Re: Carlin Romano: America the Philosophical
The review is a fairly easy read Eric,
Originally Posted by Eric
...it's down to earth, the reviewer does what we'd all do faced with such claims, initially scratch the head, probably chuckle, then think - ahh, maybe there's something in all this, but in the end I decided... and this is only groundless opinion but why put everything under the microscope... that this is a book which *may* cause some Amercans to feel good about their sense of national self-worth, at a difficult time for Americans or any of us in the West.
Without suggesting of course that the author is lowering themselves to this level, it does come at a time when many of the other news reports, studies, tomes etc are suggesting something else: that the West has had it and is now in terminal decline.
But, in defence of said tome: it is controversial, and that is the job, or one job, of philosophers: to provoke us and make us think!
I believe however that suggesting that the Greeks (Aristotle, Sophocles et al) have now been overtaken by American thought and pragmatism, "cyberphilosophy" as he calls it, is a very bizarre and skewed claim, and highly questionable, and to labour the point -- potentially a load of old tosh.
We'll have to wait 2500 years I guess to see if it's true and whether his text is cited as being the key work in identifying this turning point. I doubt it.
I don't see it this way myself, I think that America, like most countries, is very diverse and continues to become if anything more diverse and subject to continual change.
The Greeks - credited as they are as being the starting point along with Christianity in the Western traditions or Western thought - are a part of that diversity, not opposed to it or somehow welded into the past and therefore now redundant.
America, like ourselves, have inherited this cultural information, even if it's not conscious or if many would say "ugh, I don't remember studying Aristotle..." the answer is -- but you use problem-solving techniques which may have begun with the Greeks every day and it may only be to prepare your shopping list but it's all there.
The one thing I did notice - and it reminds me of an introductory chapter I once read to "Leaves of Grass" by dear ole Walt Whitman - is that America has always sought to define itself against us, since Whitman's time, as a distinct nation, or it has at least wished to be distinct from Europe and I personally believe that it is.
And perhaps this is part of that drive, unconsciously or othewise as here in this particular book-thesis; but in philosophical terms that might explain my initial confusion where I just thought "...why bother, does all this really matter!"
At first I also thought it was a jingoistic piece of fluff masquerading as philosophy, but perhaps it's an attempt to analyse how the world is unfolding, America being used as the test case here and leader in the great democratic experiment, the new Holy Land, familiar concepts to most in standard American history tomes.
Or maybe this is what happens to you when you spend too much time in academia, a certain "disconnect" to the ordinary lives of most of us; like most Americans, I think that most Brits, or most French, are just trying to survive, raise families and be happy... I tend to distrust these sweeping theories that try to join-up the whole of a society and credit it with some new renaissance.
Last edited by Hamlet; 01-Aug-2012 at 09:42.
Reason: breaking up columns
"Man cannot do without beauty, and this is what our era pretends to want to disregard"
Myth of Sysyphus ~ by Albert Camus