Coming Soon:

The following books by Robert Paul Wolff are available on Amazon.com as e-books: KANT'S THEORY OF MENTAL ACTIVITY, THE AUTONOMY OF REASON, UNDERSTANDING MARX, UNDERSTANDING RAWLS, THE POVERTY OF LIBERALISM, A LIFE IN THE ACADEMY, MONEYBAGS MUST BE SO LUCKY, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE USE OF FORMAL METHODS IN POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.
Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON KANT'S CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for "Robert Paul Wolff Kant." There they will be.

To contact me about organizing, email me at rpwolff750@gmail.com




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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

BEST OF BREED

The American Kennel Club is the official arbiter of dog breeds and standards in the United States.  Every year it holds a much heralded gathering at which breeders compete for the title of Best of Breed or -- the highest possible award -- Best in Show.  Back in the late Sixties when I was teaching at Columbia, I actually went to an AKC Dog Show and watched the proceedings for a while.  It was there that I saw for the first time a magnificent Great Pyrenees.  For those of you who do not know it, the Great Pyrenees is a large splendid shaggy dog, looking like an unusually big pure white Newfoundland.  It is the sort of dog that makes you want to throw your arms around its neck and hug it.  There is a long list of officially recognized breeds, each with precise standards of excellence maintained by the AKC.  In the early stages of the competition, Poodles compete against Poodles, Labrador Retrievers against Labrador Retrievers, and English Bulldogs against English Bulldogs.  On the last day, all the dogs judged Best in Breed compete against one another.  Now there really is no way to compare a Miniature Poodle with a Great Dane, so essentially the judges are asked to decide which dog comes closest to the ideal of perfection of its breed.  You may like the Great Dane more than the Miniature Poodle, but the Miniature Poodle may be a better Miniature Poodle than the Great Dane is a Great Dane.  I don't  much care for English Bulldogs, but I can see how one might be declared Best in Show.

I thought of all this when my friend, Professor Goldfarb of the Harvard Philosophy Department, chided me gently for describing Memorial Hall as "ugly."  He described it as "the best example of Victorian Gothic architecture in the US."  It is, in effect, Best of Breed.  But I am afraid that to my ear, that is rather like saying that a new book is "the best example of Hegelian metaphysics by an American." 

4 comments:

decessero said...

What an elaborate, "nutrient-dense", delectable lead-in for a powerful personal punch line! Well done!

David Auerbach said...

Intended or not, your analogy snarks at Warren (my old high school buddy) more than you intended. For the "precise standards of excellence maintained by the AKC", may be precise and may be standards and may be maintained. What they aren't is "of excellence". In fact they have ruined many breeds--German Shepherds being one I know about. Deciding that the proper "conformation" of a GSD is the downward sloping back (leading to joint disease and other disabilities) means that anyone who wants a healthy GSD needs to stay away from American breeding stocks. And people who need actual working dogs, rather than show dogs, know this. (The analogy doesn't seem to hold for "ugly" architectural styles; after all Memorial Hall is still standing. ) And all that reminds me that y'all should buy my wife's book (not a non sequitur):
http://amzn.to/18g9pIK

Murf Mensch said...

We have a Great Pyrenees here. They are outstanding. I took him to a festival on the green in my town and about 20 kids and 10 adults did hug him.

They are hard to fit in your car and your kids may be too small to walk them. But its worth it. They sleep a lot and don't eat that much.

We got him as a rescue. (I think some people get overwhelmed by them when they become large puppies.) If interested contact bigfluffydogrescue.org

Murf Mensch said...

We have a Great Pyrenees here. They are outstanding. I took him to a festival on the green in my town and about 20 kids and 10 adults did hug him.

They are hard to fit in your car and your kids may be too small to walk them. But its worth it. They sleep a lot and don't eat that much.

We got him as a rescue. (I think some people get overwhelmed by them when they become large puppies.) If interested contact bigfluffydogrescue.org