Monday, March 10, 2008

Why Stanley Fish Writes Columns in the N Y Times

Stanley Fish wrote his column this morning to explain why he writes his invariably interesting and thought provoking columns. His core message was that he writes to look at an issue in a logical or analytical way, and not to put forward his opinions, or even any opinion at all.

Much of the column was devoted to foiling critics who accuse him of being pro this and anti that and excoriating him for being so obviously wrongheaded to try to look like he didn't have an opinion when in fact his agenda was as clear as a case of measles on a kid's face.

It is a thoughtful, taughtly and elegantly written column. I actually recommend it because it points to a more dispassionate way of at least starting down a path to looking at the building block that could form an opinion about something. And has had me thinking all day.

So, I also post my own comment to his column, from this morning. My contribution to trying to think clearly.

March 10th,
9:53 am

Leaping to judgment is something we humans invariably do before we actually think about something. It is a hard habit to observe in the doing, much less to curb it long enough to actually think logically and coherently about something in order to do a 360 degree look around before we leap.

My question is where in the scheme of things does Dr. Fish square his views with the biopsychologists’ discovery that the human brain functions more as a justifier than as a decisionmaker. That is, action precedes thought; thought describes what we just did, not the reverse, contrary to millenia of belief in our rationality (or attempts at it). In fact, I barely knew what I was going to write before I wrote it, or that I would feel compelled to write something at all.

Yes, mathematics is not an emotionally driven descriptive scheme; logic, presumably, is also not rooted in gut reactions. Perhaps logic, science, clear-eyed analysis are the evolutionary steps of mental evolution from a carbon dioxide to oxygen dominated world, the stromatolites of the human mind.

— Posted by Christina Forbes