Sunday, March 15, 2009

Running out of things to say, again.

Smart questions for stupid people:
What's the relation of this to this
[more here]

What's the relation of a NY Times review of a Martin Kippenberger exhibit to the debate within the American Philosophical Association over discrimination against homosexuals (limited specifically -and pathetically- to whether or not universities that have policies viewed as discriminating should be allowed to post on the APA's jobs page?

The simple answer concerns the relation of rationalism to optimism and the desire, institutionalized as an unacknowledged requirement, to see yourself in the best light at the expense of any understanding of your position in world (outside your imagination.)
It just occurred to me, embarrassingly late, that this is just another a debate over multiculturalism in the academy. But it's not like anyone can question the notion of accredited Christian Universities so all that's left is the fight in a subsidiary organization in one field in the humanities: over who can post on the philosophy department version of craigslist.
It's like drawing a line in the sand, on your living-room floor.
Read the Kippenberger article and if you know the work or knew the man himself, and some of you did, compare it to what you know and to the following simple thumbnail sketch:

Kippenberger was a German who hated Germans, a fan of America who hated America, a lover of high art who hated snobbery and a lover of popular culture disgusted by vulgarity. He hated celebrity but wanted to be and became one. He lived a suicidal life and saw himself as dying for our sins, but knew what he was doing and knew his sense of tragic humor would amuse us and allow him the glorification he needed. And he was an asshole. But the communication is what lasts, not the melodrama. Pieces could be powerful -precise though you'd never know how the precision came about- charmingly nihilist, or pathetic. His last works were elegiac hippy utopianism, and lovely for it. His direct antecedent in German culture would be Fassbinder and his offspring for Europe at large might be Houellebecq, though the relation of the democratic to the aristocratic arts makes things more complex.

Jerry Saltz of all people is a little better.

The APA hubub reminds me of debates over academic "freedom": the pretense that some socially constructed orders are absolutes not out of formal or structural/social necessity but because of some higher moral standing.
Idealism and democracy don't mix. And any defense of democracy must defend it for what it is not what you want it to be.

As always: the rule of law exists to oppose the rule of reason/ the rule of reason will always become the rule of the reasonable/ the rule of the reasonable will always become the rule of unreason.
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"One of the most important aspects of this debate is in what sort of image we wish to create of our field..."

A small minority of your membership is bigoted. I would expect nothing else.

As you've just admitted your interest is not principle or logical consistency but politics, and the shallow politics at that of optics. "What will the [gay] neighbors say?"
The issue for you is less discrimination against others than your own self-image. That's why they call it "liberal guilt." But I think students, even homosexual students, are smart enough to know where they're not wanted, and that your energy would be better used telling them they're welcome where you are than feeling shamed by association with idiots from whom you can easily separate yourself.

If you were interested in principle you'd search yourself for lapses, down to your foundations, and face them. Then you'd be able to recognize those situations such as this one where casuistry is the only option. No I don't think we'll be able to remove accreditation from Wheaton College, or Pepperdine, or Bob Jones University, any more than we could remove it from Harvard Business school (though it and others like it are equally deserving.) Pick your fight: know what and why you're fighting and whom you're trying to help, and decide what best serves your goal.

Intentions alone mean nothing. Rationalism unchecked serves nothing more than narcissism and by its own rules can't even recognize the fact, as you can't recognize that the only interests you're focused on with right now are your own.
And I shouldn't have to explain to a philosophy professor why popularity is not a good foundation for an argument.
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Even this is about prestige.
Actual logic is secondary, because in this case the only applicable logic is worldly.
That's what amazes me.

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