Tuesday, July 20, 2004

"Carroll Problem" Has Ignited a Firestorm

A friend -- let's call him Sly and the Philosopher's Stone -- writes:

Regarding Jefferson's objections, don't you think that readers who
don't get Carroll don't read Carroll in the first place, hence it's kinda
moot to charge Carroll with the un-Platonic crime of misleading the
ignorant masses? It also seems a bit crude to cram Plato, St. Augustine,
and St. Paul into the same corner in this argument. Paul's contrast of
letter and spirit surely isn't about the same problem that bothered Plato.
In fact, Paul was exhorting the faithful to go beyond literal,
authoritarian prescriptions of the thought police and go for layers of
meaning beyond, beneath, or beside the surface. Nor was Augustine as much
of a rhetorical nanny as is implied.

J's objection boils down to the fact that Carroll cares more for his art
than for the truth. Well, now, that argument's been going on forever
between the nannies and the artists from Plato to the inquisitors to
Stalin to the FCC. Okay, let's admit that the artist DOES care more for his art than the truth, but that don't mean he don't also care for the truth, becasue if he don't care for the truth his art won't amount to much
because hunger for truth drives art. If that fire's not there, all you get
is entertainment. Sure, the damn artist may hunger after truth merely to
energize his art; just like he'll hunger after a woman for the same
purpose (ah, those love poets, did they love the love more than the words?
Nah!.) But even though their motives be impure, don't artists really
serve the truth better than the Platonists or the limpid quotidianites
anyhow? Don't they make the truth more available by making it exciting,
vivid, or at least non-boring? And don't they, in their playfulness, wit,
irony, extravagance, and extravagant cussedness protect the truth from
thought police who dwindle it to dogma. Ergo, Carroll is performing the
Lord's work of finding truth through art. Which means that to advance your
complex thesis, you now must delve into Habermas's theories of discourse,
which could wreck the sabbatical....

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