Thanksgiving Is Ruined

The Personal is Political. The Political is Personal.

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February 02, 2011
dispatch from the Dept. of Coprophilosophy

Here's Simon Critchley, from a fun panel last week:
Now that's one approach to philosophy . . . I'm against this. This is an idea of what I call, technically, a philosophy of constipation. Where you, as it were, hang onto a little bolus of -- something, for years and years and years. And eventually you squeeeeze it out, in a prominent journal.

That's one approach to philosophy, which is about the avoidance of falsehood at all costs. So the worst thing to be exposed to as a philosopher is falsehood. People will laugh at you.

See video currently linked here, at approx. 38 minutes in.

[though, the panel's real show-stealer?

                                            Cornel West]

Critchley goes on to contrast the above-described approach with the "philosophy of diarrhea," a holistic, Hegelian pursuit of truth in which "you gotta throw the stuff everywhere -- at the wall -- and some of it sticks and some of it drips down."

What would be the result if you lived in the latter mode for, say, twenty years? How would you look back on your life?

If you are someone like Critchley, you might look back like this:
Looking back at what I've written over the past 20 years, it is difficult not to feel alienation and nausea. Writing is exposure and readers can be merciless. . . .

I've done some pretty stupid things over the years in the name of whatever -- vanity and curiosity -- but there we are. You throw a lot of sh-t on the wall and some of it sticks. My worry about philosphers is that they are constipated and that they refuse to take a dump.

See his How to Stop Living and Start Worrying, pgs. 25-6.

His panel comments astutely link avoidance of being laughed at with avoidance of falsehood. Might every instance of ridicule spring out of a dispute over what we might call competing truth claims?

Then approx. 13 minutes later into the same panel, Prof. James Miller names a hotly competitive environment in which one might quickly learn to hide and guard one's bolus:
Philosophy as a collective venture or in any form that Plato would have understood depends on the sense that you say what you truly think and try to clarify it. Rather than pretending that you're smarter . . . you know, going to graduate school, and not just [in] philosophy, it's often [about] hiding what you don't know, trying to put up a shield and so forth. . . . This isn't exactly authenticity.

A policy of frequent, authentic, purgative dump-flinging works fine if you're in an empty room alone. However, what if there's someone else stuck in there with you? Perhaps for years? Is it really fair or ethical for them to get hit or splattered? Perhaps your splattering of the innocent will indeed cause you regret and remorse, twenty years later.

Unless you look back and realize that the other parties were throwing things too.