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January 13, 2009



Thanks to theorising, on more than one occassion I have been 'left with the couch' in my own meagre intellectual circles. Broadly, those good friends who on occassion I ask to 'pull their knife from my back' fall into two camps.
The first I forgive. Anything approaching philosophy they fall silent, yet they listen. They wish to gain a few crumbs of understanding that they might engage a subject which leves me visibly excited. Unfortunately, their brains seem to lack a few millivolts of electricity jumping across those synapses as I suffer the same lack with maths.
The second group far from listening, operate across a spectrum that ranges from overtly ignoring me, to willfully shouting me down from the first sentence. Frustrated, I have come close to dishing out a good kicking on a few occassions, but what repells otherwise learned people from theory and philosophy?
Entropy is my first thought. However competent in their field, in people, there comes resistance to learning a new body of knowledge. Made painful by the realisation not undertaking this work will impoverish their perspective, some people seek to negate theory or decry it as redundant as a way of maintaining their own sense of intellectual competence without challenge.

However it might do well to remember that Freud said somtimes a cigar is just a cigar.
In my view, at large, the world should be taken as misrepresented. But at times it is, as it is. Similarly, the Lacanian 'real' is like making scrambled eggs. Out of a meld of ingredients, we created something solid, but on its formation we must scrape it from the bottom of the pan, so as not to burn the pan, and make room for the rest (real) to form.

Theory is only a 'crass generalisation' lives in the minds of tiresome drones. People sometimes say to me in my own theorising that I make generalisations. Fine: at first, because I'm theorising. I'm cobbling together a first draft of principles that will need constant refinement. I'm not holding something up to the light of day giving it an immediate tangibility, yet my detractors act as if in one fell swoop I've just denounced gravity!

Their is one criticsm that I fear must stand. I fear it because I think it is true of myself and true as a general rule. One's propensity to creativity and ideas, is equally matched by one's propensity to narcissism. That does not mean that all creative thinkers are lost and decieve themselves of the real nature of the world around them. It does mean disciplined thinkers need to account for this trait and cut away their narcissism regularly so that theory for them, does not become, 'an obsessive empirical elaboration of the speakers voice'.

In conclusion, thought only lacks power in people who refuse to think. Then, in its place, the absence of thought, holds power over them.

'Without imagination we are just like all the other dullards' Hannibal Lecter.


you're SO right - there is an extraordinary tension between theorizing and friendship, not least because, in our culture, anything that smacks of intellectualism is deemed threatening or pretentious, or is censured altogether. My suggestion is to get new friends! Not always the easiest thing to do I know. Thanks for this thoughtful comment.


Thanks, and new friends, yes!
I've learnt to cope half starved from intellectual company, but it's an all consuming hunger that eventually becomes overwhelming. Perhaps like Nietzsche I should head for the mountains . . . why was he thought crazy for simply shielding a horse that some brute insisted on whipping?

At least the internet offers access to intellectual stimulation. Today I have devoured Blake, Borges, Malba and Tahan. All found in a footnote at the bottom of a paragrah that blew my hair back! These rare wonderful moments that wake you up to new ideas and turn the black and white drudge into colour -bliss-

Back to theory: What say you on the Nietzsche-Dostoevsky connection?

Jennifer Cascadia

I speak as it were from a couple of spaces removed from popular culture, and gladly so. My view is that theory and empiricism ought to be one. Theory needs to check the larger world out, every now and then, to make sure its theoretical postulations add up. It's quite possible for theory to lose track of reality. Likewise, crude empiricism needs to go to school and learn some rigour


Hi Jennifer

thanks for your comment... not sure what you mean by popular culture here, but I do think there is a misnomer in what you suggest above: the notion that theory and reality are in some sense separated out from each other is precisely the problem. As I say above theory is (or should be) precisely a turning towards the world, a refusal of the putative givenness of that world. The problem I have always identified in empirical engagements with the world is that they go about doing what they do as if they could capture the world in some kind of detail, as if that detail were somehow present, available without mediation. What is missing in that impoverished worldview is any notion of ideology critique. What do ways of seeing the world, for example, do to any 'data' we might thereby draw from it?

Jennifer Cascadia

Yeah , you are talking about a kind of vulgar empiricism that seems to be taking hold in the culture that predominates -- ie. popular culture.

All I was suggesting is that our way of perceiving the world must necessarily be dialectical if it is to be subject to correction, such as through reality testing. Otherwise, all we have is dogma.


I still don't understand what you mean by 'popular culture' here. Do you mean everyday culture? In which case, what is that if not the culture that you and I participate in, the culture we both have some kind of responsibility for? Or do you mean 'popular' as in 'vulgar'? What I am asking in this versioning of your phrase 'popular culture' is whether you mean a culture that is less meaningful, less valuable than the culture(s) in which you participate. In which case, what culture(s) do you participate in? Do you want to separate high (bourgeois) culture out from low culture?

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