Academia’s Game of Thrones vs Non-Academic Individuation

Update 6/4/14: I published this post two years ago as part of my analysis of the failure of Alexander Galloway’s attempts to install a fruitful critical dialogue around recent realist ideas, including Harman’s OOO. I encouraged a commentator, Trevor Owen Jones, to continue his individuation despite the traps, obstacles, and social and intellectual boycotts put up by unscrupulous academic game players. He seems to have done just that. I have been reviewing his book THE NON-LIBRARY, and I only realised just now that I had published this comment.

Alexander Galloway published a very interesting response to a recent interview by Graham Harman here. Unfortunately the discussion went off in all directions and the central theme of Galloway’s paper was buried under a mass of comments, many of which were very interesting in their own right. As in my blog I have an ongoing series of posts analysing Harman’s OOO I chose to intervene in the discussion on what I thought to be an important point:

Philosophy is a way of life which includes amongst other things a passion for concepts and arguments. All the rest is just a Game of Thrones. A philosophy professor can be a philosopher in this sense, but needn’t be. It was free to go to Deleuze’s and Lyotard’s and Foucault’s  and Michel Serres’ seminars, and if you had the nerve to ask a question you got an answer, usually a very good one. So the argument that a professor from a big bucks university should not be expected to respond to criticism or even questions, when he publishes a blog and gives his opinion on anything and everything is a little strange.

Philosophy is not about opinions, but is one of the ways of individuating ourselves in a world vaster and more creative than the world of opinion. If Trevor Owen Jones individuates by means of philosophy without being a card-carrying philosophy professor this all the more to his credit, as life is short and material and affective means are scarce. If a philosophy professor shows he is more interested in the academic Game of Thrones than in pursuing the argument wherever it can lead us, that is his shame. Money is no argument. Nor is “superior” scholarship. I have known many professors with superior scholarship that were dry as dust and dead as zombies, little pawns put in place while better people were discouraged, driven into fleeing into other fields. The sad thing is that on the internet you do not find a utopia, but the same castes and classes and cliques, the same social stratifications as in the rest of the world.

Many are glad to read and cite Bourdieu, or some other sociologist, without applying it to themselves and their milieu. The personal has lots of social in it, and “social” means power relations. So no Trevor you are not paranoid nor are you intellectually mediocre and insignificant if you are not a philosophy professor. As Leon (of AFTER NATURE) says, keep at it because individuation trumps the Game of Thrones any day, for lots of people. I hope you find them (or more of them)!

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8 Responses to Academia’s Game of Thrones vs Non-Academic Individuation

  1. skepoet says:

    Reblogged this on The Loyal Opposition to Modernity: and commented:
    Another critique related to the Harman interview.

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  2. Edward M-S says:

    It seems to me that you are pointing to the distinction between a vocation and a career. The philosophical person is following their vocation – a “calling”. Whether s/he is paid to “philosophise” is neither here nor there. (The legendary exemplar, now stereotype, is of course Socrates. Less legendary exemplars are Kierkegaard and Schopenhauer.) To have a career as a philosopher is simply a matter of being paid in a fairly secure manner (by the state or private donors) to “philosophise” – it is one’s job, one’s paid profession. The prerequisites for a career are skill, training, qualifications. One need not have a “calling”. This is not to say, of course, that one could not obtain employment to follow one’s vocation, but the former is neither necessary nor sufficient for the latter (witness, say, the vocational Wittgenstein employed by Trinity College).

    The great advantage of having a career as a philosopher is that it exposes one to the rigours of critical scrutiny by skilled and trained peers. The great danger, especially these days it seems, is that having a career as a philosopher, especially where the sense of vocation is absent, is that it can degenerate into careerISM: the use of anti-intellectual methods to gain fame and fortune (where those methods include excluding, ignoring, or suppressing those vocationally-inclined philosophers, both inside and outside the academy, who may represent “competition” or may de-rail one’s own “reserach programme”).

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  3. terenceblake says:

    Yes vocation vs career, or calling vs profession, is a good way of saying it. Many philosophers have talked about this. Deleuze talked of the nomad image of thought and the private thinker vs the state image of thought and the bureaucrat. He distinguishes between the vitality of a philosophical becoming that can traverse us and lead us on a process of individuation containing many other becomings and the sterility of “reflection” in its private and public forms. Feyerabend declared that his profession was “thought-bureaucrat”, but that what he actually did was to write texts that upset people. In both cases it’s a question of destabilise the transcendences and go with the argumentative and conceptual flows.

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  4. I take it you take the metaphor of “Game of Thrones” to refer to the struggle between individuals/personalities?

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  5. terenceblake says:

    Yes, Game of Thrones = power games
    PS: Nice that you have begun blogging again.

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  6. Pingback: BLOGGING AND INDIVIDUATION | AGENT SWARM

  7. Pingback: NON-EUCLIDEAN BLOGGING: expanding the Euclidean space of Academia | AGENT SWARM

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