Showing posts from February, 2021

Why Postmodernism Is Annoying

  What annoys me about postmodernism is this:  Hegel famously wrote, in the Preface to the Philosophy of Right, that "When philosophy paints its gray in gray, then a configuration of life has grown old, and cannot be rejuvenated by this gray in gray, but only understood; the Owl of Minerva takes flight only as the dusk begins to fall."  One can see his point - it is true that famous philosophers appear in history at the end of a historical epoch, or just after a major historical event - think of Plato writing after the Pelopponesian War, Grotius writing after the Dutch Revolt, Hobbes writing Leviathan just after the English Civil War, or Locke who supposedly wrote his two Treatises on Government in response to the Glorious Revolution (although current scholarship doubts this chronology) or, for that matter, Hegel himself, who arrived at Jena too late to witness the full flowering of the Romantic movement in poetry, art, literature, and philosophy, and saw himself as com

A Double-Negative does not Equal a Positive

      It is a common misconception among people who have only studied a little bit about logic that "a double-negative equals a positive."  By double-negative they mean a proposition with two negatives, like "not" or "no" or "un-" and so on. We often hear this from nagging people who want us to clear up our language, getting rid of unnecessary words.  According to this theory, any sentence with an even number of negatives (0, 2, 4, 6, 8, ...) is equivalent, and any sentence with an odd number of negatives (1, 3, 5, 7, ...) is also equivalent, so in order to write most clearly, we should reduce the number of negatives in a sentence to either 0 or 1 (you might call this the binary theory of logical grammar).   But there's a problem.  Sometimes, in changing the number of negatives from any even number to zero, we change the meaning of the sentence. It's true that sometimes a double-negative can be logically equivalent to a positive, as in t

What is the University for?

  Willem de Kooning in studio, photo by Hans Namuth Until the nineteenth century, if you wanted a 2-d image of something, it pretty much needed to be painted.  Thus the artists who were painters held a critically important practical role in society - especially since communication and travel over large distances were difficult and costly.  If you wanted to know what a person looked like, or what a place looked like, etc., pretty much the only way to see that person, place, or thing other than actually going there and meeting them would be to see a painting or a drawing.   But then photography came into existence, and changed all of that.  The development of the technology of photography completely altered the social relations of the production, distribution, and use of paintings.  But here's the crucial point I want to make - it didn't destroy painting.  It didn't make painting obsolete; it simply made a certain use of painting obsolete.  Far from destroying painting, thi