Sunday, January 19, 2003

Has technocracy become so pervasive that even those who are supposed to have an intellectual curiosity (in fact are paid to have one), who by all rights should be able to imagine alternatives to their own casual (causal) assumptions, need parlor tricks to "shake up" their "accustomed patterns of thought?" Is an appreciation of ambiguity no longer the hallmark of an educated mind? Or is such an appreciation somehow foreign to the American intellectual imagination? In my naiveté I linked to two sites yesterday and am now embarrassed by them both. But read them now, one after the other, and see if somehow they don't combine to exhibit some sort of cognitive dissonance, as if from within the same mind.

Flying to LA to have a drink with the ghost of Billy Wilder.

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Balkin: "Should We Go To War?"
Faced with uncertainty, one nevertheless must decide. And decision about the right strategy must come soon, because as the months drag on, weather conditions are less amenable to an American-led assault, and the cost of keeping large numbers of troops poised for battle will become prohibitive.
So in order to resolve this question, I did what any sane person would do.
I asked the I Ching.
Siva Vaidhyanathan
The National Review Online offers this rather tardy screed about my NYU colleague Jacques Derrida.

While I am generally sympathetic the article's criticisms of Derrida, I think it inflates his influence in the academy by at least 90 percent. Derrida's influence, which was generational, thin, and temporal, was never more than stylistic -- which is certainly bad enough. And it's been waning for a decade. He's really no big deal nor a threat to anyone. He's a walking, talking, writing straw man.

...I actually had a friend once who had Derrida on his dissertation committee. I broke the friendship by asking what sort of recommendation letter Derrida might write. Would the hiring committee not immediately see the ways the text collapsed in on itself under the weight of its internal contradictions? Wouldn't a letter from a Vienna School logical positivist or a Jamesian radical empiricist be more effective?

Some people do still take Derrida seriously. And many other people take Ayn Rand seriously. None of them are real philosophers (nor particularly smart, for that matter). But that's no reason to get worked up one way or another.
Rand was a lousy novelist.  Saying Prof. X is not a "real" philosopher is like accusing someone of believing in a "false religion.

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