In my critical thinking class yesterday we discussed Stanley Fish’s recent “Think Again” column in which he has the “audacity” to tell the reader what it is he’s doing in the column, e.g making analytic judgments about the logic of disputes and arguments. So today I had another look at the comments found these two particularly strange, especially in their vitriol:
Thanks for the clarification, Prof. Fish. As many before me have pointed out to you, argument divorced from ethics, morality & politics is mere sophistry. Perhaps armed with this information you and the NYT will want to rethink your column.
stanley, finally you objectively deconstruct your own deconstruction. Now it is time to give this French baloney a rest. you made a good living tossing this drivel out to your students and fellow academics. thank you for your totally unintended self-condemnation.
What the hell are these people talking about? Or how about this:
I think the words “self delusional” fit here somewhere. If you were one of my students, I would suggest you keep it short, keep it clear, say what you mean & mean what you say.If so many of readers can’t understand what you’re trying to say, maybe they’re not to blame.
Huh? Isn’t that what Fish is doing?
“Language (or thought) is something unique”– this proves to be a superstition (not a mistake!), itself produced by grammatical illusions. And now the impressiveness retreats to these illusions, to the problems.
The problems arising through a misinterpretation of the forms of our language have the character of depth. They are deep disquietudes; their roots are as deep in us as the forms of our language and their significance is as great as the importance of our language. — Let us ask ourselves: why do we feel a grammatical joke to be deep? (And that is what the depth of philosophy is.)
Philosophy’s job is to undo superstitious responses to the pathos of our lives, it releases us from the fatal traps set for us, not by the mistakes and inventions of philosophers or rhetoricians, but by our language. In this sense, there is a rather therapeutic aspect to Wittgenstein’s work:
My method throughout is to point out mistakes in language. I am going to use the word “philosophy” for the activity of pointing out such mistakes. Why do I wish to call our present activity philosophy, when we also call Plato’s activity philosophy? Perhaps because of a certain analogy between them, or perhaps because of the continuous development of the subject. Or the new activity may take the place of the old because it removes mental discomforts the old was supposed to (Lectures).
Renaissance sycophant Betrand Russell’s introduction to the Tractatus emphasizes this as well:
The object of [Wittgenstein’s] philosophy is the logical clarification of thoughts. Philosophy is not a theory but an activity. A philosophical work consists essentially of elucidations. The result of philosophy is not a number of ‘philosophical propositions’ but to make propositions clear. Philosophy should make clear and delimit sharply the thoughts which otherwise are, as it were, opaque and blurred.
I take Fish’s column to be doing just this, that is, releasing us from all the moralizing, politicizing traps set for us in public discourse.