Sunday, June 08, 2003

Jack Balkin links to a quasi satirical post about Leo Strauss and the joys of scholastic analysis, then adds this:

"By the way, am I the only one to have noticed the similarities between Leo Strauss and Jacques Derrida? Both believe in the importance of close readings of classic philosophical texts, both find hidden meanings in these texts which become available only after careful study by the cognoscenti, and both are interested in how surface or ordinary readings of a text are undermined and even reversed by these close readings. (And both have a problematic relationship to the Enlightenment, and a particular love for the classics.) The most important difference (or differance) might be their views about the relationship between the text and the author's intentions. Strauss seems more detemined to suggest that he is revealing what an author truly meant, while Derrida is more interested in showing how an author's text gets the better of the author. (But I am sure that, in time, we could deconstruct even this distinction, or, in the alternative, show how it conceals a deeper truth.)"

It is important to understand the 'why' of this distinction. Strauss is interested in training the select few to enable them to make decisions others refuse to, in effect, to play the role of gods among men. Derrida assumes this to be the height of arrogance. Men are not gods, nor should they pretend to be, hence his interest in 'the other' as an equal. How easy is it in an atmosphere of wealth and privilege for presumption to trump curiosity? How easy is it in an atmosphere of scholastic erudition to for skillful rhetoric to be confused with intelligence?

Baby, it's so easy... so easy.

This marks, by the way, the difference between the conservatism of the ruled, which begins and ends in humility, and the conservatism of the rulers, which begins and most often ends in arrogance. This is tragic, but in no way, IN NO WAY, does it excuse the condescenscion of the 'wise men' who would speak for us, or that of the young charges who worship at their feet.

Remember, I've been a prole for 20 years now, and I've earned my bitterness.

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