The curse of Plato

Let me attempt to explain my shift in thinking during the last four years by illustrating via context-less quote-mongering. In high school when I was first “getting into” philosophy I would often come these interesting, derogatory quips about philosophy itself. For example:

“Philosophy, n. A route of many roads leading from nowhere to nothing.” – Ambrose Bierce”Finding bad reasons for what one believes for other bad reasons – that’s philosophy.” – Aldous Huxley

“The point of philosophy is to start with something so simple as not to seem worth stating, and to end with something so paradoxical that no one will believe it.” – Bertrand Russell

“There is no statement so absurd that no philosopher will make it.” – Cicero

“If a man’s good for nothing else, he can at least teach philosophy.” – William James

“Philosophy consists very largely of one philosopher arguing that all others are jackasses. He usually proves it, and I should add that he also usually proves that he is one himself.” – H.L. Mencken

These will suffice, there are obviously more. The pecularity, of course, is that these quotes are by philosophers (many of whom never did shake this vice). Note that I read these and still went to university for philosophy. So for a long time my approach was one of a/bemusement; they were funny (ironic detachment, yadayada).

You might think that it is only now that I feel their bite, that I protest, that I stutter and defend my mistress. On the contrary, it is only now that I laugh harder. I’ve come to realize that the history of Western philosophy is the history of an error, and that error is Plato’s (and/or Socrates, smarmy bastard that he was). It is a “bold flight of invention” (to turn Plato against Plato) and I readily join with so-called “postmoderns” in exorcising the demon of Platonism in all it’s latent/overt forms (pun intended). Sure, I joined the Tribunal of Reason and pontificated for a while, but I’ve now resigned my post — upon discovery, of course, that the king has no clothes. After the death of philosophy, what now? It’s not all dirty nihilism and trampled orchids: whether genealogy/archaelogy (Nietzsche/Foucault), phenomenology (Heidegger), hermeneutics (Gadamer, Vattimo, et al), deconstruction (Derrida), etc it seems clear there is something post-… post-metaphysical, post-representational, post-realist, pick your poison/medicine, pick your (un)hero. Me? I gots me Rorty and I gots me Van Morrison. Your mileage may vary.

3 thoughts on “The curse of Plato

  1. I just found your blog. Where has it been all my life?

    I found more stuff on archaeology/genealogy tonight. Most of my secondary sources are down in my library carrel, so I had to uncover them. You’re getting me off-topic, kid, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

    Today, someone suggested I remove Foucault’s label of “relativist” and apply the label of “realist.” Come on, folks. It’s not that easy. However, If I had to give Foucault a label, it’d probably be “sexy.” Because I think he was.

    “Hello, my name is Jenna, and I’m a postmodernist.”

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