IS THE ACADEMY A POROUS STRUCTURE? Remarks on the logic of “leaving”

I read this post by Duane Rousselle with great interest, as I have been thinking about the question of doing philosophy outside the academy. But I think the two cases discussed (self-demolition on the trauma of leaving academia, “traumatic” freedom inside academia) are not on the same plane.

I think that staying inside, as a student or teacher, or leaving academia is not the main issue, but rather the question is one of modality of desiring investment. To express it in Badiousian terms, there is no automatic repercussion between truth-procedures. If the academy is characterised by a certain régime of knowledge transmission then the other truth-procedures (creation, love, and struggle) are not necessarily solidary, positively or negatively. Leaving academia to be more creative or to have a more “fulfilling” personal and collective life involves a confusion of procedures and not just of the régimes governing them.

We should not be misled by the metaphor of university as “school”, or by the idealist implications of the “academy” as a realm of pure spirit. This metaphor may be useful in designating the special sort of fidelity that is invoked by the institution of the university, but it has certain limits. In high school if a student works on what pleases the teachers and cultivates them in all ways possible and squashes all those who disagree with the teachers’ line, they cannot hope to get a job as a teacher. But in the university this behaviour can be rewarded in job (and pecuniary) terms. It is not always a very pleasant place, and those who get the privileges don’t want to lose them, or share them with just anyone. So some people leave the academy not because they are deluded, but because on the contrary they lost their illusions: they were squeezed out

Pursuing the Badiousian analysis, we can say that fidelity to an event in one particular truth procedure might lead one to greater sensibility to and fidelity to events in other procedures. But the key word is “might”. There is no guarantee: the truth-procedures are not One, but multiple (Badiou thinks there are only four, I think there are many more). Automatic repercussion between them is suture. However, an effort of cultivation of receptivity to events in all domains, and commitment to an ethics of fidelity, is possible. Badiou at the end of LOGIC OF WORLDS (513) says that we “shift almost constantly from one world to another”, and that (514) “Incessantly, in some accessible world, something is happening” (translation modfied by me). There are not just two worlds, inside academia and outside, but, as Badiou says, an “infinity of worlds”.

Unlike Badiou, who seems to remain a little too structuralist, I am for a weak structure (and a weak subject). That is to say, I think that there are many more truth procedures than the four that Badiou posits, and that philosophy is one of them despite Badiou’s denial. I further think that frameworks and structures, including the truth-procedures, are porous and that passages (what Michel Serres calls the North-West Passage) are possible between them, although these passages are local, contingent and fragile.

Thus there are two competing regulative ideals governing the relations between different frameworks or procedures: monistic “atonicity”, and pluralist intensity. These régimes are trans-procedural, acting either to close off and tone down the procedures or conversely to intensify them and open them up to their outside. The monist régime obeys the classical logic of all-or-none, and leaving is rupture, whereas the pluralist régime obeys intuitionist logic. In the latter case there are degrees of intensity of existence inside the academy, and other values than one or zero are possible.

Note: this post is indebted to a discussion on facebook with Doug Weichbrodt and James Harris.

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One Response to IS THE ACADEMY A POROUS STRUCTURE? Remarks on the logic of “leaving”

  1. kent says:

    i agree that there might be more than the four conditions for truth procedures or processes; but rather than philosophy or another branch of thinking, i am thinking it might be ‘education’ itself as a fifth or so i try to make the case…

    Liked by 1 person

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