Monday, 27 August 2007

Laying an Olive Branch at Dylan Trigg's Door?

Ah, not really. Mr Trigg has since made contact with me on a few occasions in an attempt to clarify his position in relation to the critiques I had made of his work, and by extension, the typology of a "philosopher" I thought he represented. I'm not making any retractions as I still stand behind what I originally wrote, but seeing my references to the necessity of an alternative social epistemology necessarily also involves a functioning public sphere, I feel obligated on these grounds to appear as democratic as possible. Afterall, I don't pretend to play God by refusing to be held accountable, by denying folks the right of reply. No, as Kant would say, people are mature, they can decide for themselves (i.e. assuming anyone else reads this obscure blog).
Trigg also made it clear why he preferred a private correspondence in the form of email, rather than the over heated atmosphere he claimed to have encountered in his previous flame war with k punk et al. He did not give permission to repost his correspondence here, asking me instead to consider rewriting my original post. I have not complied [sic] because I don't feel it is justified on rational grounds. Afterall, to accede to such a request would mean I was convinced by Trigg's response. I am not. Moreover, in principle that is also an unreasonable, and perhaps even an outrageous request, for a published author to make of the administrator of a tiny blog such as this, presupposing as it does a desire to exercise control that seems completely out of all proportion. I am therefore left with no alternative other than to compromise by offering a very brief selection of the issue that I think concerned him most. I hereby faithfully present Trigg's side of the story:
"More importantly, though, you are mistaken to suggest that my presentation of decay leads only to malaise. Far from it. The whole point of that exercise – and the book – was the production of new modes of discourse, which don’t rely on what is absent. This is exactly what I was arguing against – i.e. the supposed alignment between fragmentation and deficiency.

And I am far from having “the institutional protection of a corporate body.” I am a research student, which hardly grants me special powers or even funding."
My response was to concede it may be presumptuous on my part to assume Trigg was already enjoying the benefits of tenureship. But what I think his interlocutors such as K punk, and by extension myself, were really driving at, was how much of a factor an ambition to climb the scholarship ladder or that of the "professional writer" may be playing in the building of Trigg's public profile. Trigg did not comment specifically when I raised the issue of [future] "wanting" with him, but the glossy homepage (replete with photos of the author, lists of activities etc) hardly speaks to the anonymity and lack of a public persona that Trigg might otherwise claim in his defence.
Again, given Trigg's request for privacy, I will only offer a very small sampling of how I responded to the first point he raised above regarding malaise and decay. My counterargument was that the lack of a social epistemology among Continental philosophers was a contributing factor to an ineffectuality that can, even inadvertently in the face of avowed intentions to "engage" with the world", foster malaise. To my mind it is a seemingly subtle paradox that in actuality places severe restrictions on the feasible production of the "new modes of discourse", which Trigg invests so much in. Trigg responds as if I hadn't factored into my assessment his consideration of any need to move beyond malaise, when what I actually posted was that he offered the wrong kind of "redemption", a "metaphysical" redemption. The problem with this that I elaborated is that it in effect leads to the same end result, irrespective of whether this was Trigg's original intention. On this basis I characterised Trigg as a "decadent" philosopher, content to merely "play" among the ruins, as "the real" required effort was seemingly neglected. As I wrote to Trigg:
"I think I understand what you mean about "eternal" problems in a philosophical sense, but my point was the more sociological one: it is ironic how even the emphasis on the flux of difference can coalesce into an avant garde formalism (isn't this topic indirectly raised in the upcoming Deleuze symposium at Sussex University?). Something else follows from this; little attention is paid by philosophers of many stripes to how questions of ignorance can transmute from questions of truth to questions of quality. What I mean by this comment is a more robust means can be developed for confronting the classic epistemological problem of ignorance of ignorance: ignorance squared. Unlike philosophical scepticism, quality can encompass functional issues of how information will be put to work, the recursive question of, "who guards the guardians?" In this sense, to speak of "eternal" practices by philosophers, is to indicate a reinventing of the wheel, by people who do not reflexively situate their own knowledge practices, inasmuch as there is a disparity between the epistemology and its conditions of production and dissemination. Perhaps it might be said then that this peculiar admixture of assertion and silence is a characteristically philosophical vice with a very long, if not quite an "eternal", lineage".
I can only call it as I see it, so it is now in the lap of the gods as to whether further contributions to this debate are forthcoming or not. Mr Trigg, I am not offering you anything else even approximating a gracious gesture, other than my agreed silence about the other details of our private correspondence. This is chiefly because I think the exchanges have become somewhat repetitive in both style and substance, letalone the fact that they are by and large conducted at crosspurposes (to say nothing of suspicious tactical evasions).

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