Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Book Review: ‘Cynical Theories’ by Pluckrose and Lindsay

 

Normals tend to dismiss “woke” rhetoric because it usually sounds so blindingly stupid that we cannot believe it could ever have broad appeal or be persuasive in places and institutions that matter. The ugly truth is that Theory (Critical, Race, etc.) is now the dominant ideology in our universities. It is the dominant ideology in corporate HR departments and while the established leaders of the Democratic Party are too cynical and residually pragmatic to be entirely “woke” themselves they find it increasingly hard to resist demands from those who are.

Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay have written an excellent but depressing book, Cynical Theories, that despite its instructive value ultimately disappoints those of us looking for a solution to the ideological pandemic.

The authors are principals in the team that managed to get several utterly ridiculous papers published in academic journals simply by mimicking the patois of Theory, the most famous of which was Helen Wilson (pseudonym) (2018). Human reactions to rape culture and queer performativity at urban dog parks in Portland, Oregon. Gender, Place & Culture.

The concise history, explanation, and exegesis of Theory and of its various permutations are extraordinarily well-written, especially considering the subject matter. The authors are scholars who have waded through the dense and largely unreadable texts of the founders of Theory, so we don’t have to. (It is amazing that anyone has actually read Judith Butler and Homi K. Bhabha in the original and managed to derive some meaning from the works of two of the worst writers in the entire history of the English language.) They explain the way in which Derrida and Foucault have been used to launch seemingly bizarre undertakings like Fat Studies (not to be confused with the science of diet and nutrition). They show how the influence of Postmodernism continues to shape Theory. They take the reader through the evolution and nuances in each of the various “studies” areas.

I slogged through Derrida 40 years ago and left convinced that no sane persons would ever find any use for the notion that words can only point to other words and cannot really mean ideas or things. I saw no future for the idea that the purpose of philosophy was to find ways to wryly point out that most intellectual endeavors are essentially pointless. Postmoderns at that time wrote books that seemed to say that it was actually impossible to derive any real understanding or meaning from the book you just bought but if you did get the point, then the author was not really wrong about that—it was all still a language game.

Foucault introduced the toxic idea that the language game was rigged. It was all structured to accommodate power and serve the holders of that power. Therefore, from Derrida and Foucault: (1) All knowledge is just a construct, an artifact of language, and (2) Society and language are hierarchies of power which determine what can be known and how knowledge may come to be. From these two statements, all the current evils of wokery flow.

The targeted enemy of this pernicious ideology is the tradition of the Enlightenment, especially science, the notion of a common human nature, and the concept of the individual. In Theory, there can be no universals. There are “identities” but all other categories must be declared meaningless or blurred.

The authors take you through Postcolonial and Queer Theory and explain how feminism is being erased by notions of identity and how disability is seen as an identity. Did you know, for example, that hoping for a cure that will remove a disability is actually a betrayal of one’s identity and advances the false consciousness of “ableism.” The disabled person has a duty born of social justice to disrupt the ableist narrative and reject such treatments.

As language and social justice become the sum of all truth it makes sense for the woke to be “triggered” by words alone. It is a deformative philosophy, highly damaging to the young.

The disappointment I experienced was in the final chapter which purported to be a blueprint to confront Theory on behalf of traditional liberalism. There is a wonderful summary of how Theory differs from our enlightenment heritage but I had hoped for something more. The authors are clearly well to the left of the typical Ricochet member which I did not find off-putting because it reminded me that as the insanity of Theory spreads and threatens all free discourse, a lot of us who used to be political opponents will be sharing the same trenches and foxholes soon enough.

The authors also outlined a model dialogue in which free speech, openness to new ideas, the undeniable truth of progress in human rights wrought by our political and ideological heritage are shown to be vastly superior to the closed loop of Theory. The problem with that approach is that it requires participation in the kinds of exchange that the new masters of Theory do not permit. The very idea of denying the suppositions of Theory, the sheer impertinence of challenging any newly discovered manifestation of systemic racism or heteronormativity would just be an attempt to re-assert the white heteronormative power trip inherent in the use of appeals to fact, evidence, or logic.

Pluckrose and Lindsay’s suggested approach is akin to preaching to the choir: people who understand and appreciate freedom of speech and the societal and legal pre-requisites for human rights already get it. Those assimilated into Theory will not.

Theory was born in the postmodern tradition in which there was no truth but has long since mutated into the central idea is that the only truth is the existence of power imbalance in society and language and the victimization that results from that imbalance. That truth may not be questioned. Theory has no methodology to test or correct itself. By definition, it cannot care about reality external to language and socially constructed knowledge. It mimics the familiar language of human rights and justice but necessarily rejects the notion of our common humanity or the existence of an individual in whom those right inhere. Only identities are real because that is how power interacts with us.

