Thursday, October 14, 2004

La Mort du Derrida, cont.

Derrida and postmodernism are a mockery not only of science, and of a humanistic technology, but of authentic philosophy, whether analytical or speculative. His quasi-hegelian writings are the latest collections of useless, unconfirmable, unspecifiable obscurities. Students do not need phenomenology, whatever that is taken to be--pretty much subjective descriptions of consciousness with no proof or evidence offered.

Po-Mo is one of the greatest disasters for academia, even worse than Marx or Sartre, and I say that not as a conservative or puritan. Marx's economic concepts remain relevant, even if we object to marxist ideology or aesthetics; Sartre, regardless of his infatuation with "nothingness" and his cafe decadence, could write quite well, and certainly had something of a humanist's sensibility.

Neither rational or empirical, deductive or inductive, analytic or synthetic, Derrida's slithery little ideas are really a sort of a low grade pantheism, and he is the hierophant for the lit.crit. initiates who somehow crawl into academia and tenure without ever having mastered basic cognitive skills--quantitative and analytical-- that most of us have to work at for years. It is questionable whether Derrida even had the qualifications to teach in philosophy or literature departments (the French BAC for the most part still churning out 12th century clerics). Methinks Frere Jacques would not have fared too well on any objective measurement of intellectual ability, such as the GREs. But then neither would Showalter or Kristeva or Bloom or a typical UC feminist hack such as Judith Butler ( total venting stooge, really) or any of the other literary papists now spewing their drivel at the US public's expense (even Bake-field has a few po-mo pheminista smegmoid spewers out at CSUB)...
Reification of the Cephalopod

Those non-post-modernists (hopefully there are some remaining) who read a contemporary writer such as Thomas Pynchon in regards to specifiable technological as well as psychological/linguistic contexts are, I think, by necessity, required to denounce Derrida's entire project, if not speculative philosophy as a whole. Read Pynchon's essay "Is it OK to be a Luddite" (a nice antidote to continental lit.crit garbagio), and note TP's tentative approval, or at least slacker modification, of CP Snow's idea of the "Two Cultures"...

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

The Grand Myth of Objective Ethics

During campaign time, many of us may note that the words "ethics," "values", and "morality" are continually bandied about, by both left and right, as if we all agreed on what they meant. None of the political moralists ask the meta-ethical question: Why should we be moral? And what does morality really consist of? Obviously, it is in some people's interest to be moral (and to have others be moral); it is in some people's interest to be "immoral" (and to have others be what we might term "immoral," or act immorally). The needs of the moralists and immoralists are certainly going to clash sometimes. Imagine the requirements and goals of the following groups: teetotalers vs. bar owners and brewery owners; vegetarians vs. cattlemen; Kern residents subjected to refinery air pollution vs. petroleum executives; schoolteachers vs. pornographers, etc.


Moreover, does Corporate America (or international capitalism ) operate on moral grounds? I think not. In fact it's debatable that those of us counted among the marginalized have a duty to respect the law. It certainly is not pragmatic to hack say a personnel database and get the SS#'s and DOBs of state employees and then open credit accounts in their name, but it might be in some sense justifiable. Robbing say Larry Flynt OR Bill Gates or Harvey Weinstein does not seem, in principle, unethical.

Morality is not simply about being nice or even respectful; it's about creating an ethical society based on entitlement, on the notion that everyone--except perhaps for criminal psychopaths--has a right to participate in the economy, to the best of their abilities. Malthus and Darwin would have something to say about this as well, however--what is the status of values and morality during a famine, or plague, or warfare? Little to no status, to be sure.

Expecting humans to all suddenly become ethical (or rational) is about equivalent to expecting the barons and baronesses on the Forbes 400 list to start doling out cash, with no strings attached, to the millions of needy and impoverished.
I think it was Bertrand Russell who said that teaching people to be "moral" is nearly impossible, but teaching logic and rationality is possible; therefore, we should focus on developing intelligence rather than simply do-goodism, and with that intelligence hopefully morality will increase as well. But someone like VI Lenin certainly had some pragmatic strategies for bringing about a more economically-just society. So did, say, John Dillinger....

Deep thought for the day: humans, even ones that can program computers, spin integrals, or compose symphonies, are far more animalistic (and acquisitive, hungry, greedy, lustful, etc.) than any traditional ethics or philosophy portray them as, and any attempts at rational ethics are most likely doomed. The great liberal myth of the "rational man" is a sentimental fiction, useful to justify capitalism and greed.

"Political power comes out of the barrel of a gun." Mao

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Welcome to Oblivion

The friendly staff at recently posted a question regarding the existence or non-existence of an "afterlife." Although the uptight X-tian or hedonistic mallrat relishes an opportunity to leap into the fray and provide an analysis-lite, any rational, well-thoughtout answer to this metaphysical chestnut will require a decision on materialism vs. immaterialism. Though most philosophers and brain scientists appear to hold to non-mystical and anti-theological positions, there may be some grounds to believe that consciousness may not be entirely material. Philosopher David Chalmers (web search him) argues that since there are facts about consciousness that are not deducible from physical facts, materialism is false:

(1) There are truths about consciousness that are not deducible from physical truths.

