Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Fractured Reflection on Theory


This reflection is confused and rambling. To post it is to stand exposed, naked on the internet. Reason is a slave to the passions, said the Scotsman. We should accept this. The following words are my passion trying to express itself in my intellect.

A note: you can click on the quoted passages to get a more clear view.


In matters of theory and meta-narrative, I am oriented toward distrust. The reasons for this inclination are marked in a clear history. People who lie beneath don’t recover stated meaning. They look upon it with suspicion and teach their children to do the same. It’s not just that reality is masked by its appearance; the distinction and construction of “appearance and reality” is itself in question. The only safe corners are the corners I don’t know about and those that are so close to me that they make up the structure of my seeing—though, not for long.  I am suspicious of even myself; the comfort of my armchair is its own warning.

The man who trains for war will attack himself just to break the peace and philosophy is insomnia. The world of answers is a world of sleep and, as the man said, the right dreams for a man in peril are dreams of peril and all else is the call of languor and of death. I accept this so I also accept the resulting tensions and contradictions.

Recently a hack psychologist put out a blog post of a paper that couldn’t have passed a peer review of hypoallergenic kittens. I heard about it, read it, got mad, and quietly condemned his whole style. I began to wonder even about his field of study and the role that it might have played in legitimating his wackness. This last move was harsh and reflexive, but only because it was sparked by this particular article. If given time with the credible powers of the field, I know that I would come to the same category of question marks. These are the wages of my suspicion. 

A well known pessimist makes the following claims about the study of psychology: 


Another man speaks the following about theorists.


Crushed between these reflections, I see myself. 

I look crooked at theories of whatever when the ideas implicit within them are poorly connected. Identify faulty assumptions and kick out their foundations; that is lesson from the lineage. But the critical moves that I make are just as historically contingent as foundations of the other fields. I am adrift in a a wave of discourse and I know better than to think there is a shore upon which to wash up. In suspicion, I strike out against the language of totality and determinism. I want to preserve freedom, but isn’t that just one illusion among others? 

I have heard some proclaim a quest for truth. A pure and clean love of knowledge. Such talk makes me cringe. Then vomit.

We don’t seek knowledge for its own sake. Knowledge has uses, purposes. Knowledge fulfills requests. Knowledge is power, for fuck’s sake. To pursue knowledge “for its own sake” is to will yourself blind to the realities that will bend under the weight of your epistemic frame.  Knowing is normative and it is the result of normative processes. Cats pursue the post-modern and come blindly under the umbrella of capitalism, racism and sexism. Others look deeply in the Scriptures and can’t understand or see the hateful imperialistic bile imbedded in their "brotherly love." Knowledge is a story that we tell ourselves about the world. Stories. They have origins, goals and flaws that are so grotesque it is all that we can do to shut our ears. 

No, I want to know for particular reasons and none of them are their own end. There are enemies in my distance and I want them gone. So i have to hold some corner of knowledge close, I have to trust something, in order to think through anything at all. But the choice of what frame to use ends up either being a default based off of my own obscured history, or an aesthetic choice based in some equally unlit commitment. It is easier to believe thus and so because this is my professor, or this is who my friends are, or these are the girls that these styles will impress. The shallow utility of my thought is so foundational I don’t even recognize it as such. Though I suppose it wouldn’t matter if I did. 

The psychologist and the philosopher. The destruction of the freedom and mystery within or the superficiality of a construction whose influence marches on without morality or clarity. Whatever you do, don’t let us speak for you. 

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