Intellectual Nonsense and the Fear of Rationality

We are sometimes alone. In those moments when we attempt to make sense of the world, we may harmlessly come across certain books which strike us as vague and obscure, written by ‘philosophers’ and critics whose knowledge of politics, literature, and cognition appears extensive, backed up with thrilling and unique terminology and numerous hand-picked quotations from physicists and biologists. Looking at such prestigious scientists with their theories and experiments, we might even say ‘Where’s my theory? I want one too,’ with the profound thoughts of postmodern or poststructuralist authors neatly filling this theoretical void.

But things are not as they seem. We are beyond doubt at the wrong side of the library, as the following brief survey of a selection of po-mo supporters will hopefully show. Through a combination of word-play and fractured syntax, these charlatans have released a madness on the world. It should go without saying that the works of the following authors are not necessarily and entirely filled with the exploitation of scientific and philosophical concepts (what Deleuze said about education, for instance, seems sensible enough, if not common sense). But the overwhelming tendency amongst all of them is to produce intentionally and aggressively obscure work largely to intimidate their (mostly privileged and Western) audiences into deeming it insightful, radical, and clever.

But before we observe the wreckage, a few general comments can provide an important framework. Anthropologist Mary Douglas observes in The World of Goods that the standard techniques to maintain intellectual superiority are ‘to erect barriers against entry, to consolidate control of opportunities, and to use techniques of exclusion.’ As certain graduate students of politics and critical theory are aware, the person trying to maintain an illusion of intelligence must work to control the discourse, ‘Otherwise, his project to make sense of the universe is jeopardized when rival interpretations gain more currency than his own, and the cues that he uses become useless because others have elaborated a different set and put it into circulation.’

The rhetorical barriers often appear quite sturdy. After all, if what the postmodern and poststructuralist enthusiasts are actually saying (beneath the layers of catchphrases like ‘symbolic centre,’ ‘interpolated,’ ‘what Baudrillard called,’ ‘différance,’ ‘problematized,’ ‘logocentrism,’ ‘How, then, are we to proceed?,’ ‘s/Subject,’ ‘heterogeneous structure,’ along with the obligatory poetic French or German phrase) can be understood by the person who cleans their windows, then of what use are their jobs? Placing production into the hands of workers, for instance, does not need to be spelled out in polysyllables and can be articulated in terms a child would easily understand.

The widespread unequivocal trust in postmodernist ramblings may reveal something else: that we are afraid of words, afraid of ‘those big words which make us so unhappy,’ as Stephen Dedalus said; afraid too, perhaps, of digging too deep into what Hume called ‘the mysteries of nature.’ Perhaps the sweeping generalisations and comprehensive ‘theories’ of the postmodernists and ‘semiologists’ allow us to feel more at ease, safe in the knowledge that the Marxist’s iron laws of history have offered us the best explanatory account of human affairs.

Of course if by ‘theory’ we mean ‘a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on a body of facts that have been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experiment’ (as the American Association of the Advancement of Science puts it), then the use of the term in departments of literature and politics is misleading to say the least.

Though quick to assure us they are more radical than thou, the proponents of postructuralism, the Lacanian ‘psychoanalysts,’ are rarely found, strangely, at community and activist organisations struggling to defend the kinds of oppressed people (perhaps the ‘subaltern,’ for the initiated) they claim to support, preferring to sit in their offices or bedrooms with annotated copies of Spivak and Gasiorek, whose writings, to borrow a phrase from Forster’s A Room with a View, ‘won a great victory for the comic muse.’

Alan Ryan puts the matter well: ‘It is, for instance, pretty suicidal for embattled minorities to embrace Michel Foucault, let alone Jacques Derrida. The minority view was always that power could be undermined by truth ... Once you read Foucault as saying that truth is simply an effect of power, you’ve had it ... But American departments of literature, history and sociology contain large numbers of self-described leftists who have confused radical doubts about objectivity with political radicalism, and are in a mess’ – hence why your favourite graduate Marxist reading group gathers round the fire to chant the odes of Deleuze and Foucault.

A typical defence of such authors is that they do, in fact, occasionally write revealing critiques of imperial or neoliberal power. Firstly, considering their wages and position of relative privilege, it’s fair to say that they better had say something interesting every once in a while! But secondly, these defences miss a more crucial point; that their actual presentation and writing style renders needless confusion, not least because the majority of the time they speak in riddles to deflect instant rebuttal. Or, they fabricate an understanding of classic philosophical works before setting their own misinterpretations of texts as a gauge to separate the worthy from the unworthy (‘You mean to say you don’t see, as Žižek does, Leibniz’s monadology as a prescient critique of the atomising effects of social networking sites? Then get out!’).

Surely one of the most stupid things to have emerged in the two billion years of organic evolution is the feminist ‘philosopher’ Luce Irigaray’s argument that E=mc2 is a sexist equation because ‘it privileges the speed of light’ – a patriarchal force, like capital letters – ‘over other speeds that are vitally necessary to us.’ Her critique of fluid dynamics is also inspired, no doubt, by her revolutionary spirit: fluids have been shamefully neglected by physicists, she argues, since ‘masculine physics’ privileges rigid, solid things over fluids.

Though their doctoral ‘research’ may beg to differ, obscurantist writers like Irigaray are in fact kicking feminist movements in the teeth by associating them with the irrational, careerist sub-disciplines of Princeton and Yale’s comparative literature departments. To get a sense of what similar contributions by other paid academics are like, any ‘postmodern generator’ paints a fairly accurate picture (http://www.elsewhere.org/pomo/). A quick game of Žižuku will also suffice (http://blog.talkingphilosophy.com/?p=219), as will faking your way through Hegel (http://pervegalit.wordpress.com/2012/06/09/how-to-fake-your-way-through-...).

Woody Allen’s short stories also often touch on the related theme of pseudo-intellectualism. The Whore of Mensa does this brilliantly, as does My Philosophy: ‘I remember my reaction to a typically luminous observation of Kierkegaard’s: “Such a relation which relates itself to its own self (that is to say, a self) must either have constituted itself or have been constituted by another.” The concept brought tears to my eyes. My word, I thought, how clever! (I’m a man who has trouble writing two meaningful sentences on “My Day at the Zoo.”) True, the passage was totally incomprehensible to me, but what of it as long as Kierkegaard was having fun?’

Similar uses of parody as a means to expose pretension and obfuscation seem to have presented themselves to the young James Joyce, who was asked by Father George O’Neill at the oral examination for his English BA at University College, Dublin, ‘How is poetic justice exemplified in the play of King Lear?’ Joyce answered, ‘I don’t know.’ ‘Oh, come, Mr. Joyce,’ O’Neill prodded, ‘you are not fair to yourself. I feel sure you have read the play.’ ‘Oh yes,’ replied Joyce, ‘but I don’t understand your question. The phrase “poetic justice” is unmeaning jargon so far as I am concerned.’ He later told his close friend Francini in Trieste that ‘Ideas, classifications, political terminologies leave me indifferent; they are things one has passed beyond. Intellectual anarchy, materialism, rationalism – as if they could get a spider out of his web!’

As Richard Ellmann records in his monumental biography, Joyce, unwilling to embrace the church, state, or intelligentsia, ‘went through a series of violent changes and emerged from them sombre and aloof, except with the few friends to whom he exhibited his joy, his candour, his bursting youth; even with these he was a little strange, never wholly companionable because each time he laid bare his soul he importuned greater loyalty, until friendship became for them almost an impossible burden of submission.’ Joyce’s parody poem of T. S. Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land’ also reveals with a typically subversive wit his intellectual allegiances. Even at the age of 16, in an essay entitled ‘The Study of Languages,’ Joyce had detected in the distasteful ‘tidier’ Matthew Arnold (whose spirit, along with that of Raymond Williams, to this day shines with a soft, tender glow through the halls of English Literature departments) a mind of ‘little opinion.’

