Why I love the French: Raison numéro 189

10Feb10

My friend Tom (aka “The Blogfodder”) has been very busy over the past few days. Although a few of his links have been laugh-out-loud funny, one of his emails really made me think.

It would appear that French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy—who is somewhat of a celebrity in Paris—has drawn fairly extensively on the writings of a lesser-known thinker named Jean-Baptiste Botul.

“So?” you may ask. “What’s the big deal?”

Fair question. Well … simply put, Botul doesn’t exist. He’s the invention of the satirical newspaper, Le Canard Enchaîné. (To put it in context, it would be akin to Noam Chomsky quoting an American Voice from The Onion.)

When he was made aware of his error, Lévy said that it was “a truly brilliant and very believable hoax” by a journalist “who remains a good philosopher all the same.” What a good sport that Lévy chap is!

Still, I was left wondering: Is great philosophy empirical? Is it any less worthy of our attention or admiration if it’s created as a joke?

Suddenly, I find myself wondering whether The Onion may indeed be “America’s Finest News Source.”



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