The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

June 6, 2017

June 6, 1909

Words are attractive to the scholar, quite apart from their necessity. The gleam of a framework that can be filled in with interlocking ideas and function in an explanatory manner is not a modern vista, rather it is part of humankind' s inheritance. Yet the idea that words cannot capture ALL of reality is also ancient, and as true. You find scholars like Isaiah Berlin, (June 6, 1909 to November 5, 1997) resting in the linguistic shade, and their wave is so appealing. So you delight in the work of these writers, and don't quite give up the thought that it is adequate. You could say you have to be a lion and embrace generalizations, as well as a fox, always sniffing for the underside, that in which the words are mired/moored.

That is not how Berlin used the phrase "the lion and the fox" in his The Proper Study of Mankind (1997): there it means, he says explicating Machiavelli, that in between line necessary for the ruler to stay in control, as in lie, but not so much the people stop trusting you.

Isaiah Berlin will come back into fashion. His graceful prose, glittering angles, still beckon. As long as his students never ask, how far can you trust the verbal, when you are blind to the other currents within and without, mankind. The assertion Man, is the proper study of mankind, is meant to avoid this dilemma, but it doesn't really. You just want to assume the relics of treasure are a glimpse of what is truly beneath the ground in linguistic excavation. You cannot imagine that dirt IS the treasure.

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