The 'Annoyment' of Philosophy
I'm now reading Howard Jacobson's novel The Finkler Question, and it's a humorous read so far - though I've not gotten far into the book, and in fact only so far as the passage below, which reaches with effort to succeed in stretching onto page 27 - anyway, a humorous read, so humorous in the aforesaid "passage below" that I laughed out loud on the subway train to Ewha early in the morning and so alarmed the few passengers sharing the same car with me that they must have concluded I "was in fact quite mad":
Every few years [Julian] Treslove decided it was time he tried philosophy again. Rather than start at the beginning with Socrates or jump straight into epistemology, he would go out and buy what promised to be a clear introduction to the subject - by someone like Roger Scruton or Bryan Magee, though not, for obvious reasons, by [his friend] Sam Finkler. These attempts at self-education always worked well at first. The subject wasn't after all difficult. He could follow it easily. But then, at more or less the same moment, he would encounter a concept or a line of reasoning he couldn't follow no matter how many hours he spent trying to decipher it. A phrase such as 'the idea derived from evolution that ontogenesis recapitulates phylogenesis' for example, not impossibly intricate in itself but somehow resistant to effort, as though it triggered something obdurate and even delinquent in his mind. Or the promise to look at an argument from three points of view, each of which had five salient features, the first of which had four distinguishable aspects. It was like discovering that a supposedly sane person with whom one had been enjoying a perfectly normal conversation was in fact quite mad. Or, if not mad, sadistic. (Jacobson, The Finkler Question, pages 26-27)I laughed out especially loud at the last three sentences, and laugh again now that I re-view the passage. And I hope you also will laugh at the humor in the passage since I took pains to type it out and painstakingly checked to see that I got it, without typo, completely right!
But maybe the humor for me is that I've experienced exactly this maddening reaction in reading complex philosophical arguments!