Thursday, August 09, 2012

Roger Kimball and the Art of Fine Insultainment

Yesterday we spoke of the seemingly uncontroversial notion that you and I are somebody and not just anybody, let alone nobody.

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.'"

Oh, really?

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.

One thing I would like to ask Professor Miller is: how do you know? Tell us about your own risky and exquisite self-transcendence at the limits of consciousness where true and false are effaced by that pounding sensation in the Temple of the Butthole. If this is your god, what are hemorrhoids, stigmata?

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).


julie said...

Wow. Temple of the Butthole, huh? By that logic, much of what currently passes for "erotic fiction" must have all the spiritual depth of Chopra or Robbins...

mushroom said...

No, son, you can't be nothing
No, you can't be anything
But you are something
No, I'm not paying for graduate school

Gagdad Bob said...

At the same time, our egalitarian culture wants to pretend that everyone is special, regardless of character or accomplishment. Thus, as Kimball mentions somewhere, if everybody is somebody, then nobody is anybody. I explained this to Future Leader yesterday, and he completely "got it." Of course, he's not burdened by a leftist education.

mushroom said...

What can you say to some of that?

You have wearied the LORD with your words. But you say, How have we wearied him? By saying, Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delights in them... -- Malachi 2:17

mushroom said...

At the same time, our egalitarian culture wants to pretend that everyone is special, regardless of character or accomplishment.

You have passed 'Go'. Advance to Oslo. Collect Peace Prize.

ge said...

Foucault's first book [on
Raymond Roussel ] is quite giftedly brilliant; his others I have perused on various historical/literary topics similarly seem the output of a unique awesome mind...His untimely death from the sex-excesses he may've argued were integral to his development= occasion for some serious sighing and alliteration

julie said...

Thanks for the link to the Kimball interview, Bob. Relevant quote there by Kimball:

In his book Modern Times, the historian Paul Johnson speaks of Lenin’s “burning humanitarianism, akin to the love of the saints for God.” Yes, and here’s the rub: “But his humanitarianism was a very abstract passion. It embraced humanity in general but he seems to have little love for, or even interest in, humanity in particular. He saw the people with whom he dealt, his comrades, not as individuals but as receptacles for his ideas.” Here’s where we see the link between tyranny and utopianism. The paterfamilias of this brand of sentimental humanitarianism was Jean-Jacques Rousseau: “I think I know man,” Rousseau said mournfully toward the end of his life, “but as for men, I know them not.” (Nor, come to that, did he know any of his five illegitimate children, all of whom he abandoned to the orphanage.) It’s a short step from Rousseau and his celebration of the emotion (as distinct from the reality) of virtue to Robespierre and his candid talk about “virtue and its emanation, terror.”

Gagdad Bob said...

Beyond parody.

julie said...

Wow. I'm reminded of something I saw the other day about Hemmingway, and how his mother dressed him like a girl and called him "Ernestine" when he was young.

ge said...

Hem's Mom had a lady lover; his M.D. dad shot himself, and the mom thoughtfully sent the son the gun! -not the one he shot HEMself with...and one son Gregory* became not just an MD but a notorious drag queen jailhouse nutter....yet [hence?] Ernest became an immortal force in Fiction, and would sock the jaw off of anyone who denied it


USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"Yes, I can see that. One wonders how it eluded the Founding Fathers."

Ha ha! Indeed! They weren't so-fisticated like this a-hoe.

"If this is your god, what are hemorrhoids, stigmata?"

Yikes! And upon that stigma rests the seat of Foucault's power, anointed by Preparation H.

No wonder lefties ache so much for that experience! They wanna leave something behind...butt, can they match the postqueerity of Foucault?

I'm certain lefties of all stripes will provide learning AIDS to all their students as they seek to emulate the zeroes of their diss-order.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

From the Hot Air link:

"But parents of so-called pink boys feel another layer of anxiety: given how central gender is to identity, they fear the wrong parenting decision could devastate their child’s social or emotional well-being."

And yet, oddly enough, that doesn't stop these idiotic parents from inflicting more child abuse on their sons.

Sounds to me like the parents are more concerned about their own anxiety than what this will do to their sons.

BTW, not surprising that they view male and female as opposites rather than complementaries.

These parents are encouraging and pushing their sons into this.
As if their sons were some sort of rats in a scientistic experiment.

With assouls like this (assuming they even have souls) who needs enemies?

julie said...

Ben, have I told you lately that you're hilarious?

Van Harvey said...

"The left cannot remake man if man actually is something, and not just a shapeless blob for them to mould via social fantaseering."

After rationalists and skeptics had safely set reality beyond the reach of man, step two was to reduce man to an echo of it, by denying him free will. Man didn't choose his actions, he just reflected the noises of the environment...(what was that environment located in? How did it impact (wham!) man? Shhh! we're making it up as we go here).

Transformed from a rational being whose understanding of Truth enriched his life and ability to live in reality, into a being who rationalizes his way to feeding his apetite and justifies his every whim for what the meaning of Is is. Man was transformed into something infinitely more valueable than the Philosopher's Stone, the Misosopher's Putty... and Pandora's box was busted open... even hope fluttered out.

"First of all, Experiments Against Reality. Does that not say it all? For what is leftism but an experiment against reality?"


Van Harvey said...

... Reality, and the Truth of it, is an every present threat to the modernist, which they must not only continually plot against, but cannot plot without reference to it.

And it burns.

Van Harvey said...

" If this is your god, what are hemorrhoids, stigmata?"


Bwa-Ha-Hahahahahhahah... AHH-hahahahahhahahahhahahah....... Bwa-choo!!!

Finally got that itch. Thanks.

Rick said...

Loved that interview of Kimball, most especially the part on the current state of "art". How it steals from the category to gain authority. Hearing the truth is a joy.
I could say the same thing is happening to "what passes for" music and literature.

Rick said...

or prose. But now they just call it all "writing" so that so much more qualifies, until what once defined the narrow term no longer does.