Arnold's brother, Thomas, demonstrates a greater penetration than his brother when he explores in one of his letters, with stirring honesty, the hostility which the radical mind must feel towards society: ‘Take but one step in submission, and all the rest is easy ... satisfy yourself that you may honestly defend an unrighteous cause, and then you may go to the Bar, and become distinguished, and perhaps in the end sway the counsels of the State ... All this is open to you; while if you refuse to tamper in a single point with the integrity of your conscience, isolation awaits you, and unhappy love, and the contempt of men; and amidst the general bustle of movement of the world you will be stricken with a kind of impotence, and your arm will seem to be paralysed, and there will be moments when you will almost doubt whether truth indeed exists, or, at least, whether it is fitted for man. Yet in your loneliness you will be visited by consolations which the worlds knows not of; and you will feel that, if renunciation has separated you from the men of your own generation, it has united you to the great company of just men throughout all past time; nay, that even now, there is a little band of Renunciants scattered over the world, of whom you are one, whose you are, and who are yours for ever.’

This timeless struggle between clarity and honesty on the one hand, and obfuscation and pretension on the other, can often be detected in the classic misgivings between analytic and continental philosophy. In Invitation to Learning, Russell says the following of Hegel’s Philosophy of History: ‘[It] is a very important book indeed, judged by the effects it has had, and a totally unimportant book judged by any truth it may contain. [It is] important, partly because it presented a pattern in history – a scheme, a system – according to which historical events were supposed to have developed, which of course people like. It is a simple formula and they think “now we understand it all” ... I think the course of history is subject to laws and is probably for a sufficiently wise person deterministic; but nobody is wise enough. It is far too complicated and nobody can work it out; and the person who says he has done so is a charlatan.’

The renowned Jewish philosopher and Talmudic commentator Emmanuel Lévinas falls clearly onto Hegel’s side. One of his many studies of the phenomenological school of philosophy bears the exciting title Discovering Existence with Husserl. Like Hegel’s Phenomenology, its words would no doubt be welcomed amongst small groups of mid-teens narrating their first experiences with LSD: ‘To say one doubts reflection is to suppose that reflection at least gives us this doubt itself. Furthermore, when one says that states of consciousness are modified by reflection, one presupposes that the non-modified states are known, for otherwise one could not even suspect the modification, nor even the possibility of reflection itself.’ Lévinas’ internationally celebrated study continues in much the same rhetorically inflated vain, having been translated into a number of languages, though not, oddly, Hebrew. But perhaps this is for the best – the Jews have suffered enough.

Though his suspicious gaze was cast primarily on eloquence, Francis Bacon’s remarks could easily be seen as a valuable lesson to contemporary cultural, literary, and critical studies: ‘[M]en began to hunt more after words than matter; and more after ... tropes and figures, than after the weight of matter ... [and] soundness of argument.’ Along with Judith Butler (winner of the journal Philosophy and Literature’s 1998 ‘Bad Writing Competition’), the theological jargon of corporate-speak falls prey to a love ‘words’ over ‘matter,’ with its talk of ensuring that it’s the responsibility of employers to continually provide access to low-risk high-yield benefits and promote personal employee growth whilst collaboratively administering economically sound user-centric materials and to authoritatively negotiate market-driven technology, assertively integrate high-quality synergistic infrastructures to exceed customer expectations and stay competitive in tomorrow’s world.

But unlike economists, postmodernists typically reject the rationalist tradition of the Enlightenment, promote a cognitive and cultural relativism which views science as merely a ‘narration’ or social construction (Paul ‘anything goes’ Feyeraband and Thomas Kuhn come to mind), and engage in theoretical speculations removed from any empirical test. It is not at all clear that any substance can be taken from these views, as Alan Sokal (he of the eponymous affair) and Jean Bricmont’s devastating study Intellectual Impostures makes clear. Through exposing postmodernist’s abuse of scientific concepts to lend their own work an aura of prestige, they follow closely in Bacon’s footsteps, as do the words of Michael Albert in a review of the book: ‘There is nothing truthful, wise, humane, or strategic about confusing hostility to injustice and oppression, which is leftist, with hostility to science and rationality, which is nonsense.’

Sokal and Bricmont reveal the infectious nonsense in the works of Deleuze, Derrida, Guattari, Irigaray, Lacan, Latour, Lyotard, Serres, Virilio, Baudrillard and Kristeva. The savage debunking these authors receive in Intellectual Impostures provides the reader with vital intellectual self-defence: If Baudrillard writes that modern warfare takes place in a non-Euclidean space, then I shall know he is a member of the Clown Brigade and will be very careful with him. Equal caution should be paid when we read Derrida, who often appeared to say (if he can be understood at all) that the world should be interpreted from a purely textual perspective, thinking as he did of ‘the text’ as an object of profound, even mystical power, to be regarded with fear and awe, and not simply a product of behaviour (like cave etchings or an artist’s canvas).

It is equally ‘difficult to see,’ write Sokal and Bricmont, observing Lacan’s posturings, ‘how the mathematical notion of compact space can be applied fruitfully to something as ill-defined as the “space of jouissance” in psychoanalysis.’ Where Irigaray sees too much masculinity in science, Lacan can’t get enough: Trying, in his words, to ‘mathematize’ everything in sight, he even likens ‘the erectile organ’ with the square root of -1. ‘Thus the erectile organ comes to symbolize the place in jouissance … as a part lacking in the deserved image: that is why it is equivalent to the √-1.’

In her addition to her remarks on Einstein’s equation, Irigaray makes some other astonishing claims. Nietzsche, for all his flaws, certainly never ‘perceived his ego as an atomic nucleus threatened with explosion,’ not least because of the nucleus’ discovery being over a decade after the German philosopher’s death (she may as well have argued that Thomas Aquinas, when not viewing his kneecaps as πr², had nightmares about his music taste contracting diabetes).

Demonstrating a peculiar disrespect towards the universe, she continues her attack on the laws of nature by asking the following question: ‘But what does the mighty theory of general relativity do for us except establish nuclear power plants and question our bodily inertia?’ Sokal and Bricmont comment of the general thrust of Irigaray’s work by suggesting her writings ‘fall straight into mysticism. Cosmic rhythms, relation to the universe – what on earth is she talking about? To reduce women to their sexuality, menstrual cycles and rhythms (cosmic or not) is to attack everything the feminist movement has fought for during the last three decades.’

In contrast to this intellectual elitism, the anarchist prince Peter Kropotkin noted in his memoirs a passage that eloquently draws on the assumption on the universal longing for individual inquiry: ‘The masses want to know: they are willing to learn; they can learn. There, on the crest of that immense moraine which runs between the lakes, as if giants had heaped it up in a hurry to connect the two shores, there stands a Finnish peasant plunged in contemplation of the beautiful lakes, studded with islands, which lie before him. Not one of these peasants, poor and downtrodden though they may be, will pass this spot without stopping to admire the scene. Or there, on the shore of a lake, stands another peasant, and sings something so beautiful that the best musician would envy him his melody, for its feeling and its meditative power. Both deeply feel, both meditate, both think; they are ready to widen their knowledge – only give it to them, only give them the means of getting leisure.’

