Deconstructing Terrorism

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Quick—what's the worst thing you can imagine? Short of bloodshed, how about reading Jacques Derrida blather on about Sept. 11 and global terrorism? Here's a trainweck of an excerpt from the new book, Philosophy in a Time of Terror: Dialogues With Jurgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida:

Borradori: September 11 [le 11 septembre] gave us the impression of being a major event, one of the most important historical events we will witness in our lifetime, especially for those of us who never lived through a world war. Do you agree?

Derrida: Le 11 septembre, as you say, or, since we have agreed to speak two languages, "September 11." We will have to return later to this question of language. As well as to this act of naming: a date and nothing more. When you say "September 11" you are already citing, are you not? You are inviting me to speak here by recalling, as if in quotation marks, a date or a dating that has taken over our public space and our private lives for five weeks now. Something fait date, I would say in a French idiom, something marks a date, a date in history; that is always what's most striking, the very impact of what is at least felt, in an apparently immediate way, to be an event that truly marks, that truly makes its mark, a singular and, as they say here, "unprecedented" event. I say "apparently immediate" because this "feeling" is actually less spontaneous than it appears: it is to a large extent conditioned, constituted, if not actually constructed, circulated at any rate through the media by means of a prodigious techno-socio-political machine.

Link via Armavirumque.

NEXT: Damascus Onion

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  1. Ugh… and people don’t understand why this postmodern bullshit gets no respect from people who live in the real world. That was actually physically painful.

  2. Interesting. You say this chap is a college English teacher…

  3. He’s no dummy. He has to be read very slowly; and the beginnings of essays are the hardest. His imitators are blather but he is not.

    Here’s from later:

    > Derrida: … Despite my very strong reservations about the American,
    > indeed European, political posture, about the “international
    > terrorist” coalition, despite all the de facto betrayals, all
    > the failures to live up to democracy, international law, and
    > the very international institutions that the states of this
    > “coalition” themselves founded and supported up to a certain
    > point, I would take the side of the camp that, in principle,
    > by right of law, leaves a perspective open to perfectibility in
    > the name of the “political,” democracy, international law,
    > international institutions, and so forth. Even if this “in the
    > name of” is still merely an assertion and a purely verbal
    > committment. Even in its most cynical mode, such an assertion
    > still lets resonate within it an invincible promise. I don’t
    > hear any such promise coming from “bin Laden,” at least not
    > one in this world.
    >
    > “Autoimmunity: Real and Symbolic Suicides” _Philosophy in
    > a Time of Terror_ p.113

    which disposes of every argument on the left.

    As to Derrida’s politics, he’s too comfortable with systems for my liking; not an Emersonian. Someday maybe he will see why Nietzsche read Emerson, and change.

  4. If he’s so smart, why can’t he package his totally banal ‘insights’ into decent readable english?

  5. Ron is under the impression that “every argument on the left” amounts to support for antimodern theocracy. Perhaps, “every argument on the left, as explained by National Review,” but certainly not every argument on the left.

  6. You know what would be cool? If, like, this Derrida guy and The Rock were put in a steel cage. Yeah. I think I would pay the $39.95 pay-per-view to see that one.

  7. Obscurity = profundity

  8. It is, I believe, utterly impossible to ascertain with any degree of certainty – certainty being, in this and most other instances in weatsern thought, an uncluttered, unubstructed, knowledge of all knowable facts augmented by a reasonable supposition of what is not directly knowable – just what the F%#* he said.

  9. and habermas (along with the entire frankfort school) = bullshit on stilts.

    ugh.

    drf

  10. I think you can boil Derrida’s statement above to this excerpt:

    “I would take the side of the camp that … leaves a perspective open to perfectibility in the name of the “political,” democracy, international law, international institutions, and so forth.”

    In other words, he’s saying he agrees that mankind has the right to say we’re seeking political perfection, and he’s saying America and Europe are right to do it. He also adds this, in the clearest of language:

    “I don’t hear any such promise coming from “bin Laden,” at least not one in this world.”

    That’s a beautiful statement coming from someone who is the leader of the current postmodern movement, and my compliments to Ron Hardin for finding it.

