Thursday, June 27, 2013

Response to Professor Shakespeare, II: Analyzing Shakespeare


As Jonathan Swift explained in the sixth number of his “Drapier’s Letters,” commenting on what he believed to be the fraud of William Wood’s State-granted monopoly for the coinage of copper halfpence and farthings for Ireland, “I foolishly disdained to have Recourse to Whining, Lamenting, and Crying for Mercy, but rather chose to appeal to Law and Liberty and the common Rights of Mankind, without considering the Climate I was in.”

Unfortunately, CESJ fell into the same trap as the good dean of St. Patrick’s.  We believed that a response to Professor Shakespeare based on empirical evidence, logical argument, and the natural law (“the common Rights of Mankind”) would be persuasive.  We failed to take into account “the Climate” of the world today, which is decidedly anti-intellectual and hostile to reason.

Not surprisingly, Professor Shakespeare reacted swiftly to our response.  After all, read carefully, our paper raised some serious questions about the validity of the claims he was making.  It also called his scholarship and understanding of the monetary theory of binary economics into question.  This is critical in light of the reliance of binary economics on Say’s Law of Markets as applied in the real bills doctrine to the principles of commercial banking.

Nor was it surprising that Professor Shakespeare’s reaction to CESJ’s response was a reiteration of his previous allegations.  It contained nothing of substance.  Oddly, Professor Shakespeare claimed to know what CESJ’s response said, even though he admitted that he stopped reading it before he was halfway through. (It is common for CESJ's critics to claim to know what we write without reading it.)

What was surprising was that Professor Shakespeare’s main concern seemed to be the length of CESJ’s response — at least he mentioned that first, and referred to it specifically and by implication at least four times.  Rather than take the length of the response as a compliment to the seriousness with which we regarded his allegations and assertions, he used it as a springboard for additional insinuations.

This was, we believe, unjustified on Professor Shakespeare’s part, as were, we feel, his provocative comments.  Genuine argument can result in “books enough to sink a ship or stock a library.”  In serious argument, length is often unavoidable, especially when there are genuine differences to reconcile.  As G. K. Chesterton, referring to the volume of Aquinas’s writing, reminded us,

“Being himself resolved to argue, to argue honestly, to answer everybody, to deal with everything, he produced books enough to sink a ship or stock a library; though he died in comparatively early middle age.  Probably he could not have done it at all, if he had not been thinking even when he was not writing; but above all thinking combatively.  This, in his case, certainly did not mean bitterly or spitefully or uncharitably; but it did mean combatively.  As a matter of fact, it is generally the man who is not ready to argue, who is ready to sneer.  That is why, in recent literature, there has been so little argument and so much sneering.”  (Gilbert Keith Chesterton, Saint Thomas Aquinas, “The Dumb Ox.”  New York: Doubleday Image, 1956, 126.)

On Monday we will conclude this brief episode by posting Professor Shakespeare’s retort exactly as we received it.

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