Thursday, November 30, 2006

SINCE YOU ASKED, SUBTILLION

Firstly, I'm not sure that I see the point of discussing serious topics with someone who, by his own admission, knows very little about them. A Thousand Plateaus is arguably Deleuze and Guattari's most well-known and deeply studied work, but, in your own words: "Actually, I have not studied Deleuze’s concept of the rhizome in depth..." and "I am partially just guessing here..." and "I am not certain what Deleuze is getting at..." and "Not clear what Deleuze’s dualism of models is..." and "I don’t happen to know the precise meaning of those concepts..." I hope you see the pattern. The rhizome is arguably the most important concept advanced by Deleuze and Guattari, and I frankly don't see how you can claim to be so familiar with Deleuze without being familiar with his usage of the rhizome. So, what this indicates to me, just from all of the guessing and uncertainty you've admitted, is that you don't really know what he's talking about either. So, you'll understand if I have some reservations: you already admitted that you know nothing about Lacan and you've since admitted to being quite unclear on the very basics of Deleuze. Therefore, it's difficult to discuss, considering I assume that you, by your own admission being very fuzzy of Deleuze even in the most fundamental sense, take his ability and so-called genius as a matter of faith and not reasonable comprehension (and according to certain postmodern paradigms, i.e. "anti-realism", there's no reason why this is bad - I happen to disagree, but what's new about that?).

Secondly, just out of politeness, let me respond regarding this: "Indeed, it appears that I have made my case. Sokhal [sic], et. al. have failed to be scientific in their 'scientific' attack on postmodernism." Yet again, I'm afraid you're being dreadfully unclear. Sokal and friends have not by any means "failed" to be scientific, and you haven't really made your case convincingly, because you haven't really established why except by making the oh-so-tired craven call of "Golly, you didn't understand it right, guys! (Now, I don't really understand it either, but let me tell you all about it.)" Also, remember that Sokal wasn't just attacking these gentlemen on grounds of psuedoscientific claims and extremely apparent scientific illiteracy, but also on a more "philosophic" level, namely, the extreme lack of clarity by all of the authors mentioned. Now, it's always been the recourse of the disciples of fools and sophists to rely on that aforementioned claim of "you didn't understand because you're stupid", but I'm afraid that doesn't work for very long because it doesn't really contain any substance at all.

Frankly, I'd be happy to admit that thinkers and writers like Deleuze and Guattari are interesting, to say the least, and certainly present some interesting juxtapositions of term. But they certainly aren't scientific, by any measure, and, as a philosophy student myself, I'd argue against them being classified as philosophers, either. Where they belong is in an obscure branch of literature, as philosophists, if you will. It behooves the philosopher to be as clear as possible, not to obscure the message in a purposeful maze of pedantic imagery and semantic meaninglessness. Philosophy should not be given to flippant garrulity. It should never be given to purposeful obfuscation. Why it has taken this temporary turn is that anti-realistic philosophy it requires no discipline whatsoever, and that, I think, is part of its great appeal - namely, it can be given to such meaningless little terms like post-coherentist, etc. Deleuze and friends are nothing more than updated versions of the Greek sophists, and nothing more than French nihilists, or retro-Nietzscheans. I think Sokal and Bricmont's title was especially fitting, in that fashionable nonsense is exactly what gentlemen like Deleuze and Guattari produce.

4 Comments:

Blogger subtillioN said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:51 PM  
Blogger Admin said...

Indeed. I think it is best summed up by Vilfredo Pareto, who said "Give me the fruitful error any time, full of seeds, bursting with its own corrections. You can keep your sterile truth for yourself."

I tend to lean toward the opinion of Henri Bergson (himself not always prone to clarity, but perhaps well-intentioned) who said, "There is nothing in philosophy which could not be said in everyday language."

euthydemos

1:47 PM  
Blogger subtillioN said...

Here is the deleted comment, with corrections...

Thanks, Michael, for the response. I was hoping we could steer of superficial games of misinterpretation, i.e. sophistry, but oh well. I’ll again attempt to clear up the mess. Off the bat, what I find odd is that you don’t seem to really be addressing the points I am making, such as the fact that I am only really talking about Deleuze, and not the postmodernists in general. I take Deleuze as a case-in-point where Sokal/Bricmont have attacked a “postmodernist”, often ultimately by pointing out that they simply can’t understand it. Where is the data that demonstrates that others, such as the entire field of Deleuze scholars, can’t make sense of it? Without data, how can this be a scientific conclusion at all?

Also, notice how you conveniently neglected to attempt an explanation of Quantum Mechanics for my grandmother. If Chomsky can make the claim that a field is not scientific, and understood by its practitioners, unless it can be generalized, then what about Quantum Mechanics? Nobody, according to one of its pioneers Richard Feynman, understands it, yet you don’t hesitate to call it “scientific”. This is a double standard. You are asking something of modern philosophy that can’t even be done for modern science.

“A Thousand Plateaus is arguably Deleuze and Guattari's most well-known and deeply studied work…”

A Thousand Plateaus may be his most popular book, but it is far from his only one or even his most "fundamental" or the most expressive of his philosophy as a whole. The fundamentals of Deleuze are indeed what I have been studying, namely his concept of univocity and his Spinozism. The very foundation of his ontology and epistemology. The rhizome is simply a popular feature of his meta-philosophy and amounts essentially to a style of writing/thinking. And I did indeed demonstrate that my limited knowledge of the rhizome was sufficient to generalize it, "masterfully," as the "admin" noted.

