It would appear that Vitale is upset with my last post, arguing that I’m “going personal”. This is, of course, coming from the guy who just wrote:

I will take this post down if you take down yours. From what I´ve seen, you often get hot under the collar, react, say nasty things, then feel bad afterwards. If I write a contentious email, I will often save it, do something else, reread it later, and only THEN see if I really want to send it. And I understand that people get pissed and say things that afterwards they wish they hadn´t. But you´re better than this, there´s no need to go for the low blow. Let your arguments speak for you. Even when I disagree with you, I strongly admire your intelligence and breadth of knowledge, and even besides this, we agree on many, many things.

There is, of course, nothing personal there. This is also from the guy who wrote the following about speculative realism, accusing all of us associated with the movement with white, heterosexist bias (without knowing anything about any of our backgrounds, I add):

To what extent do we still need, or continually need, to queer philosophy? Let me be clear on what I mean by this. To what extent do we still need, or continually need, to work against the normative tendency of philosophy to be a predominantly white, male, heterosexual, middle-to-upper middle class discipline [for more on the term ‘queer’ in this sense, see the PPS below]? Why is or has this been the case? What are the implications, and even philosophical implications, of this?

Let’s even look at the Speculative Realist movement, or the bloggers associated with it. Am I the only one who is ‘gay’ or ‘queer’ (more on my use of these terms below)? Is there anyone who doesn’t get white privilege on a regular basis?

This is also from the guy who compared me to inept undegrads in his composition courses, writing the following:

One big problem I have with Levi´s thesis is the incredible use of the passive voice (something I always tell my students in comp not to do, for particularly this very reason!). The passive voice is a way of saying the annonymnous ´they´or some unnamed agent did something, and we see it here: “closure is acheived . . . objects are generated.”

Examples could be multiplied, and let’s not forget that this is coming from the guy who believes ontologies should be evaluated on political and ethical grounds who is simultaneously rejecting OOO because, presumably, he believes it has noxious political and ethical consequences. Apparently for Vitale its only personal when he’s accused of advocating an ontology that entails rather disturbing political and ethical consequences. When he’s playing that game, it’s all above board and he’s just examining arguments. Although maybe I’m just getting “hot under the collar” here. I’m sorry that Vitale feels that I’ve “gone personal”, though I think he ought to look in the mirror first. In pointing out that Vitale’s thesis about perspectivism commits him to the conclusion that the Nazis must have been right as to what makes Jews Jews, all I am doing is pointing out is a logical implication of Vitale’s own perspectivism which equates the being of entities with the perspectives of other entities on these entities. Obviously I know that Vitale is not a Nazi and am therefore not making a personal claim about him. However, if Vitale is going to advocate the sort of perspectivist “ontology” that he’s advocating, this is an implication logically entailed by his position. If Vitale does not like this conclusion– we could make similar observations about how his position entails the logical correctness of the views of homophobes –then perhaps he ought to evaluate the ontological and epistemological grounds of why he doesn’t like these positions and concede that the being of entities is not equivalent to how particular groups categorize entities or their perspectives on entities.

Perspective is a real phenomenon in the world, but the suggestion that beings are the perspectives of other entities on them is a bridge too far and has deeply significant real world consequences. Vitale might prefer to argue that it is politics and ethics that determines whether or not an ontology is “right”, yet his ontological claims will still have significant consequences for ethics and politics. Here I get the sense that Vitale is locked in a 90s ideology that saw substance as the problem and perspectivism as the solution. Substance was seen as locking beings in an “essence”, whereas perspectivism was seen as being a tolerant and open way of viewing the world that avoided the problems of essentialism. Talk about throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Rather than simply criticizing mistaken views about the substantiality of substance and essence (i.e., the distorted views of the racist about the group he illegitimately essentializes), the 90s pomo theorist instead chose to reduce everything to perspective (championing, by the way, the semiotic over anything economic or material, as if these things didn’t exist… White privilege anyone?).

I’ve never seen the liberating or egalitarian dimension of such perspectivism. This for two reasons: First, if all is perspective, then within any perspective there’s no reason to acknowledge any other perspectives. Perspectivism is the reigning dominant ideology of our time, and we encounter the consequences of this ideology daily in both the public and with our students. Insofar as all is alleged to be perspective, then it follows that we can reject whatever news we don’t like because, well, it’s all perspective anyway. We thereby become news consumerists, choosing that news that most fits our perspective or that is closest to our liking. Likewise, our students argue that since it is all a matter of perspective, belief, or opinion, arguments can be evaluated based entirely on taste. Second, the view that perspectivism leads to a far more cosmopolitan and egalitarian attitude is itself based on a non-perspectivist implicit premise, i.e., there’s an enthymeme at work in this argument. Here the thesis is that we should respect other perspectives. But this thesis appeals to a standard that is not, of itself, a matter of perspective. That is, it appeals to a universal standard of value as to how we should relate to perspective. As a consequence, perspectivism auto-deconstructs. I have no problems with this thesis, advocating it myself, though I do believe that perspectivists should be forthright about it and thereby abandon their perspectivism.

What’s really interesting here, however, is how Vitale bluffs throughout his entire post. He expresses all sorts of outrage over this logical implication being pointed out, claims that the Holocaust is being diminished, talks about how seriously he takes these things, etc., etc. Yet nowhere does Vitale actually address the argument or explain why this conclusion isn’t entailed as a strict consequence of his own positions. This is because for Vitale everything is sentiment or a set of arbitrary political and ethical convictions. He wants to defend a perspectivism, but, in reality, only wants to defend the perspective that he advocates. All the other perspectives be damned. But this is generally how it is with perspectivists. They speak a good game about how all is perspective yet when confronted with the consequences of their own positions and with other perspectives, they run for the hills. It would be really nice if the perspectivists, for once, ceased portraying their real views in the dishonest way they do (i.e., claiming that they defend perspectivism) and just honestly stood up for their own positions. Oh, and I can’t help but point out that once again Vitale gets it hilariously wrong in his reference to Badiou. Does he really believe that Badiou, the defender of Truths (with a capital “T”) and universalism is a perspectivist? If so, he’s missed the entire point of Badiou’s project and is blissfully unware that “ontologies” of the sort that Vitale defends are precisely what Badiou is targeting.

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