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by Richard A. Watson
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Europe
  • Author:
    Richard A. Watson
  • ISBN:
    1567922279
  • ISBN13:
    978-1567922271
  • Genre:
  • Publisher:
    David R Godine (June 1, 2003)
  • Pages:
    128 pages
  • Subcategory:
    Europe
  • Language:
  • FB2 format
    1615 kb
  • ePUB format
    1391 kb
  • DJVU format
    1214 kb
  • Rating:
    4.9
  • Votes:
    809
  • Formats:
    rtf lit mbr docx


In THE PHILOSOPHER'S DEMISE, Watson proves to be a wonderful guide through French culture. Certainly, he enjoys Paris, despite its noise.

In THE PHILOSOPHER'S DEMISE, Watson proves to be a wonderful guide through French culture. But he also bristles at its imperious and aloof elites and spares us the usual obsequious observations about French food and French style. Richard Watson's book was an entertaining read - it was hard to put down once I started reading it. It is not just about his struggle to learn French - it is about how it feels to be on the outside looking in, and about how it feels to face unprecedented, inexplicable failure. The author is introspective, and he relates his experiences in an amusing and thoughtful way.

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Richard Allan Watson (23 February 1931 – 18 September 2019) was an American philosopher, speleologist and author. Watson taught philosophy at Washington University in St. Louis for forty years. He was considered one of the foremost living authorities on Descartes. He was an Emeritus Professor of Philosophy for Washington University in St. Louis.

Philosophers Demise : Learning to Speak French. by Richard A. Watson.

Richard Watson, scholar and spelunker extraordinaire is back. Having told how to win the fight against fat in The Philosopher's Diet, and having painted the definitive portrait of philosopher Ren Descartes (Cogito, Ergo Sum), here he confronts his most difficult challenge: how he learned to speak French. Отзывы - Написать отзыв.

Philosophy and Literature 19 (2) (1995). Jean-Yves Pollock & Richard S. Kayne - unknown. Patrick Gerard Henry - 1995 - Philosophy and Literature 19 (2):420-423.

Items related to The Philosopher's Demise: Learning French. Richard A. Watson The Philosopher's Demise: Learning French. ISBN 13: 9780826210036. The Philosopher's Demise: Learning French.

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Here it is: The Philosopher Demise by Richard Watson, a book about the author’s failure to learn to speak French. Richard Watson describes with an academic accuracy the learning techniques and practices he tried. The book was mentioned as an interesting and unlikely case.

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Richard Watson, scholar and spelunker extraordinaire is back. Having told how to win the fight against fat in The Philosopher's Diet, and having painted the definitive portrait of philosopher René Descartes (Cogito, Ergo Sum), here he confronts his most difficult challenge: how he learned to speak French.

Already an accomplished reader of French, Watson found himself forced to learn to speak the language when he was invited to present a paper in Paris in French. A private crash course and lessons at the Alliance Française only served to point out how difficult it can be to learn any foreign language, especially later in life. As he confronts his own national prejudices, Watson weaves in digressions on the contrasts between France and America, on the mysteries of French engineering, and on eccentric French cavers. This wry, witty book is not just for anyone who has ever tried to learn another language, but for anyone who has yearned desperately to learn something and worked to the limit to achieve it.


Painbrand
...in late middle age.

Richard Watson is a Professor of Philosophy at Washington University in St. Louis, who has now "graduated" to emeritus status. But he still can run down a calanque near Cassis, France, per his website. He specialized in the philosophy of René Descartes. Among various factoids that I picked-up from Watson's book is that Descartes birthplace of La Haye, north of Poitiers, has been renamed in his honor, much like the French renamed Illiers to Illiers-Combray to honor the name of the fictional town in Marcel Proust's classic novel In Search of Lost Time: Proust 6-pack (Proust Complete). At the tender age of 19, Watson learned how to READ French at the University of Iowa. Speaking it was apparently deemed not to be important. Thus, he was able to become a scholar of a French philosopher, yet did not speak his language. Considerably later than 19 I also learned how to read French, but I must rely on the wonderful tolerance of the French people (and I am not being sarcastic, as many might assume) to understand my French when I try to speak it. Watson and I seemed to be in similar situations, trying to learn how to speak it fairly on in life, and thus I felt his book was a must read when I read the central premise.