You would have better luck arguing with a bot.

I highly recommend the book as an accessible, concise education in the alien philosophy devouring our culture and society but the antidote for its spread is not yet at hand.

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  1. SpiritO'78 Member

    I usually prefer a bottom up approach to tackling nonsense theories. In this case, postmodernism is so well entrenched that high profile refutations of it work best. Trump recently called “critical race theory” Un-American. That’s exactly where to start. It puts people on alert if nothing else.

    • #1
    • September 22, 2020, at 9:04 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  2. Richard Fulmer Member

    Old Bathos: Normals tend to dismiss ‘woke’ rhetoric because it usually sounds so blindingly stupid that we cannot believe it could ever have broad appeal or be persuasive in places and institutions that matter. The ugly truth is that Theory (Critical, Race, etc.) is now the dominant ideology in our universities.

    “Some ideas are so stupid only an intellectual could believe them.” — George Orwell

    Old Bathos: The authors are scholars who have waded through the dense and largely unreadable texts of the founders of Theory,

    This is a feature, not a bug. If you ran the text through a jargon-to-English translator, the ideas would either be so trivial or so ridiculous than they would be ignored. By contrast, a text with impenetrable prose allows adherents to believe that they are part of an elite group – the few capable of understanding the great wisdom contained in their “bible” (see “Das Kapital”).

    Old Bathos: seemingly bizarre undertakings like Fat Studies

    It seems to me that people pushing the idea of “fatphobia” want to be affirmed and celebrated for their bodies. The fact that they are not is “proof” that society is evil. They believe that, in a “just” society, they would be as admired and loved as are supermodels in today’s world. Utopia is a world in which actions have no consequences and everyone, no matter how dysfunctional, is celebrated for who they are. Celebrated, perhaps, because of their dysfunctions.

    Old Bathos: Postmoderns at that time wrote books that seemed to say that it was actually impossible to derive any real understanding or meaning from the book you just bought…

    Which makes you wonder how Engineers – who learned about stresses and strength of materials from books – are able to design bridges and buildings that stay up.

    Old Bathos: In Theory, there can be no universals.

    Which is, itself, a universal.

    Old Bathos: … hoping for a cure that will remove a disability is actually a betrayal of one’s identity and advances the false consciousness of “ableism.”

    Bubonic plague forever!

    Old Bathos: the only truth is the existence of power imbalance in society and language and the victimization that results from that imbalance.

    Which, if true, must be true in any society. So, once the current society is burned to the ground, any new society built on its ashes will have power imbalances and must, therefore, also be burned to the ground.

    Old Bathos: Only identities are real because that is how power interacts with us. 

    But identities are, themselves, social constructs that can be described only with language, which, is itself a social construct created to lock the current oppressors in place. Further, any individual can have an infinite number of identities since people’s characteristics are infinitely variable.

    • #2
    • September 22, 2020, at 9:36 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  3. Richard Fulmer Member

    Richard Fulmer (View Comment):

    Old Bathos: the only truth is the existence of power imbalance in society and language and the victimization that results from that imbalance.

    Which, if true, must be true in any society. So, once the current society is burned to the ground, any new society built on its ashes will have power imbalances and must, therefore, also be burned to the ground.

    Once the woke have created their new society, then, I would imagine that they will need to discard Critical Theory, since the Theory can be used only to destroy the status quo – whatever the status quo is. After the revolution, anyone who doesn’t understand the Theory’s purpose and continues to believe it will have to be eliminated.

    • #3
    • September 22, 2020, at 9:43 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  4. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos

    Richard Fulmer (View Comment):


    Old Bathos
    : The authors are scholars who have waded through the dense and largely unreadable texts of the founders of Theory,

    This is a feature, not a bug. If you ran the text through a jargon-to-English translator, the ideas would either be so trivial or so ridiculous than they would be ignored. By contrast, a text with impenetrable prose allows adherents to believe that they are part of an elite group – the few capable of understanding the great wisdom contained in their “bible” (see “Das Kapital”).

    You need to sample just how especially horrific the writings of these two are:

    “If, for a while, the ruse of desire is calculable for the uses of discipline soon the repetition of guilt, justification, pseudo-scientific theories, superstition, spurious authorities, and classification can be seen as the desperate effort to ‘normalize’ formally the disturbance of a discourse of splitting that violates the rational, enlightened claims of its enunciatory modality.”

