It is probably the most negative book review ever written. Or if there is a worse one, do let me know. "This book runs the full gamut from the mediocre to the ludicrous to the merely bad," begins Colin McGinn's review of On Consciousness by Ted Honderich. "It is painful to read, poorly thought out, and uninformed. It is also radically inconsistent." The ending isn't much better: "Is there anything of merit in On Consciousness? Honderich does occasionally show glimmers of understanding that the problem of consciousness is difficult and that most of our ideas about it fall short of the mark. His instincts, at least, are not always wrong. It is a pity that his own efforts here are so shoddy, inept, and disastrous (to use a term he is fond of applying to the views of others)." And in the middle, there is nothing to cheer the book's author. Honderich's book is, according to McGinn, sly, woefully uninformed, preposterous, easily refuted, unsophisticated, uncomprehending, banal, pointless, excruciating. What does the man on the receiving end think of this review? "It is a cold, calculated attempt to murder a philosopher's reputation," says Honderich. The review has reignited a feud between the two philosophers that shows how bitter, unforgiving and (to outsiders) unwittingly hilarious academic disputes can be. It certainly makes the bear pit that is journalism seem like sunshine and lollipops by comparison. McGinn is unrepentant. When I ring him in Miami to find out if there is any chance of a rapprochement, he tells me: "It's not like you're hitting someone over the head with a hammer. Ted is not very good at philosophy. That's the problem." So probably not. . . .Read the rest here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/g2/story/0,,2230842,00.html. To read the cause of the hullaballoo (McGinn's review) and Honderich's response, please go to: http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2007/12/mcginns-reply-t.html.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Jeffries, Stuart. "Enemies of Thought." GUARDIAN December 21, 2007.
Another academic spat or, so you thought Eagleton v. Amis was awful. . . .