The former Mrs Bunyip came to the conclusion that the Professor’s poorer attributes of character outweigh the good, a conviction that became so entrenched all efforts to persuade her otherwise amounted to a gross waste of breath and spittle. It was a philosophical clash, essentially, for hers was the perspective of Aristotle, who saw the static and the immutable, while a much-misunderstood Bunyip took the Hegelian view that the act of becoming is at the essence of human experience and betterment. This can be rather difficult thing to explain when plates are flying and your favourite watch has just been thrown into the fish pond, and it became clear soon enough that citing time spent at golf club, trout stream or, most contentiously, down at the mooring, was always going to be rejected as valid evidence of a dawning graduation to a higher state of awareness and, ideally, a mode of conduct integrated into the freedoms conferred by responsibility within the framework of an enlightened domestic polity
Hegel’s good like that. He can be read in support of just about any contention, as thinkers as distant from each other as Karl Marx and Francis Fukuyama have demonstrated by perceiving in his opacity sharp delineations that have been so handy to their opposing arguments. Unlike a poor Bunyip, these feats of philosophic derring-do were performed without the distraction of a Calabrian mother-in-law’s spite and vitriol.
Yes, philosophy has its place (even when of little practical use), so it has been interesting to observe the New Establishment’s horrified reaction to our incoming federal government’s intention to strip its pursuers of a little ARC grant cash. Well, rather a lot of cash, actually. At the reliably unhinged Daily Life, where he recently opined on the merits of crowd-sourced pornography, moonlighting Radio National webpage editor Daniel Stacey has taken up the case of his former teacher, Sydney University’s Professor Paul Redding, whom he credits with making his mind the magnificent thing it is today. No surprises there. If your companions on the page are Clementine Ford and Kasey Edwards, a duck will appear intelligent – nay, gifted – by comparison. In any event, Stacey writes:
I remember studying Paul Redding’s course on Hegel’s Elements ofthe Philosophy of Right. It was the clearest explanation of social institutions I had ever heard – how they are made and what they mean. Rather than rehearse the typical foundational myths, Redding’s patient teaching deciphered the project of democracy and society, and taught me more about the true obligations and responsibilities of citizenship than scouts and organised sport and years of private education in Catholic schools.
In my paper for that class I remember quoting James Joyce’s Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man, and bonding with Redding over what a painful reminder Joyce's book was for anyone who had grown up in stultifying Catholic institutions full of guilt and doubt and misinformation.
With a Catholic about to move into the Lodge and this being Fairfax, the gratuitous and rather baffling reference to the wickedness of the Roman church needs no further comment. Get used to it, and expect Fairfax organs to soon offer reader discounts on membership in the Orange Lodge.
Just what, exactly, Redding taught Stacey was not explained. Was it Hegel the Toady, the statist sycophant denounced by liberal contemporaries as having sold out for personal gain and security to Prussian authoritarianism, or the man who emerged in subsequent scholars’ reviews and re-appraisals as extolling the primacy of conscience and the moral spirit? While Stacey is convinced the Hegel has landed, none can be sure -- Stacey least of all, one gathers -- in just which tree he is currently nesting.
At the ABC, more of the same, this time courtesy of Miram Cosic, who is no less adamant in declaring Professor Redding’s ruminations essential to the future of Australian democracy. By the way, here are some of them. Enjoy!
One thing neither of Redding’s advocates mentions, curiously, is the cost to the taxpayer of his chin-stroking, which is a rather large sum indeed. Similarly, the Silly’s education correspondent, Josephine Tovey, also neglects to mention the many zeroes on the ARC cheque which drew the Coalition’s attention to Redding's labours.
For the record, the sum he received for plumbing The God of Hegel's Post-Kantian idealism is $443,000. That is roughly the cost of a modest family home in one of those outer suburbs, where few people read Fairfax newspapers or extoll, ABC-style, the unqualified merit of gold-plated philosophical inquiry.
An innocent coincidence, obviously, because three authors would surely not have omitted mention of the ARC grant's generosity on purpose, would they? Indeed the defences of Redding and his work are themselves proof positive of the need for the public’s broadest possible exposure to the insights of the greatest minds. Had Stacey, Cosic et al been properly educated, they would have recognised an opportunity to invoke Descartes and really impress the bogans who rise every morning, go to jobs many do not like and surrender significant portions of their earnings to support Professor Redding’s cogitations.
You know how it goes: I think therefore I am entitled to your money.
It is lucky for Professor Redding that he never encountered the former Mrs Bunyip in one of her more strident episodes of rampaging philistinism. A well-aimed vase or flying knife and the public purse might be fatter to the same degree that Sydney University's faculty had been diminished.
Australia and the common good would have been so much the poorer for that.
UPDATE: Always worth a listen:
UPDATE: Always worth a listen: