Sunday, November 26, 2006

RESPONSES TO TWO COMMENTS

To begin with, “Intellectual Impostures” is the French/U.K. title of “Fasionable Nonsense.”

SUBTILLION

Before I address any specific statement in your text, I’d like to say that you yourself in the act of denying the validity of reading Lacan and others’ texts from a scientific viewpoint have violated the entire concept of hermeneutics. You have done so by attempting to undermine the validity of an entire interpretive community (even if it be so small as merely Sokal, Bricmont, and Dawkins – and I assure you, it does not). What makes you so privileged to assume such a dominant and egregiously exclusionary position? It is acceptable to react against an interpretive community that undermines (or attempts to undermine) the validity of yours by, in turn, undermining it itself? Doesn’t that violate the whole spirit of things?

“Unfortunately, the truths of the postmodern movement, as obscured by the common trash as they are, have equally been lost on Mr. Dawkins, Mr. Sokal and Mr. Bricmont.”

What exactly do you mean by the word “truth”? Do you mean a universal truth? Or do you mean an objective truth? Or do you simply mean what happens to be true right now (by which I mean, of course, “then”) at the moment of your writing the word “truth”? Perhaps by using the word “truth,” you meant “non-truth.” If so, did you mean the simultaneously absence and presence of truth? Most notably, it would seem that, at the very least, by your creation and application of the word “truth” has, by the very action of your writing it, attempted to assume the dominant position in a violent hierarchy of your own creating (namely, “truth” and “non-truth,” or, for the beginner, the presence of said “truth” and/versus the absence of said “truth”). So, already, it seems you miss the “point” of the philosophy you adore.

“What the authors fail to realize is that philosophy is indeed not science, and should not be read as such...” AND “Certainly it is not true that all readings are created equal, as the extreme post-modernists would have us believe, but by this token it is by no means clear in these cases that a failure to make sense of a text is the correct reading either.”

On what basis do you, presumably as the heroic defender of postmodernism, determine the correct reading of a text? Once again, you have created a violent hierarchy: “correct reading of text” in contrast to “incorrect reading of text.” And, interestingly enough, you once again assumed the dominant role over what you perceive to be an incorrect reading of a text: 1) On what basis can you state that an incorrect reading of a text is, indeed, incorrect? 2) On what basis do you determine the correct or incorrect reading of a text other than your own tastes and/or desires?

3) To remove my tongue from my cheek for a mere moment, just saying that it’s so don’t make it so: if you make an assertion (i.e. “You don’t understand ____,” which, by the way, has largely been the extent of the postmodern response to Sokal, Bricmont, and others), please be prepared to substantiate, not by purposefully complexifying the subject, but by simplifying it, as I apparently am so silly as to be unable to comprehend neither whit or word of the supposed genius(es) in question. 4) Also, it is the height of hilarity to suggest that Lacan’s texts cannot be evaluated according to any objective criteria or standard; however, Sokal and Bricmont’s critique of Lacan is held to some supposedly “objective” standard, namely, yours. If the critique is, why isn’t the original text? 5) Lastly, if Lacan’s texts are just “poetry” and “art,” then why would he pretend to be a psychoanalyst? And if he’s a psychoanalyst, why was he writing poetry (professionally, I mean)? (And if he is a psychoanalyst, why doesn’t his method of psychoanalysis produce beneficial results in his patients?)

Lastly, before you continue your admittedly spirited defense of Lacan and others on the sole basis that Sokal and others like him “do not understand” and “misinterpret” and “fail to read correctly,” please read the post immediately below this one (it’s a sixteen page essay about Lacan from the viewpoint of a former disciple and contemporary psychoanalyst, “From Lacan to Darwin”). You may find it illuminating.

UBERMEISTER SWEDLOW, I’ll address your comment later, but you may find “From Lacan to Darwin” interesting as well.

8 Comments:

Blogger subtillioN said...

Hi Michael,

Thank you for taking the time to address my points, and try your own hermeneutics on my hermeneutics of this hermeneutic.

I'll try to clear up the miscommunication, as I see it (i.e. from my relative and limited pov).

By "truths", I mean "relative truth," and certainly not absolute or universal Truth, which I believe is a contradiction in terms. IMhO, there is relative truth in all ideas, even those of Sokal, Bricmont and Dawkins. And no, I was not excluding a scientific, or even an objective analysis of philosophy, only pointing out its limits and that these authors did not comply with the injunctions of this particular paradigm (again speaking loosely), namely learning the new context and vocabulary of the authors they seek to criticize. They simply were not being scientific, and this is indeed why they failed to understand the passages they claimed (falsely) were meaningless. But most scientists have little training in inter-paradigmatic science. They often don't understand that in order to viably criticize something, including any alternative scientific paradigm, you must first understand it to the point that you can see its relative truths, i.e. you can see the world from its eyes, so to speak. That is the injunction for the paradigm that these scientists have failed to comply with, and thus they have failed to be scientific. They simply have not taken the time to learn the new, transfigured vocabulary.

