Saturday, July 18, 2009

Readings: A Sop for Philosophers

Here is an excerpt from author Robert Coover’s exemplary postmodernist book of fictions, Pricksongs and Descants, presented here as a critical comment on hyper-philosophizing bloggers and hairsplitting combox nitpickers—not excluding myself—and the tangled argumentative webs we all weave. The excerpt is from part 5, entitled “Klee Dead” of the narrative, Seven Exemplary Fictions.

As for Wilbur Klee, I’ve not much more to say about him either, you’ll be glad to know, just this: that he jumped from a high place and is now dead. I think you can take my word for it. The proof is, as it were, in the pudding. Need I tell you from what high place? Your questions, friend, are foolish, disease of the western mind. On the other hand, if you wish to assume a cause-and-effect relationship—that he is dead because he jumped from a high place—well, you are free to do so, I confess it has occurred to me more than once and has colored my whole narration. Certainly, there is some relationship: the remains of Klee, still moist, are splattered out in their now several and discontinuous parts from a point directly below the high place from which he jumped only a moment before. But that’s as far as I’ll go, thank you. I refuse to be inveigled into any of the almost endless and no doubt learned arguments which so gratify and absorb the nation’s savants. I don’t mean to belittle, a man must take his pleasures where he finds them, it’s only that, if I weren’t careful, one would think before they’d had done with me that Klee had died to save physics. That Klee is dead, however, leaves less room for dissent: he’ll never be the same again and only the worst sort of morbid emotionalism could imagine a suitable future for him in his present condition. So here is where I’ll stand my ground: Klee is dead. As for the rest of it, if you wish to believe as I do that he took his own life, fine! It certainly will make it easier for me as we wind this up. But I won’t be dogmatic about it.

NB: the phrase “disease of the western mind”.

Also consider, as a core element in my use of this excerpt as a critical comment on typical blog comment threads, Coover's clause, " would think before they'd had done with me that Klee had died to save physics."

Do you catch my drift here?