Monday, February 05, 2007

Spoken Kant

Currently I am reading "Kant. A Very Short Introduction" by Roger Scruton (Oxford University Press), and found the following passages quite amusing and inspiring.

The philosopher J. G. Hamann records that it was necessary to arrive in Kant's lecture room at six in the morning, one hour before the professor was due to appear, in order to obtain a place...

Kant had a peculiarly skillful method of asserting and defining metaphysical concepts, which consisted, to all appearances, in carrying out his inquiries in front of his audience; as though he himself had just begun to consider the question, gradually adding fresh determining concepts, improving bit by bit on previously established explanations, and finally arriving at a definitive conclusion of his treatment of the subject, which he had thoroughly examined from every angle, having given the completely attentive listener not only a knowledge of the subject, but also an object lesson in methodical thought...

(both quotations from page 5 of the aforementioned book)

In Phaedrus, Plato quotes Socrates as remarking that spoken word is superior to written words, since the former is alive and the latter is dead.

It is true that there is something very special about spoken words. Notably, the impression one gets from a person through written and spoken words can be very different. The discrepancy between the "heard" and "read" personalities, so to speak, is one of the most interesting and potentially nourishing aspects of human interaction.

The late philosopher Wataru Hiromatsu, who lectured in the University of Tokyo for many years, was notoriously difficult to read. As an undergraduate, I did not take his course, and was unconsciously avoiding the intractability of his philosophy.

One day Ken Shiotani (my best friend, the "fat philosopher") invited me to join the Japan-U.S. conference on phenomenology, and there I met with the philosopher himself for the first time. Prof. Hiromatsu in person was very gentle, sensitive, and attentive to people around him. Actually, noticing that I was somebody obviously outside the philosophical circle, at one time during the conference he kindly suggested that I say something from the scientist's point of view. His impression was like that of a gentle spring breeze coming through the nodding boughs in a forest sprinkled with rays of sunshine.

I just wonder what kind of impression the live Emanuel Kant would have given me had I lined up in the queue at the Konigsberg University from six in the morning and listened to his lecturing.


LINUS said...

I'm not familiar with the phylosophy, but I have read some phylososophists'books. Anyway I think, Dr.Mogi's good old pal, "Big fat phylosophist, Dr.Shiotani" has a key to survive this critical suituation of the erath. Please tell him "A carzy Karate fighter is interested in your personality". Ofcourse that's joke !

Anonymous said...

I love your sensitive English expression about the impression of Prof.Hiromatsu.