Over at Object-Oriented Philosophy, Graham has a post up responding to Matthew Calarco’s remarks on Derrida (here and here). I agree with all Harman says, however I wanted to point out what a sad affair this aborted dialogue is. Calarco’s quote deployed to support his point actually taught me something new about Derrida, but because it was framed in the rhetoric of a professor condescendingly lecturing ignorant students, no discussion could take place. Moreover, I think Calarco should just acknowledge that there’s a pretty standard version of Derrida that emphasizes text and language over all else and that he’s presenting a deviant reading of Derrida that both expands his thought and does something new. Rather than hiding behind Derrida’s pants Matthew should focus on the originality of his own expansion of deconstructive thought in a realist direction. That would be interesting! Certainly Morton has softened me up towards Derrida quite a bit as a result of making precisely this move.
Some readers of this blog might have noticed that I’m responding to comments less and less. A lot of this has to do with tone. Some comments I don’t respond to just because I largely agree and have nothing to add (Joseph Goodson’s comments generally fall in this category). Other comments, however, I don’t respond to just because either a) they’re rude, or b) discussion isn’t going to go anywhere. If someone starts off by giving me a lecture about the finer points of a philosopher’s thought, then I won’t respond because such a mode of interlocution situates me in a subordinate role as a pupil to a teacher. That’s no way to begin a discussion. This recently happened with someone lecturing me about the finer points of Graham’s thought, striving to correct me. Likewise, if someone asks me to solve some massive problem I won’t respond as I’m not a dancing monkey that solves problems on demand. The same person recently addressed me in such a way, asking me to provide a philosophy of nature and science. I’ll get around to such things on my own time and won’t do them on demand. Finally, if someone sets off with guns blazing, trying to demolish my own position, I just won’t respond. First, I’ve found that such people generally are unfamiliar with OOO and are attributing all sorts of claims to us based on word connotations alone without having previously followed my blog or read the relevant texts. Second, I’m just not going to give up my own position and project based on such encounters. Consequently, I just don’t see the point of even dignifying such discussions.
Philosophical discussion needs to begin from a place of mutual respect and an interest in exploring each other’s ideas. For some reason or another many theory folks see antagonistic argumentation as the primary mode of interaction. I’m not sure what they hope to accomplish by addressing people in this way. Increasingly I’ve also received emails that say things like “I used to be interested in OOO but now I find it thoroughly uninteresting”. While these emails are few and far between, I find myself wondering what a person who writes such things is hoping to accomplish or why they would even say such a thing. Imagine saying such a thing to a good friend: “I used to find you interesting, but now I find you thoroughly uninteresting.” Is this something you would say to a good friend? What would you hope to accomplish by saying it? Would you expect such a person to respond?
The point is not that criticism is out of line. I get a lot out of my discussions with Vitale, Shaviro, and Ivikhiv, all of whom are critical of my position. However, there’s mutual respect in all of these discussions, even if they get heated at times. Nor are any of us, I think, trying to demolish the work of others. We state our points of divergence, we respond to one another, we clarify our claims, and as a consequence all of our thought grows. Likewise in my debate with Bogost over Marxism. I have no illusions that Bogost is going to become a Marxist, that Shaviro is going to give up on Whitehead and Kant, or that Ivakhiv and Vitale are going to give up on process and becoming. That’s not the point. All of us strengthen and deepen our positions through our discussions. We admire and recognize interesting aspects of each others work through these discussions, steal concepts from one another, build new concepts, and so on. It’s a productive discussion and it’s a discussion that isn’t based on the antagonistic aim of destroying each other’s positions, nor is it a condescending discussion based on correcting one another.