Abluent Thoughts

by John Holbo on July 4, 2006

The kids got a toy food set and … well, here it is:


Click for a larger image. ‘Cleanlily’. Use that in a sentence. ‘The nurse employed the sterilized instruments cleanlily, but her smile said ‘naughtily’.’

Come to think of it, the first sentence of Alfred Bester’s unfortunate late novel, Golem100, is ‘He walked across the spaceport statelily.’ In other Engrish SF news, I see they are still calling it the Alien Quadrilogy, even though that still isn’t a word, and even though there are now five of them. (If it weren’t for bad movies, some movies wouldn’t be any movies at all, after all.)

Quadrilogy. Quadrillions of years ago in a galaxy bazzilions of far away.

A quadrillion here, a quadrillion there. Pretty soon you’re talking real numbers. (This is how you introduce new words into the language.)

I know, I know. I’ve complained about quadrilogy before, but now it’s, like, 30% off at Amazon. So I mention it. Also, you can get three ‘Gidget goes to places’ movies for only $8.47. For some values of ‘Gidget’ that’s a good deal. (Your mileage may vary.)

OK, OK, you can get the unrated director’s cut of Betty Blue for only $9.47. Do you remember? Her boyfriend Zorg? I was going out with this girl Heidi at the time … ah, the mid-to-late 80’s. The director’s cut is apparently an hour longer. How can that be bad?

Also, I have a Plato question. I’m writing about Republic and … well, there’s this schtick I do in my intro class. I take that famous opening bit from Rawls, A Theory of Justice, "Justice is the first virtue of social institutions, as truth is of systems of thought," and I point out that Plato would have regarded this as a pair of hazardous half truths. Taking the second first, truth is not the first virtue of systems of thought; being knowledge is. The difference between true belief and knowledge is that the latter is justified, i.e. tied down with reasons so it won’t run, like a statue of Daedalus. (Admittedly, this is a bit of a cheap shot against Rawls, who has more than an inkling that justification is a good thing; but it allows me to move smoothly from the Meno to Republic.) More seriously, Plato would have regarded it as misleading to describe justice as ‘the first virtue of social institutions,’ because it is also – indeed, primarily – a virtue of souls. (Of persons, if you prefer.) Pulling the points together, I try to give a sense of Plato’s sense of the unity of … well, everything. Really, the first virtues of societies and systems of thought are just one big virtue – justice, that is, justification; that is, knowledge … of the Good. (At this point I wave my hand excitedly, as if giving directions to lost motorists bound for Plato’s "you can’t get there from here" Heaven. And the lecture ends, and I tell them to read Descartes’ "First Meditation" for next week.)

I am not the first person to have noticed this ‘Plato is not exactly Rawls’ thingy. There is a Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Entry that basically makes my point as bookends to ‘justice as a virtue’. But the bibliography for that section is a bit thin. By any chance, has anyone written a really cracking great essay about ‘what Plato would say to Rawls, and what Rawls would say to Plato’. I know if I just put Plato + Rawls into the Philosopher’s Index, I’m going to get some hits. What I want is something good.



Tom T. 07.04.06 at 11:02 am

Perhaps it’s meant to be hyphenated as “Clean-Lily”.


John Emerson 07.04.06 at 11:22 am

I’m sure that the Straussians have demolished Rawls to their satisfaction, and they’re basically Platonists (with a slight veneer of the Abraham Lincoln who suspended habeus corpus).


Inigo Jones 07.04.06 at 11:29 am

I think it may be worthwhile to your students to be told early on that when you define knowledge as true belief and justification, ‘justification’ is used in the generic sense. Is it justification, or warrant, or that the true belief has been reached using a reliable method, etc. etc. I think too many people (myself included) are prone to innocently imprinting inaccurate generalizations on these empty slates, so to speak, that are hard to erase later on (like a regular marker used on a dryboard), and which turn out to be, most importantly, frustrating and confusing to the student later in their careers. Of course it may not be possible to teach anyone anything without first giving them ‘some’ inaccurate information, but…


John Holbo 07.04.06 at 11:29 am

The Straussians can demolish Rawls with a significant silence – and just a twitch of the supercilia to indicate that a silence has been uttered. (I have seen it done.) I’m not so impressed in this case, although I’m more indulgent of Straussian peculiarities than most. I really am interested in discussions of the scope of the application of the term ‘justice’. How many different sorts of things do you predicate this thing of? Societies, individuals?


dearieme 07.04.06 at 11:30 am

“gingerly”: I’m never quite sure how to use it.


Ginger Yellow 07.04.06 at 11:46 am

As I do.


Kieran Healy 07.04.06 at 12:16 pm

“gingerly”: I’m never quite sure how to use it.



"gingerly" 07.04.06 at 1:37 pm

You’re asking me? Gingerly, I’d say.


Tom Parmenter 07.04.06 at 1:39 pm

Perhaps we should keep in mind that fast and slow are both adverbs, not to mention tomorrow and yesterday, and that leisurely and many other words ending in -ly are adjectives.


y81 07.04.06 at 6:47 pm

There’s a James Thurber piece on the whole “-lily” construction (lovelily, ruffianlily, etc.)–well worth reading, but I doubt it can be found on line.

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