Frans de Waal has published an excellent essay on the relationship between language and cognition in Aeon magazine. Both de Waal and Aeon are very much worth paying attention to, which is why I’m devoting this post to the essay, entitled “The link between language and cognition is a red herring.” Though, as it turns out, that link isn’t really a red herring.
In Ancient Greek comedy, Eiron was a clever underdog who somehow always managed to get the better of his rival, Alazon, by sheer use of wit. The Socratic dialogues by Plato essentially represent Socrates as the philosophical equivalent of Eiron. And, of course, it is from him that we derive the term “irony,” the Greek root of which means dissimulation, feigned ignorance.
Contrast that with sarcasm. That word also has a Greek root, naturally, which meant “to tear flesh, bite the lip in rage, sneer.”
Here comes another of my occasional conversations with my colleague Dan Kaufman of Missouri State University. (Incidentally, he and two other former collaborators to my now archived Scientia Salon webzine have just started an excellent new project, The Electric Agora.)
This time we simply each picked one philosopher that was highly influential in our careers, or who has somehow shaped our way of thinking about philosophy, and chatted about it for a bit. I think the episode is worth checking out, it came out much better than the above somewhat lame description may suggest.