Matthew Henry John Bartlett

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Monday 10 October, 02005

by Matthew Bartlett @ 9:35 am

Interview with John (Jack) D Caputo

7 responses to “”

  1. Bryan Hoyt says:


    seriously, i would be lots happier if clever people could say clever stuff using normal everyday language. That way, it would be easier for them and us to see whether they’re useful thoughts. Plus, if you understand clever things in simple terms, then you can understand even more.

    I liked it when he said “but it is a tradition of long and venerable standing for philosophers to answer questions about which they have no competence. Sometimes they even get lucky and say things that are actually right.”

  2. D says:

    What was difficult in that interview Bry? I’m curious…

  3. Bryan Hoyt says:

    Well, I went back to the document to scour it for the perfect impossible sentence to show you what I mean. But of course, as soon as I started really getting my head around a sentence so that I would be able to use it as an example, it wasn’t difficult to understand any longer, and so perfect examples kept just out of reach.

    In simple terms, the understanding of the text which is requisite for dialogue on this subject shows the text to be comprehendible and thus undermines the premise of the dialogue.

    Anyway, just because I now understand a little of what he says a little better, Caputo doesn’t get off the hook for being obscure. So I pulled out the following sentence at “random”:

    Now, on this accounting…every law that we write will be deconstructible, that is, an imperfect instantiation of justice (someone always gets ground under by a law), but justice in itself, if it exists, is not deconstructible. But the point is that it does not exist, at least not as such; it is the undeconstructible of which we dream, a productive fantasy.

    If I were to try my hand at putting that more simply, I might say, “Now, if you look at it like this, we can never write a perfect law. There’s always going to be someone who is wronged by a law, but if true justice did exist, you couldn’t deconstruct it. But the point is, it doesn’t really exist; true justice is more of a dream—a useful dream.”

    Admittedly, that’s somewhat less precise. But IMHO, Caputo gains absolutely nothing with his level of precision. It’s like measuring the length of the Nile in nanometers, which is dumb for all sorts of relatively obvious reasons.

    And, of course, I may have just completely screwed up what he was trying to say. But in that case, QED, he’s being obscure.

  4. hmm… I don’t think it’s about precision. It’s skirting around the edges of unnameable things, venturing or adventuring, foraying. How to say what cannot be said? How to talk about things (not things) bigger than talk?

  5. Bryan Hoyt says:

    i think that’s a sensible point. Still, my opinion would be that you should talk about the untalkaboutable in the clearest possible way, so as to minimise confusion in an area that can already be pretty confusing… But i realize in light of what you just said it’s not necessarily that clearcut.

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