Thursday, December 19, 2013

Can't We All Get Along?

Eileen Joy has made a plea for more generosity in (academic) conversations: This is Not My (or, Our) Time, so Please Take Ecstasy With Me: The Necessity of Generous Reading. Here's a comment I made:
Hmmm…. Though I forget the thinker's name, there is a classic line of thought in the sociology of knowledge dating from the first half of the 20th Century concerning the conditions under which ad hominem arguments become prominent. As I recall, the notion was that such arguments become prevalent when the overall field of discourse has become uncertain. So, people have differences, but it's not at all clear how one articulates and adjudicates those differences, so you attack someone's motives rather than their positions.

I'm wondering if we're not in a similar state now? Were people making calls for generosity and charity even ten years ago? I entered the blogosphere in the middle of 2005 (though I'd been online for a decade by the time), making comments at The Valve – to posts in the symposium on Theory's Empire. There may have been some talk of charitable readings back then, but there seems to have been an upswing since then.

In fact, I almost wonder if the (academic) blogosphere is partly responsible for creating the conditions under which calls for generosity seem necessary. Discourse can "flow" at a more rapid pace than was possible in the print world and yet it retains that impersonality, which disappears in face-to-face conversation at conferences and seminars.

And then there's this very particular conversation over at Crooked Timber about aggressive argumentation and gender within the discipline of philosophy: Speech-and-Debate vs. The Agon of Authenticity: How Least Badly To Fight, in Philosophy?
Also, this post: To Jeff Turpin: Stop Whacking the Post-Struturalists, They're NOT the Problem.

1 comment:

  1. "Boredom is an unpleasant emotion that people try to avoid. And in materially impoverished cultures-which the classic honor-based cultures tent to be-there do not exist the variety of distractions we have come to rely on to alleviate us from its throes. In conditions of general material deprivation, people tend to find in other people and themselves, rather than things, the means to banish boredom, for people are not as rare as things But people as a general matter are not interesting either unless they can be provided with qualities that will make them so.....Competition, contention, conviviality generate that capacity."

    William Ian Miller, Humiliation.

    I think it also extends to tales about other animals and boredom along with honor shame humiliation, also play out as a theme here.
    Bill Miller also suggests the classic honour cultures have a tendency to be found in societies with lots of male leisure time.