Chomsky exemplifies a typical argument from authority. He claims to “see nothing” in the Continental texts he has read (I suppose we must believe him, but what texts has he read? and has he done the background reading? even Bertrand Russell cannot be understood without a lot of background). He declares noone can explain it to him (I wonder who he asked? do we not have here a case of « frequentation bias »?). He then goes on to say that there is nothing substantive there that can’t be explained in five minutes to a 12-year-old and that the rest is hype. Taken at face value this is pure assertion, no argument is given, it is“declared” authoritatively – the only example he gives is in the pomo piece where he says he read OF GRAMMATOLOGY and found nothing in it. The implied argument from authority is that if I Chomsky the great linguist can find nothing but platitudes and howlers, truisms misreadings and bad scholarship, in a book that purports to teach us something new about language, then there is nothing there.

Chomsky just defines theory as a body of thought that contains « principles from which you can deduce conclusions, empirically testable propositions » . This is precisely the problem. You can’t just “define’ away a host of arguments, including inside the analytic tradition itself, that show that empirical testability is not the only measure of cognition, not even in the sciences.

I have been at great pains to make clear that I am no fan of Zizek’s, and that I consider his (and Badiou’s) thought a regression compared to Deleuze, Foucault, and Lyotard. Yet I think he is doing Continental philosophy competently, even brilliantly, and that in fact Chomsky is criticising this whole style of thought, and not any particular thesis (since he claims not to be able to find any theses in Zizek etc.). So I think that this is pandering to a public that does not like this sort of stuff. Why don’t they like it? There are many reasons, but I have no problem admitting that there are many academic poseurs who argue badly and who have no idea what they (or anyone else) are talking about, careerist cultists and lobbyists (and I have denounced this academic plague on my blog too). I was sickened in Australia when my department was dominated by Althusserians, and then by the arrival of Lacanian, Derridean, and Foucauldian push (although there were some good people in that mix). My conclusion was not “it’s all meaningless rubbish”, but to come to France and learn the language and study there. And I was not disappointed.

What has Chomsky done to prepare himself for reading this stuff? for you need to prepare yourself culturally. Nothing, as far as I can see. He just blithely assumes that cultural differences are negligeable in philosophy, and then hammers home the logical consequence that all this French stuff is silly. No, what is silly is his initial hypothesis that they are doing the same thing as him only very very badly.

10) hermeneutic pluralism: Continental Philosophy supposes not just a plurality of interpretations, but of « régimes of truth » and of modes of existence. (Zizek has a concept of what Chomsky is doing, Chomsky has no such concept for Zizek’s work, and « sees nothing » in it).

Cet article a été publié dans Uncategorized. Ajoutez ce permalien à vos favoris.

Votre commentaire

Entrez vos coordonnées ci-dessous ou cliquez sur une icône pour vous connecter:

Logo WordPress.com

Vous commentez à l’aide de votre compte WordPress.com. Déconnexion /  Changer )

Photo Facebook

Vous commentez à l’aide de votre compte Facebook. Déconnexion /  Changer )

Connexion à %s