You can’t limit the vitality of a book’s form without limiting the vitality of a book’s content.
Then Samson said to Delilah:
“If I be shaven, then my strength will go from me,
and I shall become weak, and be like any other man.”
—Judges 16:17 (King James Version)
The philosopher Nassim Nicholas Taleb was once offered a piece of unsolicited advice from an unnamed correspondent:
“Dear Mr Taleb, I like your work but I feel compelled to give you a piece of advice. An intellectual like you would greatly gain in influence if he avoided using foul language.”
Taleb’s reply consisted of two words:
What I love about this comical anecdote is that it makes manifest a particular kind of cluelessness which is often present but rarely visible. Telling Taleb to refrain from using foul language in his books is about as absurd as telling him to avoid using personal anecdotes (or telling him to avoid talking about trading or New York or Lebanon or anything else that makes him who he is). Form and content are inextricably linked in any truly philosophical work. And, as a consequence, you can’t limit the vitality of a book’s form without limiting the vitality of a book’s content. Besides, a cleaned-up Taleb would be about as powerful as clean-cut Samson.
Hard to make sense of this strange man named Nassim Nicholas Taleb, a man who is, it seems, at one and the same time, at war with himself, and at peace with himself, a friendly unfriendly man, a sweet mean man, a gentle ferocious man, with the spirit of a warrior, the mind of a mathematician, and the soul of a poet.
—John Faithful Hamer, From Here (2015)
Originally published at Committing Sociology. Reprinted with permission.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons