Update: Hardly had I published this post when it received astonishing confirmation from a series of comments on my review of ONTO-CARTOGRAPHY on Amazon taking Robert Jackson’s method of post-emptive vituperation to a new level. The “discussant” calls my review “small-minded”, “ungenerous”, “faux”, “a joke”. She claims that it “doesn’t deal with the book’s content”, and that I haven’t read the book. To test me she asks “What does it say on page 122 about hurricanes and tornadoes?”, and when I do not reply she declares ” You don’t even have the book”. When I explain that it came out on Amazon.fr a month before it did in the US, and I go so far as to publish a photo of me holding the book, she expresses her contempt. This is the debased face of OOO with a vengeance. I think the discussant doesn’t even realise the disservice she is doing to the book, and that she actually thinks this is what philosophical argument looks like.
OOO is not just refined debates about withdrawal ontologies and retro-vicarious vs post-vicarious causation. It allows some people to indulge in aggressive de-sublimation.
A philosophical school is a machine for propagating a series of variations on a fundamental set of order-words, and also to discourage objections against its tenets by any means possible. Often the school’s doctrine contains utterly ridiculous theses, that one is invited to gloss solemnly in a tone of supposedly academic seriousness. Openly showing incredulity and hostility about these formulaic ideas is not to be met with counter-arguments but to be sanctioned in a variety of ways. A very safe way to discourage critical evaluation is to don the white robes of the “beautiful soul” and to advise the critics to reinvest their energies elsewhere in more positive pursuits. Another way is to ignore all cognitive content in the critiques, and to comment on the “vicious” tone of the enunciation.
Deleuze discusses the characteristics of a philosophical “school” that has for programme the assassination of philosophy: conceptual poverty, mean affects, and destructive behaviour. A good example of these processes is the repeated “refutation” of my writings on OOO propagated by Robert Jackson, who has recently scolded me for giving an “uncharitable” review of Levi Bryant’s new book ONTO-CARTOGRAPHY: https://storify.com/TerenceBlake/objects-yes-objections-no-ooo-and-tonal-criticism
I think Robert Jackson’s idea of philosophy and his conceptual vocabulary are both very impoverished. What he really wishes to say is “silence, no critiques allowed”, while his own behaviour enacts the opposite of such a pious wish. On the one hand, I give a critical review of a book by a “friend” of his, in the sense of someone belonging to the same philosophical school as him. My review critically analyses the book’s concepts and arguments. On the other hand, Jackson’s “review” of me is limited to saying such things as my blog is full of “utter vicious streams of nonsense, the primary design of which is to scavenge as many hits as possible”.
Rather perplexed by Jackson’s reaction I re-read my review of Levi Bryant’s new book, ONTO-CARTOGRAPHY, and found in it not only no uncharitableness, but substantially more concepts and argument than Jackson seems to think necessary, or even to be capable of. The review contains a concise summary of my arguments against Bryant’s theses, which are developped more fully here, and in more general terms here. Only someone who is both “concept-blind” and “affect-blind”, but with a heavy engagement in a pushy school could affirm that these articles are nonsense or vicious. Jackson thus instantiates the characteristics enumerated by Deleuze: conceptual poverty (with no comprehension of alternative views, no arguments in reply), meanness (repeatedly and publicly calling my work “vicious”, “uncharitable”, “nonsense” with no proof other than acolytic indignation), and destructive of philosphy (because he wants to discourage and prevent all real debate).
This behaviour is not at the level of what is required in defence of a contested philosophical thesis. The message however is quite clear: only tame, docile, weakly phrased, long-winded critiques of particular points of doctrine are acceptable. Unfortunately, I keep on publishing outspoken, concise, strongly-phrased arguments on fundamental flaws of the doctine, and I receive silence, indifference, or inarticulate disapproval in return. Which, of course, is quite predictable.