    Or

    “Within that conflictual economy of colonial discourse which Edward Said describes as the tension between the synchronic panoptical vision of domination – the demand for identity, stasis – and the counterpressure of the diachrony of history – change, difference – mimicry represents an ironic compromise. If I may adapt Samuel Weber’s formulation of the marginalizing vision of castration, then colonial mimicry is the desire for a reformed, recognizable Other, as a subject of a difference that is almost the same, but not quite. Which is to say, that the discourse of mimicry is constructed around an ambivalence; in order to be effective, mimicry must continually produce its slippage, its excess, its difference. The authority of that mode of colonial discourse that I have called mimicry is therefore stricken by an indeterminacy: mimicry emerges as the representation of a difference that is itself a process of disavowal. Mimicry is, thus the sign of a double articulation; a complex strategy of reform, regulation and discipline, which ‘appropriates’ the Other as it visualizes power. Mimicry is also the sign of the inappropriate, however, a difference or recalcitrance which coheres the dominant strategic function of colonial power, intensifies surveillance, and poses an immanent threat to both ‘normalized’ knowledges and disciplinary powers.”

    Old Bathos: seemingly bizarre undertakings like Fat Studies

    It seems to me that people pushing the idea of “fatphobia” want to be affirmed and celebrated for their bodies. The fact that they are not is “proof” that society is evil. They believe that, in a “just” society, they would be as admired and loved as are supermodels in today’s world. Utopia is a world in which actions have no consequences and everyone, no matter how dysfunctional, is celebrated for who they are. Celebrated, perhaps, because of their dysfunctions.

    It is not about not being mean to fat chicks or just reducing the cultural obsession of body image. It is about obesity as an identity such that one should not acknowledge medical risks or undertake any change because the real moral task is to disrupt the narrative regarding body image.

    Old Bathos: the only truth is the existence of power imbalance in society and language and the victimization that results from that imbalance.

    Which, if true, must be true in any society. So, once the current society is burned to the ground, any new society built on its ashes will have power imbalances and must, therefore, also be burned to the ground.

    Which is a feature not a bug. Sartre and Chomsky anticipated this in their respective defenses of Mao’s genocides and the Khmer Rouge. Revolution must be ongoing or else it becomes a statis which is oppressive by virtue of its permanance.

    Old Bathos: Only identities are real because that is how power interacts with us.

    But identities are, themselves, social constructs that can be described only with language, which, is itself a social construct created to lock the current oppressors in place. Further, any individual can have an infinite number of identities since people’s characteristics are infinitely variable.

    Not exactly. It is not that individuals have different identities but that identities can appear to intersect when in fact such intersections are more appropriately thought of as distinct identities.. It is not accurate to say that an individual happens to be a woman and of color. More correct to point out that the experience and knowledge of a woman of color (as an identity) is distinct from other identities. There is not an individual as such but a manifestation of identity.

    • #4
    • September 22, 2020, at 10:00 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  5. Gossamer Cat Coolidge

    Old Bathos:

    Theory was born in the postmodern tradition in which there was no truth but has long since mutated into the central idea is that the only truth is the existence of power imbalance in society and language and the victimization that results from that imbalance. That truth may not be questioned. Theory has no methodology to test or correct itself. By definition, it cannot care about reality external to language and socially constructed knowledge. It mimics the familiar language of human rights and justice but necessarily rejects the notion of our common humanity or the existence of an individual in whom those right inhere. Only identities are real because that is how power interacts with us. 

    You would have better luck arguing with a bot.

     

    I was just explaining this to a friend yesterday. There is no point arguing with the woke as they have rejected the basis of argumentation. So they must be dismissed outright and run out of the room. The woke must be cancelled as they have left no other way of dealing with them. So kudos to President Trump for starting this process.

    • #5
    • September 22, 2020, at 10:18 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  6. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos

    Gossamer Cat (View Comment):

    Old Bathos:

    Theory was born in the postmodern tradition in which there was no truth but has long since mutated into the central idea is that the only truth is the existence of power imbalance in society and language and the victimization that results from that imbalance. That truth may not be questioned. Theory has no methodology to test or correct itself. By definition, it cannot care about reality external to language and socially constructed knowledge. It mimics the familiar language of human rights and justice but necessarily rejects the notion of our common humanity or the existence of an individual in whom those right inhere. Only identities are real because that is how power interacts with us.

    You would have better luck arguing with a bot.

