, chez Mme. Dufresne, au Palais royale, 1790, 2 volumes)
"Misosophy" pops up in a philosophical dictionary in 1878:
MIS, MISO.-1. (Gr. [...], to hate;) in a number of compounds, as misagathy, hatred of the good; misandry and misanthropy, hatred of men; misarety, hatred of virtue; misogyny, misology, misosophy, misotheism. 2. From the Germanic languages, denoting wrong, failure, defect, as misdeed, mistrust, misuse. (Charles Porterfield Krauth, A Vocabulary of the Philosophical Sciences: [Including the Vocabulary of Philosophy, Mental, Moral and Metaphysical, by William Fleming, from the 2d Ed., 1860: and the 3d, 1876, Ed. by Henry Calderwood, LL. D.], Sheldon & Company, 1878, p. 770)The word appeared in religious controversies. For instance, here's the barrister Henry Thomas Braithwaite in 1872: "That therefore is misosophy which discourages spoken petitions to the Throne of Grace on the plea that a Spirit cannot hear words." (Esse and Posse: A Comparison of Divine Eternal Laws and Powers [London: Longmans, Green, & Co., 1872], p. 252)
In 1880, the poet Algernon Charles Swinburne used the term in a dig at Carlyle. I can't resist quoting the whole intriguing passage:
Four principles of thought, we may say, are here impeached and impugned: a double enemy is assailed by the lover of faith and reason, love and hope, in the militant materialism of Papists and Positivists; by the lover of justice and mercy, humanity and freedom, in the Catholic philosophy of de Maistre and the Calvinistic misosophy of Carlyle. And if the sarcasms on theology seem to any reader more keen and violent than the satire on any other form of unbelief or infidelity to the truth as here conceived, he should remember that superstition with a lining of materialism is surely a worse thing than materialism stark naked; and that while it is palpably possible to be a materialist without being a Christian, it is implicitly impossible to be a Christian without being a materialist. ("Victor Hugo: Religions et Religion," Fortnightly Review no. 162 [June 1, 1880], p. 763)WHEW! A few years later, Henry Hayman slaps the label on German pessimism, especially the thought of Schopenhauer and Hartmann. ("Pessimism," The Churchman No. 62 [November, 1884], pp. 113-125, at p. 124)
In these late 19th-Century cases, the authors take themselves not to be introducing a new word when they use "misosophy," unlike some later authors. For example, the word was re-invented (or reconstructed from the ancient Greek roots) by the Congregationalist theologian Peter Taylor Forsyth in 1915. He wrote, "Its Christianity has at heart always protested against its philosophy, or rather, if one may coin a word, its misosophy." (P. T. Forsyth, "Faith, Metaphysic, and Incarnation," The Methodist Review [September, 1915], p. 701)
I cannot tell whether Gilbert Ryle thought he was coining a new term when he wrote the following: "A fraternity of persons of kindred credulities could only constitute a school of 'misosophy'." ('Taking Sides in Philosophy,' Philosophy 12 [Jul., 1937]: 317-332, at 318-319) His decision to flag the term with quotation marks suggests that he might have (thanks to Bernard Kobes for this observation).
Seyyed Hossein Nasr attributes the coinage of the word (or of its German equivalent) to Hermann Türck, a 19th-Century critic of Nietzsche. Here's Nasr:
The result has been the creation of philosophies which, from the traditional point of view, could only be called monstrous and which can only be characterized as what the German scholar H. Türck has called 'misosophy', that is, the hatred rather than love of wisdom and which others have considered as 'antiphilosophy'. (Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Knowledge and the Sacred: Revisioning Academic Accountability, State University of New York Press , p. 43)Türck did this in applying the term to his opponents (Nietzsche, Stirner, and Ibsen), contrasting these putative egoists with persons of true genius.
In The Way of Phenomenology, (Pegasus , p. 23, n. 4) Richard M. Zaner credits Gabriel Marcel with inventing the word. Zaner cites Marcel's book Man against Mass Society. (Regnery, , trans. G. S. Fraser) Marcel's book (Les hommes contre l'humain) appeared first in French in 1951. (La Colombe) Since the libraries are closed, I cannot find hard copies of Marcel's book (in translation or in the original French), so it is difficult to determine what Marcel wrote. Based on some web searching, Marcel seems to have written (in G. S. Fraser's translation) of a
civilization in which technical progress is tending to emancipate itself more and more from speculative knowledge, and finally to question the traditional rights of speculative knowledge, a civilization which, one may say, finally denies the place of contemplation and shuts out the very possibility of contemplation, such a civilization, I say, sets us inevitably on the road towards a philosophy which is not so much a love of wisdom as a hatred of wisdom: we ought rather to call it a misosophy. (Man Against Mass Society, p. 48)Finally, there is Gilles Deleuze's remark in his 1968 book Différence et répétition: "Everything begins with misosophy." (Difference and Repetition, trans. Paul Patton, Columbia University Press, )