Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Green Valleys of Silliness

Corradi Fiumara imagines that listening might be silly, and, borrowing a metaphor from Wittgenstein, affirms philosophical silliness in the fertile valleys as opposed to the barren heights of cleverness (The Other Side of Listening, p. 194). She links silliness to the idea of a secret philosophy (like a "secret article"), which she surmises must be what Kant had in mind when he said, "And since the class of philosophers is by nature incapable to forming seditious factions or clubs, they cannot incur suspicion of disseminating propaganda" (Political Writings, p. 115, in The Other Side, p. 195). That is, it's an open secret, so if we were to criticize a philosophy of secrets we would have to bear that in mind. As for silliness, I gather Corradi Fiumara takes this to be a strength of philosophers though it can only have a "secret" relation to power.

There are crocodiles in the green valleys of silliness. Corradi Fiumara is aware of the crocodiles. She holds that an honest appraisal of our phylogenetic history is necessary if we are to avoid becoming victims of our reptilian brains. Paradoxically, she says, the disavowal of the reptilian brain in rational discourses allows for its predations (p. 186). I'm not so optimistic about our ability to evolve to a deeper valley of silliness and thereby avoid being devoured by crocodiles. Cliquishness is a powerful force in human relations for reasons that may have little to do with the reptilian brain, so even if you tread carefully there is always a danger of being thrown to the crocodiles by your fellow primates. Despite my reservations, I have enjoyed reading Corradi Fiumara's critical reflections on intellectual discourse and I admire her willingness to embrace listening even if that means appearing to be silly.

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posted by Fido the Yak at 3:28 PM.


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