Monday, December 07, 2009

Something's in the Offing, Is It?

Some passages are too delicious not to quote (do you catch my meaning?):
There are obvious difficulties with presenting the arguments in the original works of Derrida or Lacan, or Baudrillard. They do not write in any natural language, they do not put the premises before the conclusion, the conclusion is distributed over the text rather than appearing in any one sentence, positions are assumed to have been established outside the texts one is actually reading, in previous texts, or perhaps future ones, and so on.
James Franklin, What Science Knows and How It knows It 42 (Encounter Books 2009).


For some unknown reason, Franklin's comments about postmodern folk put me in mind of a different kind of strange philosophy -- J.L. Austin's. Austin's "ordinary language" philosophy is still thought of as having been a respectable sort of thing. But some of Austin's extraordinary ordinary language can make one wonder why:

Are cans constitutionally iffy? Whenever, that is, we say that we can do something, or could do something, or could have done something, is there an if in the offing—suppressed, it may be, but due nevertheless to appear when we set out our sentence in full or when we give an explanation of its meaning?
J.L. Austin, “Ifs and Cans,” Proceedings of the British Academy (1956), in Philosophical Papers, p. 205 (Oxford: 2nd ed., 1970)


Sometimes I'm quite glad I decided to become a law professor rather than a modern (or, worse yet, postmodern) philosopher.


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