    The reason Derrida doesn’t speak in declarative sentences is because he likes a mental challenge, and it’s fun for him to talk in difficult words. It’s kind of a code that only he and his colleagues understand.

    But more importantly, the reason they talk in the code in the first place is, it’s frightening for some people to talk straight. Clarity is actually quite opressive to the more sensitive among us. The joke about “The Rock” from Brad S is hilarious, because we know Derrida is not exactly a “powerful guy.”

    But it’s not just Derrida. When a politician says “The sky is blue,” every newspaper on the planet analyzes that statement a thousand different ways, until the politician retracts it and says, “the atmospheric envelope surrounding our planet can arguably be said to reflect at a certain shade of azure at certain times of the day, assuming certain meteorological conditions apply, and also assuming a viewer is not optically or geographically challenged….”

    Basically, Derrida is afraid to speak in declarations because he knows there’s always a “but,” so he piles all the exceptions into one place. It’s too bad, but there it is. Maybe he’s said some other interesting things during his life. Hell if I know, tho.

  11. All right, I must confess to an undignified knee-jerk aversion to vocabulary-stuffed throat-clearing. Not everything in this link can be fairly described as a “trainwreck.” For instance, this statement by Habermas strikes me as reasonable and shrewd, despite the use of the word “suffused”:

    For that matter, the comparison is not to be drawn with Pearl Harbor but rather with the aftermath of August 1914. The outbreak of World War I signaled the end of a peaceful and, in retrospect, somewhat unsuspecting era, unleashing an age of warfare, totalitarian oppression, mechanistic barbarism and bureaucratic mass murder. At the time, there was something like a widespread foreboding. Only in retrospect will we be able to understand if the symbolically suffused collapse of the capitalistic citadels in lower Manhattan implies a break of that type or if this catastrophe merely confirms, in an inhuman and dramatic way, a long known vulnerability of our complex civilization.

    My basic problem with Derrida, and maybe it’s just a problem with Welch, is that I simply can’t cut through the thicket of his language to understand whatever it is he’s talking about.

  12. No, the reason you can’t understand what he’s saying is because, he isn’t actually saying anything.

  13. I agree with Warren and Hovig. Post-modernists like Derrida speak in such non-clarity, and throw in so many complicated caveats, that their language ceases to have any real meaning. True “no speak”. Coming from someone like Derrida, it’s harmless. However, more and more these days, politicians, corporations, special interest groups, and others have increasingly adopted post-modern “no speak” as a way to spin things such that no one really understands what is real, and hence no one is really accountable for anything.

  14. or in other words, if you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit

  15. You’ve gotta be kidding me. Commentary that pretentious and stereotypical simply defies parody. If someone wrote a column like that for The Onion, it would be rejected on account of being too over-the-top.

  16. what an ass.

  17. I don’t know. People I respect tell me the guy is a bona fide genius. That being said, reading his stuff makes my hair hurt…

  18. Maybe a bona fide genius at qualifying a statement into meaninglessness, but in all of it I didn’t notice any real insight about the subject itself…unless, of course, the non-clarity of the issue was his point… or something. My toupe hurts.

  19. Would someone diagram his first sentence?

  20. “I say “apparently immediate” because this “feeling” is actually less spontaneous than it appears: it is to a large extent conditioned, constituted, if not actually constructed, circulated at any rate through the media by means of a prodigious techno-socio-political machine.”

    He forgot to say “metaphorically circulated” instead of just circulated. I wonder if he ever deconstructs his own ramblings and wonders about which idioms he chooses to parse into meaninglessness and which he does not. He allows “circulated” to stand as if it has concrete meaning, when it implies so much of his cultural framework, and so many memes based on the notion of collective experience.

  21. That’s kind of fun, actually.

  22. Brad S.,

    The language of Derrida is no less difficult than Hegel, Kant, Leibniz, Descartes, Aquinas. Ever read Aristotle’s “Ethics?” Ever browse Aquinas’s “Summa Theologica?” How about Augustine’s “Civitas Dei?” You don’t just pick this stuff up on the fly. Writing philosophical works is hard; the subject is hard. Quit whining about it having to read things that are hard to read because the subject matter is difficult.

    Oh no! The reading is hard! What a bunch of infantile crybabies you people are.

