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Quote:The above is just a pure example of the strawman fallacy. I never held such an extreme position, as I expect you well know. So, what is the point of imputing it to me?Yes, let's take it. And I can't help but note in passing that we have been required to do so by your remarkable contention that the Symposium, at its center, is without question not philosophy...
Theatetus -- which you're forwarding as the work in Plato's corpus that is the purest philosophy, freest from the taint of literature -
There is very serious and important entertainment. Where did the word "mere" come from? Not from me, since I never wrote, "mere entertainment".
Pardon me again, but it seems that the central figure and logic of your argument has now shifted. If it is false to place you in an "extreme position" in this argument about philosophy and literature, that means you are now conceiving a continuum between the two. You're now saying that neither the Symposium nor Theatetus should be conceived as at one extreme or the other of the philosophy/literature divide.
But that argument doesn't jive at all with what you've been arguing all along: that there is a central "essence" of philosophy that is distinct from that of literature. Your previous explanation that there can be "overlap" between the two only reinforces the idea that they each have a distinct and pure "center" that must not be confused.
Hence your statement that started this whole discussion: that it would be wrong to "confuse" philosophy and literature.
So you are indeed arguing about extremes. This is the whole point of the debate. You have been arguing that we must keep distinct philosophy on the one side, literature on the other. Either the Symposium is, at center, aligned with philosophy, or it is not. Either it does belong in the philosophy section of the book store (to use your example) or it does not. Are you now saying the book store manager is an "extremist" for doing so?
Your argument has been that we must recognize the fact of the extremes: that, at their core, philosophy exists on one side and literature on another. You might be trying to have it both ways by suddenly introducing the idea that there is not a clear separation, but only a continuum...
Surely this is disingenuous. You said that philosophy is about knowledge and understanding, whereas literature is about entertainment. I say that this fits perfectly with the thesis I agree with: that philosophy wants to pretend it is distinct from literature because it wants to claim a closer relationship to Truth. But nobody in the world would fail to recognize that, at the very least, the formula Philosophy=knowledge; Literature=entertainment elevates philosophy above literature. We have seen the straw man, and it is us...
Whatever philosophy "wants", it remains true that there is a sharp distinction between literature and truth, even if there are some works that cannot be clearly classified as either.
This is the whole ball game right here. You say there is a sharp distinction between literature and truth. We'll get to that in a minute. But notice that the implied consequence of this definition, as regards to philosophy -- since this is precisely what we're talking about -- is that there is not "a sharp distinction" between philosophy and truth. And if you can say that with a straight face, the next drink's on me.
"There is a sharp distinction between literature and truth." I guess I don't need to articulate my argument again, because here it is in black and white. The philosopher tells me, "Literature is not about truth, but philosophy is." And the football player tells me that basketball is not a real sport.
And yet... I still haven't heard anything that would explain to me how or why Hamlet or Paradise Lost does not articulate truth.
And even if we try to help your assertion to seem (you'll excuse me) less absurd than it appears on its face -- by interpreting it, for instance, as saying that philosophy has more to do with truth than does literature -- I still don't understand what you are using as the measure of truth which allows you to assert that the truths of philosophy are greater, or more pertinent (or whatever you wish) than those of literature.
What is the measure?
I mis-wrote. I meant to write that there is a sharp distinction between literature and philosophy. Not, literature and truth. I have no idea what the latter would even mean.
Ah, ok. But then your "head" analogy remains in contradiction with the rest of your vocabulary and its logic. Nobody would say that the there is an "essence" to the front of your head. Nobody would say that there is some "overlap" between the front and back of your head -- because that implies that there is a "center" to the front of your head, and a "center" to the back of your head (but then would there be a "center" to the "side of your head"...? To the bottom...?)
Clearly, the head analogy is not appropriate because we know at the outset that the terms "front" and "back" have nothing to do with the real composition of the head. They're just terms that define how a viewer might perceive it and break it into convenient conceptual units.
But you are arguing precisely that the distinctions between philosophy and literature are not merely born of one's perspective on them. This is your whole point -- that there is something intrinsic in philosophy and in literature that makes them distinct.
But we have yet to see any proof whatsoever of these intrinsic "centers"; and we don't even have any explanation as to what might occupy these essential centers. You mentioned knowledge and understanding, but have yet to explain how or why the knowledge or understanding effected by philosophy is distinct from that effected by literature.
I said nothing about "intrinsic". I simply pointed out that there are absolutely clear cases of philosophy, and that there are absolutely clear cases of literature, and that that there are intermediate cases in no way shows that there are not clear cases of either. How can you not agree?
