Monday, May 14, 2007

Zizek and Others

Like D-Squared, I'm dubious about some responses to continential philosophy, cultural criticism as put forth by the Frankfort school, post-structuralism, deconstruction, and other doctrines to which Alan Sokal might object. I feel that there are many blog posts and blogs that show more understanding of this stuff than I can.

I generally get whatever understanding I have of anti-foundationalism from Wittgenstein, analytical philosophers like Goodman, Putnam, American pragmatism, and even Rorty. I am not at all sure that these views are needed to effect social change. Nor do I take them as tied in necessarily with any very radical views. This may because in my random reading, I have read a limited amount of Rorty.

I am amused that this latest go around concentrates on Zizek. I have quoted bits from Zizek here before. My general impression of Zizek is that he is amusing. I feel that I am following along when I read him, but I distrust my ability to summarize what he is saying. Except, strangely enough, I think I can give some impression of his views on Lenin, if I felt like it.

I realize that not all these "post-modern" writers are doing the same thing. I think I'd get more out of my copy of one of Baudrillard's books if I hollowed it out and used it to store valuables.

I don't think I got much out of the extremely limited amount of Derrida that I have read. (I also like some of the Austin and Searle I have read - in the case of Searle, I also attended a guest lecture where he expounded his well-practiced views on strong AI.) I think I'd like to understand Foucault better, even though he can write a long time on sex without it coming close to being a turn-on.

I am interested in the history of ideas. I see the point of telling a history forward. In this case, the participants in the story may both point at measures of what they take to be the outside world as an argument for contending views. I can see the point of bracketing out how we have come to understand the world in trying to understand what participants in the story found convincing. I take this to be the strong program.

And I also understand that divisions between academic subjects, genres, etc. are not given. How some of us might group texts today may be very different from how others elsewhere and elsewhen grouped the same texts. Furthermore, on what time-scale continuity and discontinuity occurs may vary with how you look at texts. I take this to be part of Foucault's point in talking about "discursive formations."

Selected References
  • Jean Baudrillard (1994). Simulacra and Simulation (Trans. by Sheila Faria Glaser), University of Michigan Press
  • Fernand Braudel (1967). Capitalism and Material Life: 1400-1800 (Trans. by Miriam Kochan), Harper Colophon
  • Jacques Derrida (1988). Limited, Inc. (Trans. by Samuel Weber), Northwestern University Press
  • Michel Foucault (1972). The Archaeology of Knowledge (Trans. by A. M. Sheridan Smith), New York: Pantheon Books
  • Richard Rorty (1991). Objectivism, Relativism, and Truth: Philosophical Papers, Volume 1, Cambridge University Press
  • Ricard Rorty (1998). Achieving Our Country: Leftist Thought in Twentieth-Century America, Harvard University Press
  • Slavoj Zizek (2001). On Belief, Routledge


Charles Stewart said...

I'm not a fan of Rorty, but otherwise your list of anti-foundationalist influences is close to mine.

I have a feeling that you would enjoy Appendix I, "Notes on Value" from William Empson's Structure of Complex Words. It's a piece of literary criticism that, no doubt for that reason, is unjustly neglected by most analytic philosophers.

Robert Vienneau said...

Charles, thanks for the reading suggestion. I cannot promise to get to it soon.