Similar ‘theorists’ to Irigaray also often make peculiar use of Marx’s claim that ‘capitalistic production begets with the inexorability of a law of Nature is own negation.’ How they rejoice in borrowing this and similar phrases in discussing how the ideas of their colleagues, on occasion, bring about their own negation etc.! Perhaps epitomised best through the stylish work of Slavoj Žižek, empty paradoxes and meaningless reversals are without doubt the order of the day. Anyone who has read Žižek will most likely regard his books as a dreary sub-genre of science fiction, their bizarre and often outlandish interpretations of important philosophical texts and popular culture bearing an uncanny resemblance to the work of someone born and raised in a René Magritte painting.

The egotistical and self-obsessed values of our brazenly artificial society can be critiqued quite easily without resort to the inflated jargon of Living in the End Times or The Sublime Object of Ideology: In a lecture delivered at The New School, Chris Hedges explained how ‘The fantasy of celebrity culture is not designed simply to entertain. It is designed to drain us emotionally, confuse us about our identity, blame ourselves for our predicament, condition us to chase illusions of impossible fame and happiness, and keep us from fighting back.’ He opens his book Empire of Illusion by comparing the ideologies and narratives which structure the professional wrestling industry to the mainstream media’s coverage of political elections. If he wanted to, he could have given such similarities an obscure ‘theoretical’ name before adding baseless parallels to cosmology or a footnote of Kant’s; but, lacking such temptations, he made a choice frowned upon in departments of comparative literature and cultural studies: he wrote in plain English.

As Hedges develops in his extensive journalism, popular culture, the mass media, and positive psychologists promote a surreal form of cheerful conformity, assuring us that if we close our eyes and wish for what we want, if we believe in ourselves, if we adhere to the cultural orthodoxy of saving money for fab nights out, if we unleash our hidden strengths, if we concentrate on happiness, we will be, in a sense, main characters – drinking our wine, laughing at our sitcoms, and giving each other generous eye contact; smiling protagonists in a tragic-comic episode of an ongoing series of consumerist fantasies, with the only hope of the illusion ending lying in popular efforts to take back the power of socio-political organization from a handful of privileged elites.

But the clear and sensible prose of Hedges does not impress those academics loyal to the doctrines of ‘theory,’ cognitive relativism being one of the most pernicious. As the self-appointed protector of ‘womanhood’ Germaine Greer explained in a typically scornful article against trans-women that ‘feminist fundamentalists hold that biology is a cultural creation.’ Postmodernist urges for the similar cases of moral and aesthetic relativism purposefully dodge the questions surrounding the origins of universal biological principles which structure our ‘moral grammar’ and sense of beauty (the work of John Mikhail and Semir Zeki is especially useful here).

In short, saying ‘it’s all relative’ is an easy way to avoid the more difficult task of naturalistic inquiry, as is repeating truisms – a game enjoyed by the proponents of postructuralism, which even Wikipedia confesses is ‘difficult to summarise,’ though it takes a shot: Adopting a standard assumption amongst biologists that science has limits, it ‘denies the possibility of a truly scientific study of “man” or of “human nature”’ (with the word ‘truly’ being noticeable), before converting this simple observation into multi-volume works reviewed with much enthusiasm by Le Monde and the TLS.

Régis Debray also achieves an astounding feat of imagination when he draws the following arbitrary connections: ‘Ever since Gödel showed that there does not exist a proof of the consistency of Peano’s arithmetic that is formalizable within this theory, political scientists had the means for understanding why it was necessary to mummify Lenin and display him to the “accidental” comrades in a mausoleum, at the Centre of the National Community.’ One wonders how many Žižuku-inspired games it’s possible to invent from this sentence. As Hobbes said in similar circumstances: ‘When men write whole volumes of such stuff, are they not mad, or intend to make others so?’

Mad or not, it is nevertheless common to hear ‘claims of chaos theory being “applied” to history or society,’ as Sokal and Bricmont add: ‘But human societies are complicated systems involving a vast number of variables, for which one is unable (at least at present) to write down any sensible equations.’ Indeed if, as the philosopher and linguist Wolfram Hinzen argues, a naturalistic account of even the simplest lexical items (house, water) is beyond our cognitive reach, then we can forget about ‘mathematizing’ political and cultural phenomena.

But the charge of cultural illiteracy and conceitedness, of course, is not reserved strictly for po-mo enthusiasts – it can also be directed at many scientists. Popular science books by Hawking, Penrose and Kaku all display similar levels of historical ignorance, their concluding feel-good chapters on the relationship between science and religion being an obvious case in point. Together with the postmodernists, they often fail to address the history and nature of science and philosophy, spouting clichés about the incompatibility of the two (the same could be said of the various forms of ‘spirituality,’ as David Webster – although himself a firm postmodernist – reveals in his scintillating and concise Dispirited: How Contemporary Spirituality Makes Us Stupid, Selfish and Unhappy). Though philosophy has fractured into various domains, much of it is simply early cognitive science (including the theory of ideas, the seventeenth century shift from ontology to epistemology, aided by Locke and Newton, and speculations on the nature of perception).

One of the greatest contemporary philosophers, Galen Strawson, opens one of his essays on metaphysics with the following Russellian statement: ‘Philosophy is one of the great sciences of reality. It has the same goal as natural science. Both seek to give true accounts, or the best accounts possible, of how things are in reality. They standardly employ very different methods. Philosophy, unlike natural science, usually works at finding good ways of characterizing how things are without engaging in much empirical or a posteriori investigation of the world. It has a vast field of exercise. Many striking and unobvious facts about the nature of reality can be established a priori, facts about the structure of self-consciousness, for example, or the possibility of free will, or the nature of intentional action, or the viability of the view that there is a fundamental metaphysical distinction between objects and their properties.’

The thoughts of Deleuze, Lacan, and Kristeva suddenly appear less overwhelming. Countering their exploitation of ‘folk-scientific’ intuitions (regarding, for instance, the nature of ‘language’ and ‘truth’) requires not only dismantling the grip of postmodernist dogmas on the humanities; it also needs what John Cooper Powys called an ‘insanely intense and incorruptible concentration on the mystery of words.’ Though group study, discussion and popular activism play enormously important roles, thoughtful and individual study is the most obvious and effective way to achieve this, since, as Cicero reports Cato as saying, ‘never is a man more active than when he does nothing, never is he less alone than when he is by himself.’ But as Aldous Huxley was all too aware: ‘Science is not enough, religion is not enough, art is not enough, politics and economics are not enough, nor is love, nor is duty, nor is action however disinterested, nor, however sublime, is contemplation. Nothing short of everything will really do.’

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Comments

TL;DR

philosophy bad, chris hedges good

I get another nickel. I'm gonna get rich this way.

You are not Chris Hedges and you get no nickels from anyone, ever.

Thank you, little boy.

Lacan would be proud of your enthusiastic demonstration of the discourse of the hysteric. :P

Also, it's nice that you've finally gotten around to reading Sokal and Bricmont. Next you can actually read some of the people you're experiencing so much ressentiment about and see for yourself whether or not they make sense. Personally, I've derived a lot of value from my explorations of Deleuze and Guattari, Foucault, etc. Perhaps the reason you find them opaque is (and I don't mean to defend the academic industrial complex here) because they're not pop philosophers writing for a mainstream audience (as though this were some sort of ethical obligation whereby all philosophy is to be written in the style of Alain de Botton) but instead critically minded (and highly politically engaged) lifelong professional philosophers engaging in highly nuanced discussions around salient topics within their field (you know, just like particle physicists, whose works are also hard to understand). At the very least, you could try reading some of the excellent work that's come out of the post-anarchist milieu before so hastily dismissing the entire thing as just so much artifice and posturing.

