6.20.2009

The Persistent Dodge

The habit and knowledge of Deconstruction seems to have "trickled down" into mainstream culture by now (any objections?). I've noticed over the past few years that it is increasingly difficult to force anyone to address a seemingly dead-on question.

By "dead-on," I mean a question like the one I call "the question of authority." I've addressed it before, and recently at Wrangler's blog. This seems to me to be a "dead-on" question because, from where I sit, no one is exempt from being in the position of investing authority. Somewhere. Wrangler seems to be heavily invested in Emmanuel Levinas as an authority. Others prefer the Bible. Or their parents. Or Albert Camus. The point is, I have yet to meet anyone in person (though I grant that they might exist in legend--enlightened folks like Buddha and Yeshua, etc.) who does not invest some external source with a certain amount of authority.

But the Deconstruction switch gets thrown almost every time these days. So I asked Wrangler on his blog, "Why do you see Levinas as an authoritative speaker?" But I'm afraid Wrangler will dodge the question by using Deconstruction (he hasn't replied yet). And it's not just Wrangler. And it's not just the question of authority. Often it sounds like this: "Do you believe in G-d?" "Well, how do you define G-d?"

And even as I understand that it might be possible to argue that definitions are everything, I am still occasionally frustrated by the difficulty/obfuscation the Deconstructive method introduces.

So if somebody asks me why I privilege the work of Melville, I could say, "Oh, I don't--at least I don't unselfconsciously, and the selfconsciousness I invest in treating Melville more heavily than..." -- and so on. Or I could say, "I see Melville as an authoritative speaker because he has a big vocabulary, and traveled the world, and seems to have thought about difficult questions" (or whatever series of engaged responses I might come up with).

The point is, I'd so much rather discuss those kinds of engaged responses than I would discuss "the persistent dodge" -- that elusive unwillingness to admit the premise of the question.

None of us like the same stuff anymore. Isn't that interesting? Don't ya'll want to know why I think Melville and Camus are so important? I know that I want to know why you think Chomskian grammar, Levinasian Ethics, and so on are authoritative. I want to know that more than I want to know the little nuances of Chomsky's grammar or Levinas' ethics, and I'm guessing you'd be more interested in a converstaion about the importance of Melville than you would in a conversation about Melville's understanding of authorship in relation to the emergent 19th century market.

Right? Or no?

1 comment:

Casey said...

Big surprise in the comments section here, huh Casey?