May 09, 2009

I don’t think you get Kant right–I think he’s more of a strawman for you

16 Responses to “Developmental Systems Theory, Plasticity, Neurology, and Culture”
Bryan Says: April 16, 2009 at 3:23 am

I think the way you’ve quoted me above is really misleading, since it cuts out the most important part of what I said: that last bit is, as far as I’m concerned, more the commentary of a person who follows your blog than a real theoretical critique (perhaps why it was excerpted…).

Anyhow, I think you’ve misinterpreted what I meant by “distasteful.” I think you tend to assume that any criticism you receive is automatically because everyone else is so immersed in their false consciousness qua correlationism that they can’t understand the true depth of your insights. For one, I’m not “immersed in cultural studies”: I’m an undergrad history major with some knowledge of Lacan and German Idealism–I’ve never really cared for anything related to cultural studies and it always struck me as ideologically suspicious and mostly self-indulgent.

Second, my point was clearly directed at your rhetoric, not the fact that you’ve begun to discuss neurology. Personally, I find neurology really fascinating–something of my best friends in college are neuroscience majors or neuroscientists, and all of what they say is very intriguing, so much so that they’ve gotten me to read quite a bit of research related to the field.

What I find slightly repugnant is your shift into language like “The Kantian says…” (as you use even in this post), or “The correlationist says…” As if all these positions are so self-evident and clear. I don’t think this is the case, and I think that this kind of rhetorical gesture suggests something deeply troubling about your recent “conversion” (maybe in the religious sense?) to object-oriented philosophy. In other words, in the past several months, your way of describing your positions and communicating with other bloggers strikes me as deeply Christian: you have the true faith, we’re all left out of heaven, banished into the limbo of correlationism. It’s a little bit arrogant. I only decided to post because I thought it was worth pointing out–it’s a kind of rhetorical disposition that is, in my opinion, deeply unsuited for an analyst.

larvalsubjects Says: April 16, 2009 at 3:51 am Bryan,

Thanks for the comment! Of course you are correct in identifying certain rhetorical and textual strategies at work in my discussions. These are designed to produce certain disidentifications and open alternative possibilities of thought. Moreover I’m eulogizing these alternative approaches as a rhetorical technique of seduction. As I described myself in a recent post, I am a fundamentalist evangelical atheist materialist, so your charge of being Christian is largely correct. I apologize for not quoting you in full, though I did link to your original quote. I’m perplexed by your remark about cultural studies. Certainly Zizek falls into the domain of cultural studies. All of this aside, vis a vis your criticisms of the manner in which I’m simplifying the Kantian and the correlationist, would you level a similar critique against Lacan’s discussions of ego-psychology, Piaget, or Chomsky?

Bryan Says: April 16, 2009 at 4:31 am

1. I’m not sure you’ve succeeded at that goal of disidentification. Generally speaking, any position that requires the construction of an entire universe of strawmen is suspicious and suggests a huge amount of libidinal investment in what its attacking, rather than the critique itself. Thus, for example, Kierkegaard’s critique of Hegel reveals less about Hegel’s philosophy than about the need for Kierkegaard to have a strawman who goes by the name of “Hegel” (there’s an excellent book on this by Prof. [not comedian] Jon Stewart, but anyhow…). Basically, I think you’re on the wrong track as far as rhetoric goes.

2. I disagree that Zizek is cultural studies, although your language is ambiguous (”falls into the domain…”). This is usually the reading of Zizek that people come away with when they’re not at all deeply engaged in his work and become distracted by the flashy pop culture examples. The fact is, the pop culture analyses are all subordinated to making Lacan and German Idealism understandable. Adrian Johnston’s book, *Zizek’s Ontology*, provides probably the best case of elucidating this point, but even a brief encounter with Zizek’s *Tarrying with the Negative* makes it clear that his main focus is not cultural studies. A much better description would be the reactualization of German Idealism through Lacanian psychoanalysis.

3. I don’t think Lacan simplifies ego psychology (would you honestly claim otherwise?), and as for Piaget and Chomsky, I’m not familiar enough with either. The difference between your argument about correlationism and Lacan’s is that, despite all of the name calling, Lacan’s criticism of ego-psychology is actually quite rigorous (as in Seminars I, II, and III), and also really damning because he gets it right. The same is true of Kant’s critique of Hume and Leibniz. All in all, we may forget exactly who Kant or Lacan or even Marx were criticizing in their texts, but we’ll never forget the critiques, because their critiques are invaluable and will stay with us for a long time.

On the other hand, I don’t think you get Kant right–I think he’s more of a strawman for you.

Realism and Correlationism: Some preliminaries from Grundlegung by Tom

Over at Larval Subjects, Now-Times and Perverse Egalitarianism there has been a fractious debate regarding realism which has gone on for some time. This is in the wake of ’speculative realism’ coming to increased prominence, under the influence of Quentin Meillassoux, Ray Brassier, Iain Hamilton Grant and Graham Harman. This realism has been contrasted with a correlationist position, which is taken to infect much contemporary philosophy.

Meillassoux introduced the term ‘correlationism’ to describe a non-realist position which claims that “we only ever have access to the correlation between thinking and being, and never to either term considered apart from the other.” (AF: 5) ...

Does Kant’s position get fairly characterised by the new realists? A lot of acrimony has resulted from the attempt to answer this question in discussions between Levi, Alexei and Mikhail. Both sides are now pretty entrenched, and that is when they are on speaking terms. I don’t want to reignite these ‘Kant wars’ but I will offer some comments on this issue in the next few posts.

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