One big thing that is missing on Facebook and on the blogosphere is plain old argument. People seem incapable of following even fairly simple arguments, and unwilling to provide any arguments themselves. Fairly basic emotions generate in-groups and their scornful exclusions of not just different opinions, but of different ways of expressing the same opinions. Abstract terminology is used to convey infantile squeals of smugness and scorn.
This phenomenon is not new, as Paul Feyerabend’s reception shows. In 1978 he published SCIENCE IN A FREE SOCIETY. Part 3 collected his various replies to critics, who he considered had made no effort to understand and reply to his arguments, under the title “Conversations with Illiterates”. In his preface he declares that he wants to “inform the wider public of the astounding illiteracy of some ‘professionals’…political philosophy and philosophy of science have become sinks of illiterate self expression (using forbidding technical terms, of course)”.
I confess to liking French philosophical style. I have lived in France for 30 years now, and I find that some English and American books are “clearer” in French because the translator has had to get very clear on the meaning and makes use of the more abstract vocabulary of French to express the concepts that are sometimes inconspicuous in the more colloquial style of the English. Sometimes for the opposite reason I find a French book of philosophy clearer in English. This is true when the translator actually understands the text and does a good job on the translation. Of course something important is lost in the process too, but it is not all loss.
I am so used to this phenomenon that I do it in my head all the time even within one language. In English I pass from say a Deleuzian-Badiousian-Laruellian type of jargon to a more common sense way of talking, and vice versa, and I think that it is a helpful heuristic trick that may often be illuminating and may lead to bullshitting. It is « heuristic » because it can generate new ideas and perspectives without being obligatory, and without being infallible. I think that this is one of the things that Deleuze meant by “being bilingual inside one language”.
I regret that Deleuze himself did not always give us a good model of such philosophical bilinguism, although he did do it more than one may think from reading his imitators. His courses (many of which are now on line), his interviews, his LETTER TO A SEVERE CRITIC, much of DIALOGUES, his ABC PRIMER, all give a more intuitive and far less jargon-intensive account of his ideas than his more arduous conceptual works. Badiou too has made considerable efforts to accompany his difficult works with more accessible texts. My complaint with Badiou is that he uses an evocative vocabulary which is ambiguous. Speaking informally he can sound very Deleuzian, and then when he begins to speak more precisely this resemblance disappears. In the case of both Deleuze and Badiou, if someone likes and uses their ideas that is no excuse for monotonous mimetic jargon-mongering.
Deleuze did a lot of harm with his definition of philosophy as « creation of concepts » and his attitude of ignoring objections. Deleuze was in fact a master of argumentation but did not sufficiently integrate it into his system of thought, thus leaving an opening for multiple inane monologues juxtaposed as if a discussion were taking place. Deleuze’s aim was to break with the dichotomous dialogue between two egos who had nothing to say to each other but who were fighting for symbolic dominance.