  23. BTW, if you think this is hard to read, then you’ve never read a peer-reviewed paper in a science journal. Philosophers, like scientists, write in a specific language that lay people have a hard time understanding. Lay people get frustrated and throw the book at the wall because they are lazy. They pretty much do the same thing with science writing.

  24. Hey, ain’t that Derrida fella French?!

    You best not be readin’ all that crazy French talk anyway, (g’damn Saddam lovers).

  25. I don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.

  26. Jean Bart,

    Ever hear of Karl Popper, Bertrand Russell, A.J Ayer, Voltaire, even Nietzsche – all philosophers, all as plain spoken as the subject allows. And i dont think Descartes’ language is all that hard.

    Derrida lived up to expectations – he managed to use “public space” and “constructed” in the same paragraph.

  27. Jean Bart,
    “Its literary criticism, as opposed to literature.”
    Ok, we’ve established that Derrida’s writings are “literary”. So’s Edmund Wilson’s & most literate life forms can appreciate his work.

    “Can you give me an example of “proveable metaphysics,” do you know the “true nature” of things, their ultimate essence and their reason for being?”
    You are correct – last time i checked, i still had’nt transmogrified into Laplace’s demon despite visits to JPL and Genentech (no radioactive accidents while i was there!), so i am not privy to the cosmic meaning of existence. Or to summarize your various responses, since we dont know everything, therefore we must shut up in respectful deference to a priesthood that speaks in a mysterious tongue of “ultimate essences”.

    mak_nas,

    Did you notice that Jean Bart has not said a word about Russell/Popper, Dennett, Quine etc. I wonder why that is ? Because they certainly are interested in & have written at length about the “nature of things”, & in clear language too. As opposed to one only accessible to the initiate. Or is’nt that a “little reading” ? In fact, Jean Bart’s stock answer seems to be that no one has read anything other than him. I suspect it’s just a matter of time before he insists that one has to have read Derrida in the original to truly understand him.

  28. Of course Derrida doesn’t write clearly. His career is premised on the notion that the signifier and the signified – or things and words to us illiterates – are not closely linked.

    In other words, words themselves don’t really have a fixed meaning. Every sign and symbol is negotiable.

    Most philosophes in the academic community act like this is a unique and new idea, but it just draws on the original thoughts of Aristotle, that words sometimes don’t have precise meanings because people sometimes have different subjective understandings of them.

    As an applied philosophy, Derrida’s stuff is a bit of a bummer. In the real world of stopsigns, turn lanes, hazardous materials and lawnmowers, one finds that the words mean exactly what we think they mean; that the meaning is clear; and that deconstructing the stopsign, the Hazmat sticker or the safety warning does little to stop the crashing, burning and bleeding caused by the things that we were warned would crash, cause burns, and lead to bloodshed.

    But applied to the artificial world of lit crit, Derrida allows one to identify the radical gay separatist colonialist importance of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. He thus enables all sorts of pretencious wankers to enjoy illustrious academic careers.

    Of course one has to wonder how much he believes the premise of his life’s work – that words have no real fixed meaning. How he would react if a bank clerk refused to cash his paycheck, asserting that the words “pay to the order of Jacques Derrida” actually mean “refuse this check and shut the cashier’s window”?

  29. “Or to summarize your various responses, since we dont know everything, therefore we must shut up in respectful deference to a priesthood that speaks in a mysterious tongue of “ultimate essences”.”

    precisely. whenever it was that analysis was first overpowered by the worship of analysis (and, by extension, analyzers), it was then that the renaissance truly ended.

  30. I’ve had this argument with people before. Aside from my distrust of schools of philosophy with “star pupils” such as Heidegger and de Man, the damn collaborators with Nazis, I am put off by the proponents’ attitude that popularization of their ideas is either beneath them, or impossible. Those of us who did not choose philosophy as a course of graduate study are asked to allow “professionals” to merrily interpret “texts” – read “anything and everything” for “texts” – while brooking no objection from the unwashed masses. If this was all an argument over what was really going on in Proust’s mind when he dunked that cookie, it wouldn’t bother me. But the decons and pomos have taken root in the faculties of our universities, spawned the Critical Legal Studies Movement, with its goal of reducing black-letter-law into a grey mush, and otherwise fostered the destruction of common meaning in the language.

