Friday, May 23, 2008


One of those philosophers visited me today. I was sitting at home, baking in front of a midday movie, one of those very very good ones where Brian Dennehy’s a cop who sweats a lot and James Brolin’s some sort of pebble-eyed bad guy.

So I hear this knocking at the door and it’s really persistent and the knocks are somehow really really evenly spaced. I rock up off the couch and get a little afternoon headspin. In fact, I squint my eyes in preparation for the furnaced white of outside that will no doubt greet me. I put my eye up to the peephole and then remember, for the umpteenth time, that it doesn’t work any more. I turn it over in my mind, and convince myself to open the front door.

There’s this guy there, on my step, like something out of the very heart of continental Europe, dressed in a shirt with these huge cuffs and a pork-pie hat. With a feather. I groan, not bothering to keep it to myself. He peered up at me through these little fey glasses, flickering his eyelids far far too quickly.

“Don’t tell me,” I said to him, taking up residence comfortably on the door frame. “Twentieth century. Post-Positivist French.”

The little man nodded.

I sighed. “A Marxist thinker, but you don’t identify with Marx.”

Another nod.

“Fan of Canguilhem?”

The little man fidgeted with his feathered hat.

I ran my hand over my face. “Look,” I told him. “I’d really love to, but I had this guy last week who talked discontinuist views of science at me for like three hours, so…” I let my sentence hang in the air. You had to be careful with these guys. One careless mention of actor-network theory and they were liable to go for your eyes.

The little man’s face began a slight twitch. Tears, I could sense, were not far away.

“Look,” I told him, “I happen to know for a fact that the old lady two doors down is really looking for something to explain away her growing disaffection towards Frege’s whole infatuation with axiomatic predicate logic. Only a few days ago, this was, down the supermarket.”

The philosopher’s face rose to this news. He crossed one leg in front of another, bowed, and doffed his hat. He sprung off down my front steps and back down the road.

When I got back to the TV, Brian Dennehy had already been shot, so it wasn’t really worthwhile continuing.

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