HONEY-POT DISCUSSION: a reply to David Roden


Bakker contacted me via my blog and asked me a preliminary question about Johnston’s book and speculative project: ” Why should anyone entertain, let alone commit to, such interpretations in an age when human cognition is itself on the autopsy table?” He did not tell me he was working on a book review, and may have hoped for something he could use, as I had written a critical comment on the book as embodying an approach that was still ontotheological or religious. Bakker repeats this charge in his post without citing me. Unlike him I give a sketch of an argument, referencing the similarity between Johnston’s concept of weak nature and Caputo’s notion of weak God. He certainly doesn’t mention the parallels I find between his speculative project and Johnston’s, including the proposition that his BBT was just as much a religious extrapolation of scientific results interpreted one-sidedly

(Note: Bakker also appropriates my playful expression in the title to my 8 posts responding to his question of PROLEGOMENA TO THE PROLEGOMENA, stating: “What I propose is a discussion of the difficulties any such project must overcome—a kind of prolegomena to Johnston’s Prolegomena”, again without citing me).

Bakker allowed our dialogue to stretch on over several days while I tried to formulate substantive answers to his own tossed off comments, from Friday10th to Sunday 12tth (evening), till in desperation I emailed him, trying to mollify any conflict, and in his reply he mentioned that he was reviewing the book. He published his review the day after, Monday 13th, after milking me for all I was worth, and not giving any reference to my arguments, no link to my blog, and not the slightest indication of taking my lengthy replies into account in any way. This is totally impolite, and in my opinion unethical behaviour.

So you see for me the essential engagement with Bakker came in the (discarded by him) pre-discussion preparatory (unknownst to me) to his book review. My opinion of the final review is that it is long-winded, repetitious, badly written, badly argued. It does not engage Johnston’s text except for a few sentences that Bakker ripsout of context and just baldly contradicts. If you think I have given no arguments, as both Bakker and you claim, let’s take things little by little.

I rewrote my replies in a more developped form, as Bakker bombarded me with comments demanding explanations and affecting not to understand, or even see, my arguments, leaving me no time to produce a more synthetic response. So I wrote in real time in reply to his repeated urgings. I then did a pedagogical rewrite to bring out the conceptual issues and the problematic, producing a series of 8 posts. I used Bakker’s questions to construct a problematic that goes beyond his or my or Johnston’s actual positions. In the series of posts, I consider Bakker’s type of position (scientistic determinist materialism) as one in a series of attempts to escape from constructionism, along with Kolozova’s, Johnston’s and Stengers’ positions. Bakker’s is the least satisfying, composed mostly of empty repetitious rodomontades profered instead of doing the philosophical work.

So let’s take my first post: https://terenceblake.wordpress.com/2014/01/12/prolegomena-to-the-prolegomena-adrian-johnston-and-the-new-crusade-against-constructionism/. Do you find my contextualization of my discussion with Bakker wrong-headed, incorrect, unargued?

(Remember, I was writing in reply to Scott’s question as to what value or interest could a speculative (philosophical) endeavour such as Johnston’s have. He already knew from my previous post that I disagreed with Johnston’s specific answers. He was asking for a typological answer, not a specific analysis, and he got one. Read my 8 posts and tell me there are no arguments in them.).

I was honey-potted into replying, and am now being brow-beaten for not replying as he wanted.

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12 Responses to HONEY-POT DISCUSSION: a reply to David Roden

  1. rsbakker says:

    You’re not having anyone on, are you? You seriously think that my review is substantially a product of my engagement with you, and that I, like some kind of conceptual privateer, commandeered all your best ideas and then used them without so much as a kiss and a promise for my review. Have you read my prior discussions over at noir-realism, by chance? Did I intellectually deceive then mug Stephen as well?

    Now I’ve sifted through all your hard work, and like I told you a couple posts prior, I didn’t understand why the name ‘Bakker’ kept popping up next to these assumptions I don’t hold, claims I did not make. ‘Why should anyone take ontological approaches like Johnston’s seriously?’ was my simple question. ‘All theory is ontology!’ is not a serious reply. ‘You’re the ontologist!’ is not a serious reply. ‘Motley is the way it is!’ is not a serious reply. And you should know this, Terence.

    And all you had to say is, ‘Damn good question, Scott. Tis a hard one to be sure.’

    Instead, you insist on giving this extended demonstration of… I’m not quite sure what it is anymore. You’re rattled – that much is plain to anyone, I assure you. I’m a blogger. I know the feeling you got, the whinge in the gut, the anxious noise – that almost irresistible imperative to save face before your readers, to… appear. I know it well. When I recognize it now, I try to stop and make some kind of concession, ask for some kind of clarification, because I know damn well that I’m arguing out of the wrong place. I remind myself that concessions are a sign of strength, that when people accuse me of misconstruing them, then dollars to doughnuts I am. I take a step back, and ask questions.

    So how about we start over, from the beginning, with an honest question and an honest attempt to see how it could be answered? I know it often feels like you’re adding something heaping claims atop claims, but I’m telling you, brother, more often than not you’re just digging a hole.


