Suffer No Strange Tales

When postmodern academics use the word ‘theory,’ they mean something very different than an ancient philosopher or modern scientist mean by that word.  For an ancient philosopher, the theoretic life was a life of detachment from the passionate hurly-burly of human striving.  Lucretius described it as the Ivory Tower.  For a modern scientist, a theory is an explanation that has been confirmed by experiment.  The ‘theory’ of a postmodern academic is also an explanation, but unlike the theory of a modern scientist, it is an explanation validated by the benefits of acting as if the explanation were true.

If I covet the apples on your apple tree, it would be, in a postmodern sense, correct for me to explain your possession of that apple tree as the consequence of your grandfather stealing that apple tree from my grandfather.  This theory is “true” because it permits me to act decisively and with assurance, because justifies me in taking what it tells me are really my apples.

In the postmodern lingo, a theory that works to my advantage in this way is “my truth.”

Thus, postmodern theory follows the pragmatic principle that the truth is “what works.”  A true theory is “helpful,” a false theory “unhelpful.”  You know you are in the presence of this pragmatic epistemology whenever you hear someone talking about the “consequences” of holding a belief, or when a theory is denounced as “dangerous.”

And they are correct.  Theories are dangerous.  The only question to ask of any particular theory is, dangerous for what, or to whom?

“Critical theory” means theory that is dangerous to the enemies of the “critics” who propound the theory.  Feminism is, for instance, the critical theory of women who hate manliness and seek to destroy it.  We can see its deadly effect in the men it has unmanned.  They are now dominated by women and ashamed that they once were not.  A critic is properly a judge, but a postmodern critic is what they used to call a hanging judge.  And theory is his (or her) rope.

“Critical race theory” is, therefore, the rope with which non-whites propose to take their revenge on whites.  Actually, it is the rope and the strong corn liquor with which they propose to whip up their courage and get in the mood.  This is why “storytelling” is central to CRT.  And what is a story?  It is an explanation of why things are the way they are.  And what is a true story?  It is an explanation that justifies me stringing you up in that tree.  And we might say it is an even truer story if it persuades you to stand still and apologize as I put the rope around your neck.

In a postmodern world of weaponized critical theory, we must plug our ears to the strange tales of our enemies, and listen instead to our own stories.  Our stories should not traduce our enemies, since part of our story must be that we are men who do not live by lies.  But our stories must also give us the courage to defy those by whom we are traduced.  And the first step in defiance is to snap our fingers under the nose of every storyteller who tells a story that ends with us standing still and apologizing as they put the ropes around our necks.

* * * * *

The foregoing was provoked by this latest notice of more sinister doings at the Folger Shakespeare Library.

14 thoughts on “Suffer No Strange Tales

  1. Pingback: Suffer No Strange Tales | Reaction Times

  2. I did English at university and the Shakespeare module was titled “Race, Gender, Power”. It is reductive in the extreme and a very depressing way to look at literature. But academics have to see themselves as undermining institutional “structures of power” because they like to think of themselves as being ever so subversive. They represent and reinforce the very structures of power they purport to “deconstruct”. Universities have become less like places of learning (how naive that phrase sounds now) and more like factories producing vast amounts of unquestioning “midwits” who all agree with each other. But it does seem as if this state of affairs is beginning to fracture. To quote from one of their favorite books: “All that is solid melts into air.”

  3. Regarding the sinister doings at the Folger Shakespeare Library:

    Who better to “cultivate an anti-racist pedagogy” than Nedda Mehdizadeh and Ambereen Dhadaboy, two beautiful, young, wealthy, privileged, over-credentialed Persians?

  4. Postmodern theory empties the mind into matter, leaving a vacuum where the spirit used to be. Hence “the black body” (not the astronomical kind), “vagina monologues,” and “fat studies.” Hence also: Breaking display-windows to loot tennis shoes, wrist watches, and fancy designer-purses. The classical notion of theory, as you write, requires first, that one remove oneself from the crowd, next from the body, next from opinion, and finally from all physical manifestations — so as to let spirit confront cosmos, merge with it, experience it, and then work up an orderly report. Theory, which shares an etymon with theater, always, like tragedy, participates in the transcendent. It pulls aside the curtains. And an element of theory is figure or metaphor where propositional language reaches its limit. Heraclitus, Parmenides, Socrates, and Plato trod this path.

    I am fond of Wallace Stevens. His poem “As at a Theater” proposes a theory about theory:

    Another sunlight might make another world,
    Green, more or less, in green and blue in blue,
    Like taste distasting the first fruit of a vine,
    Like an eye too young to grapple its primitive,
    Like the artifice of a new reality,
    Like the chromatic calendar of time to come.

    It might be the candle of another being,
    Ragged in unkempt perceptions, that stands
    And meditates an image of itself,
    Studies and shapes a tallowy image, swarmed
    With slight, prismatic reeks not recollected,
    A bubble without a wall on which to hang.

    The curtains, when pulled, might show another whole,
    An azure outre-terre, oranged and rosed,
    At the elbow of Copernicus, a sphere,
    A universe without life’s limp and lack,
    Philosopher’s end . . . What difference would it make,
    So long as the mind, for once, fulfilled itself?

    • The old Christians would describe it as a carnal philosophy. You are right to observe that it lacks any notion of transcendence. It is what you have often described as subscendent.

    • I believe it was your favorite religious thinker Kierkegaard who wrote that “In the last resort, we must acknowledge that there is no such thing as theory”.

  5. This phrase from the poster caught my eye: “Critical Race Conversations, a series addressing a range of topics.” Yes — I’ll bet — “a range of topics.”

    • A “Conversation” means a harangue, of course. The “range of topics” slyly refers to range of phenotypes that will do the haranguing.

    • You clearly misunderstand their expansive definition of the word “conversation”. A conversation is very like a show trial where people have their non-existent sins listed in excruciating detail, after which said people indulge in ecstatic self-condemnation and bow down, offering their neck for a glorious and welcome execution.

  6. Pingback: Whose Truths do We Hold to Be Self Evident? – The Orthosphere

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