Wednesday, 1 June 2005

Intellectual Absurdities

The New Criterion declares that it has been a great year for academic absurdity, a subject close to my spleen.
.....I look at intellectual nonsense in much the same way as a coprologist views dung: each instance, though it may look similar to another, bears the unique imprint of its fabricator. Just as the coprologist may take satisfaction in determining by the study of dung the unique characteristics of health, habitat and diet of the animal whence it emerged, so might the keen fool-spotter find repletion in descriminating the constitution of absurdity, the haunts of pretension, and the fodder of platitudes evident in the mental droppings of the common intellectual shyster.
.....The shyster has a propensity for the showy and tart fruits of the intellectual world, ones high in kudos but low in edificatory substance, for which discernment he suffers conniption and literary flatulance. These fruits the intellectual shyster is wont to swallow whole, and even when he does take care to chew a thing over, it is punfuctorily done. This unwholesome diet of indigestibles produces in him the poverty of thought by which he is variously celebrated and reproved: he is celebrated by his fellows, for each effusion is further fodder for their consumption upon which their welfare depends; and he is reproved by everyone else for his fouling of the intellectual landscape.
.....One of my favourite specimens is now quite old, but it is yet to be beaten in the richness of its idiocy and the bravery of its pretension:

Nearness preserves farness. Preserving farness, nearness presences nearness in nearing that farness.

It was dropped upon the leaves of a book by the Great Pseudographer Martin Heidegger (in Poetry, Language, Thought). And what about this rather splendid example in Aesthetic Theory by Theodore Adorno, another giant of imposture:

As was already pointed out in Dialectic of Enlightenment, strict positivism crosses over into the feeblemindedness of the artistically insensible, the successfully castrated. The narrow-minded wisdom that sorts out feeling from knowing and rubs its hands together when it finds the two balanced is--as trivialities sometimes are--the caricature of a situation that over the centuries of the division of labor has inscribed this division in subjectivity. Yet feeling and understanding are not absolutely different in the human disposition and remain dependent even in their dividedness. The forms of reaction that are subsumed under the concept of feeling become futile enclaves of sentimentality as soon as they seal themselves off from their relation to thought and turn a blind eye to truth; thought, however, approaches tautology when it shrinks from the sublimation of the mimetic comportment. The fatal separation of the two came about historically and is revocable. . . . Ultimately, aesthetic comportment is to be defined as the capacity to shudder, as if goose bumps were the first aesthetic image. What later came to be called subjectivity, freeing itself from the blind anxiety of the shudder, is at the same time the shudder's own development; life in the subject is nothing but what shudders, the reaction to the total spell that transcends the spell. Consciousness without shudder is reified consciousness. That shudder which subjectivity stirs without yet being subjectivity is the act of being touched by the other. Aesthetic comportment assimilates itself to that other rather than subordinating it. Such a constitutive relation of the subject to objectivity in aesthetic comportment joins eros and knowledge.

I have many such examples from personages and peasants, but a collector is never satisfied. Please do not hesistate, therefore, to draw my attention to any fresh examples.


Anonymous said...

Surely you mean perfunctorily? As opposed to punfuctarily.

Deogolwulf said...

I do. Thank you for pointing it out.

Anonymous said...

You're welcome.

I'm a big fan by the way.

Anonymous said...

omfg dude wtf lol rofl pwnd n00b

Anonymous said...

Early on you note the coprologist viewing dung - is he the famous turd party I keep hearing references to?