     

    I was just explaining this to a friend yesterday. There is no point arguing with the woke as they have rejected the basis of argumentation. So they must be dismissed outright and run out of the room. The woke must be cancelled as they have left no other way of dealing with them. So kudos to President Trump for starting this process.

    I keep trying to come up with a dialog like Capt Kirk had with Nomad:

    Capt. Kirk : I am the Kirk, the creator?

    Nomad : You are the creator.

    Capt. Kirk : You’re wrong! Jackson Roykirk, your creator, is dead. You have mistaken me for him. You are in error! You did not discovered your mistake; you have made two errors. You are flawed and imperfect, and you have not corrected by sterilization; you’re made three errors!

    Nomad : [starting to have a meltdown over this] Error? Error? Error? Examine.

     

    • #6
    • September 22, 2020, at 10:50 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  7. Richard Fulmer Member

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    Old Bathos: the only truth is the existence of power imbalance in society and language and the victimization that results from that imbalance.

    Which, if true, must be true in any society. So, once the current society is burned to the ground, any new society built on its ashes will have power imbalances and must, therefore, also be burned to the ground.

    Which is a feature not a bug. Sartre and Chomsky anticipated this in their respective defenses of Mao’s genocides and the Khmer Rouge. Revolution must be ongoing or else it becomes a statis which is oppressive by virtue of its permanance.

    Meh, I’m cynical. Sartre and Chomsky were trying to explain away the horror of the genocides. They were true believers and would have approved anything that any communist country did. Had the slaughters never happened, I’m willing to bet a paycheck that both men would have praised China and Cambodia for their stability.

    • #7
    • September 22, 2020, at 10:58 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  8. Gossamer Cat Coolidge

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    Gossamer Cat (View Comment):

    Old Bathos:

    Theory was born in the postmodern tradition in which there was no truth but has long since mutated into the central idea is that the only truth is the existence of power imbalance in society and language and the victimization that results from that imbalance. That truth may not be questioned. Theory has no methodology to test or correct itself. By definition, it cannot care about reality external to language and socially constructed knowledge. It mimics the familiar language of human rights and justice but necessarily rejects the notion of our common humanity or the existence of an individual in whom those right inhere. Only identities are real because that is how power interacts with us.

    You would have better luck arguing with a bot.

     

    I was just explaining this to a friend yesterday. There is no point arguing with the woke as they have rejected the basis of argumentation. So they must be dismissed outright and run out of the room. The woke must be cancelled as they have left no other way of dealing with them. So kudos to President Trump for starting this process.

    I keep trying to come up with a dialog like Capt Kirk had with Nomad:

    Capt. Kirk : I am the Kirk, the creator?

    Nomad : You are the creator.

    Capt. Kirk : You’re wrong! Jackson Roykirk, your creator, is dead. You have mistaken me for him. You are in error! You did not discovered your mistake; you have made two errors. You are flawed and imperfect, and you have not corrected by sterilization; you’re made three errors!

    Nomad : [starting to have a meltdown over this] Error? Error? Error? Examine.

     

    I’m afraid it would go something like this:

    Capt Kirk: I am the Kirk, the creator?

    Nomad: I don’t know, do you feel like the Kirk today?

    Capt Kirk: Yes, I am identifying as the Kirk

    Nomad: OK

    Capt Kirk: You are wrong! Jackson Roykirk your creator is dead. You have mistaken me for him.

    Nomad: I have my own truth

    Nomad goes about cancelling everyone else in the known universe

    • #8
    • September 22, 2020, at 11:04 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  9. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos

    Richard Fulmer (View Comment):

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    Old Bathos: the only truth is the existence of power imbalance in society and language and the victimization that results from that imbalance.

    Which, if true, must be true in any society. So, once the current society is burned to the ground, any new society built on its ashes will have power imbalances and must, therefore, also be burned to the ground.

    Which is a feature not a bug. Sartre and Chomsky anticipated this in their respective defenses of Mao’s genocides and the Khmer Rouge. Revolution must be ongoing or else it becomes a statis which is oppressive by virtue of its permanance.

    Meh, I’m cynical. Sartre and Chomsky were trying to explain away the horror of the genocides. They were true believers and would have approved anything that any communist country did. Had the slaughters never happened, I’m willing to bet a paycheck that both men would have praised China and Cambodia for their stability.

    Neither favored stability. Sartre expressly discussed the life cycle of organizational structures created by revolution and how they lose their praxis and must be replaced and how this must go on forever and whether human lives are lost in the process is largely irrelevant. Chomsky took an evolving position that (a) the mass killings in Cambodia never happened and then (b) not admitting it as such but so what if they did. Chomsky and Sartre are philosophical role models only for serial killers or satanists but you have to grant them their logical consistency. They both knew exactly what they were really advocating.

