Max and the American

“And Americans, individually, are of all people the most anxious to please. That they talk overmuch is often taken as a sign of self-satisfaction. It is merely a mannerism. Rhetoric is a thing inbred in them. They are quite unconscious of it. It is as natural to them as breathing. And, while they talk on, they really do believe that they are quick businesslike people, by whom things are ‘put through’ with an almost brutal abruptness. This notion of theirs is rather confusing to the patient English auditor.” Zuleika Dobson, p. 122.

I find much to resonate to here. What should be a matter of profound moral weight and incalculable consequence is regarded as a mere practical problem to be “solved” as rapidly and brutally as possible.


Now that same-sex marriage is legal in these United States, what about the rights of the bisexual? He or she is only allowed to marry one person at a time, thus restricting his or her expression of sexual orientation within marriage. Such a person may not believe in sex outside marriage, so that our laws prohibit the bisexual from a fulfilled sexual and romantic life. Is there not a case here for legalizing marriage to two people for this special case?

The Psychology of the Mysterian

There are not many mysterians in the world, at least visible out-of-the-closet mysterians, but the following four people clearly qualify: me, Chomsky, Fodor, and Pinker. This is a large enough sample to inquire what the mysterian psychology is like–what do the four of us have in common? It might be supposed that a mysterian is apt to be theoretically timid, reluctant to stick his neck out: he is always warning others about their theoretical recklessness, urging caution. He is a nay-sayer, a conservative, a coward of the intellect. He thinks theories are for the birds–hubristic folly. But actually the four people on my list are the very opposite–they are all theoretical adventurers, their necks fully extended. They love theories, the more adventurous the better. They are indeed frequently criticized for their theoretical excesses. They are not timid but bold. This suggests another account of their mysterian tendencies: they know what a good theory looks like and what it takes to establish one, and they can see that nothing of this kind is available in the domain in which they sense mystery. They are disappointed theorists, not overly cautious anti-theorists.

Mystery Max

“For proper appreciation of Maeterlinck, you must have, besides a sense of beauty, a taste for wisdom. Maeterlinck is not less a sage than a poet. Of all living thinkers whose names are known to me, he has the firmest and widest grasp of the truth. He more clearly than any other thinker is conscious of the absurdity of attempting to fashion out of the vast and impenetrable mysteries of life any adequate little explanation–any philosophy.”


Beerbohm, mysterian.


I had the plumbers at my house yesterday and it occurred to me to wonder: Isn’t plumbing really an instance of the “extended gut”? Isn’t it rather arbitrary where we conventionally think the digestive system leaves off? What if your colon were replaced with a PVC prosthesis and extended further out into the environment? What if a creature were born with a whole plumbing system attached to it? We refer to our digestive system as our plumbing; can’t we also refer to our plumbing as our (extended) digestive system? It’s all just a way to dispose of waste products produced by eating.


I see that MIT Press has put an ad for my book Philosophy of Language on Leiter’s blog, which seems kinda funny to me. On the right side is an ad for a new book by Max Deutsch, The Myth of the Intuitive, who was a PhD student of mine at Rutgers.