Monday, March 12, 2012

A Leopard’s Proposal for Changing the Name of his Spots

We are fond of the philosopher Colin McGinn, a man of good sense, and have quoted him in several essays.   But now he has written a piece (featured in today’s ALDaily hit parade) that is either quite silly, or slyly tongue-in-cheek. 

He proposes, as a marketing gimmick, to abolish the name of “philosophy”, while continuing to pursue the subject.  Let us listen to our wordsmith:

To load the dice, we might also wish to describe ourselves as doing “ontical science,” at least until our affinity with the sciences sinks in — then we might abbreviate to “ontics.” Other possibilities might include “beology” or “beological science,” “conceptive science” (like “cognitive science”), “beotics” (like “semiotics”).

The only use for this afterbirth ontics, is for a poetaster needing a near-rhyme for Ebonics.   For myself, I shall favor his latter suggestion, beotics, and dub those who might follow that lead -- the Beoetians.

Compare that earlier move, whereby philology was morphed into linguistics, and later certain of the sillier linguists, wishing to sound scientific, re-christened themselves linguisticians.   (That unlovely coinage had a brief vogue, before being turned over to the undertaker, or, as they prefer to call themselves, the mortician.)

We have elsewhere quoted our favorite Neothomist, against such slight-of-hand, such dressing up in science drag in lieu of actual science:

“Aujourd’hui, on se contente de tenir ces problèmes philosophiques pour résolus  en vertu d’un simple décret préalable  de ne pas philosopher.  Il ne suffit pourtant pas  qu’une solution ne soit pas philosophique  pour qu’elle devienne scientifique.  Qu’est-ce que cet « object concret »  qui ne serait qu’un « exemplaire »  du concept ?  Platon, Aristote, Abélard et Ockham  demandent aussitôt la parole,  et on ne peut aujourd’hui que se taire  ou reprendre le problème  au point où ils l’ont laissé.”
-- Etienne Gilson, Linguistique et philosophie  (1969)

In charity, we wish to assume that Professor McGinn’s suggestion was a Swiftian modest proposal;  yet are perturbed at the precedent of the otherwise-intelligent Richard Dawkins, who proposed that atheists should be re-christened… er, rebranded, as … wait for it ….   “brights” (not making this up), in imitation of the successful self-re-branding by the Sodomites, as "gays".   Apparently not as a merry jest, but in all earnest. 
And most of those who post comments on McGinn's essay  are taking him at his word. --  Unless, of course, they too are all satirizing  deadpan.   (Wheels within wheels within a Moebius-band...)

For a critique of a similar auto-abnegating proposal, that philosophy should intussuscept into the body of psychology (rather like that native superstition known as koro (**), in which the testicles are believed to disappear up the body cavity), click here:   
Philosophical felo da se.

(**) We thank our colleague Commander Buckwalter, who has studied the matter in all the jungles of the globe,   for reminding us of the name of this affliction. It seems peculiarly to affect American Republicans, who attempt to compensate by launching wars on distant smaller nations.

[Update 3 Aug 2013]  Bizarre developments in McGinn's (now-ended) career:

The New York Times has a somewhat dumbed-down version  here:

Interesting (and professionally informed) readers' comments here:

It would appear as though our philosopher, already febrile in the article referenced above, slid further into some narcissistic hubris.  At the very least, he loved  not wisely  but too well.  And for this, he has been unceremoniously hounded out of the Academy;  causing rejoicing in the quadrangles of Bryn Mawr.
In one sense, we do not lament overmuch.  What was he doing in Miami anyway?  That’s in Florida,  doofus -- homeland of the twisted and retarded, no place to get any sober thinking done. 
 Sed -- Apta sit poena sceleri.   For our φιλόσοφος has been hounded by the Erinnyes of an evident Urninde, University President Donna Shalala, who has perhaps a teensy little axe to grind.  Let Wiki tell it:

She next served as Chancellor of the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Under her chancellorship and with her support, the University adopted a broad speech code subjecting students to disciplinary action for communications that were perceived as hate speech. That speech code was later found unconstitutional by a federal judge.[4] Also while chancellor, Shalala supported passage of a revised faculty speech code broadly restricting "harmful" speech in both "noninstructional" and "instructional" settings. The faculty speech code was abolished ten years later, after a number of professors were investigated for alleged or suspected violations.

In June 2008, Conde Nast Portfolio reported that Shalala allegedly got multiple below-rate loans at Countrywide Financial because the corporation considered her an "FOA"--"Friend[s] of Angelo" (Countrywide Chief Executive Angelo Mozilo).

Vires -- Quirites!  Do we kneel to this?  Quousque tandem abutere, Catamita, patientiâ nostrâ?

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