Furthermore, I do not assume to hold any pregiven or absolute hermeneutic on this (or any other) topic myself. But I do happen to be a student of Deleuze, especially as his interpretion of the rationalists, Spinoza and Leibniz, are concerned. Deleuze's interpretation, in the history of philosophy, is by far the best I have seen. My point is simply that once you actually find, what Deleuze calls "the plane of consistency" in his own thought, it is far from meaningless, and his style, I have found, while being highly creative, is very logical, clear and rational.

And indeed, as a student of Deleuze, I am very much prepared to simplify and discuss the aspects of his work that I have studied, namely his rationalist metaphysics. I am nearly finished writing a book that does (among other things) this very a thing (www.spinbitz.net). Feel free to ask any question about his work, for which I am familiar, and I will simplify it for you. I do find Deleuze's words often overly complicated, but this is because he lacked some critical underlying concepts needed to make his ideas simpler. After studying him, I do not feel his intent was ever to complexify for the sake of complexifying, but his philosophy is an art, and his complexity is generally for the sake of his own creative exploration of ideas.

So, no, I am not a heroic defender of postmodernism, and I have only really studied in depth one "post-modernist" (not counting Nietzsche). I have not even attempted here to defend Lacan, given that I don't know his work. But I am a defender of Deleuze and his work on Spinoza and Leibniz, which I feel is critical and very valuable for the project of rationalism as a whole. So, again, feel free to ask any questions regarding his work on these two philosophers, and anything about his metaphysics and ontology, and even some aspects of his epistemology, and I'll be happy to simplify them greatly.

Again, Thank You for taking the time to respond to my comments.

All the Best,
Joel Morrison
www.spinbitz.net

10:59 AM  
Blogger Admin said...

I would have to take issue with the statement that Sokal and Bricmont failed to "comply with the injunctions of this particular paradigm (again speaking loosely), namely learning the new context and vocabulary of the authors they seek to criticize." I think that is exactly what Sokal and Bricmont did, namely emulating the paradigmatic 'phrase regimens' of Lacan and company so well that they even succeeded in fooling dialectical experts like Ross and Aronowitz at Social Text. Yet, ironically, Lacan, Baudrilliard and Delueze, etc. abjure from publishing their pseudo-scientific musings in any science journals.
So they have coopted and transfigured a particular mode of signifying - namely that if mathematics, physics and science in general, without disclosing any of the isomorphisms.
I do not doubt that some of these writings can have "meaning" in a poetic or metaphoric sense but that meaning must inhere in the reader, or along the reader/writer axis. It emphatically does not inhere in the text itself -- this according to Stanley Fish.
That being said, I do find some of Deleuze and Guattari's ideas, namely the Rhizome, to be evocative and would be happy to explore that metaphor further, in a metaphoric inter-paradigmatic sense.
signed,
euthydemos,
a reader

11:15 AM  
Blogger subtillioN said...

Good point, euthydemos. But I was not talking about their publication of their pseudo article, i.e. "the Sokhal affair". I was rather talking about their admittedly failed attempt to make sense of the text that they pasted out of context. If they really knew the "paradigms" of the thought they were attempting to criticize, these ideas would not be meaningless. They are, however, ripped from a complex web of ideas which they were critically embedded, and thus even harder to decipher without that context. I know because Deleuze's thought once appeared equally as meaningless. It was only when I found his work on Spinoza and needed to delve in deeper and find the "plane of consistency" in his thought, that it began to make sense. Now it just seems rather straightforward, considering his historical position in the evolution of these ideas.

Again, I disagree with the conclusion of these authors that Deleuze, in particular, is purposefully partaking in obfuscation. I think it is because these authors are not really Deleuze scholars--i.e. they have not undertaken the "injunctions" required to understand the "paradigm" of Deleuze's thought--that they came to their, IMhO incorrect, conclusions. And again, I'd be happy to simplify and generalize the aspects of Deleuze about which I am familiar.

The Sokhal affair is entirely another matter, which just goes to show the inadequacy of the peer-review process in general, in that, even in science, it is used to maintain the status quo at the expense of new ideas. The affair really has nothing to do with the validity of these thinkers at all, namely Deleuze, but with the editor's of the journals.

12:02 PM  
Blogger subtillioN said...

...And furthermore, "emulating the paradigmatic 'phrase regimens'" is not the same thing as actual understanding. The postmodern generator can emulate the "phrase regimens", yet it clearly cannot understand even what it writes, let alone the texts which it emulates.

So again, I stand by my comment. Sokhal and Bricmont failed to comply with the scientific method and go through the injunctions of the paradigm to adequately critique the texts. That is why they failed to make sense of it and only succeeded in "emulating the paradigmatic 'phrase regimens' of Lacan and company so well that they even succeeded in fooling dialectical experts like Ross and Aronowitz at Social Text." Props to them for exposing the so-called "experts" and for shaking up the peer-review system in general.

12:11 PM  
Blogger Admin said...

