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November 01, 2006

Should Old Aquinas Be Forgot?

I received the following question from Jerry Reedy at Macalester College:

Have you ever heard the song "Should old Aquinas be forgot in the days of Wittgenstein?  I heard Anthony Kenny sing a few lines at Oxford, but I didn't write the words down.  I'd love to find it.  The fourth line is "Willard Van Orman Quine".

A Google search turns up a few references but few lyrics.  The closest thing, turned up by Google Book Search, is a reference by Alvin Plantinga in The Nature of Necessity, giving one more line: "Hesperus and Phosphorus are entities distinct".

Anyone know more?

November 01, 2006 in Frivolity | Permalink


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I believe it's an old Central Division song. Does the APA have a songbook?

Posted by: Victor Caston | November 01, 2006 at 01:10 PM

The version I have, which may have been given me by Herbert McCabe, has two verses:

Should old Aquinas be forgot
and never brought to mind?
Should old Aquinas be forgot
in these days of Wittgenstein?

Can quiddity, haececity,
analogies divine,
Resolve the paradoxes of
Willard van Orman Quine?

Posted by: Andrew Brown | November 01, 2006 at 10:17 PM

I think the first phrase "should old Aquinas be forgot" was originally composed by James Joyce. It is also interchangeably said "let old Aquinas be forgot"!

Posted by: Yasser Pouresmail | November 02, 2006 at 04:01 AM

There must have been a great many such songs, many of them mildly scatological, in the old days in Cambridge. One I can recall being actually sung, from the old days of the Llalla Rookh pub near Sydney University, went "B*lls to Mr. Wittgenstein, Witgenstein Wittgenstein, B*lls to Mr. Wittgenstein, dirty old man, He kept us waiting whilst he was m*sturbating, B*lls to Mr. ...." etc. This was definitely sung to the tune of another old favorite "B*lls to Mr. Winkelstein" it was alleged, by a onetime student of the alleged homosexualist Ludwig Wittgenstein, by students when the said Wittgenstein was late in arriving at a lecture he was obliged to give. I suppose that nowadays such things could be considered fascist or rascist. Maybe some other former student of the said Wittgenstein can be pursuaded to part with other gems of this nature, for the good of history if nothing else.It is genuinely surprising what is found enlightening in history. Maybe someone like your own Rafe Champion, if he still survives, would know of some more such bawdy songs.

Posted by: uv | November 05, 2006 at 03:44 AM

I have heard "Old Aquinas" sung on a number of occasions though alas, not too lately. I believe Wes Salmon may have been one of the authors, but that he was later embarrassed about some of the content, perhaps the line "by treating good old Barbara with a novel kind of tool".

I have not given up the hope that one day I shall turn up a copy of the complete words. I certainly had them in my possession no more than 20 years ago. Sufficient rummaging might uncover them, though that's hardly an algorithm. I remember there as being about five or six verses in all. One line had an internal rhyme between "Henry Veatch" and "Peter Geach". I suspect a set of scholarly notes might be required fully to elucidate the words, if anyone does inded recover them. ... :)

Posted by: Denis Robinson | February 20, 2007 at 03:01 PM

Harry Lesser (Manchester) informed us of (sang) this earlier:

Should old Aquinas be forgot, and never brought to Mind?
Should old Aquinas be forgot,in days of Wittgenstein?
Can quiddity and haecceity, analogies divine,
Resolve the paradoxes of Willard Van Orman Quine?

Should symbols bleak replace the speech we learned at Mother's knee?
Or should we now reverse ourselves, and write the backwards E?
Can form and matter be preserved, and analyticity,
If we but put particulars for variables free?

Now Henry Veatch and Peter Geach we really must berate:
The subject and the predicate they leave to copulate.
Intensions pure we can't secure with Frege, Russell, Boole,
By treating good old Barbara with a novel kind of tool.

And Hesperus and Vesperus are entities distinct--
Or should we say, not this, but that they're analytically linked?
Shall we aver they're one indeed, with Smullyan, Church and Fitch?
Or should we moan "Ah, Quine alone can tell us which is which"?

Posted by: Lee Walker | December 12, 2007 at 08:34 AM

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