SCOTOMIC REALISM: on concept-blindness and the “refutations” of pluralism

Deleuze relegates the sort of brusque questions with their unruly hectoring repetition, that one often runs up against when defending an unpopular and widely misunderstood idea,  to the dogmatic image of thought. The questioner constructs no problematic, unthinkingly they presume that they can rattle off stereotyped standardised objections and “crushing” questions destined to embarrass and perplex, and so reduce to silence, the pluralist, whose pronouncements, to his bafflement, are constantly either ignored or misinterpreted, to make him fit into the stereotype of the cultural relativist.

I have often discussed the question of pluralism on my blog, and I have made it clear that I am not a cultural relativist. Nor is Feyerabend, another pluralist philosopher who I discuss regularly. Feyerabend links quite closely pluralism and fallibilism, he talks of how the real must respond positively to our theories for their to be knowledge, and that in most cases it doesn’t. But the dogmatic objector does not take into account such subtleties, they prefer consistently to let drop a very important part of the positions they purport to examine, which  is unfortunately the very part that replies to their questions and objections. They scotomise what does not suit the stereotype they are trying to construct to replace the concrete pluralist thinkers that they pretend to engage by means of their abstract generic stereotype of “relativism”. But these pluralists are Real and do not respond positively to this stereotype.

So the scotomic realist does not construct the pluralist’s problematic correctly, because they read badly. Worse, they often do not construct it at all, because they do not feel the need to and seem incapable of recognising a problematic even where the pluralist goes to great pains to spell it out.

This is important to indicate because in my blogging I have several times commented on this rather strange phenomenon of self-styled philosophers who are “concept-blind” and who criticise the positions of others by first removing their concepts and then dismissing them with hectoring questions and mocking remarks. The bewildered victim of such a procedure finds himself called on to respond to objections that are often quite virulently put, and required to reply without concepts. An impossible demand.

Unfortunately the scotomic realist’s hectoring questions and abstract examples, which target no problematic in their discussions of pluralism, construct no discernible problematic for themselves either. They represent cheap debaters’ objections against a position that a real pluralist does not even hold. Deleuze detested this whole fast-food question and answer approach, as he affirmed that it forced thought into pre-given binary oppositions and actively hindered the emergence and the perception of alternatives outside the all too familiar stereotypes. They are not sincere attempts to understand an unfamiliar position, they are instruments of scotomisation and of concept-blindness, nothing more.

I am a pluralist and I think in terms of the multiplicity of problematics and of their limits. No pluralist replies to a question of any importance without in the process constructing a problematic and deconstructing the question (which also involves, of course, deconstructing the problematic behind the question). And I’m not talking just about Deleuze and Derrida. You can see this reflex at work in Feyerabend and Latour (as well as in Lyotard, Serres, in Badiou, Nancy, and Stiegler), although sometimes it happens so fast that unprepared you might fail to notice it. Mentally substituting one word for another could be enough to make you miss the problematic. In other cases several pages of deconstructing the question go by before the philosopher gets round to answering the question on the basis of a renewed problematic. It does not matter so much whether one refers to Deleuze and Badiou or to Latour and Feyerabend, or to noone at all, what distinguishes the pluralist is this emphasis on identifying and constructing problematics and on deconstructing the question.

If one ignores all this work one gets the scotomisation of problematics and the ritualisation of questions. Routine objections are made to a standardised position (e.g. a generic relativism) that noone holds, and stereotyped questions having nothing to do with the problems addressed by the pluralist are hammered out (e.g. What would you say to a Mormon on the porch. Do you really think that racists are right “in their own reality”? How do you distinguish the psychoanalyst from the voodoo priest?) as if they were decisive contributions to a dialogue that has ceased to exist, crushed under the confusion generated by these abstract monsters.

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