So your whole hypothesis that I take Deleuze's "genius" as a matter of faith is wholly unfounded, typical of the ignorance/arrogance of your entire stance against Deleuze, whom you've hardly studied at all, so that you along with Sokal et. al. can't make sense of his writing. You know next to nothing about Deleuze or my own work and how much of Deleuze I have studied. How very scientific.

You say "Also, remember that Sokal wasn't just attacking these gentlemen on grounds of psuedoscientific claims and extremely apparent scientific illiteracy, but also on a more "philosophic" level, namely, the extreme lack of clarity by all of the authors mentioned." But my point was exactly this, that in the case of Deleuze the lack of clarity was projected from the failed attempt of Sokal et. al. to understand the material. To a deleuzian the material is very clear and logical, and again, the words of science have changed meaning and context in the hands of the post-modernists. Call that "pseudoscientific" if you will, but its the nature of adaptation. A new context requires new meaning.

You then say, "Now, it's always been the recourse of the disciples of fools and sophists to rely on that aforementioned claim of 'you didn't understand because you're stupid', but I'm afraid that doesn't work for very long because it doesn't really contain any substance at all."

Now you are putting words into my mouth. It's not about intelligence and no-one is calling anyone else stupid. It's about the failure on the part of Sokal et. al. to gain the knowledge required to understand the text. They assume that philosophy must use the scientific words exactly as the scientists use them, but that is not how evolution and adaptation works. The words have been adapted to new meanings which the Sokal et. al. have not taken the time to learn, thus their failure to make sense of the texts they criticize.

"But they certainly aren't scientific, by any measure, and, as a philosophy student myself, I'd argue against them being classified as philosophers, either."

Lol, that is the point. They aren't even trying to be scientific. You are stuck between knowledge domains, applying the methods and terms from one to the other, where it doesn't apply. And furthermore, I have yet to see that you even understand the main tenets of Deleuze's philosophy, so why would you think you are qualified to judge them "philosophers" or not? Is that a scientific attitude?

Case in point:

"Deleuze and friends are nothing more than updated versions of the Greek sophists, and nothing more than French nihilists, or retro-Nietzscheans."

Calling them sophists, nihilists, nietzscheian and anti-realists is laughable, and a bit sad. It's just plain ignorance...mixed with arrogance. Nietzsche himself was the very opposite of a nihilist, and Deleuze is much closer to an updated version of a pre-socratic than a sophist. He is arguing for a return to ontology, tangible/sensible metaphysics, philosophical/scientific realism and rationalism/empiricism. He is aiming for a destruction of rampant platonism/idealism and its absolutized concepts. This is key to the evolution of rationalism and scientific realism, and thus the entire reason of my focus on Deleuze.

I think you simply don't know your enemy, so you've allowed Sokal et. al. to distort your very limited view of him, giving them a faith they simply do not deserve. You simply believe that there is no meaning or clarity in the text, all on the evidence that you simply can't find it.


"The rhizome is arguably the most important concept advanced by Deleuze and Guattari, and I frankly don't see how you can claim to be so familiar with Deleuze without being familiar with his usage of the rhizome."

You may note that I merely said that I had not studied the rhizome "in depth", not that I had not studied it at all. Even so, I agreed to play the game of generalizing his concept, and I did so "masterfully," so said the "admin". I find it fascinating that even after I demonstrated that his concept is easily generalizable, even by someone who has not studied it "in depth," you go on to claim that I am unfamilar with it. Right after I demonstrated quite well that I was familiar with it. And from that, you go on to make the fallacious hasty generalization that this means that I "don't really know what he's talking about either." Is this not an admission that you don't understand Deleuze? How can you be so sure that Deleuze is speaking nonsense, then, if you don't understand him? Are you not merely eager to project this inability of your own onto others, in spite of the demonstrations to the contrary, which you neglected to make comment on? Again, I can explain and generalize anything of Deleuze pertaining to his ontology and Spinozism, and even his interpretation of Leibniz. Indeed, in every case that I have sufficient scholarship of Deleuze to count myself even close to competency so as to be qualified to judge, I find his writing quite clear and logical. This tells me that where I don't have sufficient qualifications, I must assume that there is very likely meaning behind my inability to make sense of what he writes. You'd do wise to also not project your own failure of interpretation onto the works of others. As the old maxim goes, "know thyself" enough to know your own limits.

You mentioned that "The rhizome is arguably the most important concept advanced by Deleuze and Guattari." Well then, argue the case that the rhizome is more important to Deleuze's thought than his univocal interpretation of Spinoza. I'd really love to see that.

2:00 PM  
Blogger subtillioN said...

Good points, euthydemos, and sorry to (temporarily) remove my post just as you were responding to it. Bergson was also a favorite of Deleuze, though I have yet to study him in depth (no, michael, i did not say "at all") either, having focussed on the rationalists and Deleuze's interpretations of them. Indeed Deleuze unfolds a quite alternate lineage in the history of philosophy, unmasking a series of misinterpretations (Hegel, mainly) clouding and crippling the project of mathematical and philosophical rationalism as a whole. This is why he is so critical to the project and to realism in the sciences, IMhO. He helps set the record straight and to allow the tools developed by Spinoza and Leibniz to be unearthed and expanded upon, as I do in my forthcoming book.

3:43 PM  

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