I have always been struck by the border between generous comment and irony. Take for example, Northrop Frye in a lecture on Oswald Spengler for CBC radio in the series Architects of Modern Thought
Spengler’s book [The Decline of the West] is a vision rather than a theory or a philosophy, and a vision of haunting imaginative power. Its truth is the truth of poetry or prophecy, not of science. A good deal of Spengler’s mind was second-rate, and he continually misunderstood and misapplied his own thesis. So there are many attacks upon him that miss the real point of his book, but still they’re attacks that Spengler really asked for.
But I think myself that trying to understand Spengler is a fine exercise in intellectual tolerance.
There is probably not a statement in Spengler that has not been regarded as scientific absurdity or mystical balderdash by some critic or other. But Spengler has the power to expand and exhilarate the mind as critics of that type usually have not, and he will probably survive them all even if all of them are right.
I like how Frye positions the reader. Initially we are asked to indulge in “a fine exercise in intellectual tolerance” which although it might strike a note of condescension is an invitation to be a good critic. In the end we are implicitly asked to concur with the remark about survival which builds a lasting estimation. Frye wants us to be on the side of the critics with power.
And so for day 550