Monday, January 24, 2011

criticisms, revisisted

In philosophy class, we discussed the objections and replies to the Meditations by Descartes. One set of objections were written by Hobbes, and another by Arnauld. Hobbes listed many objections, as if he was scrutinizing the text, looking for any little error he could possibly find. Arnauld had three main objections, one of which he wrote in great length.

The professor pointed out (jokingly) how Hobbes was almost like an inexperienced grader, who went through a paper highlighting all the tiny mistakes without taking a step back to look at the big picture. Arnauld, on the other hand, must have given Descartes the benefit of the doubt whenever he could, and included only the most important objections.

It really does takes experience and good will to give people the benefit of the doubt, to notice that while the t's aren't crossed or the i's aren't dotted, there is an interesting idea somewhere worth taking seriously.

This is an interesting distinction between a beginner and an expert. The professor pointed out how most people begin studying philosophy with a critical eye; they try to break apart any argument they see. While this isn't necessarily a bad thing (and can be fun), more experienced people focus more on trying to understand the big idea being presented by various philosophers, which I imagine would be more fulfilling.

I've talked about the same concept in relation to music. I wonder if this is true in areas outside philosophy/reading papers, if this is some characteristic behavior of a beginner.

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