Wednesday 27 February 2008

One edge must be sharper!

I was struck by the dangers of trying to deploy everyday philosophy (this blog!) by the following interchange on Stephen Fry’s ancient radio show: Saturday Night Fry, repeated recently.

Hugh Laurie has gone to see a new exhibition of cutlery and interview the artists to find that, in order for the work to be seen in situ rather than than ‘lifelessly’ hanging on a wall, it is on display in use in what seems like a restaurant. Later we discover that it is a restaurant and that the artists have neither made nor even commissioned the cutlery but (oddly, on reflection) bought it from Peter Jones (“I’m an artist. It would take years to learn the skills involved in cutling. I haven’t got the time to start acquiring vulgar skills. That’s for artisans.”) Still, one of the artists is able to offer this perceptive account of why the one-sided sharpness of the bread knife is an appropriate reflection, or commentary, on life.

Hugh Laurie: Medusa, this cutlery, we’re about to use it. I have to say, it certainly seems very functional. It all fits well to hand. I’m using a bread knife at the moment and I must say that it appears to be working perfectly.

Medusa (Julia Hills): Thank you. You’ll notice one edge is sharper than the other.

Hugh Laurie: Yes! Yes, I have noticed that, yes.

Medusa (Julia Hills): This is quite deliberate. Although all knives are essentially double edged it seemed important to me to ensure that one edge was keener. This reflects the sense in which the choices in life, though endlessly varied, relentlessly ambiguous must ultimately resolve. One view of the world is in the end truer, one action juster, one decision wiser, one edge must be sharper!

Hugh Laurie: Hmm, it also presumably reflects a sense in which bread is resistant to a blunt edge as far as slicing goes.

Medusa (Julia Hills): I think that’s rather a shallow observation.