Monday, September 22, 2003

When I wrote this earlier I misrepresented Scott Martens. In referring to the prisoners dilemma he was commenting on someone else and his agreement with that other person -see my last post of the day- was not 'simplistic,' though that's what I called it at the time. And today (9-23) I find out Cosma Shalizi is a man. More mistakes to fix.

This is from the comments on this post at Pedantry. The reference is to women who worked at Mattel at mid level positions who referred to Barbie as "the little plastic slut." To understand the context you need to read the full post. I'm too lazy to rewrite it to stand on its own.

Did the women you worked with wear heels?
Did they use pigment to highlight the rim of the orifice just beneath their nostrils?
[In response to a comment from Zizka] "Expressed values and real values?" This phrase and indeed your post Scott is predicated on a definition of consciousness as somehow all inclusive. Scientists, leftists and libertarians all seem to agree on this and I'm sorry, but it's silly. The women at Mattel I have no doubt were a part of the system that they 'hated.' They were part of a collective and a continuum that includes 'Slut' 'Matron" 'Bra Burner' 'Lesbian' and 'Marxist literary critic.' But to say that a collective does not act in a way that is unidirectional or predictable or even 'conscious' is not to argue that an ocean must be a collective as well -not at least unless you think that the unconscious doesn't exist.

My argument with all of this is that it seems based on a lack of interest in the interstices between bits of knowledge. Cosma Shalizi seems especially prone to this, to the extent that I find his writing hard to take. His language is based on secondary and tertiary texts (you can follow that line as far into the past as it takes you) but he seems unwilling to pay attention to the particular, a category which begins -without trying to be too poetic- with an awareness of the weight of one's own body, of the sensations of breathing and walking, and ends up with an understanding of individual as opposed to collective understanding and awareness. I am not making a metaphysical argument any more than a lawyer does when he's defending a client before a judge and a jury. I do not think I have ever made an argument for any sort of 'intrinsic value' but only for awareness of the importance of particulars and individual cases, both of which science disdains on principle. There comes a point when intellectuals live in a world of labels and not in world of events, and one can not be used to replace the other without resulting in banality; what kind of banality, whether it is based on the assumptions of deconstructionism, bureaucratic positivism, or fascism, is of no consequence.

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