    Where do you think “it depends on what “Is”, is” comes from? Why can’t courts read “no law” as NO @#%&$ LAW!?

    I say its spinach, and I say to the hell with it. I don’t agree with astrology, either, but I don’t have to pore over an ephemeris, casting charts, to figure out why it is bunk.

    “Theory” – theory OF WHAT, may I ask? – is, at its base, a smuggling of Marxist economic-historical critique into every other aspect of life. Since Marxism has been such a raging success in all its other manifestations, I’m sure we’ll agree that we can depend on its power to explain all else.

    Brrrpppp!*

    Kevin

    *(an oenomatic Bronx cheer, as it were.)

  31. Jean Bart,

    Posted by “August 8, 2003 01:08 PM” was me.

    Fire away.

  32. Stephen Fetchet,

    “In other words, words themselves don’t really have a fixed meaning. Every sign and symbol is negotiable.” Etc.

    IMHO you can start with that premise and still produce interesting work. Example Jorge Luis Borges, Italo Calvino.

  33. Jean Bart,

    “You obviously have ever read Nietschze, or Descartes.” etc

    I wrote three sentences and you got all that ! Not bad.
    By the way, the stuff Derrida writes is “literary” in nature too, pseudo-technical terminology & unprovable metaphysics notwithstanding. And i’ll take Voltaire over Derrida any day of the week.

  34. Oops … That was me.

  35. SM,

    Ahh yes, the cult of the working man.

    mak_nas,

    Keep your national chauvinism to yourself.

    Stephen Fetchet,

    You must not like magical realism then. And whether you like it or not, language is wholly arbitrary.

  36. SM,

    The problem is that I don’t see a lack of clarity; in fact, Popper (wrongheaded as he was) is clear to me as Derrida or Kant.

  37. Jean Bart,

    FYI, anon at 10:32 am was me…

  38. Brad S.,

    Some conclusions:

    De Saussure: Different languages produce different concepts; as a French speaker I no only speak differently, but I think differently than an American. The first principle of Saussure’s linguistics is the arbitrariness of signs; that is there is (1) no natural connection between signifier and signified, in other words, there is nothing in nature which requires English speakers to use the word “dog” for dogs (BTW, structuralists and post-strucuturalists picked up on this from Plato, but in the opposite direction, because he felt that was some natural connection), … you’ll have to forgive me, but I have to get back to this later. Bit of an emergency.

    Thanks

  39. jean bart, my old corsair, I will not get into a slanging match about litcrit/”philosophical” schools with you. The answer to the layperson’s revulsion to accredited nonsense is always “you haven’t studied any of this, you’ve got the family tree wrong” and, of course, “here are cites to 10,000 pages of abstruse commentary I’ve read while researching my dissertation.”

    In the public square, arguing with ordinary citizens, you are obliged to express those ideas in terms a layperson can understand, else it is nothing more than an argument from authority, which amuses when those being called on frequently don’t even admit that there is such a thing as authority.

    Sometimes, not always, a man’s actions cast doubt on his writing. Does it not cause us to be skeptical about Rousseau’s advice on raising children to know that he sired many a bastard, and made foundlings out of each of them? Marx kept a family servant at virtually no pay. Often, these peccadillos don’t have any impact, as when we study the natural sciences. But anyone who sets themselves up in the sphere of morality is fair game for these criticisms.

    kevrob

    (Kant? not a marxist. Marx, a pseudo-kantian? Sure.)

  40. Jean Bart,

    See, now that post was good. You pointed out to me, in a very concise and sensible manner, that language necessarily informs not only how we speak but also how we think and form conclusions about the world. Excellent.

  41. Mr. Bart,

    “The language of Derrida is no less difficult than Hegel, Kant, Leibniz, Descartes, Aquinas. Ever read Aristotle’s “Ethics?” Ever browse Aquinas’s “Summa Theologica?” How about Augustine’s “Civitas Dei?” You don’t just pick this stuff up on the fly. Writing philosophical works is hard; the subject is hard. Quit whining about it having to read things that are hard to read because the subject matter is difficult.”

