The other day I had a very interesting letter from someone who coaches varsity tennis at a major university. He had been reading my book Sport and had incorporated some of it into his training methods (it had to do with theoretical and practical knowledge), as well as mentioning it in an article on tennis for an online teaching program. How many philosophers can say that their writings have affected the way a sport is actually taught?
Say what you like about Queen Elizabeth II, she has the poshest accent in the British Isles. By far. No one comes close. Her own family sound like right gor-blimeys compared to her. No one on Downton Abbey can hold a candle to the Queen’s accent. I even venture to suggest that it is not possible to speak posher than the Queen: there is no possible world in which someone speaks posher than her. For this reason alone she deserves to be the Queen of England. There are absolutely no concessions to modern demotic; not even a whiff of South London. It is the platonic form of a posh English accent. When she is gone that accent will be extinct. Thankfully, we will have recordings of it. The last person I can remember in her linguistic class was Bertrand Russell. I don’t think they ever met but if they did they would surely think: “At last someone who speaks proper”. God save the Queen’s accent!
I found myself at the British Consulate in Miami last evening, seeing in the election results. It struck me how essentially gentle, humorous, sensible, broadminded, and skeptical the British are–in contrast to the ferocity, humorlessness, gullibility, and narrow-mindedness of others I prefer not to mention. This was disturbing. We are so self-conscious about our words, possibly because of speech as a class marker. We don’t speak language as much as dance it.
Are there quotation marks in the language of thought? Do we have a mental equivalent of quotation? It seems clear that we can have metalinguistic thoughts, as when I think that “five” has four letters; but can thought contain mental scare-quotes? Suppose I doubt that there are inner processes: can I think that “inner processes” need outward criteria? Can I think that “military intelligence” is an oxymoron? Are these attributions really attributions of a thought that lacks quotation marks? Compare the question of whether there are genuinely metaphorical thoughts.
My review of Oliver Sacks’ On The Move has just appeared in the Wall Street Journal. It’s a marvelous book, though it might upset some people with its candor. This is the human being behind the image–and I greatly prefer the human being to the image. Here we find the passionate and intense motor-cycle rider and champion power-lifter, the drug addict and sexual seeker (men, as it turns out). Also the writer, physician, teacher, friend. As is now known, he is dying of terminal cancer, after a long and fascinating life. We have been friends for many years and I love him dearly. He was falsely accused at one time of sexually abusing his patients, by people with their own agenda, and describes himself as “foaming with rage”. He has been kind and understanding in relation to my situation, speaking of “personal spite” and “southern barbarity”. Anyway, I highly recommend his book.