  2. terenceblake says:

    Not at all, Scott. I don’t think you got any ideas from me at all, I don’t think you got what you wanted from me, and my regret is that I can see no trace of my discussion in your final review. All in vain, alas.


    • terenceblake says:

      Remember my conclusion above: “I was honey-potted into replying, and am now being brow-beaten for not replying as he wanted”. This is not an accusation of plagiarism but of obtuseness. The historic of our discussion is not an accusation of plagiarism either, but of obfuscation of motive.


  3. terenceblake says:

    I want competent people with no hidden agenda to look at my posts and tell me there are no arguments in them.


  4. terenceblake says:

    Whether I got you right is now secondary, as you had more than enough time to correct my misapprehensions. The main question for me is do I have any arguments or not? I think you are argument blind Scott.


  5. prsmith5 says:

    I see arguments on all sides (although I’m neither David nor Bakker), but to dumb it down a bit, perhaps someone can answer my naive question.

    Is the difference between BBT and Johnston’s reworking of the ‘gap in being’ just a matter of beginning at with the end result (what we have learned from cog-sci) or Johnston’s beginining before the beginning (indebted to the speculative missteps of a certain Hegel, Zizek, Dolar, et al.)?


    • rsbakker says:

      There’s theories that are compatible, consilient and can yield testable predictions immediately, theories that are compatible, consilient, but require scientific advances to yield testable predictions, theories that are compatible, consilient, but are hard to see as testable (evolution looked like this for a long while), theories that are merely compatible but hard to see as testable in any way, and theories that are not even compatible (like intelligent design). I think BBT belongs to the second category (and I have friends working to promote it to the first). I think that ‘gap in being’ theories clearly belong to last category.

      As a former Heideggerean, I was a staunch advocate of ‘beginning before the beginning’ approaches, but once you realize (as I did) that there’s no way to arbitrate between these approaches, then the whole notion that you belong to a ‘self-correcting enterprise’ flies out the window.

      My friend Ben Cain, who is analytically trained, is presently puzzling through different ways of characterizing the relationship between intentional (aprioristic or otherwise) theorization and science: as he alway argues (on my blog and his ()), these theories, these ways of looking at life, DO SOMETHING. The question is what? And how does one bootstrap any theoretical explanation of that ‘what’ out of the scientistic dilemma (summed in the problem of theoretical incompetence)? And this is something I’m keenly interested in, but BBT is proving a big enough project in its own right.

      But the bottomline is simply that aprioristic intentional ontologizations immediately put the philosopher in some pretty uncomfortable company, especially in an age when the spectre of the singularity looms over us all. With every year that passes, it begins to look more and more magical. So either you have some forceful, compelling way to convince critics otherwise (which has been my question here), or you’re resigned to it as a matter of faith, or you roll up your sleeves and begin the hardwork of inventing something genuinely new.


      • [RS Bakker] “Why should anyone take ontological approaches like Johnston’s seriously?”

        {AK} ‘Seriously’, in regard to what structure of valorisation?
        If there’s a structure of valorisation, that entails a wider structure of variables capable of biases. Such a wider structure constitutes an ontology – these are the ‘things’ that ‘are’, these are their favoured states (of being).
        If the ‘things’ that ‘are’, or their ‘favoured states of being’ are questioned, this initiates varying levels of ontological consideration.

        [RS Bakker] “But the bottomline is simply that aprioristic intentional ontologizations immediately put the philosopher in some pretty uncomfortable company, especially in an age when the spectre of the singularity looms over us all. With every year that passes, it begins to look more and more magical.”

        {AK} “[A]prioristic intentional ontologi[z]ations” are those variables attaching to figures of ‘mind’, usually configured by an ‘anthropic’ layer or filter. Notions of ‘mind’ are inherently ontological, bringing with them notions of ‘world’, ‘experience’, etc.: all of these concepts are problematic.

        If one wishes to question any of these reified notions, it would proceed thus:

        Mereological Nihilism – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V_6hEOX_6u8

        science-ontology1-mereological-nihilism-2-kirk-07-reedit-09.wmv – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A9LuunwKReM

        Basically, you’ve got a problem. You’ve got a ‘slippery slope’ in both directions, lol.
        If you don’t understand this, & it seems likely that you won’t, you need to do some ‘serious’ thinking…

        [RS Bakker] “the spectre of the singularity”

        {AK} a neoreligious notion, the resurgence of Messianic Kapitalism, the return of disaffected Protestant alienation & Calvinist hope?

        [RS Bakker] “it begins to look more and more magical”

        {AK} It’s always been ‘magical’, but the Church & Hollywood monopolised & ‘channelled’ the free flow of enchantment. It’s within their generic conventions that you earn your crusts. Fear, false novelty, desperation & anxiety, all with a veneer of sadistic comedy. That’s the corporate way.


  6. David Roden says:

    Hi Terrence, I’m sorry if I caused you irritation or hurt: I was just trying to tease out some arguments. Maybe we should draw a line under this.


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