Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Queenscliff holiday and intellectual ambition on TV

"I don't remember taking these..."
We just came back from three days in Queenscliff--an early birthday present for Nikos.

There were children eating pizza and fish 'n' chips and ice cream; anemones eating fingers; and waves eating sandcastles. And bunk beds (an adventure in themselves). And an old-fashioned, Enid Blytonesque pop-gun.

A lovely three days away, even if our bags seemed to grow then procreate.


A.J. Ayer, talking to Bryan Magee
And today I had my column in the Canberra Times, 'Intellectual ambition rarely appears on the box'.

I'm arguing that Australian "ideas" television might look to Bryan Magee's example, in his 'Men of Ideas' series, for the BBC. A sample:
Magee's series remains a striking example of something rare on the boob tube: intellectual ambition.  
It is a challenge, not only for the hosts and guests, but also for the audience: to let interesting ideas, well expressed, slowly confront their prejudices. I might not agree with Murdoch's idea of the ''Good'', or Quine's idea of philosophy itself, but Magee's program does not allow me to casually shut my eyes to their logic. 
In this, it is an exercise in intellectual generosity, and a brief lesson in good citizenship: being prepared to see one's own beliefs from another's perspective; to feel the vivacity or solidity of novel ideas. 
Indeed, the high point of Men of Ideas is not perfect conviction, but doubt: when Ayer admits the failures of his logical positivism, or Murdoch concedes Magee's arguments about philosophical fiction with a curt but smiling ''yes, all right.'' 
This is the best kind of Q & A: a reminder that one does not have all the answers.

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