Monday, September 20, 2010

On FLG's Non-Intellectualness

FLG gets labeled an intellectual from time to time. He tries to shun this label. Not that it's bad, but because he doesn't feel that it fits. Now, FLG did just post an excerpt from Adam Ferguson, which means he 1) had to have read Adam Ferguson, 2) read somebody who read Adam Ferguson, or 3) spends too much time on Wikipedia.

But he didn't offer any analysis of the passage. Most of the time he doesn't. He simply throws passages up there and let's you figure out what it means. Often he has no idea what they mean, and they probably don't support the point he is trying to make anyway.

Contrast this to super-brainiac intellectual, Mrs. Self-Important:
Some contemporary historians [and FLG], finding Dwight's style too inflammatory and his politics too reactionary for their tastes, have dismissed his argument against infidelity as mere Federalist opportunism, or as evidence of a fundamentalist impulse to turn New England into a Puritan theocracy. But Dwight’s sermons are a testament to the winding complexity and—-to modern eyes-—contradiction of Calvinist theological and political commitments in the early republic, which could not be classified either on the left or the right, even after their opposition to the French Revolution. Dwight’s sermons draw on a distinctly Calvinist logic of opposition the Revolution--one that is forward-looking, reformist, and ultimately millenarian--and illuminate the distance between European reaction to the Revolution, and the strangely un-reactionary resistance of American Puritans.

Well. Enough of that.

But I did want to address a point raised by MSI in that post:
I know that everyone and his brother will jump down my throat now to insist that the French Revolution was not Rousseau's fault, and Rousseau would even have condemned it and if only people had read Rousseau more carefully and reflected on it better and blah blah... I agree that all this is true and good, except that it hardly stopped anyone from misreading Rousseau and cutting off heads.

FLG submits that the best way to understand Rousseau is to think of him as Plato plopped down into France during the Enlightenment. He believes he's suggested this before. (Again, notice without any real argument for why. Just throwing shit out there all unintellectual-like.)

What's interesting to FLG, again he's just dumping shit out to the ethers, is the parallel between the misinterpretation of Rousseau and part of how MSI describes her hatred for Plato's Republic:
I think in part it has to do with my failure to understand what the Republic contributed to our political tradition since no subsequent political thinkers were able to agree on its meaning, and some of the most important ones, when they gloss Plato in their own work, do so in such unsubtle and unsophisticated ways that it sounds like excerpts of undergrad papers. B. Franky, for example, took from Plato the idea that eristic is an excellent form of argumentation, then later, when he realized that it made him no friends, concluded that metaphysics was too indeterminate to worry about at all. As far as Greek philosophers go, Aristotle's imprint on Western political thought is much clearer.

FLG just hopes that MSI doesn't all of a sudden "get" Plato and start lopping off heads. And this fear, unlike Dwight's paranoia, isn't too off-base. There's this picture of MSI at age 2 or something holding up massive sticks trying to conquer the world.

3 comments:

Miss Self-Important said...

I agree that Rousseau is, taken by himself, an interesting and complex contrast to some of the doctrines of Enlightenment enthusiasts like Condorcet, though I'm not sure why you think he's Platonic.

Also, given the negative contemporary connotations of "intellectual," I think it's only a moniker that is actively sought and appropriated by blowhards.

FLG said...

A bunch of reasons...you've read Emile and the Republic. They're basically the same book, but in reverse. Plato deals with the City. Rousseau the individual.

There's an bunch of stuff in the first discourse too. I can't remember it all of hand, but he says Peter the Great was merely a great imitator, which seems like something Plato would say. Moreover, there's also a veneration of Sparta running throughout the entire discourse that is very Platonic in nature.

profmondo said...

I, too, have always shunned the "intellectual" tag. I'll cop to "smart guy" or "guy who reads a lot", but I always figured intellectuals didn't like Motorhead and Danzig as much as I did (and do, even having interviewed Danzig once).

I'll get out of the way now.

 
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