Thursday, March 3, 2011
What Not to Say
Why do I bring this up? Because I committed one of these speech crimes recently. I said that the very broad public (as in, the proverbial man/woman in the street) cannot grasp the most advanced ideas in philosophy. You actually need to do some heavy duty reading, or maybe take some philosophy courses, or maybe even go to graduate school, to understand those ideas. As a matter of fact, my colleagues and I sometimes confess to finding the books of other philosophers difficult. We will outright say we can't follow x, y, or z. Of course. In any discipline, there are many levels of difficulty, and for any given audience, some stuff is attainable, and some not.
Once people are offended, they like to fan up their own offense by pretending what you said is as offensive as possible. (This is a strange truth about human psychology.) So my saying some philosophy is too hard for the public square (folks, it's true) got transformed -- mostly at other blogs -- into the assertion that academics should stay in their ivory towers. Never mind that I couldn't possibly have said that, considering that I've written two philosophy books for a "not just professionals" audience. It was "Off with her head, immediately!"
Well, if it must be, it must be. I humbly submit to the will of the people.