Phalluses, Assholes & Dawkins' favorite book

david dorkin ddorkin at
Thu Dec 3 13:43:01 PST 1998

I agree with all of the above (or below) and am baffled by the attachment of some to Lacan and co. Has anyone tried to answer Chomsky's question as to why he can't understand anything more than the obvious platitudes in Lacan and co.'s work and no one can seem to explain even how to go about it?

While I have read some of the authors in question, is it not the case, for example, that it is not necessary to study neoclassical economics for one's lifetime before noting the ridiculous and counter-productive procedures and thinking represented in it?

Is it possible that it is simply a case of trying to appear radical and obtain career advancement while doing little of substance?


Ingrid Multhopp wrote:
> Hey all!
> Well, it looks like I'm going to have to take the Henwood challenge and
> read at least 100 pages of Lacan before I get to have my fun with
> "Fashionable
> Nonsense." That's prob. a good thing, since I sometimes fear I've
> become hopelessly middlebrow in my reading tastes since college,
> preferring authors
> like Dawkins & Henwood whose prose styles are suspiciously lucid and
> unchallenging on a sentence by sentence basis. And someone else on this
> list has
> assured me that Lacan is not in fact jargonistic or impenitrable (and
> how could he
> be, with all that handy phallus talk?) :0)
> Still, after having eyed and pawed over "FN" yesterday in a bookstore,
> I just don't get it yet what all the fuss and irritation is about. From
> my quick
> skim it seemed that S&B are pointedly not trying to trash Lacan's
> entire psychanalytic theory, but merely "Lacanian mathematics," which
> are
> garbage as mathematics and at least arguably bombastic, obfuscatory and
> inapt as psychoanalytic metaphors. Now just a few words in defense of
> myself and other "assholes":
> Sam Pawlett wrote:
> Dawkins is an asshole too. In his introduction to the latest edition of
> Maynard Smith's(ex-marxist, ex-CP'er) Theory of Evolution, he praises
> the use of game theory in evolutionary biology as a bulwark against the
> "political correctness" that has invaded the
> discipline. I suspect this is a cheap shot at Levins&Lewontin's work as
> well as
> others like Sandra Harding. Says a lot about the background assumptions
> of game
> theory too.
> Asshole Ingrid: I too reflexively become annoyed any time the phrase
> "political correctness" is applied, but I sympathisize with Dawkins' use
> of the phrase with
> respect to his own discipline. Natural selection "hardliners" like
> Dawkins, Dennett,
> Maynard Smith are constantly being blasted, not because their theories
> don't
> make empirical or theoretical sense, but because of the bogus metaphors
> (social
> Darwinism) or reductio al absurdium conclusions that certain simpletons
> might
> draw from them. And the disagreements between Dawkins and Lewinton,
> Levin, Gould, etc. are both overstated in the press and addressed quite
> openly
> by all involved. I have no idea what you are talking about regarding
> the "background
> assumptions" of game theory. I've just reread a chapter from "The
> Extended
> Phenotype" regarding game theory and I remain as dull and clueless as
> ever.
> "Frances Bolton (PHI)" wrote:
> > I particularly like the way Dawkins shows his complete ignorance of
> Lacan by talking about "erect penises" instead of "the phallus."
> Yes, but in the direct passage he is citing involving the lovely
> imaginary number proof Lacan does not refer to "the phallus," but (if I
> recall correctly--I didn't buy the book yet) instead "erect organs" (or
> was that "erectile organs")--in any case, I was able to
> forgive Dawkins his translation and his failure to connect to Lacan's
> important
> contributions..
> Dennis R Redmond wrote:
> Critique isn't simply about disagreeing with other
> thinkers, it's using their own insights to further the critical impulses
> buried in their own works. Bricmont & Sokal just don't do this, their
> attitude is, "These folks know nothing about the sciences" and basically
> slam the post-structuralists for not being MIT logicians.
> Well, I must admit that I didn't realize that critiques need always be
> so positive and helpful. I still believe for now that B&S were quite
> measured in their "slam" on post-structuralists; and I still think it's
> perfectly valid to point out where certain posties misapply and misuse
> mathematics and the natural sciences in their arguments.
> Alec Ramsdell wrote:
> Steve Perry wrote:
> >In other words, a cigar is never *really* just a cigar.
> At least we know that within Freudian and Lacanian pyschoanalysis a
> phallus is not a clitoris or a penis, erect or otherwise. I don't read
> any epistemic relativism in the quote from Lacan. It's about, broadly,
> a psychoanalytic theory of signification.
> Yes, but (aside from the point that Lacan was at least being unclear in
> cite mentioned) the discussion of that quote had nothing to do with
> "epistemic
> relativism"--which is addressed in another section of the book. That
> quote was simply used to point out that Lacan's use of mathematical
> metaphors, whatever their value in putting forth a psychoanalytical
> theory of signification--and if it works for you, then great!--are
> complete
> garbage as mathematics.
> Anyway, I really don't mean to dismiss postie analyses (how could I,
> given
> my ignorance?), but I suppose I've just come out as a flaming "left
> conservative"
> with possibly crypto-fascist tendencies.
> Cheers,
> Ing, the singing sphincter

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