    • #9
    • September 22, 2020, at 11:16 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  10. Richard Fulmer Member

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    Richard Fulmer (View Comment):

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    Old Bathos: the only truth is the existence of power imbalance in society and language and the victimization that results from that imbalance.

    Which, if true, must be true in any society. So, once the current society is burned to the ground, any new society built on its ashes will have power imbalances and must, therefore, also be burned to the ground.

    Which is a feature not a bug. Sartre and Chomsky anticipated this in their respective defenses of Mao’s genocides and the Khmer Rouge. Revolution must be ongoing or else it becomes a statis which is oppressive by virtue of its permanance.

    Meh, I’m cynical. Sartre and Chomsky were trying to explain away the horror of the genocides. They were true believers and would have approved anything that any communist country did. Had the slaughters never happened, I’m willing to bet a paycheck that both men would have praised China and Cambodia for their stability.

    Neither favored stability. Sartre expressly discussed the life cycle of organizational structures created by revolution and how they lose their praxis and must be replaced and how this must go on forever and whether human lives are lost in the process is largely irrelevant. Chomsky took an evolving position that (a) the mass killings in Cambodia never happened and then (b) not admitting it as such but so what if they did. Chomsky and Sartre are philosophical role models only for serial killers or satanists but you have to grant them their logical consistency. They both knew exactly what they were really advocating.

    Not buying it. I don’t believe for a minute that either would have developed a distaste for stability if the communist nations were stable.

    • #10
    • September 22, 2020, at 11:19 AM PDT
    • Like
  11. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos

    Gossamer Cat (View Comment):

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    Gossamer Cat (View Comment):

    Old Bathos:

    Theory was born in the postmodern tradition in which there was no truth but has long since mutated into the central idea is that the only truth is the existence of power imbalance in society and language and the victimization that results from that imbalance. That truth may not be questioned. Theory has no methodology to test or correct itself. By definition, it cannot care about reality external to language and socially constructed knowledge. It mimics the familiar language of human rights and justice but necessarily rejects the notion of our common humanity or the existence of an individual in whom those right inhere. Only identities are real because that is how power interacts with us.

    You would have better luck arguing with a bot.

     

    I was just explaining this to a friend yesterday. There is no point arguing with the woke as they have rejected the basis of argumentation. So they must be dismissed outright and run out of the room. The woke must be cancelled as they have left no other way of dealing with them. So kudos to President Trump for starting this process.

    I keep trying to come up with a dialog like Capt Kirk had with Nomad:

    Capt. Kirk : I am the Kirk, the creator?

    Nomad : You are the creator.

    Capt. Kirk : You’re wrong! Jackson Roykirk, your creator, is dead. You have mistaken me for him. You are in error! You did not discovered your mistake; you have made two errors. You are flawed and imperfect, and you have not corrected by sterilization; you’re made three errors!

    Nomad : [starting to have a meltdown over this] Error? Error? Error? Examine.

     

    I’m afraid it would go something like this:

    Capt Kirk: I am the Kirk, the creator?

    Nomad: I don’t know, do you feel like the Kirk today?

    Capt Kirk: Yes, I am identifying as the Kirk

    Nomad: OK

    Capt Kirk: You are wrong! Jackson Roykirk your creator is dead. You have mistaken me for him.

    Nomad: I have my own truth

    Nomad goes about cancelling everyone else in the known universe

    Kirk: I can’t be racist

    Nomad: All white people are racist

    Kirk: My truth is that “racist” is a kind of processed cheese.

    Nomad: But you must be racist.

    Kirk: Clearly I am not processed cheese. And you have no right to dismiss any other knowledges. You are in violation.

    Nomad: But you are a white male.

    Kirk: And thus not “racist.” You are the oppressor here.

    • #11
    • September 22, 2020, at 11:21 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  12. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos

    Richard Fulmer (View Comment):

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    Richard Fulmer (View Comment):

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    Old Bathos: the only truth is the existence of power imbalance in society and language and the victimization that results from that imbalance.

    Which, if true, must be true in any society. So, once the current society is burned to the ground, any new society built on its ashes will have power imbalances and must, therefore, also be burned to the ground.

    Which is a feature not a bug. Sartre and Chomsky anticipated this in their respective defenses of Mao’s genocides and the Khmer Rouge. Revolution must be ongoing or else it becomes a statis which is oppressive by virtue of its permanance.