So you agree with the statement: "There is no intrinsic difference between a work of philosophy and a work of literature".
If so, then, yes we do agree.
Since I do not know what it means, I neither agree nor disagree with it. I'll repeat, though: War and Peace is clearly literature and not philosophy and, Quine's, Word and Object, is clearly philosophy and not literature, so it follows that there are works that are literature and not philosophy, and there are works that are philosophy and not literature. And, if you agree with the above, then we do agree.
But the problem is that your formulation leaves us with the old ambiguity of your book store scenario. Is this book "philosophy" simply because the publisher or author decided to categorize it that way -- or is it philosophy because it has some "essential" (your word) property that literature does not?
That ambiguity can easily be cleared up: Are "philosophy" or "literature" intrinsic properties of the text, or are they not?
And yet... I still haven't heard anything that would explain to me how or why Hamlet or Paradise Lost does not articulate or reveal truth.
I've been down this exact same road with Ken. "Nothing is good or bad, but thinking makes it so. "
"The mind itself is a place, and can make a heaven of hell, or hell of heaven."
And this is just to fish out the obviously philosophical aspects of literature. I find it amazing that someone could miss the literature aspect of philosophy and also the reverse, the philosophical aspect of literature.
In my mind, trope is king. And trope is everywhere.
"Neither", is my answer. I don't think there are "intrinsic properties" And I don't think that the classification was merely arbitrary either. It is, obviously a matter of convention, since the distinction between philosophy and literature is a matter of convention. But then, you see, so is the distinction between a rook and a queen (in chess) a matter of convention. But does that mean that there is no distinction between a rook and a queen, or that the distinction is arbitrary, and there is no good reason behind it? Of course not. The same is true of philosophy and literature. The distinction between the two is neither "intrinsic" nor is it arbitrary, which seems to be what you have in mind when you say someone decided to categorize it that way. For the person did not merely decide to categorize it that way. He had good reasons for doing so. You do seem to see things as black or white. Sometimes there are other colors. Philosophy (analytic, of course) teaches you that.
Quote:Yes, a lot of people seem to confuse philosophy with literature.
Originally Posted by bartese
Although I'm mostly into 20th-century Continentals -- the usual suspects -- I'd have to put Robert Musil on the top of my list, even though he articulated his philosophy better in fiction than nonfiction.
But hey, Zarathustra is presented as a story... and the classical dialogues are essentially playscripts along the lines of My Dinner with Andre ....
In my mind, trope is king. And trope is everywhere.
The "good reasons" you keep providing for the conventional distinction are: that it dutifully serves the conventional distinction. Your chess example says it quite clearly. Unless we're going to talk about the material composition of the chessboard and its pieces, the game of chess is nothing but an assemblage of arbitrary rules maintained by convention. There is only one "good reason" to distinguish a rook from the queen -- and that is to conform to the expected convention so that both players have the same expectations.
I would note, too, that the relatively nuanced position that you forward now -- in which you insist it would be foolish to think you had ever implied that there could be no "overlap" between philosophy and fiction -- is quite removed from the exchange that began this discussion:
Out of nowhere, my conversational rumination that it might be reasonable to think about philosophical writers of fiction alongside conventionally-labeled philosophers is pierced by this stinging retort!
I shudder to think what kind of biting response this writer would unleash on somebody who proposed that Plato's Symposium does not live up to the "essence" of philosophy because it is so literary!
As Aristotle said, "one swallow does not make a summer" and, of course, one sentence does not make a philosophy book.
I have not spoken of "the essence of philosophy". Indeed, I have rejected all such talk.
Oh yes, philosophy does use analogy and so on. But that is not of its essence, and it need not. It is of the essence of literature to do that.
I did not say that there was an overlap between philosophy and literature.
Of course, the Symposium is a particularly good case for your position, since it is a particularly literary example of philosophy. There is obviously overlapping.
It's not a philosophy book... but it is philosophy... interesting. So how many such sentences would make a philosophy book? And would fewer sentences be required if the author were a "philosopher," as designated by the book store manager...?
---------- Post added 04-12-2010 at 08:27 PM ----------
Again, it depends on what you mean by "not"...
... which, again, begs the question: What is it, exactly, that occupies the two centers of these overlapping circumferences? Any answer will do, at this point.
Science is about knowledge. Philosophy is about understanding. Literature is about entertainment.
I have created a sort of bond with Henri Bergson. His notions of duration and being just resonate with me for some reason.