Some Problems with The Intellectual Left
I think this post actually describes the situation at hand. He calls it the “political left”, but it really has to do with liberal philosophical intellectualism in general.
When we look at topics like colonialism, capitalism, religion, evangelism, and philosophical topics such as Heidegger’s Dasein and the later existential and postmodern philosophies of the continental tradition, one should not help but be struck by the significance of the meanings of this philosophical traditional lineage. We can even extend this trend back all the way to Kant through phenomenology.
It has been my repeated assertion (or at least insinuation) ￼that phenomenology, as a cannon, is not ￼￼￼￼ describing the human being as a general category; it is describing specific instances of being human. In fact Cedric Nathaniel in his book the philosophical hack￼￼ will talk about how there is a failure of communication across a common category. What he means by that is, on one hand, what Jean-François Lyotard calls the postmodern condition: There is no communication taking place despite that human beings simply will not understand the limitation of their own subjectivity, and that technology is a kind of ‘magic’ or fetish which represents the human being seeing itself as indeed communicating with other beings that are not itself (as I extrapolate and make arguments about that elsewhere).
The more pertinent example, on the other hand, is what the author of this linked post, what his essay is saying about a certain type of intellectualism that we generally can associate with academia in general and a kind of Continental tradition or adherence to a kind of philosophical dogma, or dogmatic reading, of Kant and the subsequent lineage of philosophers over the next 200+ years.
When we understand what they are saying and actually apply it to our situation, that is, our own situation, the situation of myself as a thinker, as someone who is using intellect, ￼we may come to a more Kierkegaard understanding like that of the contemporary prophet (see: the philosophical crumbs), as opposed to an enlightenment thinker who is involved with progress. ￼This is to say that the misreading of phenomenology is that what they (The traditional phenomenological authors) ￼are describing cannot possibly be what is occurring in me (The academic or intellectual left Philosopher) ￼as I am reading their philosophy: I am unable to really understand what they are saying because it offends my sense of being human; I thus displace the true meaning and invent a ‘subjective’ meaning, my own meaning.
This is indeed why Kierkegaard critique still holds true today, and I would submit, why very few authors who consider themselves philosophers today, or critical theorists, will refer to Kierkegaard: because Kierkegaard’s philosophy sticks a spear through the gut of their critical theory. ￼￼ This ‘other meaning’, the meaning that I ‘make up’ to account for the true meaning which I cannot seem to make fit into the position that I indeed find myself in and against my contest of world, is the basis for Marxist materialist critique and the further critical theorists such as the Frankfurt school. This ‘other meaning’ which appears to oppress me is indeed the basis for the Real misinterpretation that is the foundation of ideology and political power.
The kind of incredulity, the blatant denial and active assertion of disbelief, is what is actually informing what I see as this author of the linked post￼ is calling “the political left”, yet the author keeps it grounded in the real polemical ideology. He says it very well — I wonder if he really realizes what he’s talking about philosophically, lol — ￼
— but if I can reiterate: It is basically that these (what i will call) ‘non-reflective’ intellectuals do not feel that they are a part of the same category of people that they critique. And this to say that their intellectualism insulates them from being part of their own critique, from being subject to their own critique, and thus from being an intimate part of the world, even while they would use such intellectual ideas to argue that they are a part of the condition. That is, so far as these philosophers want to draw upon the Continental or phenomenological philosophical lineage as well as the lineage of critical theory to support their political claims￼. It is the true irony that many completely misinterpret the texts that they will forever site to support their own position, which is to say their “intellectually left” position. ￼ it is not merely that, say, the right is not looking honestly an opening or not being able to see the truth of larger significant issues, it is that the left is also in the same position. What we come up on then it’s just different examples of singular phenomenological activity, placed into a common category that is not communicating across its breadth. It is not communicating because this common category has found it self face-to-face with its own political truth. This is basically what Zizek has been saying about Trump and the American left.￼￼￼￼￼￼￼ in order to have a left, there must be an equally formidable and true right which allows for the position to be valid. While philosophically we can uphold a transcendental encompassing category which contains both the left and right￼￼ as aspects of this totality, there do we have avenues of negotiation and compromise. But we can also not hold philosophically complex or investigative activities apart from the rest of the world as though they have nothing to do with any other human involvement. At least one Philosopher has talked about how Philosophy always concerns the past even while it wants to speak of the future￼￼￼. In this sense, a philosophy that informs politics this accounts for the end run of left and right sides, self and other conceptual idea logical side, finding it self having no real transcendental ground, or at least to say, so much as Philosophy. is understood as getting somewhere, as finding something substantial, which, in the end we have found that there’s nothing substantial, that only nothing is substantial￼. This proves to be a psychological hindrance for individuals that want to be founded in a Substantial￼world￼. It is indeed Kierkegaard despair rising up within the individual, who then searches his mind and uses his “intellectual ability” to figure out with the bigger more thorough mines have come to the conclusion, in order for this individual to be able to function effectively in the world to do something with purpose￼. Following these lines of flight the individual has nothing left but to ground truth, ground its own substance in a truth of its own making, a pure ideological sense. But in the end we find that that’s all it is, and in order to have this pure ideological sense there has to be a corresponding “substance” which allows my truth to stay in place. Hence our current world political situation that we find in various intelligent arenas.￼￼￼
While these intellectuals might point to others’ inability to see past the end of their nose towards larger issues and more significant realities, the fact is these non-reflective intellectuals are indeed doing the same exact thing as the people they condemn: not seeing past the end of their own nose. ￼
Thier intellectualism, though, their ability to use discursive gymnastics and believe their own scripts, allows them to proceed into life as from a “true” place of privilege from which they suppose they are critiquing “out there” issues; one could even suggest that their idea of self-critique is a self-fulfilling prophecy, at root in matters of systemic oppression (think L. Ron Hubbard and the ‘technology’ he used on himself, while also using it to mind-control and manipulate thousands of people for his benefit). Never do they want actual solution to the problems they find everywhere; never are they able to apply it to their own view, their own perception, their own method of coming up on the world, indeed they will bring out arguments from this phenomenological lineage as if to prove to everyone else how their “Intellectual left” view upon the world is actually seeing things more correctly.
