Stiegler talks about « the reign of stupidity and of what so often accompanies it: cowardice and viciousness », Feyerabend talks of the reign of the illiteracy of the professionals, Deleuze denounces the reign of cruelty and infantilism. The internet is in danger of intensifying and expanding what these three thinkers identified as a characteristic pervading the whole of society, including the academy: the creation and spreading of « sinks of illiterate self-expression » (Feyerabend, SCIENCE IN A FREE SOCIETY, 10).
Feyerabend lamented the rise of a new breed of intellectuals whose illiteracy and incompetence were not signs of their failure to live up to the academic ideal but had become definitory of that ideal, of what he called « professionalized incompetence », or « standardized incompetence ». One of the amazing discoveries that he made was that of the inability of many academic intellectuals to follow even the simplest argumentative structures. Another was their tendency when confronted with an unfamiliar point of view to replace it with an absurd caricature.
Such logical failings are correlated, according to these three thinkers, with moral failings. Their doctrinal conformism is sustained by an affective conformism: the need for « revenge », says Feyerabend (SFS 174), echoing Nietzsche, the desire of unimaginative and intellectually impoverished teachers « to reduce their wards to their own squalor and stupidity » (174). And of course we are all potentially their « wards ». »Squalor and stupidity » says it all: the stupidity of intellectual conformism allied to the squalor of affective conformism is the formula for the disindividuated academic bully who will not rest till he has reduced everyone to the same state of disindividuation.
Feyerabend talks about two attitudes when faced with an unusual object and the discomfort it provokes:
1) an attitude of openness and free exchange: one’s « whole being is affected as if it were asked to become different from itself » (note the Deleuzian resonances here: being affected, becoming, difference, espousal of alterity)
2) an attitude of closure and the acceptance of only guided exchanges: « Teachers and « people who know » are affected in the same way, but they have learned to throw their discomfort back on the world in the form of disapproval and contempt » (175).
Individuation is not comfortable: born of discomfort, it can provoke discomfort in others. But such discomfort is the very condition of any dialogue and becoming worth the effort. I hope my blog posts and my comments on other blogs are not comfortable reads, as I am constantly going outside of my own comfort zone (my self-expressive sink, in Feyerabend’s terms – once again note the Deleuzian resonance: the black hole of expressive subjectivity). That is because my principal aims are dialogue and becoming.