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Posts Tagged ‘Morgenbesser

“Common sense with big words”*…

 

John Dewey Professor Emeritus of Philosophy Sidney Morgenbesser was a celebrated scholar: and expert on the philosophy of social science, political philosophy, epistemology, and the history of American Pragmatism, and a mentor to the likes of Jerry Fodor, Raymond Geuss, Robert Nozick, and Derek Parfit.

But Morgenbesser was every equally well-known for his pointedly-relevant witticisms; for instance…

– In a lecture, the Oxford linguistic philosopher J. L. Austin made the claim that although a double negative in English implies a positive meaning, there is no language in which a double positive implies a negative. From the audience, Morgenbesser waved his arms and responded in a dismissive tone, “Yeah, yeah.”

– When asked his opinion of pragmatism, Morgenbesser replied “It’s all very well in theory but it doesn’t work in practice.”

– Asked to prove a questioner’s existence, Morgenbesser shot back, “Who’s asking?”

– Interrogated by a student whether he agreed with Chairman Mao’s view that a statement can be both true and false at the same time, Morgenbesser replied “Well, I do and I don’t.”

– Dissecting the difference between Christianity and Judaism, Morgenbesser described Gentile ethics as entailing “ought implies can” while in Jewish ethics “can implies don’t.”

More Morgenbesser mots here.

[Photo via Columbia University.]

*”Philosophy is common sense with big words.”  – James Madison

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As we reckon that Wittgenstein was probably right when we suggested that “a serious and good philosophical work could be written consisting entirely of jokes,” we might send fantastic birthday greetings to Terence Hanbury “T.H.” White; he was born on this date in 1906.  While he wrote over two dozen books, he is best known for his sequence of (four) Arthurian novels, The Once and Future King, first published together in 1958.  A best-seller in its own right, it was the basis of the musical Camelot and of the animated feature The Sword on the Stone, and an inspiration to other writers, from J.K. Rowling to Gregory Maguire.

Writing of the first of White’s Arthurian novels, The Sword in the Stone, in 1939, Time opined: “The book as a whole might be described as a shake-up of British rectory humor, Evelyn Waugh, Laurel & Hardy, John Erskine, and the Marquis de Sade, quite well enough blended to please the palate of Sword-in-the-Stone partisans, to assure its author definite standing among such cult men as A. P. Herbert, P. G. Wodehouse, Lewis Carroll.”

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

May 29, 2013 at 1:01 am

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