litcritter bashing...)

Rob Schaap rws at
Wed Nov 3 04:19:31 PST 1999

Sed I:

>Consciously to make a difference, to pursue one future moment as opposed
>to another - and for a reason that makes sense to us - is our lot, I reckon.
>Didn't Marx respond to a question concerning the essence of human
>existence with the word 'struggle'?

Responded Daniel:

>But Sokal & Bricmont aren't exactly going to help here either. Pending the
>discovery of the "free will particle" somewhere in the tenth dimension, an
>epistemology based on quarks, gluons and scientific laws (be the mechanics
>statistical or deterministic) has no more room for human agency than one
>based on epistemes and whatever Lacan believes in. As far as I can see,
>Nature simply hasn't been kind enough to provide us with a universe which
>matches up to our conception of free will and human agency. So if you're
>going to be a fully consistent scientific realist (and what point is there
>in being any other sort), you still have to have this same understanding of
>human life.

Well, I reckon Sokal (whom I have not read) would admit science has not (he'd say 'yet', perhaps) afforded us a satisfying understanding of 'life' and 'consciousness'. While that state of affairs maintains, I reckon there's heaps of room for a postulate ('agency' in this case) contingent exclusively upon these grey fundamentals. Science does not commit its consistent practitioners to a position on the matter of agency at all.

>So we're left believing in an epistemology based on agency which we
>basically know to be untrue, because we have no other way to relate to the

I maintain we *don't* know it to be untrue, but, yeah, we have no other way. To do that next sensible thing is to act as if we have agency. Many sensible actions just aren't sensible to the self-consciously nonagentic, eh? Scientists, being sensible yet doing sensible things, expose themselves as free-willing humanists in the very act of so assiduously disclosing that clock-work deterministic universe to us. To survive in our universe is to relate to it, and, as you say, there ain't any other way. As there wasn't when Archimedes was a lad (yeah, that Foucauldian indulgence about 'man' not existing before the sixteenth century does get up my nose).

>And occasionally calling other people "worthless fakers" when
>they point this fact out, unless they cross their scientific t's and dot
>their square roots of minus one, to prove that they're part of the club of
>people who are allowed to talk about the universe.

Mebbe it's a cheap shot to point at these people's little vanities and rhetorical ploys. But laboriously to deploy reason in the attempt to destroy it, to exercise an assumed agency in denying it, to appeal to some transcendental 'will to power' whilst questioning the whole idea of the transcendental, to employ the empirical to prove it's just discourse, to practice the politics of coordinated action whilst theorising its incoherence - bugger it, to be so human whilst denying the very possibility of being so!

I REALLY, TRULY-RULY don't get it!

>Someone earlier mentioned David Hume in this context, so I'll point out
>that Hume definitely did not consign his "radical skepticism" to the
>flames; he rather nervously picked up his backgammon set and got drunk with
>his mates until he forgot about it.

Getting drunk with the object of forgetting is consciously to act in such a way as to make one future moment more likely than another in a world where alcohol's effects have reliably been established by (a) sensuous experience of the real and (b) inductive reasoning there-from.

He musta consigned his doubts to the flames before he went to the pub.

Yours fleetingly, minisculy transcendentally Rob.

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