Monday, April 07, 2008

Gone Fishing

I recieved the following email this morning from friend Fallinahole (or J.T. as he sometimes wont to comment here) about the recent Stanley Fish review of the upcoming book French Theory: How Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze, & Co. Transformed the Intellectual Life of the United States:
I guess all I can do is sit back and entertain myself with ceaseless mockery of everything, especially myself (whatever that is). JT
to which I responded
I don't think Fish is saying that is all that Deconstruction does: he is saying that part of the problem is that Deconstructionists ended their analysis and took up positions that could easily be deconstructed themselves. Ultimately I think, as he
says, D is a farce in its very approach, or a war-like drama. Now, of course, he doesn't offer anything in its stead in this article, but he has elsewhere. He always has been a firebrand, and that seems to be an end unto itself for him. I think it is more interesting to look at the response that came from the other side. "No!" they shouted. "There is a truth and a falsehood to the things out there in the world that we may observe! It has nothing to do with the language we use to think the world (or ourselves.) " They refuse to take into consideration that our minds thinking the world shapes that world (not in a "real sense," as fish points out, but in an epistemological one.) They are the scary ones; the ones who adhere to an "out there" truth that is not shaped by our personal and shared "texts."

What does all that imply? Hmm.

Your criticism is well taken, but what is the implication of what the opposition might entail? Whose reality is going to construct the world understanding then? Richard Dawkins?

Perhaps JT will respond further here.

Update: JT did respond--
Agreed. The "No! REAL TRUTH, ABSOLUTE TRUTH!!!!" freaks seem much more problematic than the PC police or the true nihilists, whether T-truthers as fundamentalist Christian, fundamentalist Atheist (Dawkins), or whatever. It seems to me the only reasonable approach is one that recognizes the significant contributions of Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze, etc.-- but that does not imply that one must discard the idea that there is a world out there (its absurd to take constructivism to the point of idealism). Some mash of language, physical world, and social construction is always going to be present. But without attending to issues of power, definition (i.e. of self, term, society -- that always leaves some out), history, motivation, etc. we more easily succumb to our worst tendencies. I think the French have helped us all become more honest if nothing else -- their topics are no less "real" than the putative concreteness of the physical world.

Frankly, the relational issues (whether micro or macro) attended to by the French (or continental theorists generally) are more significant than analyzing the fuck out of some, say, ethical, concept ad infinitum.


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