"This furor is about nothing intellectual."

Robert Pippin in The Point"There is no new intellectual argument that one can cite that is responsible for the diminution in the enterprise of teaching people what it is to mean and to value. I’m in philosophy -- I can tell you, there’s plenty of materialist, reductionist, eliminitivist philosophy of mind out there, but there’s nobody who’s taken on the canon of classical texts or French literature in the nineteenth century and demonstrated that the attempt by methods of rigorous analysis, textual analysis, interpretive finesse, that those methods have been discredited by a discovery. This furor is about nothing intellectual. The people who are attacking are not really presenting a principled position for which they have arguments; they're presenting small case studies, which they purport to be exciting because they're new and they use new [methods] ... But it also plugs into this anxiety about the legitimacy of autonomous disciplines within the humanities, like art history, or music, or philosophy, or literature, or classics. So I think that we shouldn't be confused by the nature of the dispute. It's a financial dispute fueled by panic—and coming right at the wrong time in the history of the university."

The Sweatiest of the Liberal Arts

Drew Hyland in The Point -- "Plato understood full well what every athlete learns quickly, that the oft-expressed opposition between play and seriousness makes no sense at all. In an intriguing remark in his dialogue, the Laws, Plato has his lead character, a man simply called “The Athenian Stranger” (perhaps Socrates, returned from the dead) remark to the sober-minded Cretans with whom he is discussing the proper education of youths that “the real opposite of play is neither work nor seriousness, but war.” Especially given the common use of the vocabulary of war to describe athletic experience (the football staff room at Trinity College in Connecticut is referred to as “the war room”), this remark should be at least as thought-provoking to us today as it must have been to the Greeks. What would our play have to become if “the real opposite of play is neither work nor seriousness, but war”? At the end of the passage, Plato has the Stranger conclude that we humans should “spend our lives making our play as noble and beautiful as possible.” What would that mean for an adequate education and a fulfilling life?"

"Do not look beyond the notes, they themselves are the doctrine."

Charles Rosen in The Frontiers of Meaning: "Music has its existence on the borderline between meaning and nonsense. That is why most attempts to attribute a specific meaning to a piece of music seem to be beside the point—even when the attribution is authoritative, even when it is made by the composer himself ... Nevertheless, music will not acknowledge a context greater than itself — social, cultural, or biographical — to which it is conveniently subservient. To paraphrase Goethe's grandiose warning to the scientist: do not look behind the notes, they themselves are the doctrine."

"Once, a philosopher; twice, a pervert."

Norman Mailer interviewed by William F. Buckley Jr., on a 1968 episode of Firing Line: "There's such a thing as a great cop, and there's such a thing as a great criminal. And the way I work -- it's very hard to explain this to people -- I don't think in categories, I think, rather, in this way: that the world is better off if every so-called type in the world, is better. It's a better world if the cops get better and the criminals get better. It's a poorer world when the cops are dull and the criminals are dull. In other words, as an existentialist what I believe is that what really is important in the world is how much life there is, how much psychic life, how much spiritual life, how much physical life, imagination, vitality, brilliance. I'm not going to carry this into every ridiculous extreme, but: you know, a mass murderer is not necessarily a criminal. One of the best remarks that Marx ever made -- or maybe this was Engels, in fact -- is that quantity changes quality. You see, a man who kills one man may be moral or immoral; we can't know, we need to know intimately what happened. Generally, the assumption is that he was immoral. Greivously immoral. At the very least, we know that he has changed his life profoundly, and that he has now (if you believe in a mortal soul, as I do, which you can gain or lose) so endangered his soul that we cannot look upon his condition as a light one. I would not presume to judge him too quickly. A man who murders four or five people is already a man of a totally different sort. A man who murders millions is a man who defies our conception of what it is to be a man. And so, for that reason, I would be perfectly willing to let my hypothesis dwindle and die long before we get to the man who kills three or four people. You see, we have to have a little wit when we speak of these matters ... Once, a philosopher; twice, a pervert. That's the key to keep in mind. That's Voltaire."

T.S. Eliot on Dante, contra Valery

From The Sacred Wood — ...if it be maintained that the older poetry has a “philosophic” element and a “poetic” element which can be isolated, we have two tasks to perform. We must show first in a particular case—our case is Dante—that the philosophy is essential to the structure and that the structure is essential to the poetic beauty of the parts; and we must show that the philosophy is employed in a different form from that which it takes in admittedly unsuccessful philosophical poems.

Brillat-Savarin on the number of the senses

They are at least six -- Sight, which embraces space, and tells us by means of light, of the existence and of the colors of the bodies around us. Hearing, which, by the motions of the air, informs us of the motion of sounding or vibrating bodies. Scent, by means of which we are made aware of the odors bodies possess. Taste, which enables us to distinguish all that has a flavor from that which is insipid. Touch informs us of the consistency and resistance of bodies. The last is genesiac or physical love, which attracts the sexes to each other, and the object of which is the reproduction of the species.

It is astonishing that, almost to the days of Buffon, so important a sense was misunderstood, and was confounded with the touch. Yet the sensation of which it is the seat, has nothing in common with touch; it resides in an apparatus as complete as the mouth or the eyes, and what is singular is that each sex has all that is needed to experience the sensation; it is necessary that the two should be united to reach nature's object. If the TASTE, the object of which is the preservation of the individual, be incontestably a sense, the same title must indubitably by preserved on the organs destined to the preservation of the species.

Let us then assign to the genesiac the sensual place which cannot be refused to it, and let us leave to posterity the assignment of its peculiar rank.

(The Physiology of Taste)

"Was Socrates a Greek at all?"

"By birth, Socrates belonged to the lowest class: Socrates was plebeian. We are told, and can see in sculptures of him, how ugly he was. But ugliness, in itself an objection, is among the Greeks almost a refutation. Was Socrates a Greek at all?" Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols, the third of the Maxims and Arrows sequence.

The greatness of Eva Brann

From the Washington Free Beacon: Had the Athenians lost at Salamis, Herodotus’ Histories would never have come to be, not to mention the entire subsequent literary tradition of Athens, or, indeed, America itself, which is a consequence of that tradition. As Brann puts it:

If the Greeks had lost here…[w]hat great and wonderful works would then have come to be in Europe and its America? Probably not these: science and democracy. For the Persian bequest to Europe, the one that would have aborted the Greek legacy we actually live off, would have been the religion, not the science, of nature, and the institution of despotism, not of freedom.

T.S. Eliot on Lancelot Andrewes

"Andrewes takes a word and derives the world from it; squeezing and squeezing the word until it yields a full juice of meaning which  we should never have supposed any word to possess. In this process the qualities which we have mentioned, of ordonnance and precision, are exercised."

"She wanted to do something else too: be Nietzschean!"

Is it OK to be changed by reading a philosopher? Tom Stern in The Point: "You have to be careful about questions like this, and not only because the number of murderers claiming Nietzsche as their inspiration is higher than I would like. What the student usually means is: “Nietzsche mocks careful scholarship: Can I, in his spirit, write my paper however the hell I want and still get a good grade?” In this case, though, the student knew perfectly well how to write a scholarly paper. She wanted to do something else too: be Nietzschean!"