I happened across this while doing a little cleaning up. I wrote it to honor my teacher, Lewis White Beck, at a memorial conference held for him at the University of Rochester (September, 1998). He was a wonderful teacher, a wonderful man.
I don’t explicitly or directly recommend lots of books here, although I mention or quote from many and often make it clear that I think highly of them. But, as I rode my bike in this morning, I started thinking about two pairs of books that have meant a lot to me, personally and intellectually. I thought I would recommend them.
The first pair is:
The Achievement of Samuel Johnson (Walter Jackson Bate) and The Silence of St. Thomas (Josef Pieper). Neither of these books is quite or completely a biography, neither is quite or completely literary criticism (Bate) or philosophy (Pieper). Each is instead an examination of how the work of each man grew into what and who he was, and was grown into by what and who he was.
The second pair is:
Actor and Spectator (Lewis White Beck) and The Myth of Metaphor (Colin Murray Turbayne). I was lucky enough to have been taught by both men, although to a lesser extent and mostly informally (in conversation) by Turbayne. Both books are beautifully written and philosophically significant. And each is a study of the way in which a person can become so immersed in another’s thought that it is no longer clear who is doing the thinking and who is being thought about. With Beck, it is Kant; with Turbayne, it is Berkeley.
A favorite passage from my teacher, Lewis White Beck. It is from his book, The Actor and The Spectator.
Only A. C. Ewing, I think, has indicated a possible transcendental argument against solipsism. He said, “If solipsism is true, there are no solipsists, since I am not one.” This short way with solipsism, almost a throwaway that Ewing consigned to a footnote, seems to me to be profoundly important.
The solipsist position has never been maintained if it is true, because if it is true I alone could have maintained it, and I have not done so…
I believe this argument, invented by Ewing, is likewise usable by others and not discountable when extended to others. This argument will carry no weight, of course, with another person if he is a genuine solipsist who knows his business. But, if there is such a person, I know that solipsism is false since that person is not I.