Language On Holiday

by John Holbo on July 21, 2012

I’m on holiday, so here’s some. ‘Language’ in the sense of ‘YouTube video of old Beyond The Fringe sketch’, that is. “There’s too much Tuesday in my beetroot salad.” How has this failed to become a classic example, or at least a ‘classic example’? Why do people think it’s appropriate to go on chomping on Chomsky’s colorless greens when you have an alternative like that? Back to the roughage grounds! “I don’t think you’re saying, I don’t think you’re saying – I don’t say you’re thinking.” Now just ‘go on in the same way,’ as they say.

Link.

Is Alan Bennett supposed to be Austin? Whose mannerisms are being spoofed?

{ 23 comments }

1

William Timberman 07.21.12 at 9:40 pm

Where has Samuel Beckett got to now that we really need him? I’m reasonably sure that there was just exactly enough Tuesday in his beetroot salad. No more, no less. Perhaps he could give us a few pointers….

2

NickT 07.21.12 at 11:55 pm

Perhaps the real question is who Tuesday might be. Or possibly what. After all, the Addams family boasted a Wednesday. Also, why do people keep ignoring the incoherence of Chomsky’s example? It’s fairly easy to construct a metaphorical reading of colorless green dreams etc that makes perfect sense.

3

Frank Ashe 07.22.12 at 12:30 am

Humpty Dumpty said it best!

4

Neil 07.22.12 at 1:02 am

So much seems to me to be pitch perfect that I was left wondering about the references to Bradley and Hegel. Did the ordinary language guys really invoke them without spitting? Perhaps we have got a distorted perception of how much they hated them (maybe it is like our attitude to, say, Ayer, today – we don’t have a good word to say about him in writing, but in casual conversation we might invoke him reasonably positively). Alternatively, perhaps the fringe guys were amalgamating the views of different philosophers they encountered as undergraduates (there are so many philosophers at Oxford, most burrowed away in their colleges that there is plenty of room for diversity in views).

5

John Holbo 07.22.12 at 3:46 am

“I was left wondering about the references to Bradley and Hegel. Did the ordinary language guys really invoke them without spitting?”

I don’t know, but Moore and Russell were on personally very friendly terms with McTaggart, despite their differences over Hegel. The turn against Hegel didn’t make for a rift like the analytic-continental rift, I think.

6

pretendous 07.22.12 at 6:39 am

who can forget the classic, “Hold the newsreader’s nose squarely, waiter, or friendly milk shall countermand my trousers”?

7

jim 07.22.12 at 12:18 pm

Tuesday Weld?

8

NickT 07.22.12 at 5:32 pm

Also too: Eats Shoots and Leaves.

9

Maggie 07.22.12 at 11:25 pm

Also, why do people keep ignoring the incoherence of Chomsky’s example? It’s fairly easy to construct a metaphorical reading of colorless green dreams etc that makes perfect sense.

Because analytic philosophy is a transparent scam based on willful (or feigned) ignorance of the humanities?

10

czzt 07.22.12 at 11:46 pm

This reminds me so strongly of this Fry and Laurie sketch

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hnHv7NGWb0k

that I can’t say with a straight face that one isn’t a reference to the other. Language!

11

Scott Martens 07.23.12 at 4:53 am

I remind readers that Chomsky never claimed his example sentence was meaningless. His claim was that in all likelihood no else had ever uttered that sentence, but that it was grammatical and everyone recognized it as such. The first part is almost certainly true, or at least generally uncontested, the second, however, has come in for a beating since it turns out grammaticality is a contested category that even Chomsky, in an act of gross historical revisionism, claimed in 1992 to have never employed.

12

John Holbo 07.23.12 at 5:55 am

“transparent scam based on willful (or feigned) ignorance of the humanities?”

As a collector of random acts of interpretive charity, I like this notion that analytic philosophers know better but just pretend not to, in an obvious way. Presumably the transparency of the scam is a courtesy to make sure innocents aren’t taken in by it?

13

Maggie 07.23.12 at 6:30 am

Oh, the old guys, the classic guys, they were pretending. They had a good education under their belts, but they also had an agenda. But the guys I know now who boast openly of refusing to read anything pre-1970, even in their own specialty, that’s real. I guess transparent is subjective. But it’s precisely the true innocent who’s in the least danger.

14

John Holbo 07.23.12 at 9:14 pm

“they also had an agenda”

Just to be clear: I like the idea that they had a positive agenda to wreck the humanities, even though they understood them, and knew their value. I regard that as wildly implausible, psychologically. But it’s a funny idea, for many of the same reasons that the Fringe sketch is funny.

15

Neil 07.23.12 at 9:19 pm

Maggie is on to us. When I was inducted into the analytic philosophy, they flashed a bright light in my eyes which made me forget everything I had learned in BA (Hons) and PhD in Cultural Studies. Today I occasionally get brief flashes, mainly in dreams of…Emily Durkheim? Mini Weber? and the pressure begins to build behind my forehead. But I return to my David Lewis and soon feel better.

16

NickT 07.23.12 at 10:41 pm

My objection to analytic philosophy is not that it is a scam, but that it is so obviously going nowhere fast. Still, if people wish to practice the philosophical equivalent of kicking the gumball machine, may they be happy, productive and unread by students with inquiring minds.

17

Neil 07.23.12 at 10:58 pm

NickT, absolutely right. As Maggie pointed out, analytic philosophy encourages sweeping dismissals of the worth of other subjects. That’s just something you never get from its opponents, who are so much more sensitive to the diversity of methods and conclusions in other areas of enquiry. Analytic philosophy is absolutely monolithic in its methods and its subject matter, which of course justifies us in dismissing it. It absolutely closed to interdisciplinary enquiry – it would be unheard of for an analytic philosopher to work with, or even read, work in anthropology or history, let alone linguistics or neuroscience. And of course no serious analytic philospher would read anything written before 1970. I hope that clears everything up and puts an end to the need for any further discussion.

18

NickT 07.24.12 at 12:24 am

Well, Neil, when I see an analytic philosopher with something new to offer, I’ll be happy to look back on our little conversation. Until then, you’ll forgive me if I find the tail-chasing characteristic of your many and varied analytic philosophers of limited interest.

Incidentally, to argue that analytic philosophers have worked in various and sundry areas is hardly much of a recommendation. One could say as much of alchemists and yet, stubbornly, the lead refuses to turn into gold.

19

bianca steele 07.24.12 at 2:03 am

Why should philosophy be closed to interdisciplinary inquiry?

John Holbo: Presumably the transparency of the scam is a courtesy to make sure innocents aren’t taken in by it?– I’m curious: In that sentence, who is being spoofed?

20

Neil 07.24.12 at 2:53 am

“when I see an analytic philosopher with something new to offer, I’ll be happy to look back on our little conversation”.

I am absolutely positive that have looked long, hard and wide. I am also sure that were you to see something worthwhile, you’d be able to recognize it for what is.

21

Neil 07.24.12 at 3:07 am

Snark aside, there is an interesting question here: on what basis might someone be qualified to dismiss the value of a whole field of enquiry? One possibility is that the field aims at a goal that is measurable using metrics that are external to itself and either fails to achieve them (alchemy) or is a goal that is not itself worth achieving (I won’t put forward any examples – any would be controversial). Analytic philosophy either has no single goal, or it has one that is so amorphous that it is hard to measure (“knowledge”, “understanding”). When a field is so broad and – for that reason, among others – its goals are so amorphous, dismissing its value is much harder. That’s one reason why I think the epistemic arrogance of NickT and Maggie should be responded to with snark. It’s not that they couldn’t be right; it is that the chances that they’re in any position to make this kind of judgment is vanishingly small. 

22

Watson Ladd 07.24.12 at 4:02 am

Have we all forgotten modal logic has models thanks to Kripke? If that’s not something worth offering, I don’t know what is.

23

Freddie 07.24.12 at 4:47 pm

I prefer Andrew Carnie: “The yinkish dripner blorked quastofically into the nindin with the pidibs.”

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