Saturday, 25 August 2007

The Ruination of a Philosopher: The Case of Dylan Trigg

I can't believe I was so late getting to this one. It was a bit of a shock to have posted a harmless enough sounding preamble to a study on "The Aesthetics of Decay", only to discover too late that it was boobytrapped. For what I discovered through further investigation was how much the interest in hauntological psychogeography relates to the earlier typology I developed in my posting "The Conservative Revolt Against Bourgeois Society". On this reading, the author of "The Aesthetics of Decay", Dylan Trigg, is comparable to the anti-hero Aschenbach in "Death in Venice"; confronted by a melancholy inability to reconcile the material and ideal. Therefore it is not surprising that Trigg should go out of his way to portray blogging as by and large a virtual graveyard, a forum for failed writers and crackpots. It necessarily follows that the heavy emphasis on Continental philosophy in his work should be construed as evidence of a failure to understand that culture can be redemptive, but that this redemption will be interpretive, not metaphysical. The problem illustrated in this instance is how philosophy majors tend to focus on "eternal" problems, to the point where insufficient attention is paid to the lack of innovation with respect to producing "answers". Sometimes it seems then that the winds of change barely register on the weather aerials protruding from Continental philosophy departments. Consider in this light the lyrics from the Joy Division song "Colony" as capturing the melancholy of the decadent Trigg standing among the ruins:

"A cry for help, a hint of anaesthesia...A cruel wind that blows down to our lunacy And leaves him standing cold here in this colony".

In other words, Trigg's forecasting is so bad because he fails to properly grasp how fragmentation has 2 faces. Certainly it can result in various forms of anomie, but it can also free people up to create new communities through discourse. Trigg's major issue, from the perspective of academe's ivory towers, is essentially the same as the carping of journalists that blogging will facilitate the "virtual" ruinisation of the Fourth Estate (a claim contested by Jay Rosen in my previouis posting). Trigg differs though in wanting to have his cake and eat it too: he'll play the part of the decadent revelling in the despair, playing among the ruins, but, at the end of the day, he wants the institutional protection of a corporate body, namely, the university.

It should also be pointed out that Trigg's response to his critics, especially k punk's spirited self-defence, (which also mentions that Trigg had previously twice requested to have k punk link to his "side effects" blog), is, to put it mildly, disingenuous. Trigg attempts to in effect repudiate the entire subfield of the sociology of knowledge, by claiming that the search for "hidden motives" is illegitimate. It would be more appropriate, he suggests, to tackle his arguments on their "own" terms. But it is difficult to see how long and for whom such an alternative could remain plausible. Afterall, Trigg announces [on his homepage] his future research agenda as including the cultural significance of "trauma", when the secret is repressed, and the kinds of paradoxical effects this can generate. Doesn't the entire associated psychoanalytical program Trigg chooses though in this instance betray his puerile reasoning that it is wrong to search for "hidden motives" when critically reviewing his work? In other words, this sounds like a rather large second bite from the same aforementioned cake.

Lastly, but hardly least of all, the misogyny of Trigg's chosen means of expression in his rebuttal should also not go unremarked. What kind of a misguided cretin refers to anyone as a "cunt" anyway? Why the pictures of a man receiving oral sex and a woman exposing her crotch on a train, to illustrate his postings on spatio temporal dynamics on his blog?

If one applies to the case of Trigg Steve Fuller's mission statement of why the production of a "social epistemology" is indispensable, then the gulf between the sociologist and the philosopher playing Cassandra becomes evident. The former believes that their knowledge claims should be held accountable and submitted to critical interrogation in public forums, the latter does not. In the final analysis, what is at stake in the comparison of Fuller with the likes of Trigg is the difference between, to redeply that old Bad Seeds's album title, "Your Funeral, My Trial". Or, if preferred, Stove's summation (on this blog's sidebar) of why deficits in empirical knowledge are produced by philosophers.

Below are some choice cuts from the original flame war between k punk et al and Dylan Trigg:

You cunt’s just have to look for hidden motives, don’t you. Now I've got every geek and his pedantic friend typing my name in Google.
I couldn’t have asked for more.

Posted by: Dylan at August 18, 2004 09:17 AM

Errr... I thought it was a piss-take. If it was, it was most amusing. Dylan, if it was serious, it... just wasn't very good. And... a bit miserablist, IKWIM. Sorry mate.
Oooh, playing at soldiers in abandoned urban wastelands -- big fun!
a man of character, a man who acts, is essentially limitedYes. In the tarot, the Fool (a good card, BTW!) is capable of anything in potentia; but the minute you make a commitment, those potentials collapse (to be replaced by the strictures of the Tower etc.). Common sense innit. Posted by: paul "the mover" meme at August 18, 2004 10:47 AM

NB: There is a follow up post elsewhere on this blog entitled Laying an Olive Branch at Dylan Trigg's Door?

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