Levi Bryant has been hammering me hard at THREE POUND BRAIN with some pretty amazing questions dreamed up on the spur of the moment, citing absolutely nothing in my articles, just vague impressions and stereotypes. I finally answer in a quick and easy manner using actual quotes from my text:
I will ignore the personal stuff for a moment as Levi does not seem to realise that my apparently personal stuff is embedded in a problematic constructed in the course of my discussion with him. He states: ” The fact that you say you’re not a cultural relativist, does not entail that you’re not a cultural relativist”. Once again Levi scotomises my reference to the part of my article where this diagnosis of cultural relativism is shown to be false (see below). Is it ad hominem to accuse Levi of being an unreliable reader and then to give concrete example? No, not if we are discussing his reading of me. Ad hominem arguments are not ones that mention aspect of the interlocutor relevant to the object of the discussion at hand, but rather are aimed at avoiding the argument, changing the subject, by talking about irrelevant personal traits.
On the other hand, Levi’s giving a sort of medium’s reading of my relations with the Althusserians is not supported by any examples. Given his enthusiasm for Rancière’s book ALTHUSSER’S LESSON and for my description of my problems with the Althusserians (he even devoted a blog post to my account, calling it “fantastic”: http://larvalsubjects.wordpress.com/2011/09/17/terence-blakes-lesson-theory-meta-theory-and-dispotifs/ ) I find Levi is guilty of special pleading and thetic lability here.
He talks about my “evocation of Deleuze” without mentioning that I expand this evocation to discuss the distinctive features of Continental philosophy and I give my criteria (problematics and deconstructing the question). As he labels himself a Continental philosopher I examine that thesis and explain why I think it false. I give concepts, criteria, and arguments – but he doesn’t mention them, preferring to say I “evoke” Deleuze. When I talk about Deleuze I know what I am saying, I was his student for 7 years. In his replies to me Levi “evokes” Feyerabend and it is clear that he have no idea of what he says, not even of that part of his ideas that I recount in my article. Levi “evokes” Latour and then turns round and endorses Bhaskar. Citing his own book THE DEMOCRACY OF OBJECTS, Levi says: ” In TDO I make a transcendental argument, following the work of Roy Bhaskar.” For those who do not know Bhaskar’s work,an explication of its inutility in the present context can be found here: http://terenceblake.wordpress.com/2012/11/01/bhaskar-and-nostalgic-naturalism-back-to-the-70
Levi says ” The lion’s share of scientific experiment consists in creating closed systems to isolate generative mechanisms or objects so as to determine what they’re powers are when triggered under these conditions”. This is the exact opposite of Latour’s view of science that he cites favorably earlier on. Does Levi even notice the difference(unreliable reader syndrome, concept-blindness)? Does he even care? (oops, sorry the last question was ad hominem or was it? maybe Levi should brush up the definition (which can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_hominem) which seems more descriptive of his approach than mine. The whole article, not a blog post Levi!, is relevant, especially the sections on tu quoque and guilt by association arguments andon the halo effect. Levi’s contributions on Bakker’s blog amply illustrate all four fallacies.
As to Levi’s hectoring questions I have already assured him that I will answer both his comments and his questions, even though I find them silly and with no relation to what I have written. I will answer in Continental (and Blakean!) fashion, which means a real answer. His cheap debaters’ questions are quickly asked, but it takes time to give a proper answer. He has chosen to scotomise the concepts and arguments in my quick answer, that I did as a personal favour to him, and that took far more time to compose than his questions.
(Note: Levi seems to think that he is in a position to give me orders, requiring me to answer right away and commanding me not to reply on my blog. This is very strange. But just as I do not accept his self-description as a Continental philosopher, I certainly do not accept his description of my position nor his attempt to give me orders).
Anyhow, let’s get it over with! I have in fact already given my answer to Levi in my previous response, while pretending that he will have to wait. I will quote from the pdf version of IS ONTOLOGY MAKING US STUPID?, as it has page numbers, for easier reference. It’s available here. On my ability to distinguish the validity of scientific claims from those of Voodoo priest or “Odin’s hammer” I write: “The difference with relativism is that there is no guarantee that the approach willwork, Being is independent of us and must respond positively, which is often not the case (p14).
