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October 30, 2005

Why Richard Thompson is a better philosopher than Leon Kass


Inexplicably, the views of bioethicist Leon Kass have recieved a lot more attention than those of singer songerwriter Richard Thompson, particularly on issues of sex, gender, and confectionary.

I will attempt to redress this unfortunate imbalance by contrasting their respective normative accounts of ice cream consumption.

Leon Kass:

Worst of all from this point of view are those more uncivilized forms of eating, like licking an ice cream cone --a catlike activity that has been made acceptable in informal America but that still offends those who know eating in public is offensive. [...]


Richard Thompson:

Hokey Pokey (revised version 2004) (aka "The Ice Cream Song")

Little boy running and the little girl too
Got the money tucked up in their hands
Over the wall and down into the street
Give your money to the hollering man

Everybody runs for Hokey Pokey
Hear the ringing on the ice cream bell
He’s got the stuff that’ll cool you right down
It’s the best that they ever did sell


Dead to the world? Says Frankie to Annie
Girl you haven’t moved an inch all night
But she wriggled her hips when he kissed her on the lips
Hokey Pokey made her fell all right

Lick it on the bottom, lick it on the top
Suck it just hard enough
Open up wide when it drips down the side
You want to catch all that good stuff


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Revised version 2004? What is the difference between this and the previous unrevised version?

I assume that's the version off The Chrono Show, right?

Yes, the 2004 version is off TCS

Here's the older version of;jsessionid=4C8C5F5BAE2AF51AB09D18CB1814C15E?hid=8z06PH4Hsn0%3D>The Hokey Pokey. The Watching the Dark sampler has the original lyrics. Anybody know which album the original was on?

Does it men Ben and Jerry are geniuses?

and ps. Leon needs to get laid more often he is too uptight.

Hey! I got an idea. Somebody pair up MoDo with Leon Kass !!! Omg, this is a script for a comedy movie in the making!


Leon Kass reminds me of Keith Burgess Jackson: flights of intuitive fancy, unbounded and unchecked by reason. Kass is pretty open about holding rationality in low regard, I think (yuck test, etc).

This raises the question: everyone knows KBJ is an insane crank, even his fellow conservatives. Why do we take Kass seriously?

I say this, by the way, as one who believes that morality is rooted in sentiment and emotion. I can't believe anyone can be taken seriously who advocates the extremely naïve sentimentalist view that we should just go with our gut feelings on matters all of the time, as opposed to using our gut feelings as a basis from which to expore further moral reasoning.

The funny thing is, I read a bit (not much, I admit, but a bit) of The Hungry Soul in a bookstore. The overriding concern of Kass seems to be human dignity (Kass, for instance, views deuteronomic dietary laws to be good, because they ennumerate laws which show human self-restraint, and self-restraint is an inherently good thing in his view (there doesn't seem to be that much concern for what this self-restraint is for). Cannibalism and vegetarianism, on the otherhand, are mirror-images of each other, but are really both evil in the same way, because they deny the unique and special place of humanity by equalizing human and animal). The funny thing is, though: Kass's overwhelmingly needs for humans to be unique, seperate beings, distinct from other animals. How does he want to achieve this unique, transcendent status for humanity, though? Uh, by advocating that people base the entirety of their morality on gut instincts and first reactions. Doesn't this seem a bit, well, animalistic and base?

Lindsay: the RT Song-O-Matic is your friend. And you do know that he was playing in NYC last week, don't you?

"Anybody know which album the original was on?"

Was that a joke? Album of the same name, mid seventies.

There is of course a ton of great work surrounding them, but the four 70's albums: Bright Lights, Hokey Pokey, Pour Down Like Silver, and Shoot Out the Lights
are...I am not worthy to say what they are. But I am starting to cry.

The Leon Kass quote about ice cream is proof of two things:
1) Sometimes reality is even funnier than satire, and
2) You can't spell Kass without A-S-S.

Heh, you rule.

And you do know that he was playing in NYC last week, don't you?

I was at the show on the 27th at Town Hall. It was great!

One reason people take Kass seriously is that he writes very well. Just look at the above passage. While the viewpoint is bizarre, the adjective catlike is exquisitely well chosen. Or consider the title "The wisdom of repugnance": it has an eloquence to it missing in essays from analytic philosophy that refer to “the yuk factor.”

It helps a lot, too, that Kass is an irrationalist. It not only absolves him against charges of inconsistency and arbitrariness, it can actually make his critic defensive about even raising such criteria.

The irrationalism fits well with the eloquence. In fact, Kass is simply a continental philosopher. His attacks on analytic philosopher (in “The Wisdom of Repugnance” we are listed as a major cause of moral decline in America) and his affection for old world figures like Hans Jonas. Think about that the next time you see continental philosophers stereotyped as far left post-colonial types.

You were at the Town Hall show on Thursday? Crap, we were in the third row. Wish we'd crossed paths!

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