[lbo-talk] How radical was Derrida

Matthias Wasser matthias.wasser at gmail.com
Mon Nov 9 08:47:43 PST 2009

On Mon, Nov 9, 2009 at 3:18 AM, James Heartfield < Heartfield at blueyonder.co.uk> wrote:

> Miles writes 'the "superiority" of one mode of knowledge over another has
> nothing to do with the sociology of knowledge...It's irrelevant to their
> work.'
> Yes, that's what is wrong with the sociology of knowledge. It dances around
> the outside of knowledge, fascinated with the tangential and esoteric
> questions, like what was the name of the man who payed for it, ignorant of
> the substance of the thing itself, is it indeed knowledge, or is it just
> prejudice? Knowledge is the one thing that eludes the sociology of
> knowledge.
> The baleful influence of the sociology of knowledge is all too evident on
> this list, where we have to dash to the holocaust for an example of
> something that is wrong, and then confuse that issue with the wholly
> unimportant question of eating meat (human and animal are not equivalent in
> morality) or cannot bring ourselves to say that selling snake oil is
> reprehensible?
> And incidentally, where is the sociology of the sociology of knowledge?
> Where is the account of the social forces that brought the sociology of
> knowledge into being? Wouldn't that fix the sociology of knowledge firmly
> into the regulatory mechanisms of the military-academic complex? Aren't the
> ethics and oversight committees of college and government all outgrowths of
> the sociology of knowledge? (

When people deny that it is a fact that the Holocaust was wrong, they do not mean to disavow their disapproval of the Holocaust. Rather, they deny that their disapproval of the Holocaust describes the noumenal Holocaust as such, as opposed to their own mental (and hopefully practical) attitude towards it.

People engage in approval and disapproval, and actions based on the same, all the time without averring an objective basis to it. I prefer vanilla ice cream to chocolate, so given a choice, I order the latter. My feelings about genocide are much stronger: while I lack access to the counterfactual knowledge to say so, the idea that I would risk my life to hide Jews in the attic or whatever comforts me, and I am full of admiration for those who did. Psychology suggests that the motivational influence of ethical beliefs looms disappointingly small, but I'm unaware of any evidence of the influence of metaethical beliefs whatsoever.

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