And sure, a bunch of their (mostly Anglophone) interlocutors misrepresent / obfuscate their work unnecessarily, but that's not the fault of the original authors; the Francois Cussot book 'French Theory' addresses this issue well, as would a reading of almost any of the canonical texts of poststructuralism.

I've got a 'community' / 'activist' meeting to go to now, so I'll leave you with Derrida's response to Sokal and Bricmont:

"Le Monde asks for my comments on Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont's book Impostures intellectuelles, although they consider that I am much less badly treated in it than some other French thinkers. Here is my response:

"This is all rather sad, don't you think? For poor Sokal, to begin with. His name remains linked to a hoax—"the Sokal hoax," as they say in the United States—and not to scientific work. Sad too because the chance of serious reflection seems to have been ruined, at least in a broad public forum that deserves better. It would have been interesting to make a scrupulous study of the so-called scientific "metaphors"—their role, their status, their effects in the discourses that are under attack. Not only in the case of "the French"! and not only in the case of these French writers! That would have required that a certain number of difficult discourses be read seriously, in terms of their theoretical effects and strategies. That was not done.

"As to my modest "case," since you make a point of mentioning that I was "much less badly treated" than some others, this is even more ridiculous, not to say weird. In the United States, at the beginning of the imposture, after Sokal had sent his hoax article to Social Text, I was initially one of the favorite targets, particularly in the newspapers (there's a lot I could say about this). Because they had to do their utmost, at any cost, on the spot, to discredit what is considered the exorbitant and cumbersome "credit" of a foreign professor. And the entire operation was based on the few words of an off-the-cuff response in a conference that took place more than thirty years ago (in 1966!), and in which I was picking up the terms of a question that had been asked by Jean Hyppolite.1 Nothing else, absolutely nothing! And what is more, my response was not easy to attack.

"Plenty of scientists pointed this out to the practical joker in publications that are available in the United States, and Sokal and Bricmont seem to recognize this now in the French version of their book—though what contortions this involves. If this brief remark had been open to question, something I would willingly have agreed to consider, that would still have had to be demonstrated and its consequences for my lecture discussed. This was not done.

"I am always sparing and prudent in the use of scientific references, and I have written about this issue on more than one occasion. Explicitly. The numerous places where I do speak, and speak precisely, about the un-decidable, for instance, or even about Godel's theorem, have not been referenced or visited by the censors. There is every reason to think that they have not read what they should have read to measure the extent of these difficulties. Presumably they couldn't. At any rate they haven't done it...

"As for the "relativism" they are supposed to be worried about—well, even if this word has a rigorous philosophical meaning, there's not a trace of it in my writing. Nor of a critique of Reason and the Enlightenment. Quite the contrary. But what I do take more seriously is the wider context—the American context and the political context—that we can't begin to approach here, given the limits of space: and also the theoretical issues that have been so badly dealt with.

"These debates have a complex history: libraries full of epistemological works! Before setting up a contrast between the savants, the experts, and the others, they divide up the field of science itself. And the field of philosophical thought. Sometimes, for fun, I also take seriously the symptoms of a campaign, or even of a hunt, in which badly trained horsemen sometimes have trouble identifying the prey. And initially the field.

What interest is involved for those who launched this operation in a particular academic world and, often very close to that, in publishing or the press? For instance, a news weekly printed two images of me (a photo and a caricature) to illustrate a whole "dossier" in which my name did not appear once! Is that serious? Is it decent? In whose interest was it to go for a quick practical joke rather than taking part in the work which, sadly, it replaced? This work has been going on for a long time and will continue elsewhere and differently, I hope, and with dignity: at the level of the issues involved." - Derrida, Sokal and Bricmont Aren't Serious

wow, what a great quote from Derrida, thanks so much for posting it, this will be a great help to my current project.

Thanks for your thoughts, I also got quite a bit from Deleuze (and even Zizek, on occasion), but the question of whether he and his friends have something of value to say is separate from the question of whether their writing style and presentation should be opaque and often pretentious. Derrida, as you know, was actively involved in Algerian anti-colonial struggles - does this give him a free pass to write opaquely, often self-consciously? Chomsky puts the matter well: http://vserver1.cscs.lsa.umich.edu/~crshalizi/chomsky-on-postmodernism.html. As does Medawar: 'A writer on structuralism in the Times Literary Supplement has suggested that thoughts which are confused and tortuous by reason of their profundity are most appropriately expressed in prose that is deliberately unclear. What a preposterously silly idea! I am reminded of an air-raid warden in wartime Oxford who, when bright moonlight seemed to be defeating the spirit of the blackout, exhorted us to wear dark glasses. He, however, was being funny on purpose.'

The point I was trying to make by referring to the French Theory book and to particle physics was that the so-called 'opaque' and 'pretentious' style of continental theory is primarily a result of A) the translation from French to English (read some non-poststructuralist philosophical material translated from French to English and you'll probably find it similarly opaque) and B) the fact that these are radical philosophers writing within an milieu where a certain amount of prior knowledge can be reasonably assumed.

Neither of these two issues, however, mean that Deleuze, Guattari, Derrida, Foucault, Lyotard, Baudrillard, Badiou or even Laruelle are being purposely obscure, or that the emperor is wearing no clothes. All it means is that it takes time and effort to understand what they're saying because one has to become familiar with a reasonable amount of context. For instance, D&G aren't going to make much sense if you haven't at least familiarised yourself with, among others, a little Marx. Was Marx also an obfuscatory charlatan? Is it unreasonable to expect people to know a little Marx if you're writing philosophy in the 1970s? Sartre? Nietzsche? Hegel? Hume? Kant?

Speaking only from my own experience, as someone who didn't even finish high school, let alone attend any tertiary learning institution, I find the work of all the authors we've been discussing coherent and, with a reasonable amount of effort expended in exploring contemporary philosophy, accessible. Sure, there are bits of, say, Derrida I still don't get, but that's because I haven't put in as much time with his work as I have with that of the others. I don't really get the Riemann curvature tensor, the implications of Hilbert space or the critiques of string theory either but, unlike Chomsky's disingenuous argument, I'm hardly going to get pissed off with mathematicians for not writing clearly - without any opaque terminology - about their groundbreaking work in these fields.

PS: Ironically, Chomsky's own work on generative grammar (e.g., http://www.chomsky.info/articles/195309--.pdf) is probably similarly opaque to anyone who picks it up and tries to make sense of it without grounding themselves in a little linguistics first. Does that mean Chomsky is willfully obscure?