(2) If there are truths about consciousness that are not deducible from physical truths, then materialism is false.

(3) Materialism is false.

Verifying the first premise is of course the crux, and the "hard problem" of consciousness that Chalmers discusses. I am not sure how one goes about establishing the truth of that first premise: is it a purely scientific question? Let us assume that is true. The argument does not necessarily imply God, or immortality, or heaven or hell. Though admittedly not a quantum neuro-scientist or whatever the "consciousness experts" are termed these days, I tend towards skepticism of any immaterial accounts of consciousness, yet it is not logically impossible that immaterial states of consciousness exist; and if these states do exist then some form of "spiritual incarceration," or, conversely, a spiritual reward, is a possibility, however remote.

We can quite easily conceive of a Hitler or Pol Pot in some form of hell, or perdition, or Tartarus. Some would situate George W. Bush there (though his sin is more of stupidity perhaps than evil); others might conceive of say Rosie O'Donnell in some uncomfortable hot vat. Hell may be formulated perhaps on ethical and logical grounds, as well as religious grounds. Dante was more than willing to put hypocritical Christians in hell--simply ingesting the eucharist each and every Sunday is certainly not sufficient to gain admittance into the realms of the Blessed.

Thus I object to the notion of automatic forgiveness that so many fundamentalist morons would have us believe is true. What about virtuous pagans, such as LitKickers? In Dante's Inferno, the greek philosophers were placed in Elysium, not in Hell, but more like Purgatory, where it's sort of gloomy, but the light of reason was always observable. Yet the pagans never escape from Purgatory. Purgatory is really not a bad idea--remember that Professor that gave you a B when you definitely earned an A? Perhaps after 5000 years or so, when her spiritual errors are purged, she crawls out of her hole of excrement and is allowed admittance into the bottom rings of Heaven. If a person lived a fairly ethical and rational life, then he or she may be rewarded, sort of like being admitted to the cosmic fraternity, and joins the "elect"--Alpha Beta Epsilon, or whatever.

Virtuous pagans and skeptics, say Thomas Jefferson or Einstein, thus are admitted into some spiritual land of the blesssed, regardless of their doubts of Scripture; whereas moronic violent believers (say Falwell) are not. The parallel worlds hypothesis of some quantum physicists also offers interesting afterlife scenarios; though I think a Newton, whose constants and equations, for the most part, still accurately map the mechanics of planetary motion, is ranked much higher than irrationalists and equivocators such as Derrida and the post-modernists, who may be hard-pressed to gain entrance into Purgatory. Is knowledge of integrals, set theory, special and general relativity, etc. a requirement for access to upper echleons of Paradise? That is not implausible. Is the ability to conjugate French verbs a requirement? Membership in the Rotary Club? Have in your possession at the time of death a well-behaved wifey and kids, as well as property--Welcome to the Pearly Gates Country Club: ONLY WHITE MALE PROPERTY OWNERS ALLOWED. Or perhaps there are heavens and hells for everyone, of all religious or non-religious creeds, a sort of pantheistic play of forces, where in one realm, a Derrida or a William Burroughs is near some linguistic paradise, and in another they are being looked over by jackal-faced demons characteristic of the egyptian underworld......

As an aside, I must say I find Dante's Inferno quite entertaining. I especially enjoy contemplating the lower levels, the Malebolge, where the Hypocrites and Betrayers are located, quite a bit lower than those guilty of mere sins of the flesh (whores and sodomites, etc.). Signior Dante obviously felt that those who had betrayed their country, their countrymen, and/or children were near the bottom of Hell. There seem to be quite a few corrupt Catholic clergymen and noblemen, assassins and murderers as well. The Prophet Mohammed is down there, as are numerous other heretics, as well as corrupt judges such as Caiaphas. In the icy center of the hell-lake Cocytus, Brutus, the assassin of Julius Caesar, and his cohort Cassius are being gnawed on by Lucifer, their heads out; Judas Iscariot of course is being swallowed eternally head-first by the massive Lucifer, who, in a mockery of the Trinity, has 3 mouths.

Contemporary professionals--Liberal and Conservative--should absorb a bit of this. Those academics and professionals who would consistently violate Jeffersonian principles of meritocracy (though sworn to uphold such principles), reject logic and reason, and dismiss any notions of objective ethics or justice, as well as blithely ignore the general humanistic teachings of Scripture, those are our contemporary Caiaphases, who, in some perdition, considered either from a secular or sacred standpoint, art to be damned.....

Custom Search

Blog Archive