Friday, 4 November 2011

Adam Curtis on Greece

A superb piece by Adam Curtis on 'the ghost of the colonels' that hangs over Greece and the severe threat to their democracy that is posed by the present crisis and its would-be legislators:

Particularly wonderful and haunting is the response of the man towards the end of the Panorama excerpt:
* 'What do you think of what the government has achieved here in the last five years?'
# 'Ah, you picked the wrong man to ask the right question.'
* 'Why are you the wrong man, why is it the right question?'
# 'Well, if I give you the proper answer you might not see me here tomorrow.'
The wrong man to ask the right question. I like that a lot. There's ever so much more to politics than asking the right question - although the right question is no less necessary for all of that. It's what happens to that question. This transcends intellectualism.

An Elisional Theory of Anti-Realism and Ignorance

Something that realist critiques of anti-realism rarely acknowledge is that anti-realism works more by elision than by denial. Anti-realists rarely deny anything, they just affirm particular kinds of things (words, practices, discourses) and, by using these materials to construct (or deconstruct) everything else, ignore everything else. They'll say that "the constitution of the event and its elements is a product of its discursive condition of emergence"(1) – and hence suggest that the discursive conditions are all there is (by failing to mention anything else) but not come right out and say it (and how could they?).

This is why they get so upset and indignant when called ‘anti-realist’! ‘I’m not denying reality!’, they say, ‘I am simply critiquing the naive realism that assumes that we can perceive things as they are regardless of our historically contingent socio-linguistic presuppositions! Down with Enlightenment Reason, Scientism, Man, Phallogocentrism, Universa...’ (I usually mentally turn the volume down at this point; it’s amusing to watch lips flapping philosophically and in anger to no end at all).

Realists misstep when they say that 'anti-realists deny any reality beyond perception' or something like that because that actually gives the anti-realists an exit, a way out.

When realist critics accuse them of ‘denying reality’ they can always shoot back ‘I’m not denying anything!’ – They refuse to deny it; they just refuse to talk about it – at all. They refuse, they ignore.

This habitual elision deserves to be called ignorance because it is precisely a process of ignoring most of reality (and, indeed, most of experience), pretending it isn’t there (at least so long as one is sat at one’s desk and doesn’t need, say, medical attention or transportation – then we all become stubborn realists; poor old desks, so incapable of making obvious what we would be doing without them: scribbling on our knees!).

‘I may make assumptions with regard to the reality of things whenever I eat, walk, drive, medicate, breathe – but I refuse to accord things any reality in my political analyses! There’s room for things in my lungs, my house and my stomach but not in my philosophy!’

How snide, the elite who elide.

Elision – a stutter, a stammer, a break, a gap where the things should be. It’s not that we don’t get ‘the whole picture’ (as if that is even what we’re after) but rather that we only get every third picture and are left to make wild guesses as to what goes in the gaps. We're apparently just meant to pass over them, 'unseeing.'

This is the difference between the big, old, bad realism and more refined kinds we find presently: The former would scold anti-realists for not ‘looking at things on the whole’ and ‘breaking away from subjective perceptions to see how things really are’; this is not the way forward, it is the way back (towards the wrong side of town, the estates we did well to escape!). The latter realists will just want to fill in the gaps, without the grumpy, pumpkin-sized gesticulations suggesting that we take in ‘the big picture’ or look at things ‘as they really are.’

Saving realism from the realists, again.

(1) David Campbell, International Engagements: The Politics of North American International Relations Theory.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Facing the Object

"Correlationism affirms the indissoluble primacy [emphasis added] of the relation between thought and its correlate over the metaphysical hypostatization or representationalist reification of either term of the relation." - Brassier, The Enigma of Realism.

Facing the object:

So, the object exists? Contentious! They say: "Ah, but you could be wrong, naïfs!"; we say: "Ah, but who cares, waifs?!".

Am I so certain of my own existence that I might haughtily dismiss the 'object' as a mere - yes, the merest! - figment of my imagination? - And scoff, mouth full, spittle flecking, chops flapping, snorting like an engorged drainpipe, an inch from choking?

Am I so confident of the existence of my language that I could - with a salivated sneer of the lips and a righteous roll of the eyes - wryly denounce 'the object' as a therefrom generated fiction? ('A convenience, at best'; seminar fodder; grad-bait.)

What a spectacle: With my sly, glinting, dying slither of selfhood self-absorbed in gloaming I would prance (then hobble!) - face pallid and ashen, casting askance glances -, lurching wretchedly, shimmying limpingly, all to convince all - really: all! - that my being is so bearably light. - Impaled on my own pretensions. A tragicomic parade of crushing inadequacies. Put this dog down!

In short: Why would I be so willing to ground my skepticism in the obvious fact that I could be wrong and yet not equally willful in grounding my realism in the equally obvious fact that I could be right? Why does one variant of the obvious obviate the other?

Calling all previous claimants to the radix!:
Dwellers of the subject.
Incumbents of the object.
Cosmopolites of the inbetween.
The radix is a fatty root: purple-faced belly-belchers, the lot of you!
Wheretofore, denizens of the obvious? - Majestic citizens of the commonplace; living; braving a fresh air that nourishes.


That most grumpy of disgruntled, growling 'realist' grumblers - our dear friend and valued colleague, Ray B. (rhymes with baby; if there were more than one it'd rhyme with rabies [easy now, ed.]) - is a little too enamoured with only allegedly forgotten 'realities' (not to mention: his own intellect). And his enthusiasm for everything bifurcating is grating at first glance and and galling last. But he's definitely got a point there, innum?

We can all agree: it is a question of primacy (emphasis added?).