You've completely misinterpreted my argument, imposing your own fanciful reading onto it. This satisfied you, but it is neither sensible nor honest. Never did I claim that po-mo writers are necessarily being intentionally obscure - I said (and I'm sure you'll agree) that this is a strong tendency in them, provoked in part by the often inflated language of the humanities. So no, Chomsky is not being wilfully obscure, because linguistics is a legitimate science, to me and most people. The 'technical terms' of po-mo writers are certainly technical, fitting into their own constructed explanatory theories. So yes, you can study them long and hard to understand what they mean (hence my discussion of what counts as a 'theory'). But my argument - repeated many times in the essay - was that such 'theoretical constructs' when applied to human affairs are, as far as I can tell, useless, unhelpful, and very often misleading. Chomsky's own sensible framework seems on track to me: 'Science talks about very simple things, and asks hard questions about them. As soon as things become too complex, science can’t deal with them. The reason why physics can achieve such depth is that it restricts itself to extremely simple things, abstracted from the complexity of the world. As soon as an atom gets too complicated, maybe helium, they hand it over to chemists. When problems become too complicated for chemists, they hand it over to biologists. Biologists often hand it over to the sociologists, and they hand it over to the historians, and so on. But it’s a complicated matter: Science studies what’s at the edge of understanding, and what’s at the edge of understanding is usually fairly simple. And it rarely reaches human affairs. Human affairs are way too complicated. In fact even understanding insects is an extremely complicated problem in the sciences. So the actual sciences tell us virtually nothing about human affairs.'

so you've figured out that continental philosophy is not the same thing as science. good job I guess dude

This was never my point (obvious though it is). But if that's all you reduce my essay and replies to, then we really have nothing to discuss. The writings of Hedges are also not science, they just happen to be a coherent and sensible approach to human affairs, unlike the writers I discuss, who I didn't so much characterise as 'not science' (this is accepted by virtually everyone, and requires no discussion), but rather 'not scientific' or rational or sensible or reasonable etc. This is not to support some crude kind of scientism, it's simply to stress the importance of not inventing unnecessary and obscure terminology to discuss matters which our common sense (or 'folk science') handles well on its own. I have no need of Spivak when trying to understand colonial oppression, for instance, though I'm sure some people will claim they do.

(to clarify, I'm not the person you were originally arguing with. I don't think I would have the patience for such a protracted discussion with you, that's why I was being deliberately reductive and uncharitable in my interpretation of your argument)

you're totally full of bullshit though

In fact, even understanding insects is an extremely complicated problem

It is a shame that these incoherent fragments of near-unreadable polemic adhere much better to your under-researched and trite characterisation of what you uncritically term 'postmodern' texts, then the texts, evidently largely unread, that you purport to criticize.

Perhaps it is lost on you that your muse Joyce is oft deemed to be a tad estranging in his own writing, a result of his self-conscious attempt to unify form and content, a Modernist trope which, upon research and analysis, you might find would help you to understand deconstructionist texts which follow in this tradition.

Incidentally , just for clarification 'différance' is a core Derridean term, not a Lacanian or Baudrillardian as you have previously written. If you wish to mock the terminology of a philosopher it helps to read the texts first, and then to remember who wrote them.

I think you'll find that I only used the term 'différance' on one occasion, neither in relation to Lacan or Baudrillard - both of which I have, in fact, studied. But these are facts which you seem to find unimportant, even boring, preferring to brush aside any valid criticisms of mine in favour of simply saying, falsely, 'you haven't read X and Y.' Such bold statements may sound like shrewd criticisms, and certainly bear the formal structure of them, but they're not really. They just look like them. Joyce is also not my 'muse' (why not Allen or Russell?): his political attitudes and personal life leave much to be desired.

I liked it. For everyone else, let the jousting begin!

You quote Joyce and Huxley in defence of your 'rational view' of the world, yet fail to acknowledge how indebted both are to a self-realised spirituality. Also, no mention of how 'irrational' much contemporary science is, particularly quantum physics. With regards to your reading of Iragaray, the current science would suggest, yes, far too much emphasis has been placed on matter, as when you probe deeper into the smallest constituent parts, it appears all is energy: all connected in one continuous interrelated web. Not inert matter, floating about in dead space.

You're right, I didn't mention how 'irrational' (or more accurately, counterintuitive) contemporary physics is. And that's because it's 'irrational' in a different way - backed up by theoretical constructs and empirical evidence, unlike po-mo. But physics has been counterintuitive since Newton, and no concept of 'physical' (or, for that matter, 'mental') has existed since he proved that some 'occult force' (his phrase) is at work in the world, which defied the intuitive Cartesian contact-mechanics of the day. For further discussion, I'd suggest Strawson's brilliant essay on 'Real Materialism', Lange's famous 'History of Materialism', or my book on the biolinguistic enterprise which explores similar topics (http://www.lulu.com/shop/elliot-murphy/biolinguistics-and-philosophy-ins...) and this piece I wrote a while back on the mind-body problem (http://www.thenationalstudent.com/Features/2011-12-16/reflections_on_lan...). By your standards, I 'fail to acknowledge' lots of things - that Huxley was at times a fascist sympathiser, for instance, or that he supported Mencken's critique of mass democracy - but such things are not relevant to my argument. And just because I reject most po-mo ramblings, does this mean I also reject 'self-realised spirituality' (whatever this may be?). The issue never arises, and I don't see why it should. If I agree with some things Joyce said, fine. If I disagree with others, then that's ok too.

So for anything to have true 'meaning', it has to be backed up by theoretical constructs and empirical evidence? Surely that would rule out most creative works. Also, your critique of Kuhn and Feyerabend: firstly, they were philosophers of science so why would they necessarily base their philosophy on empirical tests? They do not have a scientific, empirical approach to philosophy. Secondly, did you really get their arguments? They were not anti-scientific or anti-rational: they both believed in the potential of science. Both talked about the shifts in worldviews that take place as science 'progresses'. Eventually evidence/data stacks up that makes the old theories problematic - so a new theoretical paradigm is required. As Feyerabend writes, many will dogmatically stick to the old positions: some will embrace the new theory. The old theories can however remain valid within certain areas. I think your argument seems to suggest everything is more cut and dry than it really is. Personally, I think certainty on positions is a big problem within science and more broadly for humanity.

With regards to self-realised spirituality. I mean a personal path to self-knowledge or enlightenment out with the dictates of a particular religion / church / or philosophical school. A Portrait of The Artist as a Young Man by Joyce and The Perrenial Philosophy by Huxley would seem to embody this.

It's the duty of the speaker to be understandable. If their target audience is the layman, they are terrible at it. If the target audience is each other, then we should not concern ourselves with them.

are you fucking retarded

seriously, you morons *aren't* the target audience. you never were.

and you, so sick of your fucking nonsense. go write something about things coming out of your pussy. for a change of pace, try writing about taking a shit.

You ignorant NA anarchists are barely literate, you are a disgrace to the legacy...

super-ultra-extra literate, actually

"It's the duty of the speaker to be understandable. If their target audience is the layman, they are terrible at it. If the target audience is each other, then we should not concern ourselves with them"

This is a troll right? because if your not the "layman" then your the upper class bourgeoisie and apparently proud of it. Thus you talk out your ass to make yourself sound superior and then ask what happened to the anarchist tradition, when the answer is douche bags like you happened to it. The expropriation of radicalism by middle class academics that's what fucking happened. But no worries, I'm sure that some day you'll be a great radical prof. After all, god only knows we need more of them.

the comments. lol

Why are American anarchists so caught up on reading, writing, flaming arguments, theorizing, day dreaming and philosophical debates? And when things go wrong, you always try to turn social events into a more party atmosphere rather than address the problem? You guys wouldn't fight so much if you actually had a focused goal in life that all of you and everyone else could identify with. You don't even have a real platform or an organizing method. How often do you hold anarchist events? Like once or twice a year? The bastard conference and the anarchist bookfair? No wonder everyone fights so much. Maybe if you held events more often than once a year and had more activities that addressed real social problems, you wouldn't be such a book club of nerds but an actual force to be reckoned with in the streets.

The path to anarchy is more events and good deeds!
New conference: 365 Days of Anarchy and Addressing Social Problems!
Starting now. It starts with you!

You mad? It's okay to leave your comfort zone now and then.

>2013
>Thinking agitanews trolls are representative of anarchists in general
I seriously hope you guys don't do this.
It's not even ironically cool any more.

