samedi, avril 09, 2005


Brief Note

Kai von Fintel in his blog asks about a Philosopher called V.H. Dudman:

I am preparing a seminar presentation on tense in conditionals, a truly daunting topic. One of my tasks has been to re-read some of the works of V.H. Dudman, who is perhaps the philosopher who has taken the grammatical contribution of tense to the semantics of conditionals most seriously. While spending some idle time on Google, I came across a useful page listing Dudman's main contributions. The page is part of a playful website for a course apparently taught by Bob Hargrave of Balliol College, Oxford. The page says that Dudman

is a very elusive man. We do not know his whereabouts. Only that he worked in Australia for many years. We do not know his full name. No-one knows what the 'H' stands for. Rumour has it that the 'V' stands for 'Victor', which would be a most appropriate name for a revolutionary leader. So perhaps it is indeed just rumour.

V.H. Dudman does not use e-mail. He has no known contact address. Indeed, we know him only through his contributions to the learned journals.

Anybody know more or differently?

Well, in my response to von Fintel, I said that, by going to the website you pointed to, I have found out that Hargrave's manifesto pages seem all to be about D. H. Dudman, whose true name, according to Hargrave, is Emmanuel Goldstein. He explains the change of names in one page. But, in another page he gives a hint that Emmanuel Goldstein was entirely fictitious(sic).

Thus, it seemed to me that Dudman might well be just an invented character, or a pseudonym for someone who, perhaps, has a parallel Philosophical work. Of course, I know several elusive linguists I have tried to contact in vain. But the practices of using pseudonyms and of multiplying noms de plume are not unusual. The Portuguese poet Pessoa used to write whole volumes debating with himself, defending antagonistic views under different allonyms (he called heteronyms), which readers took for different authors to the same publication. Far from being an odd strategy, this sort of practice is seen as a proof of great intelligence and refined intellectual skills in the field of Humanities.

However, later on Greg Restall responded:

I know just a little a bit more. Vic Dudman was my immediate predecessor in the Philosophy Department at Macquarie University in Sydney. He retired from academic life in around 1995. I met him a couple of times over my tenure at Macquarie. I suspect he's still living in Sydney, though I haven't seen him since 2000 or so.

Vic is definitely not a fictional character, and the name isn't a pseudonym. I think you can look him up in the telephone book if you want to write him a letter.

I take Greg's words as true. But the thing is that the sites I mentioned portray Goldstein/Dudman in a manner that gives you that impression.

It seems that even nowadays men can become or be turned into legends, and that is a manner to confer a certain attraction power on them. An elusive life-style seems to intice more curiosity than a non-elusive one, in the case of intellectuals and thinkers.

Salvador Dali and Amalia Rodrigues had so discreete a life that People assumed that they were already dead until the news of their passages had been announced. Many believe Andy Kaufman has faked his death in order to adopt a secluded and monastical way of living till the day he decides to come back and shock the world.