13 May 2005

Now There's a Fudge!

A bizarre conclusion to a paragraph from Bruce Kuklick's otherwise thoughtful review of Morton White, From a Philosophical Point of View (in NDPR here):

Some of this material is historically significant or is still interesting in itself. In his connection to Goodman and Quine, White was also essential to the link that grew up between Oxford and Harvard in the middle of the century. Much more an ambassador than the first two, he first visited Oxford in the early 1950s, and established connections -- with G.E. Moore, Isaiah Berlin, and H. L. A. Hart -- that brought Oxford philosophers back to Cambridge, Massachusetts. There are several indications of this link in the volume, including a charming "Impressions" of English philosophy at mid-century. Several of the essays now stand out as failed attempts to attract some of the English and American philosophers of the period to employ analytic techniques to wider issues of culture. Ironically, White's desire to embolden Anglo-American thought by joining Harvard and Oxford may have led to what some would call the reinforcement of the stultification of each.
Now look at the fudge term 'what some would call'. I ask Kuklick: Has there been a 'reinforcement of a stultification' or not? If so, then say that. If not, or even if perhaps not, then there can't be anything ironic here.

And how is it that a major historian of philosophy subordinates his judgment in this way to nameless others?


Anonymous said...

He didn't fudge throughout the rest of the review, so is there a reason for the fudge here? No fudge version: "It's ironic that the attempt to embolden may have lead to mutual stultification." He can't say that unless he wants to provide evidence to back it up, but he doesn't have the space for that. So the nameless others are used to introduce a fact (some consider it stultification) rather than an uncorrobated assertion (what I consider stultification).

Anonymous said...

Also, his own personal opinion (what he thinks is stultifacation) is irrelevant if what we're talking about is the sociology of philosophy, ie what some consider stultification.

Anonymous said...

He may also be reporting a general sentiment that people voice but don't consider worth defending in detail. He may in fact be taking a shot and dodging responsibility for it, or he may be saying what plenty of people think. Given the offense it's caused, I suspect that the opinion isn't so idiosyncratic at all.

Anonymous said...

I guess I'm a little puzzled at when the stultification set in at Harvard. Was it with Quine? Dreben? Albritton? Putnam? Rawls? Or maybe Cavell? As for Oxford, I suppose it's clear that Austin was a stultus  and a fortiori any lesser minds there.  

Posted by Michael Pakaluk

Anonymous said...

Both your original post and your final comment deserve response. While I have my own answers to your questions, most of which seem unfounded upon a careful reading of the review, I thought the best thing to do would be to get Kuklick's own reaction and response. He was nice enough to provide me with such a reaction via email, and has given me permission to post it as a comment on your blog. So, in the name of giving your readership the whole story, I paste it here:

"On reflection I certainly don’t like the ugly phrase 'reinforcement of the stultification' either. But I don’t think what I said is hard to parse or bizarre. White wanted Oxford to get logic, and Harvard to get an interest in the ordinary world. Instead, the experience with logic may have turned Oxford further from it; and, similarly, seeing the commitment in England to ordinary usage may have made Harvard more interested in logic.
Do I think that’s stultifying? Well, I was searching for an ambiguous phrase in 'what some would call.' Maybe I should have said what I believe more exactly: philosophy at each institution became more problematic after the 1950s. Ordinary language philosophy did not go anywhere. And yes, I find Quine after 'Two Dogmas' stultifying. He never did much, to my mind with the holistic epistemology hinted at in that essay and some other pieces, and I don’t think much of the epigoni. This opinion may be eccentric – I would prefer 'independent' – but I don’t think it’s bizarre."


Posted by steve austin