Dumpster five rachet mobilization penny fries. Boogle masses nimble penny burger? Noodle generalization, lemon vacuum dust waddle, or paddle porn tomahawk moose? Our desires tits rest--never chair blowjobs! Kitten bosses moon walk Lebron James, triple double Michael Jackson. Revolt consensus time clock booby-trap in a swamp caterpillar leviathan; bitter water commoditization economy. Marxian reptilian Cam'ron? Tesla, Tulsa, Texico? Our desires actualize couch soup.

Part 1.5 The Video Shark Ass--Nope, Only Bilderberg Poon Popper.

Bloom? bl00m? Never on her watch! Card shark magic Vonophone microsoft cabbage missionary position science. To never; cardio swim masturbation potluck filter, is my cobra nemisis poon popper. Poon popper Puerto Rico muscle beaches? Poon Popper reify Video Shark A$$, but negates Video Shark Ass. The nowhere poodle hat? Only marshmello fun trains (as if macho fog horns blissful cupcake). Poon Popper fishing traps nowhere mash potato, but never gravy. Oswald Kennedy Zambia. Ru$$iA $nake$ shaft ribbed balagna.

For more misinfo: http://sunburstkissesrowena.files.wordpress.com/2011/06/cabbage5.jpg

^^^^^^This critique exposes you as a porn addict^^^^^^^

Best a-news comment ever.

DERRICK JENSEN'S PENIS BABA BOOEY BABA BOOEY!

New best a-news comment ever

It's okay to do it online buddy but to address someones critique with that gibberish in person could get you killed. : )

I'm imagining that senerio in my head and it sound, might I say steam engine carrot pocker? If someone actually talked that way in real life I would magnet cobbler bonner whiskey. But seriously I think the comment was meant as a slight towards the hobbled skinny stroddle man stain the ain't. nO what I'm salami caraway?

http://bluedevilnation.net/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/duke-va-...

THE SKY IS BLUE!

You don't say and-

I was a disease and suddenly broke wind in your mouth said the helpless gargantuan edible dick chin and farting misanthropist. 200 hard dick misogynist doppelganger molesting pedophiles co-existing with the fish while laughing all of sudden shit their pants bringing air force 1 to a halt. Monkey shitting rolling down hill miraculously ridicules shit fest. Roasted dingle berry debauchery infestation. Felonious bender snatch. Full on forehead colostomy fuck exploding ass all over the place. Why? BECAUSE! fun bag force fuck shit fun philanthropy. Revenge of the harpooned bloody tampon vigilantes. Vasectomy lobotomy journey into the umbilical of biblical unknown. Uncontrollable jumping hard-on with ADD joyfully infects a town with rabies because everyone living there was a dumbass.

-Brought to you by YOUR MOM & THE NIHILIST FOUNDATION & THE FEDERATION FOR BROWN SHIT UNDERWEAR STAINS : )

This man is a god^

Rap music. sigh

Your Mom's not going be very happy with this.

Peanut butter and Jelly, or Mary Kat and Ashley? That is the motorcycle easy riding LSD of Kanye purple-drank Kris Humphrey's ex. Will you be my purple drank? Only if Weezy signs a miss Carter huh, or if southern men Lynyrd Skynyrd pay them back. Cotton fields and little shacks, only freebird can pay them back double. Paul is the Walrus? Jim Morrissey is the Lizard man hairdresser on fire. Imagine there's no countries it isn't hard to purple haze in my purple drank. Kurt Cobain saw Jeremy speak in class today and Eddie Vedder said "nevermind", but then asked why Chris Cornell was looking Minnisota, but feeling California (hint it's because fish DO have feeling, but only in their back legs).

Deadmau5's name is not Skrillex, it's Sun Myung Moon. Skrillex sat in the sunny moore with his boomarang. Man I hated the Bangarang ep, but Leaving EP is pretty fucking sick, especially that track that sounds like Burial. amirite? no your not right the title track was the best. Chickenshit I got two hands in my pocket and the other one is holding a piece. Guns are so not in now, sort of like how Dan Humphreys was really Gossip Girl all along. SPOILER ALERT! Spoiled beans can give you salmonella, you want to bury them in strawberry fields forever. Not a chance, the Juke box heroe's got the fire in his eye and the blue monday in his future, blue day in his past, and ministrone for dinner. Or was it Pasta e fagioli? There both very similar, sort of how my last dance with mary jane killed the pain one last chance. Never grow up and be like your parents, grow up and be like your parents idols (Billy).

http://www.first-aid-product.com/images/M/M313.jpg

THAT'S RACIST

That includes the Nihilist Foundation and the Federation for shit brown underwear stains.

Nihilist Foundation... what an awesome idea to have our agenda for destroying society represented at the UN!

Nihilist Foundation... what an awesome idea to have our agenda for make total destroy represented at the UN! Funds, diplomatic immunity, free Mercedes and sex escorts... hmmm.

The farting misanthropists are going to have a shit fest when they read all of this tomorrow.

These insightful comments have really brought the meaning of "intellectual non-sense" to a whole new other level of brightness and enlightenment. How can I join this club of Nihilists? Where do you I sign up? : ) )

I thought that this website was supposed to provide "a non-sectarian source for news about and of concern to anarchists"

The nihilists are sabotaging our anarchy again. God damn it. 3>taco

The nihilists are sabotaging our anarchy again
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The nihilists are sabotaging our anarchy again
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The nihilists are sabotaging our anarchy again
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The nihilists are sabotaging our anarchy again
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The nihilists are sabotaging our anarchy again
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The nihilists are sabotaging
The nihilists are sabotaging our anarchy
The nihilists are sabotaging our anarchy again

-666

This article is a fantastic example of exactly what it is trying to refute.

Whither goest thou, anarchistnews.org?

"Revenge of the harpooned bloody tampon vigilantes and full on forehead colostomy fuck" HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

"The minority view was always that power could be undermined by truth ... Once you read Foucault as saying that truth is simply an effect of power, you’ve had it ..."

The minority view was wrong. Ironically, undermined by the truth of power.

It's not lost on "minorities" (esp those who are reading Foucault, et al) that commonly accepted 'truths' are created by power structures.

I am actually really embarrassed for both the person you're quoting, and you.

The man being quoted idolises John Stuart Mill, a proponent of utilitarianism, easily the most evil, repulsive philosophy there exists.

Yes, and JSM was an inhumane utilitarian scientific experiment of his father:

"John Stuart Mill was born on Rodney Street in the Pentonville area of London, the eldest son of the Scottish philosopher, historian and economist James Mill, and Harriet Burrow. John Stuart was educated by his father, with the advice and assistance of Jeremy Bentham and Francis Place. He was given an extremely rigorous upbringing, and was deliberately shielded from association with children his own age other than his siblings. His father, a follower of Bentham and an adherent of associationism, had as his explicit aim to create a genius intellect that would carry on the cause of utilitarianism and its implementation after he and Bentham had died."

Reptilians!

Another high school drop-out here:

I read D&G, Foucault, Agamben, Baudrillard etc. etc. with relative ease but I haven't always.
I had to work on it. I had to study the history surrounding it and many of the philosophical influences they draw from. I watched YouTube videos, read reviews and synopsis, read introduction and "readers" to accompany texts. Some of it is still very difficult, but many things in life are difficult.

I do not expect people to conform to my intellectual standards and I am frustrated when they ask me to conform to theirs.

Many @s claim that these writers have nothing to say. I wonder if this isn't because so many of their peers haven't already integrated their ideas into their own anarchist theories and practices?

So sick of the anti-intellectualism in the anarchist milieu.
How about you go back to microcosm and folk punk.

you forgot a "?" after "punk". You asked a question without using the appropriate punctuation. Moron.

