[lit-ideas] Re: Can U Read Kant?

  • From: "Phil Enns" <phil.enns@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Tue, 13 May 2008 19:48:33 +0700

John McCreery wrote:

"The reviewer was competing for audience and, given your response, he
appears to have succeeded, at least in Phil's case. That "U" caught
your eye, disturbed you, drew you into the story—as a title/ad it
worked. A review titled "Can You Read Kant?" would, my adman's
instincts tell me, attract far fewer readers."

This doesn't quite address my question.  The issue for me is not the
'U' but the reference to Kant.  If, as educators, we are supposed to
adopt the ways and manners of our students, leaving behind canonical
texts and big ideas, who cares whether you or 'U' can read Kant?  On
this account, being able to read Kant would be like being able to read
Phoenician, both equally pointless in this YouTube 'communication
environment'.  However, if being able to read Kant is in any way
worthwhile, which seems to be the implication of the title, then how
are the recommendations given, new electronic devices and transforming
universities into YouTube communication environments, relevant to the

As to John's comments, does it matter that I now think the reviewer is
an idiot?  Sure, we are always being told to dream up sexy titles for
papers and courses, but it seems to me that it matters, in some way,
whether the title coheres with whatever follows.  In this, as yet
undefined, way, doesn't a book review differ from an ad, which can
have only the most nebulous of connections between content and

John continues:

"In information-theoretic terms, the signal may in fact be stronger;
but the noise level has risen dramatically, so those trying to hear it
feel more than ever drowned out."

A helpful way of looking at the matter.  Thank you.


Phil Enns
Yogyakarta, Indonesia
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