WE CALL IT READING A BOOK: The logicians probably couldn't have helped!


The transparent Dumbness, it burns: Robert Woodward's new book, co-written with Robert Costa, bears a one-word title: 


Following its 72 chapters, its epilogue ends with a two-word paragraph:

"Peril remains."

The authors refer to the peril facing our democracy in these (ongoing) days of Trump. More expansively, the epilogue ends as shown:

Could Trump work his will again? Were [sic] there any limits to what he and his supporters might do to bring him back to power?

Peril remains.

Even in fuller context, the word "were" doesn't make sense there. But as the book ends, Woodward and Costa are most specifically saying that peril remains if Donald J. Trump seeks the White House again.

Our democracy remains in peril, the authors say in their book. But according to the experts with whom we consult, we've moved past the point of peril. The die has already been cast.

Could the logicians have helped us with this? Most likely, they couldn't have. That said, the logicians—indeed, the "philosophers" and philosophy professors in general—walked off their posts so long ago that the question is hard to assess.

(Could it be they were never on their posts? Yes, that's possible too! It's a point we expect to explore.)

Tomorrow, we'll return to a discussion we introduced last week. We'll return to the preface to Ludwig Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations, "the most important philosophy book of the 20th century."

It was rated the most important such book, but no one has the slightest idea what its author might have said! So it goes within a culture where academic elites, as a group, have walked away from their posts—have ceased to function as a "guardian" class. 

In our view, Philosophical Investigations could have served as a highly instructive guide to what might be called "daily logic." Hard to parse though its text may be, a great deal of instruction can be teased from its bewildering numbered passages.

No such effort has ever been undertaken. That said, we'll plow ahead with an attempt to define the gains which could have been made. Tomorrow, we'll return to Wittgenstein's attempts, in his preface, to describe his intentions in writing the book, and we'll discuss his attempts to describe his book's shortcomings.

For today, one particular news report filled us with instant despair. The statistical dumbness, how it burned! We'll describe that hurtful report in today's afternoon post.

As it turns out, we the people weren't designed to run something like a democracy. Our brains were wired for Storyline, and as it turns out, we're pretty much tribal pretty much all the way down.

Regarding the preface to which we've referred, we briefly discussed it last Wednesday. To review that discussion, click here.

We'll resume that discussion tomorrow. Next week, we'll move on to the start of the most important philosophy book's unexplored text.

Could a different approach to this book have helped? Alas! Even as we continue to work in the garden, we're going to stick with a no.

Tomorrow:  "I should have liked to produce a good book. That has not come about."


  1. "Even in fuller context, the word "were" doesn't make sense there."

    The word were does make sense. The book examines the constraints on Trump's behavior during a specific time period that is in the past. It is the right word for that reason.

    1. Nope.

      "Were there any limits to what he and his supporters might do to bring him back to power?"

      If you use "were", you have to use "have done" instead of "do". Basic grammar.

    2. First of all, rationalist, you cleaned up Somerby’s typo. He said “Were [sic] there any limits to what he and his supporters might do to being him back to power?”

      Secondly, according to the Guardian, this is the actual quote:
      “Were there any limits to what he and his supporters might do to put him back in power?”

      Not a major difference, but still.

      Finally, you can interpret the sentence in this way: Did limits exist previously that no longer exist (as his supporters become more brazen, for example)?

      Were there limits to what they would do? Perhaps not anymore. Peril remains.

    3. That's a crafty defense but I still feel it's wrong.

      You're positing that we're inquiring about the limits of the past and how they affect a future action, in which those limits might have changed? The sentence fails to convey that eloquently.

      Guilty as charged on modifying the quote. I grabbed the quote off a google search because I wanted to verify that "being" was to supposed to be "bring", and incorrectly assumed that was the only inaccuracy.

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  2. "We'll return to the preface to Ludwig Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations, "the most important philosophy book of the 20th century."

    We will be returning to the preface because Somerby never reads past the first few pages of any book he discusses here. It may be the reason for his low grades in his course on Wittgenstein.

    Where I come from, you actually read the books you discuss.

    1. I happen to have seen this comment, so I'll offer a correction:

      In the undergraduate course, I was phoned by the philosophy department at the end of the semester and was told that Professor A wanted to speak to me in his office. Modesty forbids my repeating what he said on that occasion, but for whatever it may be worth I received an A in the course.

  3. To the extent that logicians are also voters, they think about politics as much as the next guy. That is their responsibility as citizens, but unless they are elected to office, they bear no greater responsibility for keeping Trump in check than anyone else in our society.

    Somehow Somerby got the idea that logic is more important than facts when it comes to decision-making. Plainly, he uses neither in his daily essays, but why should he think that logic could have corrected Trump's lies or reined in his excesses? That is what makes no sense.

  4. "Peril remains."

    So, your liberal-hitlerian cult's High Priests are scared shitless of The Commander?

    Yawn. Tell us something we don't know, dear Bob.

    1. Same answer for every post. Never an intelligent thought.

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    3. Mao was funnier when he pretended he wasn't an ass kisser of the elites.

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  7. In which world historical society have philosophers ever functioned as a “guardian class?”

    Socrates and Thomas More tried. Look where they ended up.

  8. “Save us, O philosophy professors, you elites of the academic elites! It is your fault for abandoning the posts that Bob Somerby fancifully ascribes to you!”

  9. Somerby in previous posts where he railed against “critical race theory” stated his view that a teacher’s students belonged to the parents, not the teacher. Thus, he is asking teachers to defer to parents’ views. Does that include philosophy professors? If so, how are they supposed to exercise their roles as members of the “guardian class”, the functions of which must surely include dispelling false belief, such as that espoused by untrained parents who are not members of this elite class.

    1. Somerby wouldn't make a good faith argument if his life depended on it.

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