Saturday, November 29, 2003

A comment (mine) at Crooked Timber, from a post about Critical Theory and bad writing. It was written on the fly so it's rough:

-God save us all from the fans of ‘Theory,’ and its enemies.
What the theory-heads attempt is to reconnect narrative rhetorical style and philosophical jargon; and they fail only because they still want to be philosophers rather than mere historians or writers of prose. But at the same time they try because they know that in the real world the line between logic and bullshit is not a line at all, but a gray area. As I’ve said again, and again -and again- law and the struggle for 'imperfect' justice exist precisely here. Johnny Cochran- of O.J. Simpson fame- is not an analytical philosopher but he plays a part, literally, in the most theatrical sense, of an actor in the philosophically and morally profound structure we call ‘The Legal System.’ The fans of logical analysis, on the other hand, defend a philosophy disconnected from this world -and it is a bloody real world- of experience and ambiguity. The ideal of a man, or woman, alone with his thoughts somehow apart from social structures, implications, and obligations, is a utopian fantasy that Marx among others ridiculed mercilessly, and with good reason. It’s fine for mathematicians I suppose, but the hard sciences are amoral on principle, and peopled most often by those who avoid such issues entirely: scientists are often moral idiots. Philosophy, and philosophers, should never have that luxury.

It may be socially conservative to say so, but the creative capacity of man outside a priori structures is limited. We can not communicate without language. We can not express emotions without referring to symbols and documents of past emotion. And I'm sorry but I’ll be god damned if I’m going to get in an argument with someone who defends his vision of philosophy with references to the ‘DUNE’ trilogy. [which John Holbo does in his original post on his blog] You want to study philosophy? Go to a murder trial and brush up on your Shakespeare. Literary theorists, for all their faults, understand this.

And by the way, Kant is absolutely brilliant on art. It’s a wonder he’s been forgotten by his children. If you want to have a little fun read the section of the Critique of Judgment that deals with esthetics and in doing so substitute the word ‘justice’ every time you read the word ‘beauty’ and law’ every time you read the word ‘art.’
What a fucking brilliant man.- if the pretensions of theory and those of logical analysis aren't symptoms of the same disease.

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