Brian Leiter points out that the London Review of Books has recently published a characteristically clever and funny piece by Jerry Fodor in review of a critical work about the writings of Saul Kripke, Kripke: Names, Necessity and Identity, by Christopher Hughes.
True, Chris has already linked to that LRB article, but I’ve my own meanderings to add rather late in the day. They’re below the fold.
Leiter’s post includes a delightful email to-and-fro with Fodor concerning the possibility of distinguishing analytical philosophy from any other kind, so I’d recommend (sigh) reading the whole thing if that’s the kind of stuff that lights your fire.
Anyway. The rather twisted heuristic I’d formed by the time I left philosophy post-doctorally was that above a certain level of brilliance, analytical philosophers just weren’t worth reading by someone like me since I’d be unable to work out whether they were genuinely visionary, utterly potty, or just writing on a level that I couldn’t comprehend.
Kripke was different in that, although his cleverness is famously up there at something like the world-historical level, I found his Wittgenstein book to be incredibly useful as a key to figuring out what the hell was going on in the Investigations. That certain Wittgenstein groupies threw their toys out of their respective prams in response to Kripke’s book, yea even unto walking out of his lectures, I leave as a phenomenon to be explained by historians. I found Colin McGinn’s book very handy later on, but Kripke got me started.
So far as Naming and Necessity goes, I think I probably agree with Fodor’s line that the modal intuitions that Kripke relies upon are at base intuitions about the proper application of concepts, and hence that you can’t use Kripke to dodge Quine. But hey, this isn’t a bit of philosophy I ever claimed to know very much about, and I don’t doubt that Brian would be able to say many wise things contradicting that view if he chose to.
Still, I’m going to seek out the Hughes book, since I believe it would do my brain some good to read a book about Kripke which Fodor believes contains ‘nothing a competent graduate student won’t be able to cope with’. Once upon a time, I was one of those, and I’d like to find out how much neural degeneration has gone on in the interim.
Wish me luck.