Thursday, October 27, 2011

Kelly Dean Jolley & Ahab and Sadie


From a 2009 Q & A with philosophy professor Kelly Dean Jolley and his pit bulls, Ahab and Sadie:
Physicists have Schrödinger’s cat. Do philosophers have a particular, famous dog?

I can’t think of a named dog that plays a role in philosophy. (Arthur Schopenhauer was famous for his daily walks with his poodle, Atma.) However, dogs do grace some important pages of philosophy in important ways. For example, Socrates argues (in the Second Book of "The Republic") that well-bred dogs are truly philosophical, effectually a model of the philosopher, of the lover of wisdom, since dogs love wisdom so well that they act always on distinction of knowledge from ignorance, welcoming the known and warding off the unknown (so as to safeguard the known). As Vicki Hearne, dog-trainer and philosopher puts it, commenting on Socrates’ comparison: Safeguarding the known and warding off the unknown has “always been philosophy’s traditional chastity and discipline.”

Ludwig Wittgenstein, the philosopher who most preoccupies me, also sometimes writes of dogs in memorable ways. In "Philosophical Investigations" he asks: “Why can’t a dog simulate pain? Is he too honest?” Later in the book he observes, “A child has much to learn before it can pretend. (A dog cannot be a hypocrite, but neither can he be sincere.)”

Interestingly, Hearne, in her book, "Bandit: Dossier of a Dangerous Dog," from which I took my earlier quotation, likens Wittgenstein himself to a pit bull. She characterizes him as sharing their deep gameness: “[Wittgenstein was] a pit bull of a person who grabbed hold of philosophy with all his heart and did not let go.”

I can’t mention...[read on]
Visit Kelly Dean Jolley's blog, and read his poem “Alabama Pits.”

--Marshal Zeringue

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