The Ballad of Lenore. 1839, oil on canvas, 61 x 55 cm
How flew the moon high overhead, In the wild race madly driven! In and out, how the stars danced about. And reeled o'er the flashing heaven! “What ails my love? the moon shines bright: Bravely the dead men ride thro’ the night. Is my love afraid of the quiet dead?” “Alas! let them sleep in their dusty bed.”
(Lenore, G.A. Bürger, 1773-74, tr. Dante G. Rossetti)
When you’re doing philosophy, don’t be afraid to sound dumb, or simpleminded. If, for example, what somebody says sounds to you so obviously mistaken that you conclude that you must be missing something, keep alive in your mind the alternative conclusion, which is that they are missing something, or seeing something that isn’t there, even if they are the teacher. Some of the most successful philosophical interventions that I’ve witnessed have been a matter of pointing out that the emperor’s not wearing any clothes.
G.A. Cohen, “How To Do Political Philosophy” from On the Currency of Egalitarian Justice, and Other Essays In Political Philosophy, p. 226