Saturday, November 27, 2004

John Ray on Post-Modernism and Moral Philosophy

I just discovered Dr. John Ray's article on PoMo here. It is studded with interesting links and penetrating observations. But there is one passage that I must comment on:

The British have always seen the purpose of philosophy as being to clarify and EXPLAIN whereas French philosophers (and France seems to be the prime source of postmodernism) from Descartes, through Sartre to Derrida have always seen being clever as the prime role of philosophy -- and they have generally equated being clever with an ability to CONFUSE any issue they touch on.

One wonders how British idealists such as F. H. Bradley would fit into this scheme, but that is not the main point I want to make. Although no one could accuse me of not doing my fair share of French bashing, the main point is that Dr. John is being far too unfair to the French. Descartes is an indisputably great philosopher as practically all philosophers, whether Anglospheric or Continental, would agree. (Consensus does not constitute truth, but it is a pretty good, albeit defeasible, indicator of it.) Descartes' purpose is not to show off and be clever in the Gallic manner. Nor could that be said about Malebranche, Pascal, Maine de Biran, Bergson, or Blondel. I would also insist that the early Sartre is well worth reading.

Ray is spot on when it comes to the PoMo crowd, but in his righteous zeal he overgeneralizes.