Thursday, June 28, 2007

The PreMo as PoMo

For all of you who have written in to say this blog needs more abstruse philosophical argumentification, I point you to Akrasia's post on Richard Rorty, which has led to a debate on the tenability of his "relativism." In the comments box, I try to play the post-modern Thrasymachus, while avoiding Akrasia's Socratic traps.

On an interesting and tangentially related note, this post by Daniel McCarthy (a comment to which "inspired" my heading above) takes note of a new book drawing connections between American conservative godfather Russell Kirk and (formerly?) fashionable European thinkers like Gadamer and Lyotard. The connection seems like a natural one for me once you dispense with the cartoon version of Continetnal thought. The "post-modernists" did not doubt that there can be meaning and reason. With Nietzsche, though, they tended to think that the reasonableness and meaningfulness couldn't go all the way down. Sooner or later, somebody has to fix the signifier and it isn't pretty to watch. Some such acts make possible productive disciplines of beauty, truth and goodness; others don't.

It seems to me that this way of looking at things is a natural fit with conservative anxiety about order and the threat "reason" unmoored from any tradition poses to it. Foucault certainly appreciated all the effort that went into breeding and training the contemporary Frenchman. Should all that effort be lost because it conflicts with a rationalised Europe only Jeremy Bentham could love? It's possible to see such destruction as just desserts for all that went before, but also as a complete waste. Had Foucault's excesses not killed him in early middle age, it is possible to imagine him sympathizing with the Front National.

Theistic conservatives have to ultimately disagree with the po-mos, but can concede they give a good account of life after the fall.

Jacques Derrida card uploaded to flickr by Smarthrob. Photo public.

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