Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Anything but argument

Leonard Lawlor's paper "Reality and Philosophy: Reflections on Cora Diamond's Work" is a bit surprising. Lawlor seems to come to Diamond's work from a different tradition and a different perspective, so that's one thing that makes it interesting. But the paper is written with what might be considered a lack of argument, or a lack of a certain kind of argument anyway, which makes it both the kind of thing I might be expected to like and (yet) somewhat unsatisfying (to me--I can imagine other people liking it a lot).

For instance, Lawlor writes that "The relation of reality to language and thought and therefore to philosophy is an internal one. Reality is in philosophy..." But to say that two things are internally related is surely not to say that one is in the other. I would have thought it meant, rather, that the two are conceptually interdependent. And I don't know what to make of "Reality is in philosophy."

He goes on to note that the word 'spirit' occurs in the title of Diamond's book The Realistic Spirit but not much in her subsequent work. He links this with her non-biological conception of what it means to be human, and then moves to talk of theology and messianism. This might all seem like too much too fast, but Lawlor does not claim to have proved anything. He mostly just asks questions and suggests ideas.

Sometimes he does what looks a bit like logical argument, e.g.: "Reality is not independent of our experience, which means, reversing the negation, that it is to be found in experience." Substitute "my children" for reality and "their parents" for our experience and you can see that this is not a logical argument in fact.

And so it goes on. This is not my cup of tea but, as I say, I can imagine others finding stimulation in it. And if I don't like this kind of thing, then I ought to be more careful about what I say regarding the place of argument and personal expression in philosophy. That would be a good lesson for me to learn.


  1. Ho hum. This makes me want to read the paper even less than the abstract did (by the time that I got to the end of it)...(thanks for the warning, as it were).

  2. I thought the abstract sounded odd and almost blogged about it, but when I read it more closely it wasn't saying the crazy things I had thought it said. The paper is definitely not for everybody though.