Monday, January 05, 2009

Bilious Humours

Pity is more concerned with self-gratification than concern for others. It's self-regarding and passive. Respect is engagement with others as equals. It requires us to listen to them when they speak. That's the risk. Pity is risk free: it requires their silence.

Philosophy in the moment of worldly crisis; theory, when the rubber meets the road.
Is there any more proof needed for the basic, if not particularly new ideas behind "Deconstruction" than the documented ability of people to rationalize the reasonable out of the obscene? Once victims, now victimizers, but still held by themselves and abetted in this by supporters their abashed ex-torturers, under their previous designation. When "Never Again" becomes not an argument for moral responsibility but a graven image -when the cops become the law and not its representative- there is no law.

Since Chris Bertram did me the favor of deleting my post but not the link to what I wrote [reposted below] I'll return one. He understood something here but not the implications.
SoH regret that the things they value about England are being squeezed out by a crass commercialism (partly of US origin, partly not). They also regret that English people are ignorant of their own folk traditions. This is also true though a good deal (though not all) of the loss happened with 19th C industrialization and a good deal (though not all) of the “folk tradition” is a manufactured response to the same. Lots of stuff that strikes a chord there – loss of authenticity, commodification etc etc.

Lots of people who also feel, with them, the loss of that sense of place and belonging also (unlike them) blame their own anomie, alienation, etc on immigrants, the EU and so on.

A rallying cry to defend English culture attracts a lot of the same people, unfortunately.

This kind of dialectic has been played out since the dawn of industrialization and, of course, it leads the market-utopians to want to tar all the particularists (for want of a better word) with the same brush. That’s a charge that should be rejected because William Morris ain’t the BNP (or even UKIP). But we’ll carry on squirming and feeling uncomfortable because the left and the right both share a discontent with modernity.
"...particularists (for want of a better word)"
But there will never be a better word. And its the right one. "Particularist" as opposed to both Generalist and Expert. A French novelist is a particularist of his own language and an English novelist is a particularist in hers, but their particularisms are not in conflict, any more than a violinist's particularism is in conflict with a pianist's. You could say the same for French and British lawyers. [Why should I need to telegraph that point?]
The assumption that doctrines are truth rather than armature results in the absurdity of the defenses of Israel as "a State" while the Palestinians being only a people are of secondary status. [previous post]
A particularism concerning armature is not the same as a particularism concerning truth.


I used to like Searle when I read him in the NYRB. Maybe I wasn't paying close enough attention, maybe I view things differently now, or maybe I just liked him for hating Dennett as much as I did. I've never spent much time with Derrida. I've defended him because I take his basic premises to be truisms rather than for any interest in the details of execution. Still, Searle makes me like him and that wasn't his intent.

My family was so prejudiced against art-making as opposed to criticism that the thought of wanting to be an artist filled me with self-loathing that will never leave. Artists were self-indulgent idiot savants, or very very rarely geniuses to be revered from afar, preferably from at least 100 years away. But even then biography was frowned upon as a expressing a vulgar preference for teller over tale. Authorial intention was dismissed with the same tone, and not without reason: the goal is to make something that might be interesting in 2000 years, when the text itself is all that's left. That's why we still read Homer and the Bible. In art as in law originalism is a weak argument for lousy politics, and serious men are readers while those known for speeches by comparison presume too much. Reading is a social act as texts are public property, as public memory, while speaking not in response to texts but freely is first of all a demand for attention.
Derrida is a Jew from the old school, and if you compare arguments from authority that originate in the speaker with arguments also from authority that originate in a written, and public, text you'll see that the rhetorical power of such claims in the second is much weaker, that statements in this form invite a reply or counterclaim: call implies response. Two men arguing over a book that all can read and many do is not the same as one man's proclamation or proposition from uncommon knowledge. This is what separates the rule of law from the rule of reason, and why we choose the former.

The rhetoric of reason is not reason. The rule of reason defaults to the rule of the reasonable: not a response to situations in the world but to a normative and in times of crisis -as now- an often otherwise obviously perverse sensibility. The reasonable in a crisis can become the irrational. Josh Marshall this morning links to this from the WSJ: "Ignoring the Oracles: You Are With the Free Markets, or Against Them" about the wagon-circling response to a presentation before the the Fed in 2005. I posted a comment at TPMCafe noting the parallel to other current events. "Ignoring the Oracles: You Are With the Jews, or Against Them." Defenders of Israel will have more to be ashamed of in the future than the administrators of the Fed do now.

As an aside, since I found the new McGinn link from Leiter [again prev. post]: can it be called obvious at this point that the constitutive structures of academic philosophy are not to be found in the external, objective, non-anthropocentric world, but simply in the self-perpetuating social formations of the academy? How can something so brittle ever survive reference to anything outside itself?

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