[hist-analytic] Clarity Is Not Enough

steve bayne baynesrb at yahoo.com
Sun Feb 15 18:41:54 EST 2009


I agree with much of what you say, Roger. But I would mention this:
that since Aristotle, more or less, the idea among philosophers is
that philosophy, like "the good," is to be pursued for its own sake.

Where you might agree with these same people is that the supreme
"application" is in how we live our lives. Remember what Plato once
said? I think it was in the Republic but I'm not sure. Socrates is
asked the following question: "How can you say bad people are
not happy? They sure look happy to me!" Some such thing; and then
Socrates says something very wise. He says something like: "The
price they pay is the life they lead." 

Now I think the philosophical life, if there is such a thing in this world, 
brings happiness born out of the practice of its methods of inquiry 
and deliberation. Here Aristotle was right, and Spinoza (even though 
he is only  _something_ of an Aristotelian, was right as well), in saying that 
this sort of activity, to which one's mortal life approximates, has this 
application: to bring about happiness. The happy life and the good
life are conceived in the same "flesh." A happy life may not be a
significant life, but the importance of philosophy is not in the 
significance of its application, but in the perfection of the character
of those pursuing it for its own sake. The alternative, which is very
commonly accepted these days, is to say that philosophy is a form
of instruction, to be applied in making a better world. There may, here,
be a difference in emphasis only.

By the way, EVERYONE: Look at Roger has done with the archives
at: 

http://rbjones.com/pipermail/hist-analytic_rbjones.com/

Click those blue "jiggers." This is the best single improvement in
Hist-Analytic since it inception. Thanks, again, Roger Bishop Jones!


Steve Bayne

--- On Fri, 2/13/09, Roger Bishop Jones <rbj at rbjones.com> wrote:
From: Roger Bishop Jones <rbj at rbjones.com>
Subject: Re: Clarity Is Not Enough
To: Jlsperanza at aol.com
Cc: hist-analytic at simplelists.co.uk
Date: Friday, February 13, 2009, 11:29 AM

Whether clarity is enough must surely be a very personal matter.

This is analogous to the question whether pure mathematicians
should care about the applicability of their work, the not
caring having been vigorously defended by Hardy in his
"A Mathematician's Apology".

I have no problem with philosophers or mathematicians who
are happy to pursue pure research without consideration of
its applicability, but I am not among them.

I am afflicted by various disabilities (quite a lot
of them) which include needing to have a sense of the
purpose of any work which I am doing, and not thinking that
the analysis of ordinary language is for me sufficient purpose.

For those of us with this problem, Austin's suggestion that
we need only consider greater purposes once we have achieved
clarity in some matters, is of little help.
One thing which seems to me clear is that most worthwhile
purposes depend upon secondary objectives which if conducted
thoroughly on their own account will consume many lifetimes
without finding an end, and which therefore, if they are not
to completely divert attention from ones true purpose, must
be conducted to the minimum extent sufficient for that purpose.

I will happily coexist with people of different talents and
temper. so long as they do not get in my way.
Austin does.  His book "Sense and Sensibilia" seems to me to be
a sustained attempt to deny philosophers that flexibility in
the use of language which is normal in any specialised undertaking.

Roger Jones
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