Every great philosophy so far has been the personal confession of its author and a kind of involuntary and unconscious memoir.
--Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)
Thursday, September 6, 2007
The Obscure Object of Desire
"Any effort in philosophy to make the obscure obvious is likely to be unappealing, for the penalty of failure is confusion while the reward of success is banality."--Nelson Goodman, The Structure of Appearance (1951), p. xv.
There can be little doubt that philosophy’s history is filled with incidents and anecdotes that reveal the thought and character of philosophers in ways that complement and often go beyond their published works. Kant and his critics, Schopenhauer’s notorious rivalry with Hegel, which led to the former’s resigning his university position and leaving academic life, Sir Karl Popper’s encounter with Wittgenstein, in which the latter allegedly threatened the former with a poker, presumably in the heat of a philosophical quarrel! -- all are part of the lore of modern philosophy dating from the eighteenth century to the present and illuminate not only the disputes and disagreements that constitute its history but also the alliances and antagonisms that characterize its human dimension.
The name Philosophy Confidential is indicative of this blog's tendency to blend intellectual history with rumor and innuendo, tabloid style. I have not gone so far as to delve into court documents, plea agreements, employment contracts, and disclosure forms—as if such materials would reveal even more questionable practices than those to be discussed. As it happens, philosophers have for the most part led exemplary lives, worthy of emulation and, in some cases, a well-intentioned joke.
I have sometimes paraphrased instead of using direct quotes, but to a very great extent I have let philosophers speak for themselves. Nevertheless, and by way of warning, I caution readers that here or there an item of dubious provenance may have found its way into the narrative.
Steven Sanders is a professor emeritus of philosophy and now writes full-time in the areas of philosophy, film, and television. He is editor of The Philosophy of Science Fiction Film and coeditor of The Philosophy of TV Noir and The Meaning of Life: Questions, Answers, and Analysis. His recent publications include essays and articles on postmodernism, film noir, Alfred Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick, and Martin Scorsese.