11 may. 2011

Mayhew's Fallacy

"Mayhew's fallacy* is the idea that everyone, if sufficiently exposed to the excellent sort of poetry that I prefer, would prefer it to the less adeptly poetry they now prefer. If you like Kenny G., you probably just have not heard enough Coltrane. In other words, it's the Kantian universalization of my own individual preferences. Other people probably do this too, so even calling it "Mayhew's Fallacy" is a fallacy, but I think I am particularly good at it, or bad, if you prefer. First of all, I really do have better taste than almost anyone else,** and am much more stubborn about admitting that Mayhew's Fallacy really is a fallacy. In other words, I know "objectively" that what I am doing is an illegitimate projection of my own ideas onto everyone else, but I still cannot help doing it.

In my defense I can say a few things. I don't really have the power of coming over to your house and imposing my taste on you. The writing that emerges from "Mayhew's Fallacy" is lively and provocative. Finally, I really am smarter than you and you could learn a lot from me.***

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*The coiner of the term "Mayhew's fallacy" was the poet Tony Tost, if I remember correctly.

**Tongue in cheek.

***Again, mostly tongue in cheek. If you are reading this blog you are probably extremely smart already. Just sharing my interests puts you in that elite category, right?

2 comentarios:

Andrew Shields dijo...

I'm reading the classic prose book right now, and one feature of classic prose is that it assumes equality between the writer and the reader. In fact, the authors come close to stating M's fallacy as a principle of classic prose: the assumption that if the reader just looks at it the way the writer does, then the reader will see the truth of what the writer says.

That may be why you like the book so much!

Jonathan dijo...

I hadn't thought of that connection, but you're right. I think, though, that that posture assumes a respect for the reader that I haven't always had, especially when the phrase "Mayhew's Falllacy" was coined.