File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0104, message 48

Date: Thu, 19 Apr 2001 21:10:28 +1000
Subject: Re: Differend


I'm not a supporter of Sokal. Although I found his prank and subsequent
book quite amusing, he remains a self-aggrandizer via soft targets. In
fairness, however, he has been careful to point out that it is commonplace
amongst scientists (esp. after Kuhn) to accept that their theories are not
immutable. My own scientist friends are nonplussed at the notion that they
are banner-carriers of ultimate truth.

What I'm suggesting is that the stronger program in the social sciences has
created a comprador class of wannabes. Behaviouralist psychologists doping
schoolboys for not sitting still in class. Retrieved memory used as
evidence in court. Neo(perverting)-Darwinists deciding the global economy.

In philosophy there is a trenchant view amongst traditional "analytic"
types that "pomo" approaches are simply not philosophy (not "scientific").
Refusing to face the differend between these two "philosophies" has
resulted in the following scorecard at my alma mater: English Dept. seventy
plus postgraduates (many in specifically poststructuralist areas, most
engaging with same) Philosophy Dept. four postgraduates.
This is not a good thing.


At 12:22 AM 4/18/01 +0100, steve.devos wrote:
>The problem with the Sokal position is that he assumes, not unlike Althussar
>in some respects, that science carries the banner of truth. There is, of
>course, no justification for this assumption... Science simply makes
>propositions we can use them as we please... Scientists have far too
>frequently used them in the most appalling ways.
>Reg Mifflin wrote:
>> Eric,
>> As usual, your assistance is invaluable. If my own copy of The Differend
>> was not wasting time in storage ...
>> I wonder if the heuristic value of the sublime is most fully realized when
>> it is used as the stalking horse "against" those masterful academic
>> discourses, of which Science is much less suspect (it seems to me from my
>> discussions with scientist friends who are quite happy to accept their
>> theories as non-final) than certain traditional approaches in philosophy.
>> In the latter case there is nothing much happening until a Sokal comes
>> along to put phrases in dispute.
>> Reg
>> At 11:26 AM 4/15/01 -0500, Mary Murphy&Salstrand wrote:
>> >Happy Pagan Easter Everyone!
>> >
>> >I have been reading with some interest the recent posts on the differend
>> >and while I tend to agree with Reg's view of the matter, I have also
>> >been struck with the other participants lack of familiarity with the
>> >text or lack of a copy. ("In the next century there will be no more
>> >books. It takes too long to read, when success comes from gaining time."
>> >xv)
>> >
>> >Lucky pagan that I am, I do have a copy available - underlined passages,
>> >bent pages and everything else.  I would like to go back to the very
>> >beginning - The Preface Reading Dossier where Lyotard cleverly gives us
>> >the cliff notes version of the book, so the dear reader doesn't need to
>> >raise any valuable time, puzzling out the entire philosophical
>> >sketchbook that A. (Lyotard) has left behind.
>> >
>> >Here is what A. states as the major Problem that book addresses:
>> >
>> >"Given 1) the impossibility of avoiding conflicts (the impossibiity of
>> >indifference) and 2) the absence of a universal genre of discourse to
>> >regulate them (or, if you prefer, the invevitable partiality of the
>> >judge): to find, if not wat can legitimate judgment (the "good"
>> >linkage), then at least how to save the honor of thinking."
>> >
>> >And what are the stakes involved?
>> >
>> >"To defend and illustrate philosophy in its differend with its two
>> >adversaries: on the outside, the genre of economic discourse: (exchange,
>> >capital); on its inside, the genre of academic discourse (mastery). By
>> >showing that the linking of one phrase onto another is problematic and
>> >that this problem is the problem of politics, to set up a philosophical
>> >politics apart from the politics of "intellectuals" and of politicians.
>> >To bear witness to the differend."
>> >
>> >Thus, even though it is possible to use the language of the differend to
>> >describe the recent affair between the US and China, it seems to me the
>> >main thrust of "The Differend" is different.  It is engaged in the
>> >exploration of a micropolitics beyond the macro level of electoral
>> >politics and the conflict of "subjects"("to refute the prejudice
>> >anchored in the reader by centuries of humanism and of "human sciences"
>> >that there is "man," that there is "language," that the former makes use
>> >of the latter for its own ends.")
>> >
>> >Instead, "The Differend" sees politics as always already embedded in the
>> >phrase, that which presents itself, with the problem that it must always
>> >link with other phrases and each linkage is political because no
>> >tribunal exists to justify such linkage.
>> >
>> >Thus, even though Lyotard uses as paradigms of the differend such
>> >examples as Holocaust victims versus Nazi revisionists, communist
>> >workers versus the state, capitalist workers versus the state, the locus
>> >of the differend is at more fundamental level. "Politics, however, is
>> >the threat of the differend.  It is not a genre, it is the muliplicity
>> >of genres, the diversity of ends, and par excellence the question of
>> >linkage." (190)
>> >
>> >I would also add, IMHO, the chief and hidden differend in the text
>> >concerns the organization of time - temporality.  "Reflection requires
>> >that you watch out for occurences, that you don't already know what is
>> >happening.  It leaves open the question: Is it happening? (Arrive-t-il)"
>> >
>> >This is opposed to the organization of time under capitalism as
>> >discounted cash flows, accountable or countable use of time.  "Time is
>> >at its fullest with capitalism. But if the verdict, always pronounced in
>> >favor of gained time, puts an end to litigations, it may for that very
>> >reason aggravate differends." (252)
>> >
>> >"The only insurmountable obstactle that the hegemony of the economic
>> >genre comes up against is the heterogeneity of phrase regimes and of
>> >genres of discourse."
>> >
>> >The differend is reborn from the very resolution  of supposed
>> >litigations, It summons humans to situate themselves in unknown phrase
>> >universes, even if they don't have the feeling that something has to be
>> >phrased.  (For this is a necessity and not an obligation.) The Is it
>> >happening? is invincible to every will to gain time." (263)
>> >
>> >Easter as the unexpected occurence (anarchist miracle) rather that the
>> >Easter that is linked to the Tax Man!
>> >
>> >
>> >


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