Perhaps you could shed some insight on the following:

"A rhizome as a subterranean stem is absolutely different from roots and radicles. Bulbs and tubers are rhizomes. Plants with roots or radicles may be rhizomorphic in other respects altogether. Burrows are too, in all their functions of shelter, supply, movement, evasion, and breakout. The rhizome itself assumes very diverse forms, from ramified surface extension in all directions to concretion into bulbs and tubers ... The rhizome includes the best and the worst: potato and couchgrass, or the weed." (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987, p. 6- 7)

"A rhizome as no beginning or end; it is always in the middle, between things, interbeing, intermezzo. The trees is filiation, but the rhizome is alliance, uniquely alliance. The tree imposes the verb "to be," but the fabric of the rhizome is the conjunction, "and...and...and..." "
(Deleuze & Guattari, 1987)

"The rhizome is an anti-genealogy."(Deleuze & Guattari, 1987, p.11)

"The rhizome is not amenable to any structural or generative model. It is a stranger to any idea of genetic axis or deep structure." (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987, p.12)

"Many people have trees growing in their heads, but the brain is more like a grass than a tree" (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987, pg. 17).

"We invoke one dualism in order to challenge another. We employ a dualism of models only in order to arrive at a process that challenges all models" (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987, pg. 20).

"The rhizome is an acentered, nonhierarchical, nonsignifying system without a General and without an organizing memory or central automaton, defined solely by the circulation of states." (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987, p.21)

1:33 PM  
Blogger subtillioN said...

Actually, I have not studied Deleuze’s concept of the rhizome in depth, but I’ll give it a shot.

"A rhizome as a subterranean stem is absolutely different from roots and radicles. Bulbs and tubers are rhizomes. Plants with roots or radicles may be rhizomorphic in other respects altogether. Burrows are too, in all their functions of shelter, supply, movement, evasion, and breakout. The rhizome itself assumes very diverse forms, from ramified surface extension in all directions to concretion into bulbs and tubers ... The rhizome includes the best and the worst: potato and couchgrass, or the weed." (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987, p. 6- 7)

This is simply a straightforward commentary about the difference between rhizomes and roots. I am partially just guessing here, but I think Deleuze was using the rhizome to break from the domination of the root/tree hierarchical system of thought, with its centralized idea, the thesis, that all must ultimately pass through. Deleuze wanted to liberate thought to wander in a more nonlinear, and acategorical fashion.

"A rhizome (h)as no beginning or end; it is always in the middle, between things, interbeing, intermezzo. The trees is filiation, but the rhizome is alliance, uniquely alliance. The tree imposes the verb "to be," but the fabric of the rhizome is the conjunction, "and...and...and..." "
(Deleuze & Guattari, 1987)


Having not studied in depth Deleuze’s concept of the rhizome, I am not certain what Deleuze is getting at with the “to be” thing, but the "and...and...and..." seems relatively clear. The rhizomatic methodof writing and thinking, if I understand correctly, opposes the definitive or numerical identities of essentialism and Platonism, and allows representation to resonate into other possible meanings, freed from the absolute categories of the “to be” assignment.

"The rhizome is an anti-genealogy."(Deleuze & Guattari, 1987, p.11)

"The rhizome is not amenable to any structural or generative model. It is a stranger to any idea of genetic axis or deep structure." (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987, p.12)


Obviously the tree/root is the genealogical metaphor, with a single trunk in the middle, and the rhizome is closer to the genealogical bush. The rhizome opposes the single, absolute mode of thought, fracturing it into its other hidden possible resonances.

"Many people have trees growing in their heads, but the brain is more like a grass than a tree" (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987, pg. 17).

This is great! A little poetic license. Again, this should be clear by now. Just don’t take it literally.

"We invoke one dualism in order to challenge another. We employ a dualism of models only in order to arrive at a process that challenges all models" (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987, pg. 20).

Not clear what Deleuze’s dualism of models is, but I’d guess it is the tree/rhizome dualism, and it then seems clear that this dualism is meant to shake up the hegemony of hierarchical models, with their absolutistic trunk/stems, in favor of a more realistic morphological variety.

"The rhizome is an acentered, nonhierarchical, nonsignifying system without a General and without an organizing memory or central automaton, defined solely by the circulation of states." (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987, p.21)

Again, this should now be clear, despite the new ideas, such as “organizing memory”, “central automaton” (conceptual metaphors for the trunk) and the “circulation of states” (a conceptual metaphor for the nonlinearity of the rhizome morphology. I don’t happen to know the precise meaning of those concepts, having not studied his rhizome.

1:57 PM  
Blogger Admin said...

Joel,
Thank you for your comments.
I think you did a masterful job of at least attempting to draw clarity from some murky source material. I respect your efforts.
I also visited your website at spinbitz, which has many interesting threads as well.
Perhaps we can discuss further.
sincerely,
euthydemos

9:46 AM  
Blogger subtillioN said...

Thanks, euthydemos. I'd love to talk further. What would you like to discuss, and where?

7:18 PM  

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