    Derrida is not writing about the matter himself. He is playing infantile games with language. “A date or a dating.” Oh, and what distinction would he be making there? It’s just verbal adornment, meant to be suggestive of some profound distinction that he’ll never get around to. I used to be in to this sort of thing, but it gets tiresome.

    He thinks he’s being witty, and he’s just being a bore. Unlike these philosophers you mention — who had the guts to put a thesis out there and defend it — Derrida loves to hide behind a thicket of qualifications that allow him to avoid ever actually saying anything. In addition, his vaugeness of reference (“techno-socio-political machine”??) means that anything he does say can be considered true.

    St. Augustine is crystal. Descartes is crystal, elegant, and honest. Aquinas is harder, but you’ll note that he sits down, makes a statement with some content, and then walks through with the reader the possible objects and counterobjections.

    Stop accusing people of being less well read than you.

    “BTW, if you think this is hard to read, then you’ve never read a peer-reviewed paper in a science journal. Philosophers, like scientists, write in a specific language that lay people have a hard time understanding. Lay people get frustrated and throw the book at the wall because they are lazy. They pretty much do the same thing with science writing.”

    No comparison. Scientific papers are written in crystal clear declarative sentences. The issues are hard, and the intuitions mathematical, but the language is plain and unadorned. A scientist who wrote like Derrida would never have a chance of being published. Period.

  42. “A date or a dating.” Oh, and what distinction would he be making there?

    If I understand correctly, a date is a date, while a dating is the process of giving a certain date meaning (beyond just being that day on the calender.)

  43. Jean Bart,

    “The problem is that I don’t see a lack of clarity; in fact, Popper (wrongheaded as he was) is clear to me as Derrida or Kant.”

    Lets respond to this the Jean Bart way.

    1. You obviously have not read Popper.
    2. Stop being so lazy. You need to read more Popper.
    Etc, etc, etc.

  44. SM,

    Popper was flat wrong regarding his falsification theory; Popper’s attempts to expunge induction from the field of science have failed, and rightly so.

    Simon,

    The reason you don’t know Derrida’s thesis is because you’ve never read his work!

    Brad S.,

    All my posts are good. 🙂

  45. Let me attack this rather stupid thesis that somehow structuralists and post-modern thinkers fear coming up with a thesis, conclusion, etc. (the mere fact that Derrida posits that language is slippery as it is defeats this notion from the start, but I’ll be charitable and accept the challenge nonetheless while I listen to Ministry).

    First of all, the lot of you need a little background to get you up to speed.

    Most of what I have seen here are complaints about structuralism, etc.; these complaints which attack the language that structuralists, etc. use are really thinly veiled attacks on structuralism , etc itself. So lets set matters straighty and come up with a proper definition of structuralism, and the ideas that sprang from it.

    Structuralism’s ancestors are in classical Continental Rationalist thought of the 17th-18th centuries, rather than the thought of the British (mostly Scots) empiricists.

    British empiricists: Locke, Berkeley, Hume, etc. – claimed that the mind is a “tabula rasa,” & that reality effects it via the senses; sense-data creates knowledge (this is an atomistic view; filled with discrete pieces of matter).

    Rationalists: Kant, Leibniz, Spinoza, Descartes, etc. – claimed that knowledge of the world is mediated by ideas/structures in the mind (mind is not a tabula rasa); if we study these innate structures, etc., we should be able to discover universal structures – discover the universal, unchanging truths – obviously the heavy hand of Plato is visible here (looking for said truth also tended to lead to heavy use of mathematical formulas – which explains why Leibniz and Descartes were also talented mathematicians).

    These are the two starting points of modern Western philosophy, and its been the clash (sometimes nice and sometimes not) between these two that has been much of the energy behind the philosophical endeavour for the past couple of hundred years.

    Now I’m going to discuss the two structuralists/post-structuralists: Michel Foucault (my favorite modern philosopher) and Jacques Derrida.

    Foucault: One thing that is often not known about Foucault is that he seriously loved and enjoyed the US; he taught there and loved travelling to SF to take advantage of the bath house, etc. culture there.

