Communicator (communicator) wrote,

Such stuff as dreams are made of

When I was studying philosophy a big concern I had with modern continental philosophy - such as post-structuralism - was that it was vulnerable to political power. For example, it would be blithely asserted that 'There is no reality, there is only a discourse of power'. But, to me, this takes away the key resource of the disadvantaged - that they can defy the powerful by saying 'you may control what is said, but what is true remains, as mute witness that you are wrong'. For example, it may be said that 'women can't do maths' or 'black people are all drug addicts' (or whatever) we challenge that not by privileging a different mode of discourse but by pointing at the evidence to the contrary. The real world is our ally.

I think a solitary positive result of the fiasco that is the Iraq war, and the developing fiasco that is the Intelligent Design debate, is to rub humanists' noses in this fact. No the WMD were not there, yes, the evidence of science matters. When discourse comes up against reality, reality is more important. Michael Berube, my favourite academic blogger, made a shattering capitulation the other day.

Seriously, Enlightenment, I’m sorry we postmodernists said so many mean things about you. Can you forgive us? Tell you what. You get rid of that annoying “universalism as a stalking horse for imperialism” thing, and we’ll stop going around saying silly things like “reason is an instrument of terror.” Deal?

Cool. Now let’s take this show on the road

If you are interested in that you might like to read the comments which followed, about the relationship between postmodernism and political repression. Not that they are all right or anything.

But notice the way that vaguely leftish people talk about the 'Enlightenment' has changed recently. At one time it was all 'dead white males' and now it's all 'reason over faith'. I think the disempowered groups have realised that when it comes down to the crunch - which it does - you are better off joining with the reality-based community. At least they have made a commitment to something greater than their own self interest.

In my Dilbert-bashing entry a couple of days ago I kind of hinted that a similar dilemma confronts the habituated cynic such as myself these days. Yes, all that solid melts into air, into thin air; and yet here we still are, facing the bullies.
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