Rough Theory

Theory In The Rough

Dialectic and Dialogue

While I’m stealing thoughts from other blogs, I just wanted to draw attention to this lovely characterisation of philosophy, from Sinthome at Larval Subjects:

Philosophy has been the ongoing dialectic between the philosopher and the sophist, where the sophist demonstrates the manner in which the confident philosopher nonetheless falls prey to undemonstrated claims and assumptions, and the philosopher responds to the sophist, taking these assumptions into account and showing how truth is possible within their scope. For instance, today we find ourselves embroiled in how a pure beginning is possible, given that thought, knowledge, and subjectivity is thoroughly pervaded by culture which cannot itself be grounded. That’s the sophists position, advanced by thinkers such as Lyotard, Derrida, Foucault, Levi-Strauss, Quine, Davidson, Rorty, sometimes Heidegger, and others. The philosopher that would respond to this has not yet arisen, though there are promising glimmers in Deleuze and Badiou.

The context for this comment, in a “writ large” sense, is a sprawling blog brawl over the political significance of religious fundamentalism, into which I’ve occasionally been tossing somewhat irrelevant and over-abstract theoretical points… ;-P In the post that contains the quoted passage, Sinthome reworks one of my theoretical interventions in a much more coherent and precise way than I originally formulated it, and then moves far beyond my gestural starting point, putting forward a vision – a proposal? – for a philosophical and political culture in which “one’s grounds be grounds that the other too can discover for themselves” – a vision I wholeheartedly embrace.

I need more time to work out what I think about where Sinthome has taken this at a more detailed level (and, for that matter, how committed I want to be to my own original comment, as I was writing it, in a sense, to ease myself into thinking through the religious implications of the theoretical framework we’ve been roadtesting for the past several weeks…). I thought, though, that there was something very beautiful in Sinthome’s formulation – even if I later decide I want to qualify this image of the history of philosophy (at present, I find myself drawn to the formulation, even though my historicist impulses are straining mightily to kick in)… ;-P For the moment, I’ll rest with just pointing to the discussion, for those interested…

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