This is not a straw-man argumentative gambit; it is actually describing the situation at hand. “They” indeed function in this manner, as do I. Yet, the category –the category which is at work in the appropriation of this text , the category where by opinion and subjectivity are suspended in a transcendent ether or “cloud of unknowing” , does not communicate due to the method by which I am able to view the world and things in it; this is the issue at hand: Is there a sure ontological unity that we call “humanity”?
￼ This goes back to the first point, the first meaning of Lyotard’s postmodern condition: There is no communication taking place. The rebuttal to this is simple denial through the self-proclamation of intellectualist-historical privilege; this is a simple fact of the phenomenon of being human that is completely denied by certain facets of the intellectual left for the sake of their intellectualism.
For example: “There is communication taking place, but it only appears as though none is taking place, so let me describe to you how intellectually we can create new definitions of ‘communication’ for the purpose of making progress over this apparent subjective limit.”
One could go so far as to say that this is the mistake, in a kind of Lacanian reading, which is contributing to our World political climate. This also contributes to why in some posts I have made in the past couple years I have referred climate change to the question of “just what climate is it that is changing?”
We might be able to glimpse what is occurring at multiple nodes of intersection where this lack of communication is coming together in significant moments￼ of our environment.
Those I am going so far as to indicate as the non-reflective intellectuals (what even Zizek will point out as the “left”) ￼are so quick to move on to the next thing (post-human; post-capitalism, etc…) the next intellectual ‘craze’. In other works I hope to show how the “philosophical turns” might actually arise at the moment when the intellectualism, as a defining motion, begins to reflect upon itself and its limitations, that the coming into its own limitation automatically eschews reflection ‘out’ and thus as the world to thus retain a certain sense of subjectivity and excess so as to further allow the exploitation of materials it sees fit to use under its purview of self-righteousness. I submit that such ‘turns’ function through ontological denial and work to establish cosmological constants, or categories which do hold potential to communicate across their domains, for the purpose to feeding the capitalistic engine of consumption.
The philosophical turn of our time, toward objects, is due to the stalemate that has arisen by the phenomenological subject coming once again upon its limitation to point to how it is only encountering itself, and then the real ideological denial of that reasoning, that infallible logic, so to speak. The turn is indeed like Moses when he comes upon the burning bush, he turns away, but in our case, human beings turn away “not to see” what this fantastic thing is standing in front of us.￼￼￼￼ Moses turns “into” that which challenges his ontological status; modern human (philosophically mistaken left) beings turn away and deny the truth for the purpose of creating their own world, and thus create infinite problems through which to establish and justify thier real being.
Hence, the denial of oneself (lack of reflection; in despair to be oneself, as Kierkegaard has termed it) for the purpose of a real intellectual subjectivity is the system of oppression that has been feeding itself with the value of disposable others which it turns into valuable commodity through ignoring ontological validity, or what we loosely call equity. The true goal should be liberation. Yet, the modern intellectual subject (left) is inherently an unethical subject simply because it refuses to apply its own standards to itself and its behavior: It understands itself within the context of a privileged synthetical a priori, intellectually removed from a necessity to apply its own ethical formations — which it flings righteously onto others — to itself, to exclude itself from its own practicality for the purpose of bringing about its own utopia (subjective authenticity) further through communion with the immanent/transcendent ‘other’ which is perpetually placed out of critical reach through the assumption of its own proper critical methodology.
It is colonialism justified through intellectual denial, and it is evangelism, again denied, through the critical theoretical lineage. An ideal, a cosmology for the creation of an elite individualism of the few, at the cost of expendable multitudes.
AND, when all this is said and done, we should see that what I am talking about is not another proposal of ethical impropriety which needs to be overcome through more intellectualism, more argument for solution which never desires for the solution to come about and be realized.
ON The CONTRARY: What I am proposing is that indeed this offensive situation is what the human being has been doing since its inception, that it will always do this, that it operates in this manner. And, that due to this feature of the human being, as we are able to describe, now, without the inherent subjective bias, what the human being actually does, and thus, bring out to view the truth of what we can call the object of the subject: the universal object that is the human being.
Note: The categories “left” and “right” are as ambiguous as they are almost useless to use for any sort of absolute reference. They are terms to describe the activity of polemical negotiation. But when they become understood as actual identifiers, actual ideological sets, this is where we find the problem of “the end”. ￼￼￼