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· For \ Four \ Fore! Philosophical Explanations ·

Obviously, I'm stuck in a rut, if only trivially so, or should I say titularly? I'm referring to my recent titles, Metaphors \ Methods \ Models, I \ Eye \ Aye, and, now, For \ Four \ Fore! Each one is, I suppose, trivially warning me to keep alert to the matter of redundant form — or even reiterative function. In any event, I think I'll soon desist.

Meanwhile, I've a story to tell about the late philosopher Robert Nozick (dead last January 23rd) whose 1981 tome Philosophical Explanations fits my title nearly. Nozick's story is this.

 · Robert Nozick ·

Partly by way of his wife Gjertrud Schnackenberg, the accomplished American poet, Nozick was in 1981 invited to give the Walter C. Schnackenberg Memorial Lecture at Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma, Washington. As I had known Dr. Schnackenberg and had just read Nozick's new book, I thought to drive the eighty miles from home to Tacoma to attend it. As I recall, just before the lecture began, we two chanced to eye one another in the lavatory as philosophers even must, and, with so apt an opportunity — both of us standing at the urinals relieving ourselves — I tentatively began:


"Er, I was wondering if you might care to say something — you know — about the footnote at the bottom of page 557."

He laughed — breaking into a broad smile — "Oh, that's an academic joke."

"Aye, that's," I said, "just what I thought."

So you're asking, what's the joke or the larger point? Well, since philosophy is mostly, as Alfred North Whitehead claims, "a footnote to Plato," I've thought to indicate its Platonic essence representationally — though you're of course free to doubt it. Robert Nozick, Philosophical Explanations: Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1982, 555-57.

In his previous two pages of Philosophical Explanations, Nozick had outlined an impressive fivefold scheme of broad ethical theory — nihilism, realism, idealism, romanticism, and realizationism (roughly his own position) — when, with an ironic grin, he happily drew one conclusion: "Unlike Lewis Carroll's cheshire cat, which disappeared leaving its smile, this disappearance of [realist] values did not even leave behind its (salient) value." Then, I'm happy to report, he added his footnote:

The listing of five possibilities about our relationship to value, as well as the further responses to the decline of realism, forswears one frequently traveled route to intellectual influence: devising a classification of three character types, via which people could puzzle over where they and their mates fit, categorize their friends, understand different social interactions, and play parlor games. Thus we have had Freud's oral, anal, and genital; Sheldon's mesomorph, endomorph, and ectomorph; Reisman, Glazer and Denny's inner-directed, other-directed, and autonomous; Reich's Consciousness I, II, and III. Dyadic classifications (such as introvert, extrovert) have less interest, while quadratic ones apparently are too complicated for most people to keep fully in mind, which is why there is no holy Quadrinity.

You should appreciate the pleasure I took that evening and, indeed, take again tonight, recalling (this All Saints' Day) the ever-so-very-ideal nimbleness of Nozick's witty-wise mind. Perhaps even the Triune God is enlarging the Plurality of Divine Being tonight, saying, "For, Four, Fore! Robert," as they consider other matters avocationally in still greener pastures of the Great Beyond.

In any case, you might see that Nozick's footnote is more than a psychological-sociological-cultural-ethical-philosophical matter of mere style. It might just possess Real Substance.

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