Thursday, 1 November 2007
Sitting in the Sun Hotel, Lancaster, with Gloria Ayob after a reading group I had a sudden enthusiasm for the view that to be a good enough philosopher (in a rough and ready, journeyman sort of way) requires two key things. One should have some sort of philosophical personality or roughly consistent approach (it is just too hard to defend strict reductionism in one area and relaxed naturalism in another). And one should be able to correct one's work. There's a sense in which the latter is just what one learns in writing essays for a masters degree. One learns to ask whether it is clear what a paragraph is doing and if not, even if one is fond of its elegant turns of phrase, one should delete it and try again. (In truth I'm rubbish at this. I can spot the motes in others' eyes but not the beams in mine.) But I think the real attraction for me of the idea is that it's more than just that and, instead, lies at the heart of philosophy. This morning I realise that this stems from reading Thomas Bernhard's great Wittgensteinian novel Correction. But since central also to that book is the thought that correction, as a kind of life-long activity, also amounts to a form of madness I should probably revise my advice to young philosophers.