'Postmodernism' as Existential Threat.

luka

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It feel gross getting out the shower if I don't do it now. Like you haven't got clean. Like your a big soft pink pig
 

luka

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In summer I do full cold the whole way through but in winter I can't hack it yet. Maybe one day.
 

Mr. Tea

Shub-Niggurath, Please
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I'm about to have a bath. Being a sensible, law-abiding and decent Englishman, I shall of course remain fully clothed throughout.
 

luka

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That's very long but I like the picture of the eye above the pyramid
 

suspended

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I'll start with some excerpts
What has critique become when a French general, no, a marshal of critique, namely, Jean Baudrillard, claims in a published book that the Twin Towers destroyed themselves under their own weight, so to speak, undermined by the utter nihilism inherent in capitalism itself—as if the terrorist planes were pulled to suicide by the powerful attraction of this black hole of nothingness?
 
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suspended

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Latour sets up a cool metaphorical framing for the whole essay, which is that the French have this love (and tradition) of revolutions and churn, that French intellectuals in the 20th C are these hyper-celebrated, borderline-celebrity Generals who make their reputation off declaring the old guard dead, and ushering in a new paradigm that completely subverts the previous ones.

The French, it is well known, love revolutions, political, scientific or philosophical. There is nothing they like more than a radical upheaval of the past, an upheaval so complete that a new tabula rasa is levelled, on which a new history can be built. None of our Prime Nlinisters starts his mandate without promising to write on a new blank page or to furnish a complete change in values and even, for some, in life. Each researcher would think of him or herself as a failure, if he or she did not make such a complete change in the discipline that nothing will hereafter be the same. As to the philosophers they feed, from Descartes up to Foucault's days, on radical cuts, on 'coupure épistémologique', on complete subversion of everything which has been thought in the past bv everybody. No French thinker, indeed no student of philosophy, would seriously contemplate doing anything short of a complete revolution in theories. To hesitate, to respect the past, would be to compromise, to be a funk, or worse, to be eclectic like a vulgar Anglo-Saxon.
 

suspended

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Interestingly, Paglia talks about the same phenomenon in midcentury American literary thought, from her time doing a dissertation at Yale:

There was a problem in American literary criticism: the New Criticism had gotten too formalist, too focused on the individual text apart from biography or historical context. It was a reaction against the bibliographic excesses of an earlier generation. What was needed was to supplement New Criticism, by bringing in historical context, history and psychology because New Criticism was also anti-Freud... What poststructuralists did was to abandon the whole thing.

We ought to call this a revolutionary mindset: a preference for a revolving sequence of antitheses over a succession of interventions. The synthesis step of dialectic is skipped in favor of perpetual instability and overcorrection. An exhausting see-saw, a zig-zag headed nowhere fast.

To the revolutionary, the preference is rarely for the larger pattern of successive revolution; it is that this particular revolution which he so absolutely supports must, logically, be absolutely implemented, which necessitates the destruction of the existing orthodoxy. Thus Structuralism denies the freedom of man just as absolutely as its predecessor, Existentialism, denied freedom's limits. Society must either be constituted top-down, unchangeable, or else bottom-up, unlimited—or so such reasoning goes; the reality is obviously cybernetic, where the norms and laws of a society shape individual actions just as individual actions shape norms and laws.
 

suspended

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Latour worries that poststructuralist criticisms of science are "one war late," that the dialectic ground they responded to—the midcentury enthusiasm and belief in science, the positivist strains of analytic—have already receded, and been replaced by (e.g.) climate skepticism, anti-vax, conspiracy theory, post-truth mindset, etc. Hence the second part of his title: "From Matters of Fact to Matters of Concern."

Would it not be rather terrible if we were still training young kids—yes, young recruits, young cadets—for wars that are no longer possible, fighting enemies long gone, conquering territories that no longer exist, leaving them ill-equipped in the face of threats we had not anticipated, for which we are so thoroughly unprepared? Generals have always been accused of being on the ready one war late— especially French generals, especially these days. Would it be so surprising, after all, if intellectuals were also one war late, one critique late—especially French intellectuals, especially now?
Do you see why I am worried? I myself have spent some time in the past trying to show “the lack of scientific certainty” inherent in the construction of facts. I too made it a “primary issue.” But I did not exactly aim at fooling the public by obscuring the certainty of a closed argument—or did I? After all, I have been accused of just that sin. Still, I’d like to believe that, on the contrary, I intended to emancipate the public from prematurely naturalized objectified facts. Was I foolishly mistaken? Have things changed so fast?
 

suspended

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Some more on this theme
Threats might have changed so much that we might still be directing all our arsenal east or west while the enemy has now moved to a very different place.
This does not mean for us any more than it does for the officer that we were wrong, but simply that history changes quickly and that there is no greater intellectual crime than to address with the equipment of an older period the challenges of the present one.
What has become of critique when my neighbor in the little Bourbonnais village where I live looks down on me as someone hopelessly naive because I believe that the United States had been attacked by terrorists? Remember the good old days when university professors could look down on unsophisticated folks because those hillbillies naı¨vely believed in church, motherhood, and apple pie?
In France generally, Latour perceives a deep fear of being seen as naive, outdated, or gullible; these are the "worst" things one can be in Parisian society, and thus, coupled with and causing its love of revolutions (see "The Enlightenment Without the Critique"), discourse there prized, above all, for being à la mode.
 

suspended

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Latour worries that poststructuralist criticisms of science are "one war late," that the dialectic ground they responded to—the midcentury enthusiasm and belief in science, the positivist strains of analytic—have already receded, and been replaced by (e.g.) climate skepticism, anti-vax, conspiracy theory, post-truth mindset, etc. Hence the second part of his title: "From Matters of Fact to Matters of Concern."
The dynamic reminds me a bit of the American gov's habit of supplying arms to a rebel group ("anything but the current regime," in the dialectical spirit of corrective). Thirty years later it has to fight those exact rebel group, who have now become the oppressive regime and are armed to the teeth with American weapons.
 

luka

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I like this bit, I always say this but I'm afraid he's going to draw very different conclusions to the conclusions I draw...






Then, after disbelief has struck and an explanation is requested for what is really going on, in both cases again it is the same appeal to powerful agents hidden in the dark acting always consistently, continu- ously, relentlessly. Of course, we in the academy like to use more elevated causes—society, discourse, knowledge-slash-power, fields of forces, em- pires, capitalism—while conspiracists like to portray a miserable bunch of greedy people with dark intents, but I find something troublingly similar in the structure of the explanation, in the first movement of disbelief and, then, in the wheeling of causal explanations coming out of the deep dark below.
 

luka

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They love addressing us from ze stage — Hypocrite lecteur, — mon semblable, — mon frère!
 
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