Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Stanley Fish is "The Stupidest Man Alive".
Read the list of questions in the Times and see if you agree.

I spent some time in Spain a few years ago. While I was there I stayed with some friends for a few weeks in a small town helping out in a woodshop. One hot day as I was working outside painting some shutters a German tourist came by and began photographing me. There was a sign on the side of the building in Spanish and German "no cameras" and we pointed to it and gestured for the man to stop. He looked out from the behind the camera for a moment, with a quizzical expression, then went back to taking picures.

"When the author of a children’s book about Mohammed, Kåre Bluitgen, sought illustrators for his book...".

[Twice in my life I've been photographed by Germans while yelling at them to stop. The first time the photographs ended up in an exhibition in Frankfurt. Kasper Koenig was a fan and a supporter of the photographer. She exhibited a series of prints of me avoiding the camera or trying to block it with my hand. I wasn't joking. I almost hit her,]

If you want to understand what is and isn't at stake in the Danish cartoon furor, just listen to the man who started it all, Flemming Rose, the culture editor of the newspaper Jyllands-Posten. Mr. Rose told Time magazine that he asked 40 Danish cartoonists to "depict Muhammad as they see him," after he noticed that journalists, historians and even museum directors were wary of presenting the Muslim religion in an unfavorable light, or in any light at all.

"To me," he said, this "spoke to the problem of self-censorship and freedom of speech." The publication of the cartoons, he insisted, "was not directed at Muslims" at all. Rather, the intention was "to put the issue of self-censorship on the agenda and have a debate about it."
Fish is a troublemaker. He gives Flemming Rose the benefit of the doubt, and I doubt if mattered to him whether Rose deserved it or not.

So with that in mind, and with DeLong calling Fish's philosophy "antimoral" here are a few questions:

Were the photographers who took my picture being antimoral?
"When the author of a children’s book about Mohammed, Kåre Bluitgen, sought illustrators for his book...."
Was the man who wrote that bizarre sentence being antimoral?
What does DeLong believe in? His rationalism has a foundation in his assumptions. What are they?
Are lawyers antimoral for following a code of ethics that supercedes common morality?
Is craft antimoral?

Fish isn't that smart and he likes to cause problems, but he likes to think. DeLong isn't that smart and likes to solve problems. Those he can't solve he ignores or ridicules.

The answer to Fish's problem -or question- is twofold: first is to say that craft precedes truth as a value (Fish would agree). Second is to say that if we must have a theological truth it would consist in curiosity itself, in inquiry and doubt. The critique of reaction and the critique of liberalism are therefore and thereby related. Fish doesn't go that far. He's too busy causing trouble.

I wrote a shorter version of the above on DeLong's post but it's was rejected. I've been banned.  "You are not allowed to post comments."

And I'm still amazed how few people complain about DeLong's habit of adding his own bracketed comments on readers' responses. He doesn't even acknowledge them in the text, which causes confusion. It's hard to tell who's writng what. I respond to arrogance in kind. DeLong is a technician who doesn't comprehend the difference between technics and philosophy.
And he's an asshole.

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