Sunday, September 02, 2012

"Enlightenment Anti-humanism"
Nothing from google, or google ngrams.
Maybe I've coined a phrase.

"History is like foreign travel. It broadens the mind, but it does not deepen it."
Googling that get's me, right below my source, Toulmin, and not many others.

Awarding the prize to Butler should have been controversial on the merits, given the actual quality of her work (but this isn't the first time, alas, that particular Prize has been given to a charlatan). But instead, the controversy has focused on her having verboten views about Israel and Israeli policy. Remarkably, her response to these charges is quite cogent and lucid--I guess she can write intelligible and effective prose when she needs to!
The first link in that paragraph is to Martha Nussbaum's takedown of Butler, from 1999, The Professor of Parody
For a long time, academic feminism in America has been closely allied to the practical struggle to achieve justice and equality for women. Feminist theory has been understood by theorists as not just fancy words on paper; theory is connected to proposals for social change.

...Indeed, some theorists have left the academy altogether, feeling more comfortable in the world of practical politics, where they can address these urgent problems directly. Those who remain in the academy have frequently made it a point of honor to be academics of a committed practical sort, eyes always on the material conditions of real women, writing always in a way that acknowledges those real bodies and those real struggles.

...Feminist theory still looks like this in many parts of the world. In India, for example, academic feminists have thrown themselves into practical struggles, and feminist theorizing is closely tethered to practical commitments

One observes a new, disquieting trend. It is not only that feminist theory pays relatively little attention to the struggles of women outside the United States. (This was always a dispiriting feature even of much of the best work of the earlier period.) Something more insidious than provincialism has come to
prominence in the American academy. It is the virtually complete turning from the material side of life, toward a type of verbal and symbolic politics that makes only the flimsiest of connections with the real situation of real women.

Feminist thinkers of the new symbolic type would appear to believe that the way to do feminist politics is to use words in a subversive way, in academic publications of lofty obscurity and disdainful abstractness. These symbolic gestures, it is believed, are themselves a form of political resistance; and so one need not engage with messy things such as legislatures and movements in order to act daringly. The new feminism, moreover, instructs its members that there is little room for large-scale social change, and maybe no room at all.
Nussbaum again, in 2007
I do not plan to discuss the specific facts concerning boycotts of Israeli academic institutions and individuals. There are three reasons for this silence. First, I believe that philosophers should be pursuing philosophical principles—defensible general principles that can be applied to a wide range of cases. We cannot easily tell whether our principles are good ones by looking at a single case only, without inquiring as to whether the principles we propose could be applied to all similar cases.
Butler's response is at Mondoweiss.

I said it once before but it bears repeating now:
The "postmodern" critique of the enlightenment was based on a fallacious definition of humanism, but marks the beginning of a humanist critique of enlightenment and modernist anti-humanism, in the mockery by teenage children, full of insecurity, pose and pretension, directed against the moralizing authoritarianism of their parents.

Nussbaum in fact is what passes for a humanist these days. Leiter is only defending her in context. She has more in common with Butler than any of them would care to admit.

Read the mannerisms of Derrida et al. to understand them. Read Leiter and Nussbaum and Rawls the same way. Judge them after that. Like all architecture the content is in the form. Statements on their own mean nothing in a world where "I love you" can mean "Go fuck yourself".  Derrida and Butler are no more or less "charlatans" than Hegel and Nietzsche are charlatans, just as Tom Clancy is no more or less a novelist than Henry James.  That doesn't make Tom Clancy more or less interesting.

"The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear." Gramsci was wrong. It's always the case that the new is born unrecognized right under the nose of the old. Senility and immaturity are paired in periods of change and crisis. But every teenage revolutionary imagines herself as Athena, and every philosopher is the Pope of his own church.
The artist usually sets out - or used to - to point a moral and adorn a tale. The tale, however, points the other way, as a rule. Two blankly opposing morals, the artist's and the tale's. Never trust the artist. Trust the tale. The proper function of a critic is to save the tale from the artist who created it.
D.H. Lawrence
Modernism was the fantasy of writing with the assumption that from then on there would be only reading with and no reading against. To read tale against teller or to read against the grain would be gross error. Rebellion against this has always taken the form of the rebellion of youth against their parents, with the more sympathetic elders caught in the middle, trying to justify the revolt while trying to make it fit with what they know and what they are. So we get the obscurantist poeticizing of Derrida -the philosopher magistrate as wise old fool- and the blandness of Rorty and Nussbaum, struggling to find a way beyond technocracy while being mocked for the attempt by professional technocrats and lionized by amateur enthusiasts. The model of the Continental philosopher was as Pope and Antipope combined, a philosophical self that could contain an other, in a sense obviating the need for actual democracy. And now that Continental and Anglo-American philosophy are joining, out of necessity and the need for survival, we see parallels in Bruno Latour's Collective and David Chalmers' Extended Mind.

Philosopher dude and angry girlfriend:
"No baby... please... I understand you... you're a part of me! I have an extended mind!"
"In your dreams, asshole!"
Everything you read, read against."I love you" when spoken, can mean "Go fuck yourself". "2" cannot equal "3".  A preference for the first, for language over number, is a preference for humanism, for politics over non-politics, and against anti-humanism and anti-politics.  Anglo-American philosophy founded in the universalism of numbers is both anti-humanist and anti-political.

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