    Meh, I’m cynical. Sartre and Chomsky were trying to explain away the horror of the genocides. They were true believers and would have approved anything that any communist country did. Had the slaughters never happened, I’m willing to bet a paycheck that both men would have praised China and Cambodia for their stability.

    Neither favored stability. Sartre expressly discussed the life cycle of organizational structures created by revolution and how they lose their praxis and must be replaced and how this must go on forever and whether human lives are lost in the process is largely irrelevant. Chomsky took an evolving position that (a) the mass killings in Cambodia never happened and then (b) not admitting it as such but so what if they did. Chomsky and Sartre are philosophical role models only for serial killers or satanists but you have to grant them their logical consistency. They both knew exactly what they were really advocating.

    Not buying it. I don’t believe for a minute that either would have developed a distaste for stability if the communist nations were stable.

    Sartre was openly critical of Soviet marxism. He regarded his existential approach as the truer Marxism. You are wrong to depict these guys as routine rah rah fellow travellers of Commie regimes. Both thought the insanity of Mao’s Cultural Revolution had the potential to be a beautiful thing. A permanent, unchanging totalitarian regime was not the kind of vision they had in mind. Both had a consistent but inhumane view of revolution as an end in itself and existing commie regimes (especially the Soviet kind) did not measure up.

    • #12
    • September 22, 2020, at 11:31 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  13. Richard Fulmer Member

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    Richard Fulmer (View Comment):

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    Richard Fulmer (View Comment):

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    Old Bathos: the only truth is the existence of power imbalance in society and language and the victimization that results from that imbalance.

    Which, if true, must be true in any society. So, once the current society is burned to the ground, any new society built on its ashes will have power imbalances and must, therefore, also be burned to the ground.

    Which is a feature not a bug. Sartre and Chomsky anticipated this in their respective defenses of Mao’s genocides and the Khmer Rouge. Revolution must be ongoing or else it becomes a statis which is oppressive by virtue of its permanance.

    Meh, I’m cynical. Sartre and Chomsky were trying to explain away the horror of the genocides. They were true believers and would have approved anything that any communist country did. Had the slaughters never happened, I’m willing to bet a paycheck that both men would have praised China and Cambodia for their stability.

    Neither favored stability. Sartre expressly discussed the life cycle of organizational structures created by revolution and how they lose their praxis and must be replaced and how this must go on forever and whether human lives are lost in the process is largely irrelevant. Chomsky took an evolving position that (a) the mass killings in Cambodia never happened and then (b) not admitting it as such but so what if they did. Chomsky and Sartre are philosophical role models only for serial killers or satanists but you have to grant them their logical consistency. They both knew exactly what they were really advocating.

    Not buying it. I don’t believe for a minute that either would have developed a distaste for stability if the communist nations were stable.

    Sartre was openly critical of Soviet marxism. He regarded his existential approach as the truer Marxism. You are wrong to depict these guys as routine rah rah fellow travellers of Commie regimes. Both thought the insanity of Mao’s Cultural Revolution had the potential to be a beautiful thing. A permanent, unchanging totalitarian regime was not the kind of vision they had in mind. Both had a consistent but inhumane view of revolution as an end in itself and existing commie regimes (especially the Soviet kind) did not measure up.

    Wow. Those guys were/are worse than I thought.

    • #13
    • September 22, 2020, at 11:34 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  14. Gossamer Cat Coolidge

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    Gossamer Cat (View Comment):

    Old Bathos (View Comment):

    Gossamer Cat (View Comment):

    Old Bathos:

    Theory was born in the postmodern tradition in which there was no truth but has long since mutated into the central idea is that the only truth is the existence of power imbalance in society and language and the victimization that results from that imbalance. That truth may not be questioned. Theory has no methodology to test or correct itself. By definition, it cannot care about reality external to language and socially constructed knowledge. It mimics the familiar language of human rights and justice but necessarily rejects the notion of our common humanity or the existence of an individual in whom those right inhere. Only identities are real because that is how power interacts with us.

    You would have better luck arguing with a bot.

     

    I was just explaining this to a friend yesterday. There is no point arguing with the woke as they have rejected the basis of argumentation. So they must be dismissed outright and run out of the room. The woke must be cancelled as they have left no other way of dealing with them. So kudos to President Trump for starting this process.

    I keep trying to come up with a dialog like Capt Kirk had with Nomad:

    Capt. Kirk : I am the Kirk, the creator?

    Nomad : You are the creator.

