December 31, 2002
Intellectuals And Philosophers

One Hand Clapping (12/28, 9:17 PM if the link doesn't work) quotes David Warren quoting Orwell (how's that for blogcest?):

I am reminded of George Orwell's old truism, that there is nothing you can say so demented, that you will not get a choir of intellectuals singing along.

The truism goes back far beyond Orwell. Here is Cicero's version (De Divinatione 2.58.119):

Sed nescio quo modo nihil tam absurde dici potest quod non dicatur ab aliquo philosophorum.

"But somehow there is nothing that can be said so absurdly that it would not be said by some philosopher."

Around the same time, Varro said much the same in verse (Menippea Fr. 122 Buecheler = 155 Cèbe):

postremo nemo aegrotus quicquam somniat
tam infandum, quod non aliquis dicat philosophus.

"When all is said and done, no sick man dreams anything so unspeakable that some philosopher would not say it."

Not that most modern intellectuals have much resemblance to ancient philosophers, of course. Then again, there's no contradiction: the intellectuals only sing along with the absurdities: it takes a philosopher to invent them.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at December 31, 2002 10:02 PM

I always got the feeling that Varro was Whistler to Cicero's Wilde...

Posted by: Iain Murray on January 4, 2003 11:38 AM