C.L.R. James on philosophical wastrels

(Existentialism & linguistic philosophy)

Philosophers seek to formulate in precise and comprehensive terms the ideas of their age, or propagate new ideas, in whole or in part. All this would appear to be elementary. It has to be stated, however, because today the great stream of European philosophy has various evil-smelling stagnant pools or little streams that babble as aimlessly and far less usefully than Tennyson’s brook. One of the stagnant schools has discovered that the organic constitution of the human mind is gloom, anxiety, dread, suffering, and all varieties of misery. The other begins from the premise that all previous philosophies misconceived language, and they have set out to make language more precise. For them a sentence which states “The future of humanity is in peril,” has no meaning. This they demonstrate by devoting twenty pages to the word “the,” forty pages to the word “future,” and so on. A popular tradition has it that at the end of the great age of Catholicism the theologians debated with passion how many angels could dance on the point of a needle. Today they do not seem so absurd in the light of the number of professors who can dance on the needle of a point. In this way, inquiring youth is corrupted and shepherded into passivity before the crimes and evils of the day.

These learned obscurantists and wasters of paper are of value in that they signify the end of a whole stage in the intellectual history of mankind. Philosophy as such has come to an end.

SOURCE: Facing Reality, by C.L.R. James, Grace C. Lee, Pierre Chaulieu [pseudonym of Cornelius Castoriadis] (Detroit: Bewick/Ed, 1974, orig. 1958), p. 65.

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On other sites:

C.L.R. James on What They Do

Facing Reality, by C.L.R. James & Grace Lee Boggs

Facing Reality - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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