Links Regarding Not Fully Reading, or Misreading, Philosophy Books?
February 19, 2007 8:17 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for links to anecdotes, discussions, quotes, etc., anything dealing with not reading philosophy texts all the way through or misreading philosophy texts. This link to Maverick Philosoher's Blog shows the type of thing I am looking for. It was actually this thread that got me wondering where I could collect more known examples:
posted by Gnostic Novelist to Religion & Philosophy (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Also, I forget to include: "Any famous examples (or not so famous) of confessions that deal with not reading a certain philosophy book or philosopher.
posted by Gnostic Novelist at 8:32 PM on February 19, 2007

Here's David Chalmers' long list of philosophy-related jokes. Not exactly what you're after, but fun if you know a fair amount of philosophy. I was thinking there might be related anecdotes linked there; doesn't look like it, but some of the one-liners in the "proofs that p" and "philosophical lexicon" allude to various people's tendency not to read carefully.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:15 PM on February 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

Nietzsche's writings are rife with warnings about the dangers of misreading and superficial reading:
The worst readers.— The worst readers are those who proceed like plundering soldiers: they pick up a few things they can use, soil and confuse the rest, and blaspheme the whole.
Human All Too Human, "Mixed Opinions and Maxims," 137
If this writing is incomprehensible to someone or other and hurts his ears, the blame for that, it strikes me, is not necessarily mine. The writing is sufficiently clear given the conditions I set out—that you have first read my earlier writings and have taken some trouble to do that, for, in fact, these works are not easily accessible. For example, so far as my Zarathustra is concerned, I don't consider anyone knowledgeable about it who has not at some time or another been deeply wounded by and profoundly delighted with every word in it. For only then can he enjoy the privilege of sharing with reverence in the halcyon element out of which that work was born, in its sunny clarity, distance, breadth, and certainty.

In other cases the aphoristic form creates difficulties which stem from the fact that nowadays people don't take this form seriously enough. An aphorism, properly stamped and poured, has not been "deciphered" simply by being read. It's much more the case that only now can one begin to explicate it—and that requires an art of interpretation. In the third essay of this book I have set out a model of what I call an "interpretation" for such a case. In this essay an aphorism is presented, and the essay itself is a commentary on it. Of course, in order to practice this style of reading as an art, one thing is above all essential—something that today has been thoroughly forgotten (and so it will require still more time before my writings are "readable")—something for which one almost needs to be a cow, at any rate not a modern man—rumination.
from the Preface to "On the Genealogy of Morals"
... I am often asked why, after all, I write in German: nowhere am I read worse than in the Fatherland. But who knows in the end whether I even wish to be read today? To create things on which time tests its teeth in vain; in form, in substance, to strive for a little immortality — I have never yet been modest enough to demand less of myself. The aphorism, the apothegm, in which I am the first among the Germans to be a master, are the forms of "eternity"; it is my ambition to say in ten sentences what everyone else says in a book — what everyone else does not say in a book. I have given mankind the most profound book it possesses, my Zarathustra; shortly I shall give it the most independent.
Twilight of the Idols, “Skirmishes of an Untimely Man,” 51

I'm not sure what the purpose of your question is, but bear in mind that all of the preceding quotations (and any others you come across) should be read in light of the warning contained in the first.
posted by Urban Hermit at 9:43 PM on February 19, 2007

Thanks LobsterMitten and Urban Hermit:

I'm not sure what the purpose of your question is

Just curiosity. I was really surprised that Maverick Philosopher came across a Ph.d who never read Plato. And it really got me thinking about other lacunae in relation to philosophical reading. At the same time of the question, I was also thinking about Ayn Rand's misreading of Kant and Nazis misreading of Nietzsche.
posted by Gnostic Novelist at 11:12 PM on February 19, 2007

Otto in A Fish Called Wanda
posted by anarcation at 12:49 AM on February 20, 2007

Otto was my first thought too.

Best non-fictional example I can think of is Ayn Rand, who is often accused of misinterpreting Kantian ethics (along with the works of Nietzsche, Hume, Hegel, Marx and Plato).
posted by JaredSeth at 1:40 PM on February 20, 2007

Should have read the thread. Gnostic Novelist mention Rand.
posted by JaredSeth at 1:41 PM on February 20, 2007

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