On my dogmatism or lack of it, I write: “the determination of what is real and what is a simulacrum cannot be the prerogative of an abstract ontology, and thus of the intellectuals who promulgate it. There is no fixed framework, the manifest realities are multiple, and Being is unknowable. Thus the determination of what is real depends on our choice in favour of one form of life or another, ie on a political decision. This leads to Feyerabend’s conclusion: ontology “without politics is incomplete and arbitrary” “ (p14).
On cultural relativism here: “The difference with relativism is that there is no guarantee that the approach will work, Being is independent of us and must respond positively, which is often not the case” (14). And here:
But one could object that Feyerabend is a relativist and so that “empirical research”
for him could give whatever result we want, because in his system anything goes. In
fact the best gloss of this polemical slogan is “anything could work (but mostly
doesn’t)”. Feyerabend’s epistemological realism is supported by an ontological
realism: “reality (or Being) has no well-defined structure but reacts in different ways
to different approaches”. This is one reason why he sometimes refuses the label of
“relativist”, because according to him “Relativism presupposes a fixed framework” (13)
As presented here, this is a bit quick, but I do construct the problematic in the article, and if that is insufficient those interested can look for more clarification in the 3 other articles at theoria.fr, in particular the one devoted to a close reading of Graham Harman’s THE THIRD TABLE. Of course Levi has no need of all these references as he has been “engaging” with me for two years (invisibly, with some new-fangled stealth internet technology). I don’t really have more time to answer hectoring questions from someone who doesn’t read me, then misreads me, never quotes a single passage or argument from my texts, insults and abuses me in a rudimentary and irrelevant fashion, and accuses me of all the faults that he himself exhibits abundantly. No Levi, I am not your shadow brother, every dark point in me corresponding to a luminous point in yourself. You are that dark twin, but I am something else entirely.
After all this “debate”, I am exhausted. The funny thing is that Levi claims that he has engaged with me for 2 years but I never noticed it. No replies to my posts and articles, no emails, twitter or facebook messages, nothing! Unless he has been stalking me and hiding behind a pseudonym. His claims just get weirder and weirder. He insults me and anything I have ever revealed about my life, ignoring that each time I revealed something it was in a conceptual context and to further an argument. He actually “psychoanalyses” me a little. He is trying to construct a picture of me he can complain about: he declares ex cathedra that my arguments are ad hominem, and that I know nothing about Deleuze, as I have not written scholarly deleuziana like him. Yet he accuses me of argument from authority. He criticises me for setting up Deleuze as a normative model, yet he sets himself up as a normative model: know like me, write like me, respond where and when and how I do. The injunctions are piling up! I feel out of my depth here (not intellectually, of course, but in sheer twisting and twisted logic).. He has even x-rayed my affects with a reference to Hume. The man has god-like powers!
What can I do? I promised to respond to a set of irrelevant point-style comments and questions to a guy who not only keeps pretending not to understand anything I say or have said, but piles on insult after insult, and I have now given my answer. Yet somehow all the negativity is projected (oops, psychoanalytic term!) onto me. So there is a stereotype being constructed before my eyes to replace me. To what end?
(Note: I have at last understood Levi’s puzzling references to “Odin’s hammer” making lightning. This is quite surprising as it is Thor’s hammer,. So this just goes to confirm my general thesis that Levi is an unreliable reader and an unreliable narrator. To which titles, given his performance on this blog, we must add unreliable arguer. In an old blog post I talk about Harman’s hammer: “this technique of de-differentiating the subtle distinctions by flattening them out into a binary choice should be called Harman’s Hammer”. I add: “Harman’s “Master Argument” … is in fact rather a description of his incomprehension of diachronic ontologies”. It is only normal that Levi as a pious OOOxian conflates Harman with Odin).