“Was not their mistake once more bred of the life of slavery that they had been living?—a life which was always looking upon everything, except mankind, animate and inanimate—‘nature,’ as people used to call it—as one thing, and mankind as another, it was natural to people thinking in this way, that they should try to make ‘nature’ their slave, since they thought ‘nature’ was something outside them” — William Morris

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Stanley Fish, do yourself a favor and cram it

This is an excellently argued piece by Joshua Landy on why Stanley Fish got it spectacularly wrong in the NYT. I'm pretty sick of the bowing competition over which humanist can diss humanism the most. Time to stand up, folks!

Fish's piece shows you why Graham Harman is spot on about the way the avant garde has become the new oppressive normal. (He makes this argument many times in many media.)

Fish's piece is a symptom of contemporary nihilism. You better believe this is an ontological war.

One big reason why I love OOO is it gives us another choice, a potentially post-capitalist choice I believe, via a return to Aristotle remixed for the twenty-first century. It gets us out of the current Sophie's choice between:

1) The essence is elsewhere (capital, heaven, the other, the beyond)
2) There is no essence

Stick that in yer pipe and smoke it Fish!

1 comment:

Nick Guetti said...

Good post by Landy, and yes I guess I agree. Speaking as an infuriating multidisciplinarian, though, I want to point out that this ontological war may, at root, have a lot to do with the fact that we don't know what to do with our "beings" in a sufficiently multidisciplinary way, and that the structures (physical & social) in which we teach & learn the humanities do not lend themselves to such an understanding.

I intend to write a lot about this elsewhere, and I don't have time to go thoroughly into it here, but basically: we sit around too much. "We", meaning academics & intellectuals. And everybody else now, actually, but especially us. Too much sitting, too much standing and repetitive motion, an awful lot of talking and not much doing. This is self-evidently unhealthy, but what is relevant here is that it robs the thinking & talking of a vital complementary element. This is as bad for knowledge and society as rice with no protein or corn with no alkali is bad for our bodies.

I'm not necessarily going to be anti-specialist: if you educate the whole mind-body along with the symbol-using intellect, I think that specialization won't do much harm. But we don't do that. Our present cure for too much scientific specialization is a few more courses in the humanities. Great! Every education ought to include that. But let's not be fooled: by themselves, the humanities don't humanize! They're just another form of specialization on the symbolic level. Reading Plato or listening to a lecture on TS Eliot doesn't educate the whole human being, it just educates the symbol-manipulator and leaves the rest of the living mind-body in its pristine state of ignorance & ineptitude. Hence repulsive phonies like Fish.