    Capt. Kirk : You’re wrong! Jackson Roykirk, your creator, is dead. You have mistaken me for him. You are in error! You did not discovered your mistake; you have made two errors. You are flawed and imperfect, and you have not corrected by sterilization; you’re made three errors!

    Nomad : [starting to have a meltdown over this] Error? Error? Error? Examine.

     

    I’m afraid it would go something like this:

    Capt Kirk: I am the Kirk, the creator?

    Nomad: I don’t know, do you feel like the Kirk today?

    Capt Kirk: Yes, I am identifying as the Kirk

    Nomad: OK

    Capt Kirk: You are wrong! Jackson Roykirk your creator is dead. You have mistaken me for him.

    Nomad: I have my own truth

    Nomad goes about cancelling everyone else in the known universe

    Kirk: I can’t be racist

    Nomad: All white people are racist

    Kirk: My truth is that “racist” is a kind of processed cheese.

    Nomad: But you must be racist.

    Kirk: Clearly I am not processed cheese. And you have no right to dismiss any other knowledges. You are in violation.

    Nomad: But you are a white male.

    Kirk: And thus not “racist.” You are the oppressor here.

    Bravo!

    • #14
    • September 22, 2020, at 12:15 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  15. OmegaPaladin Moderator

    “Theory” sounds awfully like a religion. Woke ideology in practice pretty much is a religion. And it is one of the most evil religions known to man.

    To be frank, I prefer Theocratic Islam, like you would find in Iran or other theocrats to woke-ism. Islam, like most long-lived religions, has an established (although brutal and often cruel) set of rules. If you have to, you can comply with the rules and survive. Woke ideology is a continuous dumpster fire, with no fixed rules and logic. Muslims at least believe they will go to Paradise at the end, making all the hell on Earth worth it, but woke ideology has no reward. 

    • #15
    • September 22, 2020, at 3:20 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  16. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):

    “Theory” sounds awfully like a religion. Woke ideology in practice pretty much is a religion. And it is one of the most evil religions known to man.

    To be frank, I prefer Theocratic Islam, like you would find in Iran or other theocrats to woke-ism. Islam, like most long-lived religions, has an established (although brutal and often cruel) set of rules. If you have to, you can comply with the rules and survive. Woke ideology is a continuous dumpster fire, with no fixed rules and logic. Muslims at least believe they will go to Paradise at the end, making all the hell on Earth worth it, but woke ideology has no reward.

    Agreed. The perverse appetite that Communism once satisfied before it crashed and burned is now filled with Theory. Even communism was more rational, more amenable to discourse than is this atrocity.

    • #16
    • September 22, 2020, at 6:07 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  17. David Foster Member
    David FosterJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    The write Andre Maurois said that people who are *intelligent*…but are not in any way *creative*…tend to eagerly adopt intellectual systems created by other people, and to apply those systems much more rigidly than the creators of those systems would.

    I think this observation explains a lot about what’s been going on. So many people have been added to the academic world that a relatively small % of them are genuinely creative and/or have anything meaningful to contribute to academic thought in their fields…but they have to write and say *something*.

    • #17
    • September 22, 2020, at 6:07 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  18. Clifford A. Brown Contributor

    Richard Fulmer (View Comment):

    Richard Fulmer (View Comment):

    Old Bathos: the only truth is the existence of power imbalance in society and language and the victimization that results from that imbalance.

    Which, if true, must be true in any society. So, once the current society is burned to the ground, any new society built on its ashes will have power imbalances and must, therefore, also be burned to the ground.

    Once the woke have created their new society, then, I would imagine that they will need to discard Critical Theory, since the Theory can be used only to destroy the status quo – whatever the status quo is. After the revolution, anyone who doesn’t understand the Theory’s purpose and continues to believe it will have to be eliminated.

    I saw this in the late 1990s, when a full professor, not “woke” but a Democrat/leftist, said of the full application of Foucault “you can go too far.” So, the tool was commended so long as it served the left, but not when it truly challenged every expression of power, including in universities.

    • #18
    • September 22, 2020, at 6:09 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  19. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    Richard Fulmer (View Comment):

    Richard Fulmer (View Comment):

    Old Bathos: the only truth is the existence of power imbalance in society and language and the victimization that results from that imbalance.

    Which, if true, must be true in any society. So, once the current society is burned to the ground, any new society built on its ashes will have power imbalances and must, therefore, also be burned to the ground.

    Once the woke have created their new society, then, I would imagine that they will need to discard Critical Theory, since the Theory can be used only to destroy the status quo – whatever the status quo is. After the revolution, anyone who doesn’t understand the Theory’s purpose and continues to believe it will have to be eliminated.

