Post-Modernism and Critical Theory is all Based on The Worst Argument in the World

Via, Rotten Chestnuts, a summation of scholar David Stove’s essay “Idealism, A Victorian Horror Story”. Apparently, everything the Left has believed for the last century and a half comes from the perception/things-in-themselves fallacy, which allows all the other word games to follow.

 Since you’re starting from a tautology, thanks to the miracle of Dialectics you can say whatever you want.  There’s no cognitive dissonance, because there’s no cognition at all.  It all arrives at the same point — whatever degraded version of Idealism your victim group is pushing.  As Stove says, all you need for a Gem is tautology in the premise, Idealism in the conclusion, and pomposity throughout.  Berkeley to Hegel to Marx to Derrida, the Left’s entire intellectual genealogy in four steps.

Read the Whole Thing.

Post-Modernism Isn’t.

I have long been of the opinion that what passes for post-modern “philosophy” is not a philosophy so much as rhetorical exercise, or in my phrase, “word games”. Consider the act of “deconstructing” something: of tacking a thing to the culture that produced it, to the assumptions of that culture, to the history of those assumptions, etc.

What you haven’t done in any of that is make any kind of statement towards the Truth or value of the thing deconstructed. And if you haven’t done that, then what does the deconstruction of it matter?

The act of skepticism assumes the existence of truth, because skepticism is the suspicion of falsehood, and falsehood cannot exist without truth. Philosophy is the rational pursuit of truth, and one cannot pursue what does not exist. To say “This is not truth,” is to say “That is truth.”

But, as this article at Quillette by Galen Watts explains, the po-mos refuse to admit this.

 The scholar begins by deconstructing existing discourses, as if from a position of mere skepticism. However, he is simultaneously making the case that these are corrupt or oppressive in some sense, thereby endorsing some (implicit) normative standard. But you can’t have it both ways. Either you endorse a position and critique others from there, or you commit fully to your epistemic skepticism.

This is why the only philosophy available to those who take post-modernism seriously is nihilism, the rejection of all values. But nihilism is not a philosophy, it is the denial of a philosophy. Thus, I state that there is no such thing as post-modern philosophy, only the post-modern critique of philosophy. And it’s not a particularly useful critique. To tell me that I absorb values from the culture around me, and the traditions of that culture, sounds like a damning verdict, but it isn’t. Because what has not been established is why I should not absorb those values, or why I should not absorb them that way. To do that requires the discussion of alternatives.

A person who attacks your values without stating his own is dishonest. If he has alternative values, he should state them, as they undergird his arguments against yours. If he has no values, then he has no basis for attacking any values at all.

Therefore much of what we see being advanced under the banner of “postmodernism” is simply hypocrisy in disguise.

We see this in my discussion of Ivan Karamazov, as referenced by Camus:

Suffering will continue regardless of how sullenly you refuse to countenance it. What child does Ivan save from suffering? If none, then we must conclude the the intellectual solidarity with the suffering is a sham, or at any rate, a means to an end. And the end is power, moral power as a precursor to political power, the power over life and death.

The Quillette article is worth reading in full.

Epistemocracy

Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s term for a society based on humility towards what can be known. It is the sort of utopian idea that causes one to reconsider one’s own mental processes rather than draw up a blueprint for how others ought to behave.

He has also inspired me to read some Montaigne. Odd that I never have.

Available on Amazon: The Right of Revolution

This was a short essay I wrote a few years ago and have toyed with either expanding or publishing as-is. I decided upon the latter. It’s basic point, that rebellion is justified according to the prime value of a culture, is to my mind eloquently expressed. There’s obviously a great deal more to say on the subject, and someday I hope to do so.

Starting today, January 13, and for the next 5 days, it’s free to download. Hope you enjoy it.

Somebody Translated Descartes’ Meditations into Bro-Speak

That someone calls himself Philosophy Bro, and the book: Descartes Meditations, Bro.

It features a side-by-side translate, so you have the 1901 English Translation, and the Bro-Speak on the facing page. You know, like the Seamus Heaney Beowulf or Pinsky’s translation of The Inferno (both of which you should read, because they’re awesome).

I just wanted it noted for the record that we are translating early 20th-century academic English into early 21st-century Vulgate English. Just in case anyone should try to tell you that the classics are dead.

The Birth of Babbling, or Why Nietzsche Disappoints me

I think his declamatory German just gets lost in translation, but every time I read Nietzsche I find very little substance underneath all the sauce. I’m on page 86 of The Birth of Tragedy and I’m not entirely sure what ideas I’ve gleaned from this.

I get the idea that tragedy is the fusion of the Appollonian impulse, to weave a dream, and the Dionysian, to tear down the walls of individuality. Thus, in percieving a false Prometheus set upon a stage, we are both a) getting an impulse of cosmic truth, and b) roped into real, emotional connection with the suffering character. I get that. It makes sense. But somehow I would wish that he would ground his assertions before carrying them to their conclusion. It has the mark of circular reasoning.

Observe:

The whole of the modern world is caught up in the net of Alexandrian culture, and its idea is theoretical man, armed with the highest powers of knowledge and working in the service of science, whose archetype and progenitor is Socrates.

-BoT, pg. 86

Now, one may agree with this statement. One may find it compelling. But it’s only a statement, and it has not the discipline to argue its case. A sweeping judgement is hurled down, assumed as true, and carried forward. Precisely what establishes this idea? Am I to take the “whole” in the first sentence as hyperbole?

And Birth of Tragedy is fairly disciplined in this regard. When we get to Beyond Good and Evil, I find myself filling my Kindle app with snarky asides in the notes. And by “snarky” I mean “confused to the point of rage”.

They should never have allowed Germans to do philosophy.

 

Frog Socrates, Everybody

Oh, Existential Comics, mashing up Jurassic Park with Ancient Greece.

Does he look like Kermit? He looks like Kermit.

Does he debate the nature of flies? He tries to.

Does his incessant demand for ontological clarity come off as preventing other people from getting a word in edgewise? Yup.

It’s just too good to pass up. Hit the link and enjoy.

athenianpark