Thursday, April 19, 2012


James Chastek: Don’t always distinguish

In the (corrupted?) Scholastic tradition, “distinguish” has become a fraternity password or cheerleader-slogan. All problems and paradoxes are seen as mechanically calling forth the need to “distinguish!” The irony is that what is most loveable in the great Scholastics is not their distinctions but their syntheses and unifications. Distinction itself is purely ad hoc, arbitrary and hateful unless it can reduce to some evident principle that allows for the distinction itself.
As a beginner, I'm not understanding the critique so much. Distinguishing may be a necessary step to clarity when definitions have not been stated and one does not to presume that an interlocutor or opponent is using a specific one. It seems necessary when the discussion is taking place through the written word rather than through speech; it is useful too for preserving a measure of humility and politeness in discourse.

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