    Now let’s define structuralism – (1) content can be reduced to the hidden structures behind it & (2) the sign/signifier argument seen above about Saussure should be applied to all social phenomenon – RESULT: there are no atomistic entities; all that exists are relationships (built upon structures); its all organic

    Foucault rejected the label structuralist because he was rather suspicious of totalizing or deterministic theories; which is one of the reasons he rejected Marxism early on in his life, as well as Jung and Freud.

    I’ll finish this after I get a coffee. 🙂

  46. joe,

    “”A date or a dating.” Oh, and what distinction would he be making there?

    If I understand correctly, a date is a date, while a dating is the process of giving a certain date meaning (beyond just being that day on the calender.)”

    That is indeed a possible meaning of that sentence. It could also, for example, mean “dating” in the sense of “making seem pass?”. But — and this is my criticism — don’t expect Derrida to resolve any ambiguities in his own text.

    Jean,

    I have read Derrida, thank you. Your assertion that Derrida is technical in the same manner that scientific papers are technical indicates to me that you have never read a scientific paper you had the training to understand.

    You write:

    “let me attack this rather stupid thesis that somehow structuralists and post-modern thinkers fear coming up with a thesis, conclusion, etc. (the mere fact that Derrida posits that language is slippery as it is defeats this notion from the start, but I’ll be charitable and accept the challenge nonetheless while I listen to Ministry).”

    You shouldn’t listen to music while you try to think.

  47. SM,

    Its literary criticism, as opposed to literature. Can you give me an example of “proveable metaphysics,” do you know the “true nature” of things, their ultimate essence and their reason for being? If so, write a paper on the subject; a lot of people will be impressed by your ability to prove what has been argued over since the time of Aristotle!

    kevrob,

    If you think the heart of structuralism and post-structuralism is Marxism, you are out of your goddamned mind. Here’s a perfect example of why you are wrong – Foucault was an avowed anti-Marxist, yet he was one of the darlings of post-structuralism. Now admittedly, Marxism and post-structuralism has similar roots, specifically Kant, but in this way so does classical economists labor theory of value and the Marxist conception of it (Locke being the common source). Of course if you are going to tell me that Kant was a Marxist, that will really make me giggle.

    As to the bit about the unwashed masses, all that is required is that you do a little work, and your response is – “we’re being repressed!”

    Heidegger & the Nazis – http://www.webcom.com/paf/hlinks/hnazi.html

    Warning! It might require a little reading!

    There are two reflexive reactions to consider. First, one can argue that there is a tight, logically necessary connection between the character of the author and the character of the work, and that if Heidegger was a morally dubious individual (which he clearly was – Richard Rorty called him a “nasty piece of work”), his work as a whole will be inevitably “tainted” with his moral failings. Or second, one can deny any connection between person and work, and insist that they are necessarily separate: as Richard Rorty put it, “character” and “genius” are contingent traits that arise from different idiosyncratic, contingent “neural kinks” that have nothing to do with each other.

    The problem with both of these approaches is, I think, well expressed by the philosopher Jurgen Habermas when he complains that they tend to “short circuit” any relationship between thought and life, or “work and world-view”, by making such a relationship, or non-relationship, necessary rather than contingent, universal rather than a mark of the particular case. For example, Frege was a virulent anti-Semite and anti-Catholic, and an ardent, fanatical German nationalist. Does this compromise his work on sense and reference? Perhaps: some have tried to argue this point (see Andrea Nye, Words of Power: a Feminist Reading of the History of Logic (Routledge)), and it would be foolish to rule this line-of-interpretation out of court a priori. But it’s equally clear that the other tack is plausible too — that Frege’s work as a logician swings free from his miserable personality. Similar observations might be made about the poets T.S. Eliot, W.B. Yeats, and Ezra Pound (all right-wingers, with Yeats flirting with the Irish Fascist Blueshirts and Pound making treasonous radio broadcasts for Mussolini) and their poetry: as W.H. Auden once said apropos of Yeats, we forgive him for having written well. Consider also the dramatist Bertolt Brecht, the critic Georg Lukacs, and the philosopher-essayist Jean-Paul Sartre, all of whom made an ignoble peace, at some time, with Stalinist tyranny (and, in Sartre’s case, with the barbarities of Mao’s cultural revolution), and their literary output. Picasso, Gauguin, Celine, Robert Frost, Richard Wagner — all of these individuals were incredibly awful as persons, or held repellent political opinions, or both; and while it is quite possible that the sordid personality traits or political convictions might find explicit or hidden expression in the work, it is equally possible that they might have little or no inherent or intrinsic connection to it. It depends on the individual case: the only way to determine this is to encounter the work with an open mind, and with both eyes open.

