who's your audience?

Paul Cantor closes his defense of The Simpsons with the following metaintellectual metajoke:

Few people have found the Critique of Pure Reason funny, but in The Gay Science, Nietzsche felt that he had put his finger on Kant’s joke:

“Kant wanted to prove in a way that would puzzle all the world that all the world was right — that was the private joke.… He wrote against the learned on behalf of the prejudice of the common people, but for the learned and not for the common people.”

In Nietzsche’s terms, The Simpsons goes one better than the Critique of Pure Reason: it defends the common man against the intellectual, but in a way that both the common man and the intellectual can understand and enjoy.

Having listened to 80% of David Gordon’s recent seminar on the history of political philosophy, I have Plato and Aristotle on the brain, so I immediately notice a similarly ironic contrast between the two:

  • Plato wrote in a popular form — dramatic dialog — saying that only intellectuals should have political power and that common perceptions were false;
  • Aristotle said that common understanding was, at base, correct, but he said it in such a way that only the most devoted intellectuals can manage to follow.
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