Anti-Philidor on South Mountain

One of Witold Gombrowicz's literary creations was the comical but sinister interplay between Philidor and anti-Philidor. This Professor Philidor was the inventor and proponent of a unique philosophy styled "synthesis." As Philidor's views gain attention and acceptance in academia, a second professor begins to assume the role of the Anti-Philidor.

I'm not sure if Gombrowicz even gave the Anti-Philidor a name; Anti-Philidor is exclusively occupied with disproving Philidor. He puts his philosophical objections under an umbrella label, "analysis" so that on its face, the struggle is between the competing schools of "synthesis" and "analysis," but the dynamic is fundamentally and totally irrational. Philidor is pursuing a creative line of inquiry and making his way in the world; anti-Philidor is absorbed in disproving Philidor and stalking him, intellectually.

I was reminded of this Gombrowiczian slapstick when reading "South Mountain: Three Gaps, One Battle" by Steven R. Stotelmyer. I had seen Mr. Stotelmyer present this paper in person and the criticism of Timothy J. Reese's ideas were muted, implicit, and indirect. In this published version (linked above), the paper is all about explicitly debunking Reese and his idea that Crampton's Gap was an important individual battle rather than an adjunct to another battle.

What makes the paper Gombrowiczian are the notes, citing extensive correspondence with Reese. This is in addition to or inspired by Reese's published writings. Reese seems to have exchanged a lot of mail entertaining Stotelmyer's challenges and quarrels. And those letters are now major grist for the anti-Philidor mill.

It would be confusing for you, the reader, if I try to use this blog format to untangle Stotelmyer's claims vis a vis Reese's various writings and the history of their correspondence. Since I share Reese's opinion on Crampton's Gap, I'll address Stotelmyer's article from my own perspective in a series next week.

And I'll try to do that without becoming the anti-anti-Philidor.