[hist-analytic] Analytic Philosophy: Oxonian Varieties

Baynesr at comcast.net Baynesr at comcast.net
Mon Aug 10 09:22:12 EDT 2009


Yes, McKeon went to all the Western Division meetings I went to, which 
was about five or so. He was often there with his daughter who kept watch 
over him in his later years. I've always been curious about this episode 
because it led to the Ideas and Methods Dept. at Chicago, so the story 
goes. The reports I've heard are always skewed towards Carnap, who 
reportedly had a command knowledge of Latin, at one point embarrassing 
McKeon; so the story goes. If McKeon had not started that other department, 
people like Hannah Arendt would never have gone to Chicago, I don't 
think. 

I was there only very briefly; I was a high school drop out (married at 17) 
and very political in those days. So I was an interloper at most of the 
colleges in the area. I thought Illinois at Chicago Circle was a superb 
school with a great department. There was a vitality there that, seemed, 
to equal any other school around. Those were days of enormoust energy 
and passion for philosophy. It was at Roosevelt University that I first 
picked up your first book. I had found Sellars opaque, eg. his formal 
stuff in Phil. Perspectives. But he and Bergmann were, along with 
Russell, my idols. Bergmann, of course, was "difficult," but he set very 
high standards. I'll have a piece in the book on a discussion I had 
with him concerning an exchange between Brodbeck and Anscombe. 
Brodbeck's indexes to Bergmann are models of near perfection. 

But McKeon had a reputation as a tough teacher. However, I once told 
him I was having difficulty with Greek and he offered the following 
slightly strange suggestion. He suggested that the amount of Greek 
philosophy was finite and that I could conceivably just learn the bare 
grammar, rely on Liddell-Scott, and plow through it. I thought to myself, 
"Yeah, in a thousand years!" But it was an interesting idea. I "dropped" to 
Latin where the verb is easier, for sure. 

Yes, I recall your doing translations; I think of Plato. I've always gone 
to Shorey for some things. Seems pretty literal, easy to follow etc. 
I've been thinking of putting up Cornford's translation etc. of 
Theatetus. 

I used to be very interested in science. When I was about 12 I won 
the Chicago Science fair in my division for an invention I had. Indeed 
it was a working model. I lost interest; went towards philosophy. 
People wanted me to do law, and maybe I should have, but then 
I read Plato's take on lawyers and sophists and went back to being 
a "truth seeker." Many years later I saw an implemented version 
of my invention. It was the monorail air train with magnetic support. 
Back in the fifties they were called "ground effect machines." I used 
magnets to achieve the lift required for a long train. 

I don't regret spending what most philosophers would call an inordinate 
amount of time on history. Sellars did a lot of work here and I think his 
careful reading of Kant payed dividends. One other thing on this. 
Philosophers who work vicariously in physics have really done very 
little. The two great physicists, in my opinion, who were actually 
good at philosophy were Weyl and Bohm. Shimony, also, is good. 
But for the most part, they are popularizers with a bit of a philosophical 
twist that depends on the latest fad in Physical Review, or so it 
seems. 

After this book project I intend to expend my last energies at exploring 
new areas in phil. science. It is a great field. Emile Meyerson and 
Bohm are, I think, accessible to philosophers who are not 
"pseudo-scientists." In fact, I think there are some interesting dualistic 
models that are entirely consistent with physical theory; more on that 
later. 

Regards 

Steve 


----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Bruce Aune" <aune at philos.umass.edu> 
To: Baynesr at comcast.net 
Cc: hist-analytic at simplelists.co.uk 
Sent: Monday, August 10, 2009 8:02:36 AM GMT -05:00 US/Canada Eastern 
Subject: Re: Analytic Philosophy: Oxonian Varieties 

I never knew McKeon, though I saw him at Western Division APA meetings 
in the early 60's. I heard a lot about him, however, from people at 
Minnesota, who were very critical of him. I can imagine Carnap not 
wanting to approve a thesis on an argument that the thesis-writer 
could not competently evaluate. When I was a student of Carnap's and, 
indeed, throughout my teaching career, I was a strong advocate of 
making the history of philosophy a large component of philosophical 
education. I can still see its relevance to serious philosophical 
work, but I now regret that I spent so much time on it. I would have 
been better served, I think, if I had spent more time on mathematics 
and physics. In spite of this. I continue to spend an inordinate 
amount of time translating Plato's Greek! 

Bruce 
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