Where should one invest one’s time and energy? Is there a Good Place where it should go: to starving Third World children or to one’s immediate family? As this is an intellectual blog, where and how should one invest one’s intellectual energy. Is positivity the only good choice, or do negativity and polemics also have an important claim on us? Is the internet unleashing on a whole new scale a democracy of thought, or is it generating and giving expression to a new ignorance and illiteracy?
There are signs of both developments in the tiny microcosm of Continental Philosophy on the blogosphere: a movement towards more sophistication and more intelligence, even towards a new form of collective intelligence. But also a move towards more posing and bullying, to more hypocrisy and bluff, in sum towards more stupidity. What has disturbed me the most in my short experience is that the ordinary sociology of academic life, at least in philosophy, is reproduced in this new medium. Status, cronies, pressure groups and propaganda have primacy over information and the free exchange of ideas.
Each time recently when a debate caught my interest and a fundamental discussion seemed to be on the point of opening, somehow something happened to block it and it all went awry. For example, in a recent discussion of the relation between the mathematical understanding of Being and capitalism, people just seized the opportunity to show how much they knew about this or that computer language, and so revealed how little they knew about the last 100 years of Continental Philososphy. Claims and counter-claims were reduced to their non-conceptual counterparts and then made fun of. People were summoned to come up with a short formulation of the 10 or 20 years of reading and thinking that are presupposed in the simplest seeming arguments that they presented, and were ridiculed when they refused to do it. Well it can’t be done, you can’t both say something meaningful and say the meaning of it at the same time.
I do not treat people like this. I was recently accused of writing meaningless nast drivel (why not just call it « pus » and be done with it?) on my blog. If you take away the long years of reading and thnking and arguing things out, if you take away the careful attempt to find the right formulation even for a joke, if you take away the effort to find the conceptual fielld most appropriate to the problems I encounter, then yes it must appear that these are the neurotic ramblings and rodomontades of an atrabilious atavism. But it is not so, I have given much more of my life to philosophy than many of those who would look down on me. even if some people find this hard to perceive.
To some people of good will who may be ensnared by Mr Plausible I want to say: can’t you see he is playing you? He can’t be where he is, he can’t have read all that stuff he cites without knowing what these arguments really are, without being fully aware that he is replacing them with inept caricatures of his own concoction, to gain hegemony. I have done the same reading as him and he knows that too, it transpires in everything I write if you have eyes to see it, whether I cite the names or not. He knows full well that I am not writing nonsense and that he completely deserves every acerbic critique that I choose to make public. But he’s banking on you not knowing it. I am not going to cease my « implausible » arguments and meditations, and move on to other things. I have moved on, that is what is not forgiven me. And I am more than willing to continue to give out « generous » helpings of my singularity to all who may merit such treatment, positive or negative.