Punctuation always goes inside quotes. The period after "punk" should be inside the quotes.

Actually no. In programming languages such as php, for sting concatenation, you would actually put the period outside of the quotes or the interpreter would see it as part of the string. Always, no, but always in english grammar rules.

Oh no, are people oppressing you again because of your BIG brain? Because really, anyone who refers to themselves as an "intellectual" is an arrogant douche bag of the highest order and they should really be laughed at to the fullest extent that ones belly can bear.

Actually, the early Cosby show wasn't bad and his stand up in the 80's was decent although very soft and delicate, what they usually refer to as "feel good" comedy these days.

Wrong thread jackass. Actually, do you even know what website this is? Put drink down. Go to bed.

Why not discuss The Cosby Show in this thread? You think you are accomplishing something by being all serious? JACKASS.

You should be serious when people are coming here to talk about serious shit that actually affects everybody. TOOL!

I will be serious! Yes sir! These be serious shits talked about here that actually affects EVERYBODY in the whole anarchist ghetto.

I prefer his early work with Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids.

Fat Albert Rulez, Dood.

How does interrupting a heated discussion about revolution with the likes of Bill Cosby further an agenda of bringing down a society based on hierarchy and class? You're only out to sabotage everyones effort to create resistance because YOU JUST DON'T GIVE A FUCK!

Interrupting a bleating discussion about revolution with nonsense about the likes of Bill Cosby is THE ONLY WAY to bring down a society based on hierarchy and class! You are the only one out to sabotage EVERYONE ELSE'S effort to create resistance because YOU JUST TAKE YOURSELF WAY TOO SERIOUSLY!

I take the struggle more serious than anything and it's not something that should be fucked with or made fun of especially when it's at its weakest point in the country. You fling mud at it with your irrelevant comments about Hollywood actors and I'll just fling my feces at YOU as a response every time. How do you like them apples?

Is you a monkey? A caged monkey? That's the only way the monkeys can communicate. They fling their feces. And make important-sounding monkey noises like "I take the struggle more serious than anything." MONKEY MONKEY MONKEY.

^comment =Not serious about life.

I'm not serious about self-important monkeys who think a website for the anarchist ghetto equals life. No peanuts for you, monkey.

"You fling mud at it with your irrelevant comments about Hollywood actors......How do you like them apples?" You do realize that what who ended your comment on "How do you like them apples?", which is one of the most famous Hollywood movie quotes of all time right? You know, matt damon in good will hunting, or at least? Or at least the phrase wasn't popularized until then and you would not have used it if it hadn't of been. So you know, just saying.

Also to the other poster, calling albert fat albert is sizeism and I would appreciate it if you stop. Besides Alby's not fat, he's just big boned.

OWNED!

"So sick of the anti-intellectualism in the anarchist milieu." You got to be fucking kidding me. O_O

95% of anarchists are too intellectual for their own good because they spend 95% of their time with their heads in the books/blogs and off the streets AND THE POLICE/SYSTEM LOVES THEM FOR IT. SO LONG AS BOOKS AND BLOGS ARE THERE TO KEEP THEM PACIFIED. SO LONG AS BOOKS AND BLOGS KEEP THEM DISTRACTED. SO LONG AS BOOK AND BLOGS KEEP THEM OFF THE STREET, THE SYSTEM ALMOST NEVER HAS TO DEAL WITH THE ANARCHIST THREAT. THE INTERNET ISN'T AN INSTRUMENT OF HUMAN CONTROL AND MANIPULATION. NOT AT ALL! -Sarcasm.

Anarchists would be dedicating only 5% of their time to internet blogs and books if they decided to use 95% of their time to get business done organizing for insurrection to make business as usual impossible to function. Not that Anarchist Insurrectionists are not intellectual or anything. It's just a simple difference in priorities. That's all. Insurrectionists are just as intelligent and can even excel in some places book readers don't do very well. But everyone has a strength where someone is very weak.

Anarchist Insurrectionists would be dedicating most their time organizing for some pretty big projects like the ones that pop up in all our dreams every night but because big projects require big numbers of anarchists and most anarchists are not interested in substituting books with "THE STRUGGLE" our work/our dreams never manifest them selves at large. And until that dream of pure struggle comes to life, there will be no self-governing society. NO CHANCE OF IT!

The government is working overtime to make sure everyone has extra literature to read and there always seems to be something new. some new blend of ideologies, some new conflict between to different but still (leftist) philosophies. There is always some new story breaking out everyday to keep everyone of us stimulated/entertained and you can always give your opinions and having flaming debates while you get high off coffee and alcohol before you crash and start all over again with not progress moving forward but the dream of progress moving forward inside your heads. The internet is here to provide you with theory and scenes of insurrection happening else where just to keep you pacified all day and all night just like internet porn. Who needs to get up and go work to get a woman when you can have instant sex for free at the click of a button? This is the world you have chosen for "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." (Edmund Burke)

It would be BIG blow to the system if we all got bored with internet blogs one day and started to come together to formulate a plan of continues action with or with out reformists groups. The day we started to organize our dreams and aspirations into action-the struggle - the conflict -the social rupture- the rebellion -under one goal -under one dream -to live in a SELF-GOVERNING SOCIETY. That will be the day normalcy ends. That will be the day people start questioning hierarchy. That will be the day people question if authority is necessary. That will be the day people start thinking freely.

When is that day coming? WHEN WE PULL OUR HEADS OUT OF OUR ASS IS WHEN!

Bottoms up!

Intellectualism is has taken over and thus killing the dream

Fuck all this feel good intellectual bullshit dominating the Anarchist milieu right now. It isn't helping the situation or bringing any if us closer to a state of REAL revolution that we should have entered decades ago. These articles that come on here everyday are useless and do nothing but waste precious time. All based on theory and no fucking plan of action for the transition to anarchy or what an anarchist society is supposed to look like. The only time people are serious about things here is when it has to do with some crap article about some liberal left social issue and not an autonomous led insurrection for a free and equal society. The only time you don't take shit serious is when an article about this gets brought up involving actual boots on the ground confronting people and things that keep everyone of us down and oppressed. I can't fucking take this anymore. No wonder people go nuts and start shooting everybody. No outlet to vent my rage against the system.

why don't you take a mental health vacation from this website? lots of folks seem to have a love/hate relationship going on with this site. if its not providing you with any inspiration or helpful information- if its only making you more judgmental, and sick with the @ scene- why not quit and use the time to get to know people in your community? maybe even, you know, people who aren't anarchists... this stupid site is a guilty habit of mine, but don't let it have more power than it should.

If being an anarchist means rejecting our old "REFORMIST" tenancies and "INSURRECTION BUILDING" is neither the way to struggle even though it's popular to do everywhere else, what other options do I have but to just wait and argue with everyone until people start listening so that something starts happening?

the basic premise of this article is bullshit; i.e.

‘Philosophy is one of the great sciences of reality. It has the same goal as natural science. Both seek to give true accounts, or the best accounts possible, of how things are in reality.’

The works of many philosophers seek to elicit understanding in the reader, ... not to 'give true accounts'.

“Lao Tzu's words are fingers pointing to the moon. Don't cling to the fingers. Forget the fingers and look at the moon, and great insight will descend upon you.”

