Reply to Levi

Levi, Levi, Levi, what am I going to do with you?

Why must you get so damn personal? Is it because you think its condescending to bring my nephew into this? Or because I´m saying that you are commiting the same error, in your way of talking about objects in the passive voice, as my freshman comp students?

Just because I criticize your theories doesn´t mean I´m criticizing you, so I don´t know why you ALWAYS take it personally. And GET personal.

Just because you issue a disclaimer “at the risk of violating Godwin´s law” does not make it any nicer to do what you did. You accused me, in a philosophical conversation having NOTHING TO DO WITH WWII or anything related thereto, of having philosophical views that could in some way lead to or give support to, even if indirectly, the most heinous crimes imaginable. This was not even a political conversation, or a conversation in any way related to these sorts of issues.

So why the hell did you take a nice, civil debate, and bring it here? There was no reason to do this. The Nazis did the most heinous things the world has ever known. Comparing people to them should only be done in the most restricted circumstances, when it is truly appropriate, otherwise, the term loses the force it deserves in our cultural discourse. I would not even compare the Bush regime to the Nazis, for in fact, while they were proto-fascist in many ways, and certainly committed war crimes, we must reserve this term for where it is truly appropriate, for very justifiable reasons. I take these matters very, very seriously.

Now I know you didn´t compare me to them. But you took the conversation there. And there was no need for that, at all. There are ways to say that you have political reservations about the implications of something without going there. Many philosophical views are a slippery slope. Often its important to bring up the unintended political implications of a point of view, and often counterfactual situations are useful for doing this. But that doesn´t mean there´s ANY need to play the Nazi card when it is clearly NOT called for. The term Nazi is not something to be thrown around in a philosophical discussion which was in no-way, shape, or form related to this issue. Even if you have political reservations, there are ways to bring these up which do not attempt to link my views, even indirectly, to heinous crimes. To throw the term Nazi around lightly demeans the discussion, and does not in any way respect the seriousness with which that term should be taken.

I will take this post down if you take down yours. From what I´ve seen, you often get hot under the collar, react, say nasty things, then feel bad afterwards. If I write a contentious email, I will often save it, do something else, reread it later, and only THEN see if I really want to send it. And I understand that people get pissed and say things that afterwards they wish they hadn´t. But you´re better than this, there´s no need to go for the low blow. Let your arguments speak for you. Even when I disagree with you, I strongly admire your intelligence and breadth of knowledge, and even besides this, we agree on many, many things.

And I´m sure you´re a nice guy. That´s not the issue here. But a blogging community is a public forum, and I wish I didn´t have to write this like this, in public, but I see no other proper way to respond. As I see it, bringing up Nazis was in no way, shape, or form, appropriate. That is my opinion, and I will stand by it.

Take down your post, and I will take down mine. And we can forget this happened. I have little doubt that when we will meet in person we will get along fine, drink a few beers, and all will be well. We will probably even like each other. But I did nothing to deserve this, other than very civily disagree with your opinion in regard to objects. I will say it again. Bringing up Nazis was in no way, shape, or form, appropriate. I take these matters very seriously. But if you take down your post, I will take down mine. And we can nicely move on. I don´t hold grudges. And like I said, I´m convinced your a nice person. These things happen. Let´s just take these two posts down, and move on. And let´s try not to have to do this in public again. I for one hate this sort of thing, and wish it had never happened. So let´s be done with this, take down these two posts, and move on.


Now, let me answer your claim, lest you think I don´t  take your points seriously.

From a Foucaultian perspective, all knowledge is  connected to power. Those with the power get to determine which knowledge is taken as correct. If evil people rule the world, their view of the world would be percieved, by those in the world, as correct. Foucault is a student of Nietzsche, who does not believe in true and false, but different degrees of untruth (truth and lies essay, etc). For Nietzsche (and Deleuze following him), the criterion for judging views on the world is not the degree to which they are true, but the degree to which they promote life. We can´t know what is true, or what is not, because this impiles a god´s eye view that is impossible. But we can know what views are better or worse for life. The life of everyone. Here Nietzsche, despite his raging egoism, is also a student of Spinoza and the Stoics. Because the views which are not based on hatred of life (resentiment, self-hatred which leads to murderous hatred of others), make everyone happier, healthier, etc.The ultimate selfishness in fact turns out to be the ultimate altruism – you will be happier and healthier if you actively promote altruism by word and deed. Murdering everyone around you in the long run will have terrible effects on you, and the world, and any viewpoint leading to this will cause horrendous results. Nietzsche was incredibly against the proto-fascist strains he saw in his sister and brother-in-law, just as much as Foucault was strongly against anything fascist as well. We do not need a god´s eye view to ensure some transcendent standard of adjudication of truths to be moral beings. Truly being ethical, in a this worldly manner, after the death of god, is the task of our age.

I am hardly the only person who thinks this. If I´m so evil, then so is Nietzsche, Foucault, Badiou (infinite truth), Lyotard (the differend, perhaps one of the most important ethical books of our century), and their many, many descendents. All those who fight for an ethical life after the death of god and capital T truth. There are a whole lot of us who have not become raving murderers and fascists, but in fact, exactly the opposite, decided opponents of these things, in, beyond, and through the lack of fixed capital T truths.

We can live without fixed objects. As Benjamin has said, the documents of history are monuments to barbarism. The victors write the history, and they write terrible things. The hope is that we can find a way to be both victors AND ethical, to make the world and ourselves see why the ethical view is better than the others, not because it is transcendently true, but despite the fact that truth with a capital T is merely an inheritance of secularized religious beliefs. How do we convince the world that it is to its own benefit to be ethical, non-murderous, non-paranoid, etc?

That is part of our task. But I´m convinced we don´t need god, or a god´s eye view, to do it. And I´m fine with the fact that you may disagree. But we are adults here, philosophers, theorists, and I for one would like to keep this debate from degrading past Godwin´s law.

PS – To show why Levi´s argument also has problems when it comes to identity politics, it might also be worth checking out some of what I´ve said in the past about whether or not I consider myself gay, or queer, or whatever. I don´t think there´s a REAL answer here. But I use strategic essentialism when necessary to get things done in the political sphere. Etc. But do I think I AM gay, or queer, or anything like that? What silly words! As Deleuze would say, the words mark where I was, but the task is to be the line of flight underneath them, such as when he speaks of living “a” life.


~ by chris on August 5, 2010.

3 Responses to “Reply to Levi”

  1. […] Posted by larvalsubjects under Uncategorized Leave a Comment  It would appear that Vitale is upset with my last post, arguing that I’m “going personal”. This is, of […]

  2. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Philosophy oughtto be personal; but whenever it becomes so, it needs to prick up its ears and pay close attention. Where there is heat, there can also be light— or (alas all too often), just an explosion. The irenic agonism of philosophy is the art of setting up the controlled interference of passion and intellect.

    This is not to trivialize the frustration that either you or Levi must feel at present (quite the opposite), nor to psychoanalyze this altercation without a license, but just to say that you are probably getting near the heart of the matter if there’s so much friction. Of course, not every instance of sparks flying sets of a big insight.

  3. […] you want a fuller reply, go to one of my previous post (second half on this one) where I’ve talked about the more Nietzschian and Foucaultian […]

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