The year is 1995, and his audience would be potentially much more intimidating than mine. He has been invited to Paris, to give a paper, as they say in academic circles, in French, on Descartes. His self-assessment: "My fifty-five-year-old ear and tongue were stiff as boards. But I knew what was required, and if the quickness of youth was gone, the staying power of age was not. I would beat myself into shape." Before going to France, he was tutored, one-on-one, by a native French speaker in St. Louis. As he says: "She never let anything go. `Bonjour.' No, it is `Bonjour.' The `j' is farther back on your tongue. Watch my tongue. `Bonjour.' Now you try it. I despaired. How could someone who couldn't even greet a Frenchman properly expect to speak French?"

The heart of his story is his three months, in Paris, studying French, at the Alliance Française, with a multitude of other foreigners, trying to learn the language, obtain a certificate, or pick-up a woman (or visa versa). At times, funny and witty. At others, he seemed excessively negative and sardonic towards his hosts, which did not resonate, at least as strongly, with my own experiences. Of course, part of this, which I have blessedly missed, is his experience with the perennial snubs from his "colleagues" in academia, one more confirmation that it was fortuitous not to have taken that path. ("Our squabbles are all the fiercer due to the insignificance of the issues at stake.") As Watson says, at least in scientific fields there is a genuine impetus to some sort of meaningful collaboration - but in the social sciences, everyone is buried in their increasingly narrow niche, and what the next guy or gal is doing is not only irrelevant, but an utter distraction.

Watson never mentions some potential useful exercises that might limber-up the tongue, if not the ear, in late middle age.

Finally, had the uneasy feeling he was "sandbagging" some of the action at the Alliance Française, which led to his "demise" as reflected by the title. Thus, though I loved the dilemma, as well as most of his approach, overall, think the book rates 4-stars.
Cemav
At 55, Richard Watson, a distinguished Cartesian scholar and professor at Washington University, lived a linguistic paradox: he could read French like a native; but he could not actually speak the language. Then, Watson was invited to deliver a paper at a conference in Paris celebrating the 350th anniversary of Descartes's "Discours de la Methode". The director of the conference was sure "...that all participants would want to present their papers in French." Thus begins Watson's quest to acquire a passable French accent and learn conversational French.

In learning to speak French, Watson encounters several obstacles. First, he is hindered by a middle-aged "ear and tongue [that] were stiff as boards." Second, he, a scholar, remembers what he understands but finds "...it nearly impossible to pick up phrases and patterns by sound alone." Third, Watson is assigned an arrogant and inflexible teacher at the Alliance Francaise, where he, a professor, becomes a mere student in an intensive class meeting four hours a day and five days a week for four months.

In class, this teacher uses the French lycée style. Here: "You are to do exactly what you are told in prescribed lengths of time, and for everything there is a rule." And: "If you are told to do something by a teacher in France, you follow instructions exactly, or you are punished for it." This--a pedagogical issue--ultimately causes Watson great tribulation. He observes: "I was struck... by the fact that what we award students for--initiative, inventiveness, going beyond what is asked for, smart-a**ed showing off--is ruthlessly, even with great relish, punished in the French lycée system."

In THE PHILOSOPHER'S DEMISE, Watson proves to be a wonderful guide through French culture. Certainly, he enjoys Paris, despite its noise. But he also bristles at its imperious and aloof elites and spares us the usual obsequious observations about French food and French style. Further, he laughs at the complicated and imperfect solutions that the French sometimes devise for social problems. In New York, clean up after your dog or pay a fine. But in Paris, during Watson's stay, there was a fleet of motorcycles equipped with special tanks and suction devices hunting for doggy doo.

Ultimately, Watson learns to speak perfectly adequate conversational French, even on subjects in his highly specialized field. But the process is fraught and there are moments when the professor and his associates find joy in resistance. Here, for example, is the story of a distinguished English historian of science presenting at the Paris conference. He "...didn't do accents. Instead, he read French words as though they were English, with particular stress on all the endings that are silent in French. `That'll bloody well set them straight,' someone whispered in English behind me."

Recommended.
Dddasuk
Rarely have I enjoyed a book as much as this one. The author's observations of Parisian life, his tribulations with learning French in later life, and his experiences at the Alliance Française in Paris are insightful and at times hilarious. Thank you, Professor Watson, for this thoroughly enjoyable book!
Fordregelv
Richard Watson's book was an entertaining read -- it was hard to put down once I started reading it. It is not just about his struggle to learn French -- it is about how it feels to be on the outside looking in, and about how it feels to face unprecedented, inexplicable failure. The author is introspective, and he relates his experiences in an amusing and thoughtful way. Although he gives us a peek into a world most of us will never encounter (that of Parisian philosophers specializing in Descartes), we can easily empathize with his feelings of frustration, humiliation and cultural confusion. Since I am also struggling to learn to speak French for the first time, I was gratified to see I am not alone in my frustration.