Thursday, July 30, 2015

updated etc. It's sloppy. I'll add links. Beginning with Leiter

A comment that may or may not make it, at Feminist Philosophers.
The author responded to one of my earlier comments while refusing to post either of them.
[in the end they were all posted, the first after the fact]. The second, just below it, after the three dashes, was accepted first.
Heath: “So who is best positioned – those who suffer from it, or those who do not? The inevitable conclusion is that neither are particularly well-positioned, since both will be biased in the direction of producing theories that are, at some level, self-serving, or self-exculpatory. Thus the best arrangement will be one in which lots of different people study these questions, then challenge one another to robust debate, which will tend to correct the various biases. This is, unfortunately, not how things usually play out. Instead, the field of study tends to attract, sometimes overwhelmingly, people who suffer from the relevant form of oppression – partly just for the obvious “me” studies reason, that the issue is greater interest to them, because it speaks to their personal ambitions and frustrations. But it can also set in motion a dynamic that can crowd out everyone who does not suffer from that particular form of oppression.”

As if there’s really any sort of equivalence between black working class anger and white college professors. The condescension is grotesque. If only railway porters had studied Hegel… His comments are obscene. But what are yours? You’re university professors in the most powerful state in the history of the planet. You’re playing at radicalism as an idea. I’m not going to listen to you when I can listen to the women of Hamas, or at least those who speak to them. None of you live in a favela. You worry about tenure, not your next meal. You want to pretend feminists were all college professors and not housewives, that Stonewall was led by PhDs and not hustlers and drag queens. “Naming and Necessity” was a product of the Me Decade. Scholastic formalism and academic radicalism are forms of narcissism.

Heath again, quoted approvingly by Leiter: “Over the last twenty years, the political systems of the Western world have become increasingly divided—not between right and left, but between crazy and non-crazy,” Leiter signs off on pedantry and anti-politics. Neoliberalism, “Rubinomics” and “the end of welfare as we know it” can only be described as “non-crazy”. The politics sucks. And in response you offer the feminism of Bloomsbury. Give me the anger of their servants. Give me the anger of the niggers and the wogs.
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I’ll put my response more simply. Give me adversarialism. The model of the academy is collaborative; you argue only amongst yourselves.
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My longer comment I referred to was refused.
“But at least those of us with privilege can shut up and listen to it a little more”. And the people shouting to be heard will be in an adversarial relation to you. I’ll repost here what what I tried to post elsewhere. We’ll see if it flies:
This entire debate is confused. Heath touts Habermas to the point of parody. “Thus the best arrangement will be one in which lots of different people study these questions, then challenge one another to robust debate, which will tend to correct the various biases.” It reads like a variant of Anatole France: The law, in its majestic equality, allows both rich and poor to engage in communicative action, or debate the importance of John Rawls.

Debate among the educated elite regarding their own beliefs is not enough. That’s why we have lawyers paid to make arguments they have no stake in beyond the urge to win.

Institutionalized adversarialism is the basis of democracy. And even then we know it skews towards the powerful. That’s why the most powerful adversarialism comes from below; social change comes from below. That’s not even debatable, it’s a fact of history. Change begins with the the janitors and the railway porters not college professors.

The model of the academy is collaborative. Heath is a white liberal and his politics is mediocre, but your background is in formalist philosophy which by definition is anti-politcal. If facts and events will always outflank liberalism’s best intentions, you’re living in Cloudcuckooland, with the fantasy politics of mathematicians and engineers.

And you’re all debating amongst yourselves within the academy. Real Politics as Geuss would call it, is outside.
Schliesser is a defender of philosophy as continuous with science, and a staunch defender of Zionism. He does not hear the shouting of Palestinians. Others do and that has led to change. What does that say about our ability to solve problems by reason? You have to be open to experience and allow yourself to be changed; the whole logic of analytic philosophy denies that. The recent “rediscovery” of experience by philosophers is comic. There’s no way to escape the need for others to argue, even to yell to get people finally to pay attention. A problem is that yelling can be self-perpetuating. Righteous anger can become an ideology. The history of oppression is mostly the history of rulers’ indifference to the suffering of others. Sadism is secondary. But sadism is primary to the experience of the oppressed and that leads to a misunderstanding of their own situation. Zionists see themselves as oppressed; they can’t imagine themselves the oppressors.

Heath asks when the anger of the poor becomes the whining of the careerist middle class. But then he falls back on the righteousness of the more serious middle class, by which he means himself. That doesn’t work. And Wallerstein simply elides the history of the relation of philosophy to theology, to the elite, the church and the crown. His response is also useless.

Philosophy can’t solve these problems, certainly no technically minded first-order curiosity, without self-awareness or irony. 
“Irony is the glory of slaves.” Czeslaw Milosz. 
Socrates hated poets.
Wallerstein's email
In fact, contrary to what Audrey Yap claims, traditional philosophy does not represent the point of view of heterosexual males, because so many famous philosophers were probably gay (if that term has any meaning before the mid 20th century) or did not marry (were they asexual or homosexual?). Philosophy begins with Plato, who seems not to have been heterosexual. 
I don't know what's more absurd, Wallerstein's comments, or the fact that Yap seemed not to know Greek philosophers liked boys.

Leiter posts a letter
They've been very successful at imposing their hegemony on the left, especially in the U.S., so that they are the only "queer" people, so that they are always victims and that of course coincides with the rise of neoliberalism and the bourgeois offensive against the working class. It just suits Wall St. fine that the paradigm of oppression is no longer the guy or woman working for the minimum wage, but a disabled lesbian philosopher who didn't get tenure at an elite university. And most of us, myself included, feel very uncomfortable not being on the side of the victims, but there are victims and there are victims. I don't want to sound cynical, but if I were Wall St., I'd fund all leftwing identity politics groups to distract leftwing attention from class politics, just as the CIA during the cold war funded all groups defending "cultural freedom" behind the Iron Curtain.​
A comment by another professional pedant, Anne Jacobson contra Heath
As I have said here a number of times, I learned from my days in faculty governance that (many/most) white men do believe that those best able to study oppression or marginalization are those without experience of it. I had thought this idea was utterly exploded, but I do see Heath coming very close to endorsing it, at least to the point of not according those with the experience any privilege compared to their non-oppressd, non-marginlized debaters. I think he is in effect eschewing knowledge of the oppressed and marginalized, but you have reminded me that he doesn’t know it.

I am here reminded of a revealing exchange:
Hyper-distinguished English visitor: there is a love-hate relationship between Indians and the British.
Hyper-bright Indian colleague: there is no love.
There's no love, only a language and educational and legal system and system of governance. She's repeating someone's words, not observing the world.

I'll add one more. It won't be published but maybe someone will read it first

@annejjacobson: "I am here reminded of a revealing exchange:
Hyper-distinguished English visitor: there is a love-hate relationship between Indians and the British.
Hyper-bright Indian colleague: there is no love."

You give us an exchange between a condescending Brit and a bitter ex-colonial. The reality exists between and outside them.
The British empire left behind a language, an educational and legal system and a system of governance.
In your desire for simplicity you miss the ambiguities.

And maybe the Brit wasn't condescending and the ex-colonial was too bitter to care. I wasn't there. How would I know?
It would be a great scene to stage. You can play it so many ways.

That's not a defense of the Raj, Health, or Leiter. It's a defense of the moral weight of real politics, and for what it's worth, of real art.
The ambiguities of lived experience are the stuff of novels, and irrelevant to philosophy.

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