    And to be frank, when the lot at a work and find the language difficult and throw said work at the wall, you’ve got both eyes closed.

  48. Yeats was not a right winger. He made political alliances along a broad front for the cause of Irish independence. By that logic, Churchill was a Stalinist.

  49. “The reason Derrida doesn’t speak in declarative sentences is because he likes a mental challenge, and it’s fun for him to talk in difficult words. It’s kind of a code that only he and his colleagues understand.”

    this — and i agree with kevin here — is an intentional obfuscation. it rather reminds me of the developing brussels theocracy. i’m sure a number of you read the economist piece last week on the use of impenetrable terminology and prose to hide truth for elistist purposes. it also reminds me of the catholic church, insisting on the latin mass until most of the way through the 20th century.

    sorry, jean bart — but it is not necessary to write and speak in neo-latin to say something intelligent. difficult language can be rewarding, but direct language can be far more powerful and far-reaching. if derrida had any intention of being anything more in the grand scheme than a forgettable coffeehouse philosopher, he has failed.

  50. Jean Bart,

    I understand Derrita’s position in this passage. He’s simply saying that “September 11” has developed a socially constructed meaning all its own, for better or for worse. My issue is, why doesn’t he just say this, instead of prattling on and on. To some people, I suppose long-windedness and ambiguity are appealing. I would read and study philosophy all day if I could, alas, I am a productive member of society, i.e. I have a job, a family, and other worldly responsibilities. So, to me, brevity and clarity are appealing.

    I’ve read Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Seneca, Augustine, Aquinas, Descartes, et al, and while they are all at times long-winded, they at least seem to arrive at points of clarity. Socrates comes to the realization that no one really knows anything, Augustine comes to the realization that he has a freewill. Seneca comes to the realization that the atrocities of the world can be upsetting to man’s peaceful nature, etc. Today’s post-modernist philosophers rarely arrive at the same. It’s almost as if non-clarity is their end goal in writing. I guess that’s my issue.

  51. “Warning! It might require a little reading!”

    condescension? self-righteous arrogance? from a frenchman? NO!

    lol — hit us with the fulfillment of another cliche, jb. please! we am entertained!…

  52. Great. Now the baby’s asleep, and I want to listen to Ministry. Ever try to listen to Ministry with volume low?

    Thanks a lot.

  53. SM,

    Most of Voltaire’s writings are literary in nature. You obviously have ever read Nietschze, or Descartes. Again, quit being lazy.

  54. SM,

    BTW, I quite doubt whether you have read Derrida either.

  55. “lol — hit us with the fulfillment of another cliche, jb. please!”

    I agree. Please continue to cut and paste unattributed passages from the Internet.

  56. Here’s a speech of Derrida’s I came across http://rhhardin.home.mindspring.com/derrida2.ram on religion; he is speaking extemporaneously to questions. Look at minutes 8-22, an analysis of prayer. Derrida is searching for the explanation, and searching for the English words, and being vague so-called. But what he leaves at the end is a terrific explanation of what’s involved and what has to fit together, incompatible things, in order for something to be a prayer at all. The vagueness is not from ambiguity but from a necessity of what makes up a prayer. The terms all stay in play, but they all have to in order to fit together. That is how Derrida always writes as well. If you’re not interested in this almost literary or poetic but dead-on sort of thought, Derrida will be insufferable. On the other hand, if you for some reason in some Derrida essay notice that he’s really dead-on here, then you start reading more of him and discover it about other things he writes about as well. Derrida in turn writes about whatever interests him.

  57. Jean Bart is just plain wrong. Scientific literature is full of papers that stringent and precice, yet eminently understandable. Ever read Albert Bandura? Or H.S. Becker? Or Carl Sagan? Papers don’t have to be a struggle to read in order to be scientific. And readers who expect clearly stated ideas (and EVIDENCE for claims) are anything but crybabies. Attitudes such as Jean Bart’s embody all that is vile in today’s universities.

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