Here is an inspiring and valuable survey of John David Ebert’s intellectual path from myth studies (Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell) to pluralist philosophy (Sloterdijk and Deleuze and Guattari), as seen through a series of his book reviews spanning 15 very productive years.
This new book by John David Ebert illustrates a path that I find very interesting, from myth studies to Continental philosophy. In his preface to APOCALYPSE NOW: SCENE BY SCENE Ebert styles himself the “anti-Zizek”, and I think that is the sort of theoretical initiative we need now. His sense of an “agon” between Jung and Lacan is indicative of a more general agon between pluralist speculation and academic conservatism, which is playing itself out in the culture at large, and also inside Continental Philosophy.
I am sick of sophisticated new thought being used in old inappropriate vessels, as is the case with Zizek and Badiou. This is also my objection to Laruelle and his disciples, who remain too Lacanian and too Althusserian, despite their proclamations of going beyond standard philosophy. There is too much cautious conformity in these supposedly radical thinkers, too much regression to old models that were dismantled over 40 years ago by thinkers as diverse as Deleuze and Guattari, Foucault, Feyerabend, and Michel Serres.
This is the reason I had great hopes with Bruno Latour’s initiative around his book AN INQUIRY INTO MODES OF EXISTENCE. It was an attempt to elaborate a contemporary pluralist metaphysics, to think outside the hackneyed conceptual toolbox of Continental Theory. That failed because its centralised model turned it into a closed society protecting a dogmatic research programme, even if it contained internal flexibility and plurality.
I admire John David Ebert for not falling into these nostalgic traps and regressive dogmas. I also applaud his “do it yourself” ethic. From blogging and video-posting on a wide variety of authors and subjects to publishing a rapidly expanding series of books and audiobooks, Ebert has opened us up to a rich personal canon of reading and thinking, extending our references and our modes of understanding, illuminating specific books, films, current events, and also the large-scale movements of our culture. He has chosen to self-publish his own books outside the habitual channels of transmission. With no concern for polemic or sterile disputes he gives us a positive example of a tranquil path of intellectual creativity with the abundance of his works.
My involvement with Feyerabend, Jung, and Hillman in the 1970s is what gave me the strength to continue in philosophy when so many others either dropped out or made intellectually suicidal conformist compromises. I also formed with some friends a punk band where I sang and acted out what I could not express academically. This same ethics of autonomy of thought and expression has led me through many adventures, in quest of a vast pluralism and its singular paths (Jung would have called it “individuation”, but even that term can be annexed by a clique and turned into a shibboleth to reinforce inclusion into sectarian thinking). Ebert’s continuing evolution shows what can be achieved, despite the attempts to cow us into conformity and silence, despite the sectarian self-admiration societies, the pusillanimous snobism and the cliquish ostracism that is dominant in the careerist world of of our intellectuals.
So I wish Ebert well in his initiatives.