Emailed comments on Daniel Schnee’s essay reply to my essay Toward a Critical Habit

i thought it would be interested if i posted my comments to Daniel Schnee’s essay D.P. Marshall and the Diallelon reply on my recent essay Toward a Critical Habit I & II. i recommend you at least read Dr. Schnee’s essay before reading my comments. i have not edited them, they are produced here unedited.
In case anyone misunderstands, i am very pleased with Dr. Schnee’s essay & there is no irritation in my reply.

Dan,
you hit the nail on the head in a few places, most places.

para 3: The reason i don’t accept that workers can’t think critically, is because it would be insulting to them. i do think they are, i don’t think it’s a skill available only to an elite. i am not from an educated background, i learned nothing from my lecturers because they dumbed down all their lectures because 90% of students didn’t even bother reading the source material, so the lecturers took this into account. i did (& more besides, because i saw this as my chance to use the time i’d gotten into debt for) & i didn’t go to a rich grammar or private school like a good many of my insufferable “class mates”. i was always disappointed as much with people from my social standing who didn’t make the most of their opportunities; i couldn’t grasp it. So i am that working class person who was able to think beyond my station in a way, as was Blake. So to make critical thinking elitist is unacceptable to me, because i am the example, along with my pal Blake; another reason i am feel so connected with him.

i think Socratic Questioning is actually better than the diallelus, but for me, the diallelus is the most foundational: a question doesn’t even need to be formed, you can simply ask, “but why?” Even children do that.

para 4: i think i need to do a post or explain more about my Burkean use of literary criticism as it can be applied to society. i really should have added Burke as a major influence, how he slipped through i don’t know. Basically Burke reads society like a drama. This peaks with his idea that we must treat society like a comedy rather than a tragedy, because a comedy, no matter where the plot is going, even if it seems to be heading toward tragedy, always resolves at the end in equanimity. Therefore to think tragically is to compel tragedy. This isn’t New Age thinking, he examines rhetoric, literary devices, but his big hit is this idea.
i am also influenced (i should have said) by Harold Bloom’s strong misprision that in our study, so long as we are studying & trying to read closely, there is no reason why we can’t read wrongly, but still strongly. i didn’t mean to lead you astray, i just don’t have that good a memory haha. Smoked too much marijuana while studying late, for too many years, it was my coffee at one time.
i think because he asked for philosophers i didn’t add these men, who are literary critics. i am less influenced by philosophy & more be literary studies.

para 8: Did you look into Frye? He is a good thinker. One of the good Christians. His book Anatomy of Criticism had a big influence on me, in that it illustrates the closed system of narrative story telling. He explains there is a limit in some sense to the range of stories we can tell, which all come from myth. His theories gel nicely with Burke & Jung (again, a huge influence, but not strictly a philosopher).

para 9-10: But that is what i want, a dialectic, & that is what i think thinking critically even at its most fundamental level can achieve. Isn’t there a dialogue between the objective & the subjective? We can & mostly do regulate ourselves, that is what shaming is doing, we are our own panopticon through social media, but that is going too far, like Conspiracy Theorists it is a former of hyper-criticism in which the assumption that the criticism has already done means the accuser can skip directly to punishment. But this isn’t the case. Most don’t really know why & so they should be corrected, or disciplined, that is not punishment, i see them as different.

para 11: i think this is pretty much on the mark. i cannot accept pride in one’s ignorance. Then the only difference between man & animal is emotion & that is a slight distinction for me.

para 12: The Blake analogy was nicely done. i haven’t given a lot of thought to him straddling the fence of two eras, yet i have always denied him the title of Romantic & now i know why. You really got this smack on the bulls-eye, lovely lovely stuff.

para 13: i can’t deny this whole human shenanigan as experimentation, i do accept & embrace that, but then it just proves my point that people should attempt to be more critical, as it leads to new possibilities of understanding, communication & ultimately a common good. We can still disagree & be annoyed with each other, but we at least won’t sever ties or hurt each other. It is only utopia in that it means we aim to understand our impact, creations, psyches better than ignorance; i don’t think perfectibility achievable but i do think a better temper to conflicts is reachable through an ego that can criticize more accurately than just “you’re full of shit get out my fucking face!”

para 14: i don’t know that side of Nagel, i only read his stuff on the Absurd, but it really affected me. But i like this idea of dropping rightness for just a head full of ideas. i can accept that.

Good conclusion. i don’t want to overwhelm the uninitiated (for want of a better word). i want it to be habitual, like ignorance. We are not ignorant by our nature anymore. We are born into a world of information saturation. So we can inform our children to think more openly. We are taught ignorance, that is why i can’t accept pride in it, like it is a quirky characteristic. This isn’t humility.

16 thoughts on “Emailed comments on Daniel Schnee’s essay reply to my essay Toward a Critical Habit

      1. For me it is especially critique, which is so vital to becoming good at music, and especially thinking. Any diallelus, a few “feet” in, dies with most of what passes for “thought” these days. But being forced to confront the death of our dailleli is nourishing not diminishing. Maybe we need to teach that critique/critical thinking are two sides of a coin that will save our collective lives from the ills of society. Of course, I can say that as I have had the LUXURY of a very long term education, which many have zero access to. But if people find ways to be critiqued then we are OK as a species.

        I remember one particularly excoriating critique of my saxophone playing from one of my professors. I HATED him afterwards… he really let me have it. But I found that it forced me onto one of two roads. Practice much harder with an almost Olympian effort, or just be angry and sulk. My plan was to seek “vengeance” by coming back at him with a level of saxophone excellence that would make him totally eat his words, in other words, prove him totally wrong… with ensuing excellence. Even after I had pretty much accomplished this, he was brutal on me… but then he would turn around every other day and offer me gigs if he couldn’t make them.

        This professor gave me a priceless gift that I can never ever thank him enough for. No club owner, manager, agent, band member, or anyone could treat me worse unless they broke the criminal code!

        I think this current generation has lost (not been taught?) the ability to be withered and thus water themselves back to life… I know criticism sure does that job very. f**king. well! 🙂

      2. Sounds like that film Whiplash. Good movie that & i could sort of relate. My dad was always critical. He was critical because he didn’t want me to embarrass myself by thinking was was the dog’s gonads then just making a fool of myself. The day he actually liked something of mine it was real, i felt i’d finally come good in the world. Now he loves reading my poems & hearing me play the guitar, even asking me to teach him stuff: when i return to England i have to teach him John Martyn’s May you Never.
        i think it is partly the fault of schools. If schools in England are anything like Korea, you aren’t allowed to make a kid feel like they failed. There is no last place anymore, everyone gets a trophy.

      3. It really is. i never won anything in my life. i don’t believe it is necessarily a measure of your skill set. But it means something to some so if they try to win they should be recognized.
        i just honestly never wanted to be a winner. Still don’t. Happy to just do shit.

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