Posted by: Corri van de Stege | December 22, 2007

Consciousness

In the Guardian on Friday (yesterday) there is an article ‘Enemies of Thought’.  It’s about the fight between two philosophers, one emeritus professor and one still in situ as professor of philosophy in Miami.  The retired one is Ted Honderich and it immediately conjured up that time of my life when I was a ‘mature’ undergraduate student at University College in London and Ted Honderich was a tutor.  A very tall man, he seemed to dedicate one book on moral philosophy and the philosophy of mind after another to a string of wives and girlfriends, one of whom was one of his own students – not me, I hasten to add, but a good friend of mine at the time, who later on had a book dedicated to her, I cannot remember which one. 
 

The photograph next to the aforementioned article shows a fairly mediocre looking elderly man with a cup of tea/coffee in his hand.  Where is the wine Ted, is my first thought, as the combination seems quite incongruous, as I remember him.  The picture in the link is much more like the Ted Honderich I seem to remember, not a sign of coffee or tea anywhere, but you can imagine him pulling out the bottle after the shot was taken. 
   

Strange how these memories suddenly evoke a part of your life and thoughts about friends and people long since lost on the way when moving from country to country and back – but I would just love to get in touch with my former friend HM.  We met once more, over a Christmas holiday after I had moved to Iran, and back in London.  Living with a different partner by that time, she had reverted to her Scottish roots and was cooking a red cabbage concoction that had been on the stove for hours.
 

What was the article about?   Well, whether or not our consciousness is internal or external, and McGinn claims that Ted Honderich’s latest book On consciousness is ‘sly, woefully uninformed, preposterous, easily refuted, unsophisticated, uncomprehending, banal, pointless, excruciating.’   Pfew, that’s a hard one and does not leave much illusion about how these two view each other.   It just seems amazing that one can become such enemies over a view as to whether consciousness is one thing or another (in abstract terms) and whether you can actually say anything sensible about it.  But then, that’s half the fun of philosophy isn’t it?  

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Responses

  1. To me the title given by The Guardian is sadly mistaken. Those two persons cannot be enemies of the Thought. Perhaps we should delve into The Guardian’s own archives to find who really is that enemy.

    The author of the article can think differently to what those persons he/she criticises do – it is his/her right – but perhaps a deeper consideration of the whole thing may put her/him in the correct frame.

  2. Just popped by to wish you a very Merry family Christmas. Have fun x

  3. Ho ho ho! I want to wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. I’ve been traveling through Southeast Asia and am now arriving in Hong Kong to be with my family. I haven’t kept up with reading blogs. But I’ll take a peek whenever I have a chance. I have read 3 books by Maugham and have completed the Armchair Traveler Challenge. Yay!

  4. Jose: you are right, as always. Still I think the Guardian was probably obtruse on purpose… Hope you had a good Christmas! xx
    Matt: you’re unsurpassable of course: I trust you’re having a great time. Not much reading done over here I’m afraid… xx
    Caroline: many thanks: enjoy your holidays, will be back in touch some time in the new year – the lovely granddaughter is keeping be totally occupied! xx


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