Mach says;

“Science itself, … may be regarded as a minimization problem, consisting of the completest possible presenting of facts with the least possible expenditure of thought” –Ernst Mach”

Wittgenstein says;

“6.54 My propositions are elucidatory in this way: he who understands me finally recognizes them as senseless, when he has climbed out through them, on them, over them. (He must so to speak throw away the ladder, after he has climbed up on it.) He must surmount these propositions; then he sees the world rightly.”

the author of this article, “Intellectual Nonsense and the fear of Rationality” is either afraid of, or is incapable of moving beyond ‘clinging to the fingers’. so what he dishes up for us is a mockery of a diversity of philosophical ‘finger-pointing’, conveniently mistaking the fingers for the ‘message’. the dance of the philosophical wittgenstein ladders he orchestrates for us falls flat, because it is a transparently cheap trick. the only entertainment lies in the intrigue as to whether the author’s shallow view is his real view; or whether it is his fear of ladders/heights that has him closing his eyes.

No. It depends what aspects of philosophy you're concerned with - philosophy of language, mind, ethics, art, religion etc. The work of Dennett, for instance, falls into Strawson's characterisation perfectly. But the work of Camus certainly does not. And that's because philosophy, like all disciplines, is not an a priori category. It's simply a form of convenience, like terms such as 'mental,' 'optical,' 'chemical,' 'biological' etc. These are not metaphysical categories, but rather follow the dictates of human interests and concerns. So there's lots of things you can say about 'philosophy.' You can quote Wittgenstein, if you like, or deep-sounding metaphors about fingers and hands. Or you can engage in the 'biolinguistic enterprise,' a form of traditional philosophy of language attempting to converge with theoretical linguistics and aspects of genetics and neuroscience. You can do lots of things, but claiming that I'm somehow afraid of opening my eyes (???) after I've presented, discussed, disagreed, and analysed numerous views relevant to the topic of 'intellectual nonsense' (whilst also presenting a few of my own) is just a silly waste of time.

the fact remains that you feel justified in making a ‘hit list’ and ordering up drones to cut down many lifetimes of committed work, without bothering to put any of the authors on trial. you have laid no specific charges at all, and as in some kind of po-mo pogrom, you define a category designed to catch them all, in the manner of ‘race’ and ‘racism’.

rather than people with some common physical features, it is instead a ‘race’ of people who “invent unnecessary and obscure terminology to discuss matters which our common sense (or ‘folk science’) handles well on its own.”

bullshit. this is just an appeal to the ‘man on the street’ to dismiss anything complex; i.e. to create another opposing ‘race’ that would pride itself on its own ignorance and belief in KISS aphorisms.

my point to you was that there are many ways that views can be developed to elicit, stimulate or provoke new and useful vantage points. and there are many who have been put off by the complexity of the articulation of ideas that may have merit. isaac newton’s ‘principia’ was a book that was so complex and obscure that Voltaire, a great fan of newton’s labelled it a book that “many want to have read, but few want to read."

few people read it and understood it since newton had to invent a new language (‘fluxions’ / calculus) to develop the ideas, then he reverse-engineered the results back into the standard geometrical proofs which confounded the readers. the point being that complex presentations are often required for the delivery of new concepts, and it was a very few influential scientists that validated newton’s works; i.e. his works were too complex to be generally ‘accessible’ in those times.

you say; “You can quote Wittgenstein, if you like, or deep-sounding metaphors about fingers and hands”

you’re obfuscating. you know very well what i mean. if a person strains his brain over someone’s complex works but never gets up the ladder to the point where ‘illumination’ comes, that’s no reason to put the author on a ‘po-mo race’ hit list and sending in the drones to silence 'his intentionally obscure' rhetoric. the 'obscurity' is as liable to be in the eye of the beholder [or what lies immediately behind it] as in the body of the work.

I don't have STD's, you pathetic mentally ill stalker.

Do something about your mentally ill stalker friends(s) https://twitter.com/obscurity_goat I am on the verge of getting the police involved.

Anti-intellectualism is a natural and inevitable response to the class politics of intellectualism and academia. The reality is that most academics, no matter their politics, tend to be pretty alienating to anybody who isn't an academic. Universities create tiny fortresses of knowledge which rarely engage much with the plebian world (though are always open to rich Alumni). Attendance requires sacrifices most people simply can't make. Theories are written in language purposely chosen to mystify "outsiders" (never worse than with Foucault, ironically), and few if any attempts are made to make the ideas accessible to anybody not willing to pay and stay for a degree. Pseudo-radical study becomes a marketing campaign for mountains of student debt and middle-class career paths. What radical theory exists is generally tamed and tailored to fit the needs of tenure... This isn't to write off academia entirely, but these problems are real and need to be acknowledged if anybody actually cares to understand why anti-intellectualism is so popular amongst oppressed classes.

As for PoMo, it's probably the worst example, especially with celebrated poststructuralist writers like Foucault, D&G, etc. Admittedly, it is a bit of a "not the band I hate but the fans" situation - these authors are worth reading, just not worshiping. The kind of weight they're given is bizarre, as is the way they've transformed subjectivity into some kind of objective truth. Anybody who points out the utter absurdity of many of these theories just doesn't "get it" and is dismissed (as the response to this article demonstrates). This is usually enough to convince people to write theory off altogether, as no less imaginary than the ramblings of West-Coast new-age crystal hippies.

As for the role of theory in movements - it's really fucking important, which is part of why endless intellectual masturbation over competing interpretations of literature nobody else has read is a bit of a problem. A distinction has to be made between theory and thinking in general and academia as it is, though. Unlike most academics I know who study social movements and never show their face at an action, the people actually doing most of the serious intellectual work in any anarchist community I've visited tend to be the same people doing the physical groundwork.

You're a breath of fresh air.

agreed, because real knowledge can only come from experience

Ha ha, create a completely hostile, paranoid, and repressive environment where you exhaust people already having a hard time surviving, and already been raped, both literally and figuratively, with having to expend all their energy fighting your lies and ignorance, and then blame them for not doing more "physical groundwork" in the "community".

Welp, we'll just add this to our list. Thanks.

So ... you identify as an "intellectual" then?

so you're against groundwork, against community and you've been called out for being a filthy post grad rapist.... sounds about right for a "intellectual".

yep, SIGHthat's about right...except i'm not actually 'against' groundwork at all.

DOWN WITH WORK ... on the ground ..?

The story is well-known in poetry circles: around 1968, disgusted by his difficulties with publishers and by what he perceived as the careerist strategies of many poets, Duncan vowed not to publish a new collection for fifteen years. (There would be chapbooks along the way.) He felt that this decision would free him to listen to the demands of his (supremely demanding) poetics and would liberate the architecture of his work from all compromised considerations.

He would allow the grand design (“grand collage,” Bending the Bow vii) to emerge in its own time from the agonistic dance of Eros and Thanatos, chaos and form, darkness and light, permission and obligation. It was not until 1984 that Ground Work I: Before the War appeared, to be followed in February 1988, the month of his death, by Ground Work II: In the Dark.

Fighting my "lies and ignorance"? This is the kind of condescending bullshit that causes everybody else to hate intellectuals.

Guess I should just retract all my institutional critiques because your life is hard...

"Alan Ryan puts the matter well: ‘It is, for instance, pretty suicidal for embattled minorities to embrace Michel Foucault, let alone Jacques Derrida. The minority view was always that power could be undermined by truth ... Once you read Foucault as saying that truth is simply an effect of power, you’ve had it ... "

Umm, yeah, I think this whole thing would have gone better if the person writing it had read the things he was trying to "critique"

Exceptionally self-revelatory statements occasionally alert me to the possibility they were the product of self-awareness. If Galen Strawson is among "greatest Contemporary philosophers",his humor is dry enough to make packing material in the basement of a museum. He is quoted:

"Philosophy, unlike natural science, usually works at finding good ways of characterizing how things are without engaging in much empirical or a posteriori investigation of the world..."

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