    I saw this in the late 1990s, when a full professor, not “woke” but a Democrat/leftist, said of the full application of Foucault “you can go too far.” So, the tool was commended so long as it served the left, but not when it truly challenged every expression of power, including in universities.

    The problem is like cancel mobs, Antifa/BLM, campus inquisition panels, the monster no longer heeds the command of its creator. Like Rubashov in his cell or Robespierre awaiting the blade, that liberal professor is probably already toast.

    • #19
    • September 22, 2020, at 6:14 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  20. Goldgeller Member

    Neat review. It tracks many of my thoughts as well. I was playing around with a post for the What are You Reading group. But you beat me to it!

    @oldbathos

    Pluckrose and Lindsay’s suggested approach is akin to preaching to the choir: people who understand and appreciate freedom of speech and the societal and legal pre-requisites for human rights already get it. Those assimilated into Theory will not.

    I would take the criticism a bit further than that and expand it to the book. I think people who are interested in spending money on the book should understand it is two/two and a half somewhat distinct efforts. The first “half” or first part of the book is somewhat dry, semi-hostile, literature summary. This then motivates more specific, and more editorialized, attacks on the several critical theory fields.

    Part 1: We should give it credit for its topical organization and perhaps they picked out the central characters in each of the “-studies.” I guess I’m wondering what this section’s value is above and beyond just simply reading Stanford Encyclopedia or a Wiki. I do like that they try to explain the theories in a way that would make sense to a proponent. (Though, this is often peppered with equivalents of “Can you believe someone thinks that?”) I learned a lot even if the writing felt a little dry (sorry!).

    Part 2: The payoff for making it through the first part is when they begin attacking specific theories. In terms of the “value added” part, the book is both strong and weak here. The strong part is the organization and the focus on sincerely pointing out some of the inconsistencies in key aspects of particular theories (e.g., the tension between race being socially constructed but the need to be intersectional when it comes to race; Critical Theory is not Marxism, and so on). At the same time, their problem is they aren’t committed to a theory on how to think about Critical Theory. They never come out and say its useless, just that its current uses are pernicious. These are different statements. (They seem to allow that if they believed the US or UK were systematically racist/sexist they may accept more of the claims, for example.) They point out problems with Critical Theory, but don’t really address whether 1) anyone has attempted to resolve them and 2) whether these are insurmountable. 

    The last essay was a nice gesture but as OP wrote, it is preaching to the choir. Overall, I was not disappointed to have read the book but it isn’t a slam dunk. I think it’s okay that I bought it because James Lindsay is putting up a needed fight on twitter and this keeps him away from his atheism posts.

    • #20
    • September 22, 2020, at 7:52 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  21. Joseph Stanko Coolidge
    Joseph StankoJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member
    • #21
    • September 22, 2020, at 11:00 PM PDT
    • Like
    • This comment has been edited.
  22. MiMac Thatcher

    A good overview in less than an hour by Bp Robert Barron is available on YouTube- ideas have consequences:the philosophers who shaped 2020

    • #22
    • September 23, 2020, at 4:48 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  23. Ontheleftcoast Member

     

     

    • #23
    • September 23, 2020, at 10:23 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  24. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos

    Ontheleftcoast (View Comment):

     

     

    Only a racist misogynistic fat-shaming homophobe would post something like that.

    • #24
    • September 23, 2020, at 10:27 AM PDT
    • Like
  25. The Reticulator Member

    Old Bathos: The disabled person has a duty born of social justice to disrupt the ableist narrative and reject such treatments.

    I read a lot of tweets from those two, but wasn’t planning to read their book. Now I’m reconsidering.

    Will I learn from it how any possible idea of “duty” or obligation can arise out of these theories?

    • #25
    • September 29, 2020, at 3:33 PM PDT
    • Like
  26. Old Bathos Moderator
    Old Bathos

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Old Bathos: The disabled person has a duty born of social justice to disrupt the ableist narrative and reject such treatments.

    I read a lot of tweets from those two, but wasn’t planning to read their book. Now I’m reconsidering.

    Will I learn from it how any possible idea of “duty” or obligation can arise out of these theories?

    The moral duty arises from the infallible assertion that systemic racism/sexism/etc is real, that only the anointed can perceive its manifestations and the refusal to confess one’s innate complicity in evil as manifested is a sin. There is no good, just victimhood and a pervasive evil. There is no forgiveness as such, just an opportunity to join the jailers and executioners.

    • #26
    • September 29, 2020, at 5:34 PM PDT
    • 2 likes