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Saturday, August 28, 2010

Anthony Kenny on Derrida's old age and Descartes's [male] chauvinism

"Every crowd has a silver lining." - Phineas Taylor Barnum


Anthony Kenny on his New History of Philosophy

"I divided the Historical part in the final volume into Continental and Analytic...

The [last] Continental one was Derrida, whom I knew and admired when he was a young philosopher. We used to meet together occasionally to discuss our joint ideas.

But, I have to say I thought in his old age he turned rather into rather a comedian than the philosopher. I found it difficult, in my book, to treat him with the reverence that I treated other philosophers so I ended in making some rather rude jokes about him...

I think the prize [for the best prose] has to go to Plato. Plato's early dialogues (at any rate) are written in very beautiful Greek, but their enormous achievement is that there was then no philosophical vocabulary. There were no technical terms in philosophy. He had to get across any philosophical point he wanted to put across in the plainest of language.

The philosopher that is, I think for modern people, easiest to read is probably
Descartes, because he wrote elegant, short pieces. Whereas Descartes said he wanted to write so smoothly that even women could read them.

I think he was punished for this male chauvinist remark when the one person who quite clearly defeated him in argument was Charles I's niece Princess Elizabeth, who pointed out the complete incoherence of Descartes's views on the relation between Mind and Body

And Descartes, I think, knew he was defeated because he was reduced to telling her not to bother her pretty head about the topic because it was dangerous for women to spend too much time on metaphysics. It would damage their health"
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