Of lists and dilectics

John Mcreery (jlm@TWICS.COM)
Tue, 19 Apr 1994 10:17:47 JST

First, let me add to the praise for Carrier's list of basic human rights.
Simple, clear, worth working for. In the words of the famous Nike ads, all
that's left is "Just do it."

In a somewhat more wicked and tendentious vein:

Was thinking today of our recent debate on "clarity" and suddenly
recalled the following from _Tristes Tropiques_ where Levi-Strauss
writes, in re his study of philosophy in a class taught by Gustave

"It was in that class that I first began to learn that every problem,
whether serious or trifling, may be solved by the application of an
always identifical method, which consists in contrasting two traditional
views of the question; the first is introduced by means of a justification
on common-sense grounds, then the justification is destroyed with the
help of the second view; finally, both are dismissed as being equally
inadequate, thanks to a third view which reveals the incomplete
character of the first two; these are now reduced by verbal artifice to
complementary aspects of one and the same reality: form and subject-
matter, container and content, being and appearance, continuity and
discontinuity, essence and existence, etc. Such an exercise soon
becomes purely verbal, depending, as it does, on a certain skill in
punning, which replaces thought: assonance, similarity in sound and
ambiguity gradually come to form the basis of those brilliantly
ingenious intellectual shifts which are thought to be the sign of sound

Plus ca change, plus ca meme chose?

Cheers, John McCreery (JLM@TWICS.COM)