I’ve noticed a disturbing new trend in the philosophy profession: not answering letters. You write to someone to make a critical point about something they have said and they simply don’t bother to reply, thus avoiding the task of responding rationally to the criticism. In the old days if someone wrote to you, however critically, you felt it was your duty to respond, this being part of the scholarly ethic; but now it is thought acceptable simply to say nothing. This is both discourteous and unscholarly. It is symptomatic of the state that academic philosophy in the USA has got itself into–a way to gain immunity to criticism on the cheap. It is alarming to witness such a steep decline in professional ethics.
I suspect you are, “taking heat”, as they say, for engaging with someone who seems rather too eccentrically confident in the appeal of his, “Comments”—philosophical and otherwise. Aahh, philosophy. We professional pool-cleaners ,however, credentialed and certified as we are, have leisure enough between pools to judiciously consider the worth of a degree in philosophy over against the value of seeing daily someone sun-bathing naked on their pool deck.
No heat that I know of. But I am no stranger to heat. At present I’m working on a paper on the concept queer in Wittgenstein, Mackie, and more broadly (including sexual orientation). I expect heat.
Writing a paper on the concept,”queer”, you say? I am entirely your man. “If I can do you any service, you may command me.” (from Boswell’s, “Journal”). There are so many good throw-away lines in Boswell’s Journal of 1763: “I should have mentioned last night that I met with a monstrous big whore in the Strand…”. ” I am sure I always feel myself rendered melancholy by any degree of hard-ship”. After leaving a cock-fight, Boswell remarks about the London crowd, that he was “a little confounded at the strange turn of this people”. I use this line in my novel. Alan Reynolds, my narrator, had attended an Orlando Convention sponsored by a group of gay libertarians at a local gay complex (called, “The Hague”, in my book—but otherwise known here as, “The Parliament House”). The goddess of their inspiration, of these queer libertarians, is ofcourse Ayn Rand. After Alan’s third intimate encounter with select attendees, and having discovered them all to be urine-drinkers, he leaves, “The Hague”, “a little confounded at the strange turn of this people”.
I’m focusing on Mackie’s use of the concept in the “argument from queerness” as well as Wittgenstein on the “queer process”, but I link this to the other use of “queer” to designate people.
“Oh well”, said Woody Allen, with regard to three-somes, “as long as I’m in there somewhere”.
There, I posted it.
I studied under the great E.J. Lowe at Durham. I’d gone there to read philosophy as an ex-factory worker, after reading and enjoying your’s and Bryan Magee’s philosophical autobiographies as a young-ish man. After I graduated, I expected to be cut off from that lovely world I’d been in for a few years. But Professor Lowe would always answer any question I would email him, in spite of his philosophical eminence and me no longer being a student. It struck me that in philosophy, as in life, it is often the biggest figures who are the most kind and humble.
He and I took the B Phil in the same year (1974) but I hardly knew him at Oxford and saw little of him over the years. As it happens he visited Miami a few years ago and I attended one of his talks. An excellent philosopher, very independent minded, and a thoroughly decent bloke. I wish I’d known him better.
Re Jeffrey Kessen above, the line about being “in there somewhere” was from The Jerk (1979), when Steve Martin’s Navin Johnson, relaxing on the beach at night with Bernadette Peters’s Marie, hopes to woo her:
Navin Now be totally honest. You do have a boyfriend don’t you.
Marie Kind of.
Navin I know this is our first date but, do you think the next time you make love to your boyfriend, you could think of me?
Marie Well I haven’t made love to him yet.
Navin That’s too bad. Do you think it’s possible that someday you can make love with me and think of him?
Marie Who knows. Maybe you and he could make love and you could think of me.
Navin I’d just be happy to be in there somewhere.
P.S. Having world without end these last 20+ years quoted from Professor McGinn’s rendition, from his 1998 TLS review of a biography of A.J. “Freddy” Ayer, of the priceless anecdote of Ayer’s having via deft verbal maneuver saved the model Naomi Campbell from an apparent ravishing in progress by boxer Mike Tyson, I am much honored to appear in these precincts.