Phalluses, Assholes & Dawkins' favorite book

Frances Bolton (PHI) fbolton at
Thu Dec 3 21:32:26 PST 1998

On Thu, 3 Dec 1998, david dorkin wrote:

> 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?

I don't think anyone expressed any real affinity for Lacan's theory. I also think you rather overstate Chomsky's position--he did not say Lacan was universally incomprehensible. A number of theorists have fruitfully engaged Lacan's work--if you're looking for a model on how do to such thing, I suggest you look to them.

> 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?
One need not spend a lifetime studying neoclassical economics before offering criticisms of it, but one had better read it. One should also realize that if one engages in such critque without taking seriously the ideas one is critiquing, one will be dismissed as a charlatan and a crank. For an example of such dismissal, read reviews of Sokal and Bricmont's book.

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

If you are asking this question about Sokal and Bricmont, you are certainly correct in suggesting that they are trying to appear radical while doing little of substance. However, since they are both in the sciences, their book will do little in the way of career advancement. If you are referring to the theorists criticized by Sokal and Bricmont, I can't imagine what grounds you have for suggesting that they are not serious. I also find it difficult to believe that you would suggest that Irigary and Derrida have done little of substance.


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