Friday, November 30, 2007

Propositions begin as assumptions that we attempt to justify by a mix of reason, elision, logical and false or slippery analogies. This marks the behavior of analytic philosophers and rational action theorists no less than historians, professors of comparative literature, and opinionated novelists. The difference between the former and later groups is the authors' relations to their foundational assumptions.

What does it mean that Dennett's Darwinian fundamentalism, Chicago School economics and the philosophy of logical analysis are all variations on the same theme?  Why is that question -as with others of context and history- considered by practitioners not only unnecessary but off-putting. The answer has to do with claims of all three sometimes explicitly sometimes only implicitly, to the status of formal science. But those claims take the form of an analogy, and whatever the formal rigor of the structures built on top of that analogy the fact of it is still a problem. Chemists have nothing to fear from the history of chemistry; economists and philosophers aren't so lucky.

What's the appropriate model for philosophers: logician or critic? For American fans of Zizek and other Euros, the question is how should they respond to the European analogical (literary) rationalism. American academic philosophy is analytical, so American fans of European theory simply elide the difference between analogy and analysis creating an academic science of literature and history. The difference of course is that analytic thought hides its biggest literary moves in its original positions not in the body of its arguments. American literary and cultural theory is in no position to claim to be a science. But those who mock its pretensions-based on their own supposedly superior understanding of language- are not much better off.

All writers have opponents, but of those who see themselves as writers first, none oppose critical or historical re-contextualization. European analogical rationalism courts it. Contemporary academicism qua academicism and imagined as science, formal or otherwise, denies the validity of contextualization itself. And in terms of its use in economic theory, the results are literally damaging.

The night I heard him Zizek spoke as a critic, and said many things in his talk and over the dinner table that I agree with. I would even consider them "right." I'll get to the movies later. Among other things, we're both fans of Zhang Yimou.

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