A Philosopher’s Humanity

Carlin Romano in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

The desire to portray great thinkers as disembodied argument machines remains a powerful force in analytic philosophy. Think of it as a slice of amour-propre, part of the arrogant wish to be seen as timelessly, noncontingently right about everything. It can move acolytes to depict thinker-heroes as dynamos of pure intellect rather than peers: mere featherless bipeds whose thoughts bear clear markings from their beliefs, fears, and weaknesses.

This distinctive distaste for a philosopher’s humanity applies in analytic philosophy with extra force to homosexuality. In the standard canon, the editing began with the predilections of ancient Greek philosophers and continues right up to modern times.

Decades ago, for instance, W.W. Bartley published his maverick biography of Wittgenstein, arguing that the great Austrian philosopher also led an actively gay life that appeared to include cruising for rough trade. Analytic Wittgenstein scholars, who specialized in presenting their man as a kind of shoebox of epistemological propositions they thought he hadn’t put in the right order, screamed bloody murder.

More here.