Wednesday, July 13, 2005

I'm having a little fun here.

Descriptions of the Islamic faithful by well meaning liberals, at Starbucks for example, are the same as for conservative Christians, with the same condescension. I'm not making a big deal of it, commenting on it almost as a manner of style. It fits with my comments at the link above and it allows me to add something to them. Philosophy, in the continental sense, is a literary activity. You could almost call it the literature of rationalism. But when continental culture is adapted to American tastes, as Marcel Duchamp's brilliant parlor games and dirty jokes were seen as the beginnings of conceptualism, then we begin to get into trouble. Duchamp himself described one reason for being annoyed at the 'ocular' banality of painting: "No one ever called anyone a dumb poet." I've always thought of him as a conservative, in the sense of a monarchist, and someone who new him told be that's exactly what he was.
It makes sense. But one thing he did not do is hide his tastes behind a facade of false radicalism.

I might as well double up:

"The problem with theory as with much of modernist intellectualism is that it attempts to claim a quasi-scientific authority for its arguments. The deconstructive philosophical defense of literary speech is nothing more than a rationalists' defense of empiricism, made while steadfastly refusing to get your boots muddied. Is this why analytic philosophers, futurists, libertarians and theory-heads all seem to read science and speculative fiction? This is also I imagine why lawyers tend to mock legal philosophers.
Theory and analytic philosophy have too much in common, not the least of which is an inability to understand the difference between experience and idea, or art and illustration.

The most annoying thing about all this is the snobbery. The Europeans, whatever their titles or positions, have acted as public intellectuals; and Sokal and Chomsky ideological dumbasses or not have at least been activist on issues the non academic left are concerned with. But this changes nothing. What we end up with is a debate between those who say the speaking subject is not a worthy topic of discussion and those who say that there's nothing more worthy of discussion than what they wore saturday night: a war between the nerds and narcissists. And the narcissists think they're being radical! What's this, Sarah Bernhardt?

The Europeans know they're bourgeois, they understood that their words have limits. They describe them. They make jokes at their own expense. Americans being incapable of self-reflection only laugh at other people.

...I don't associate theory with post modernism but with a decadent late modernism which claims that through some sort of rationalist argument that we can close the divide between action and reflection, creating a sort of total intellectual/esthetic consciousness: a consciousness by design, hence the popularity of Sci-Fi and other sorts of Stalinist over-determination."

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