Pomo Periscope XIII: The Theology of Relativism

28 August 2007 at 3:54 am 4 comments

| Nicolai Foss |

OK, time to revitalize our successful Pomo Periscope series (seriously, the PP posts are among the most read O&M posts).  I am reading Roger Scruton’s recent brilliant A Political Philosophy: Arguments for Conservatism at the moment. The book is an extremely articulate expression of true Burkean conservatism, and very far indeed from both neoconservatism and libertarianism. Anyway, these days Scruton seems unable to write anything without lashing out at pomo.  Luckily, because what he says is correct and it must be said.

In a brilliant chapter, appropriately titled “Extinguishing the Light,” Scruton engages in a bit of sociology of science (although one hesitates to use this word in connection with pomo), and describes the attraction of “thinkers like Derrida, Foucault and Rorty” in terms of their “theology of relativism”:

… it is not the quality of the argument, but the nature of the conclusion, that renders the discussion acceptable. The relativist beliefs exist because they sustain a community — the ummah of the disaffected. Hence the three thinkers that I have named share a duplicity of purpose: they seek on the one hand to undermine all claims to absolute truth, and on the other hand to uphold the orthodoxies upon which their congretation depends. The very reasoning which sets out to destroy the ideas of objective truth and absolute values imposes political correctness as binding, and cultural relativism as objectively true (p. 117).

Oh yes, Scruton has also managed to dig out another of those stilted, absurd pomo quotations, in this case from the work of a gentleman name of Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak:

The rememoration of the ‘present’ as space is the possibility of the utopian imperative of no-(particular)-place, the metropolitan project that can supplement the post-colonial attempt at the impossible cathexis of place-bound history as the lost time of the spectator (p. 107). 

Scruton’s dissection of this gobbledygook is hilarious — and scary (because there is a sinister meaning buried in all the nonsense); but read it for yourself. The book is highly recommended.

Entry filed under: - Foss -, Pomo Periscope.

How Would You Know Him from Any Other French Professor? SDAE Sessions

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Alf Rehn  |  28 August 2007 at 4:39 am

    Without really wanting to get into the argument here (which is fraught with difficulties), there is the little matter of a lovely slip in the text. One may think what one will of Spivak’s work, but the gentleman in question is female. At least she glaims to be a woman, and write as one. Or is she? Is Nicolai making a relativist claim about gender being in the eye of the observer? Could it be (Gasp!) closet postmodernism?

  • 2. Nicolai Foss  |  28 August 2007 at 4:42 am

    Ha, Alf! Touché. U got me there!

  • 3. Alf Rehn  |  28 August 2007 at 6:17 am

    Heh. Just needling you, not the easiest name to decode.

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