Roger Kimball and the Art of Fine Insultainment
In other words, we are created with a unique but implicit pattern of selfhood which guides our choices, passions, and preferences in order to bring itself into being -- from implicate to explicate, or nonlocal to local, or potential to actualization.
As it so happens, this idea is not controversial. This is because it has been rejected by the ideological fascinistas of the day. In fact, for the left, it hasn't so much been rejected as banished from consideration.
As is true of so much totolerantarian leftist thought, what was once common sense is now indefensible and even offensive, and probably racist and sexist too. So don't even go there if you want to pass this class.
But make no mistake about it: for the left, the idea of human essences has got to go, because essences place limits on what the state can do to you. The left cannot remake man if man actually is something, and not just a shapeless blob for them to mould via social fantaseering.
For example, if men are men and women are women, Title IX isn't just crazy -- which of course it is -- but also unjust, cruel, and even monstrous (because only an androgynous leftist castrato would prefer hybrid sexless monsters to real men and women, with all their wonderful differences).
These academically incorrect thoughts were provoked by Roger Kimball's Experiments Against Reality, which addresses just this issue. In particular, he has several chapters devoted to philosophers who were and are extremely influential on the left, including Foucault, Sartre, Nietzsche, and Mill (and he also touches on other familiar illuminutti such as Derrida and Rorty).
Kimball is such wonderful and entertaining writer, that I would just urge you to get the book. I can only hit the highlights. Indeed, this is the finest of fine insultainment. I'm afraid he makes me look as vulgar and crude as an Obama ad.
First of all, Experiments Against Reality. Does that not say it all? For what is leftism but an experiment against reality?
Not on reality, mind you. That would be a different thing altogether. If that were the case, then, for example, the left of us would conclude with the rest of us that the experiment LBJ called the "War On Poverty" has failed, and that it is time to try a new one. The War On Poverty turns out to have been a War On Affluence (not to mention cultural integrity), but hey, whatever. The tenured sneeze and the poor catch cold. Or AIDS. Or get murdered, either by each other or by the state.
Or, President Obama might conclude that Keynesian economics isn't all it's crocked up to be, and that perhaps we should call that Austrian kid Hayek from the bench. After all, the left is all about fairness and diversity, isn't it? Eighty years is enough. How about giving another economist a chance to play!
As I've mentioned before, Kimball's books provide so many provocative quotes that they are worthy on that basis alone. For example, Richard Rorty: "I do not have much use for notions like 'objective value' and 'objective truth.'"
In that case, You. Are. TENURED!
Which proves once again that tenure travels halfway 'round the bend before truth can get its boots on.
Recall what was said above about being Somebody and not just Anybody or Nobody (which amount to the same thing). If we are the latter, then it follows that truth consists of Anything and Nothing.
Of course, the tenured nobody will still assert the truth of this or that, even while having undercut its very possibility. This is in order to reassure parents who naturally don't want to think they are shelling out fifty grand a year to maim their child's soul.
Thinking back on it, this is how my poor father must have felt. Being that he was the recipient of only an eighth grade education in rural England (or the equivalent today of a BA), he must have thought to himself: "Well, the boy is in graduate school. Sure sounds like unvarnished bullshit to me, but there must be something to it."
Jumping ahead a bit, the chapter on Foucault is priceless. In it Kimball reviews an acclaimed biography of the man, The Passion of Michel Foucault.
You don't mean...
Oh yes he does. If nothing is sacred, then everything is, up to and including the subject of a book that Kimball tells us Miller relied upon for his sublime analysis of Foucault's sadomasochism, called The Catacombs: A Temple of the Butthole.
You'd think it would be easy to insert a gag here, but some things truly are beyond parody. Besides, I am gagging a little.
Speaking of inserting gags, Foucault was deeply attracted to one of the idyllic infraworlds of San Francisco, which featured such elevated practices as "gagging, piercing, cutting, electric-shocking, stretching on racks, imprisoning, branding..."
Er, why? Was he just, you know... a pervert?
Kimball: "Miller presents Foucault's indulgence in sexual torture as if it were a noble existential battle for greater wisdom and political liberation."
This makes a lot of sense, because it would explain more generally why so much political wisdom emanates from San Francisco, that bathhouse -- or perhaps petri dish -- of leftist experimentation.
Here is how Miller characterizes Foucault's passion (in Kimball): "Accepting the new level of risk," he joined "in the orgies of torture, trembling with 'the most exquisite agonies,' voluntarily effacing himself, exploding the limits of consciousness, letting real, corporeal pain insensibly melt into pleasure through the alchemy of eroticism...."
Such "punishing ascetic practices" allowed Foucault "to breach, however briefly, the boundaries separating the conscious and unconscious, reason and unreason, pleasure and pain... thus starkly revealing how the distinctions central to the play of true and false are pliable, uncertain, contingent."
Yes, I can see that. One wonders how it eluded the Founding Fathers.
Barely started here, but it very much touches on our ongoing discussion of Voegelin. To be continued, although we'll be on hiatus most of next week.
Excellent interview of Kimball on his latest book, The Fortunes of Permanence. It's as pearlescent as all his others, meaning that it would be pointless to throw it to the PORGIs of academia (Post-Religious Global Internationalists).