Sunday, 12 February 2012

If it doesn't float my boat...

I recently had a brief exchange with regular commenter Sam Vega vaguely connected with Marxism. It left me wondering how long it is since I read much Marx and I soon realised I don't know - decades possibly. A similar example for me is Chomsky who is cited quite regularly across the web. Not surprisingly, Google searches for Marx and Chomsky give millions of results :-

Marx 24,000,000
Chomsky 4,560,000

So both men are important in terms of past and current thinking, yet at different times in my life I have dismissed Marx and Chomsky as not worth the effort - or to be more accurate, not worth much effort. Because if certain ideas don't float my boat, then on the whole I veer away from them after a brief but disappointing dalliance, not wishing to spend more time on them than necessary.

It has to be like that though, doesn't it? We can't make an exhaustive study of ideas we are not really attuned to because there isn't time. The ideas we get on with take long enough. The trouble is, particularly when browsing the web, there are controversies that interest me, but they involve thinkers whose ideas I have already rejected, possibly years ago. So it isn't always easy to join the debate without a certain amount of superficiality creeping in.

In my experience this problem isn't something we usually admit though. We use tactics such as emphasising the stuff with which we are familiar, steering the debate away from shaky ground, skewing the discussion perhaps. Not a huge sin of course, but an issue I think.


Sam Vega said...

Yes, I absolutely agree. I read masses of Marx and thought deeply about his work in the 1970s, as an undergraduate. I knew that he was hopelessly wrong, but respected him as a deep and subtle thinker. My tendency now is to "dismiss" Marxist ideas whenever I find them, but on grounds that are probably outdated and seem superficial to those who have maintained or are new to academic study.

I have strong ideas about Chomsky, too, although I have never read more than a couple of consecutive paragraphs. He always seemed to be trite and superficial, the favoured talisman of arts graduates who need a ready supply of pseudo-intellectual justification. Probably he is a genius, but life is too short...

A lovely quote from the "Hearth of Mopsus" blog, which has been haunting me:

"'You don't realise that most people don't think about things philosophically', he warned me. 'You try to fit everything into some sort of rational structure. Most people just have a few phrases and ideas that they don't examine or think about, they're just enough to help them cope'.

I guess it also applies to me. Just enough to help me cope...

A K Haart said...

SV - I dismissed Chomsky as trite too and I think I may follow it up one day with a post.

I agree with your "Hearth of Mopsus" quote, but I wish it wasn't like that.