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This is a book review?

Having just encountered this painfully hideous book review (of Colin McGinn's The Making of a Philosopher; the first chapter of which is also excerpted here) in the New York Times, I am compelled to summarize. For your convenience, I have indicated those sentences taken directly from the review by punctuating them with exclamation points:

Philosophy is really intense, but Colin McGinn is so smart he thinks it's fun. He was just another shmoe until one day a teacher introduced him to philosophy. He liked philosophy a lot. From now on he could be in contact with great thinkers of the past, even sitting by himself in his unheated bedroom!

Then he got into Oxford. He managed to make an immediate impression even on famous philosophers like A. J. Ayer! Despite his diffidence and bad handwriting, he won the John Locke Prize, an achievement usually reserved for people who had done their undergraduate work at Oxford! Then he knew he had become a philosopher!

But philosophy isn't easy. Great quantities of hard reading are involved, and endless thought! Also, one must be able to get ideas across, so the rest of us can understand them! This McGinn does in the book, with so much apparent ease and clarity that we can actually learn something! But even if we don't, it doesn't matter, because at least we get to observe a dazzling performance, from which both he, as actor, and we, as audience, can derive real pleasure!

But because McGinn is so smart, some other people don't like him. He lasted only three years in a job at Oxford, thanks to the resentment that follows all extraordinary success in academic life! [One] critic spoke [to him] so ''rudely and condescendingly'' that McGinn (uncharacteristically) could think of nothing to say for several minutes!

So McGinn decamped to Rutgers, where he now teaches what he wants to! He has colleagues who are interested in his ideas and eager to discuss them! He lives in New York and, as a break from the rigors of philosophical thought, paddles his kayak in the surf off Long Island! He has celebrity friends, like Jonathan Miller and Oliver Sacks! Because of his interest in what we cannot know or describe in words, he has appeared on television and has been interviewed for magazines!

He even met the television star Jennifer Aniston, and discovered much too quickly that the only philosopher she'd heard of was Plato!

Can you believe it???

May 19, 2002 3:33 PM

Comments (and TrackBacks)

Ack! What simplistic dreck! If only someone would pay *me* to shovel those piles!

Posted by Graham on May 19, 2002 4:02 PM

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