NB: Given the state of affairs in many (there are exceptions) English language departments wherein ‘theory’ is shorthand for the ideas of Derrida and Foucauld, and where the notion of truth is sneered at, this newest upsurge of the antisemitic propaganda around the Dreyfus case ought to be an alert. I don’t think it will matter to fanatical relativists for whom all philosophical questioning may be dismissed by the term ‘multiple narratives’. Nonetheless, those teachers who have not reduced education to indoctrination, and (along with their students) respect conversation over polemic may kindly consider these questions:
Does the complex but perennial question of truth matter at all in issues such as Holocaust denial; perversion of justice, communal violence, global warming and the perversion of historical research for political propaganda? Or are all truth claims as good or bad as all others? Is there any difference between an event and accounts of that event? Is any account of an event (nowadays reduced to ‘narrative’) as true or false as any other?
Is there any reasonable basis for distinguishing one account from another?
Are there any standards whereby we can assess interpretations as closer to or further from the truth? Surely, as C S Lewis wisely noted in 1943: ‘The whole point of seeing through something is to see something through it’? To see through all things is the same as not to see.
We are told that ‘the author is dead’, that all texts are palimpsests, upon which readers impose ‘their truths.’ In short, readers are now authors. But if the author is dead, surely the reader is also dead? Authors are dead, readers are dead, all that remains are books silently turning their own pages, with the ghost of Banquo in his new avatar of Derrida, hovering over the cemeteries of our souls.
By the way, this is a book worth reading, both for teachers and students: John von Heyking & Lee Trepanier; Teaching in an Age of Ideology (2013)
Heidegger is important for showing that people will defend you from accusations of being a Nazi even if you were a member of the Nazi Party. (thedeadauthor)
Here is a brilliant but little-read essay on the political function of lying. It could make a difference to some readers. DS
Dreyfus affair in spotlight in French election race
More than a century after he was exonerated, Alfred Dreyfus, the Jewish army officer whose false conviction for treason sparked bitter controversy, has erupted into France’s presidential race amid far-right attempts to question his innocence. Emmanuel Macron last week personally inaugurated the first museum dedicated to the Dreyfus affair, a historical collection exhibited in the house of Émile Zola, the writer and best-known defender of the persecuted officer, in Médan west of Paris.
In the presence of the artillery captain’s descendants, the French president said nothing could repair the humiliations and injustices Dreyfus had suffered, but added pointedly: “Let us not aggravate it by forgetting, deepening or repeating them.” Macron particularly stressed the continuing need to combat the antisemitism behind the officer’s persecution. “I say to the young: forget nothing of these fights,” he said. “In the world in which we live, in our country and in our Republic, they are not over.”..
Extract from David Hawkes; Ideology, (1996) p 189:
For Baudrillard, however, the tendency to think in binary oppositions is a problem to be overcome, and in this he is typical of postmodernist philosophy. This is why postmodernists are unwilling to speak of ‘ideology’, since this category implies a binary opposition between true and false modes of thought. The neo-pragmatist philosopher Richard Rorty denies the possibility of ever identifying a systematically distorted consciousness, since “distortion” presupposes a medium of representation which, intruding between us and the object under investigation, produces an appearance that does not correspond to the reality of the object’
There can be no distortion if there is no referent beyond or outside representation, for in that case there is nothing to be distorted. But Rorty’s argument implies, like Kant’s, that our inability to perceive the thing-in-itself is an eternal and inevitable condition, so that the pretense that we can perceive it becomes the very definition of superstition.
This argument takes no account of the particular historical conditions under which materialist relativism and belief in the determining power of representation have arisen and come to seem plausible. In particular, it ignores the influence on consciousness of money. Money is a system of representation that achieves determining power in practice. In a world dominated by money, then, we should expect that representation might also be accorded determining power in the realm of theory. If it is true that the autonomy of representation in philosophy is part of the same process as the seizure of global power by money, then the fact that money is an alienated and objectified form of human life implies an ethical condemnation of Rorty’s faith in signification’s constitutive role…
C.S. Lewis: The whole point of seeing through something is to see something through it. It is good that the window should be transparent, because the street or garden beyond it is opaque. How (would it be) if you saw through the garden too. It is no use trying ‘to see through’ first principles. If you see through everything, then everything is transparent. But a wholly transparent world is an invisible world. To see through all things is the same as not to see. Abolition of Man, (1943) p 40
More posts on the Dreyfus Affair
Andrew Calcutt: The origins of ‘post-truth’ – and how it was spawned by the liberal left
On Heidegger’s Nazism and Philosophy by Tom Rockmore
Helen Pluckrose: Postmodernism and its impact, explained
Two lectures on time and ideology: January 23 and 24
A pre-history of post-truth, East and West. By MARCI SHORE
Michiko Kakutani – The death of truth: how we gave up on facts and ended up with Trump
Farewell to reality – WHY WE’RE POST-FACT by Peter Pomerantsev
How capitalism created the post-truth society — and brought about its own undoing. By Keith Spencer