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Alex Carnegie
Alex Carnegie
8 months ago

Very well written but I fear it misses an important point; such sophisticated thinking tends to end up throwing out the baby with the bath water.

There are times when it is illuminating to see all knowledge as “social constructs” but most of the time it is more useful for e.g. aircraft designers to have a firm grip on science and engineering. More broadly, “Enlightenment values” should be critiqued but the pursuit of “objective truth” through evidence and reason – however imperfect – has led to two and a half centuries of increasing understanding, prosperity and freedom. For most purposes we should continue to rely on them.

I am fully aware of the defects and limitations of modern science but it is wrong to dismiss it as a “vast social process built atop a relatively narrow foundation of natural facts” and an exaggeration to say that we could ”quite easily end up with a completely different model of the world” (at least for the hard sciences; social sciences are a different story).

A parallel is that, intellectually, Einstein’s theories have superseded Newtonian mechanics. For astronomers it may be important to know that gravity can bend light and that matter and energy are interchangeable but for most of us we can still rely on the “fact” that if one drops an apple it will fall in a straight line downwards and aircraft designers can rely on their textbooks.

In a similar fashion, Critical Theory is right to see expectations of how e.g. women behave in different societies as partly a social construct and to argue that it is possible to “perform” gender in new and different ways but, for most of us in most situations, it is sufficient to see 99% of people as belonging to one of two sexes. To go one step further and deny the existence of sex and see only socially constructed gender roles is delusional.

For me, the most amusing part of the essay was the suggestion that one should turn the techniques of Critical Theory on its proponents and see them as privileged oppressors propagating plausible but self serving BS in the pursuit of power.

Last edited 8 months ago by Alex Carnegie
Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
8 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

Exactly!

Mark M Breza
Mark M Breza
8 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

So what percentage of slave owners and traders were nice people. Seems like a lot of parsing of turnips to disprove CRT. And why do humans wearing clothing of the opposite social gendered construct receive so much abusive constraints ?

Last edited 8 months ago by Mark M Breza
Thomas Walling
Thomas Walling
8 months ago
Reply to  Mark M Breza

For exactly the reasons he points out. Critical theory takes everything to the extreme, and produces ridiculous results.
It’s important to question everything, and fine-tune our beliefs and theories, but to follow particularly the French ‘philosophers’ like Foucault the Amoral, and any other intellectual who wants to tear down the greatness of Western civilisation, and to think you somehow supercede the wisdom of uncounted generations is both idiotic and the height of hubristic arrogance.
However we got here, we got here, and to destroy it because you don’t like the route we took is philistinism.
Some slave owners were undoubtedly bad, others were average, others were good people. It was considered a fact of life until the British Empire banned it and enforced the ban, at great cost.
The reason we don’t like your trans nonsense is because it is, once again, using the weak and uninformed to propagate leftist ideas of power and victimhood in order to cement their power and not have to answer for their failings.
‘We’re good, because we care. You’re bad, because you don’t.’
It’s evil, egregious, Malthusian cant, and you people who defend it should face the consequences when it all falls apart again.
So there.

Chipoko
Chipoko
8 months ago
Reply to  Thomas Walling

The reason we don’t like your trans nonsense is because it is, once again, using the weak and uninformed to propagate leftist ideas of power and victimhood in order to cement their power and not have to answer for their failings.
‘We’re good, because we care. You’re bad, because you don’t.’
It’s evil, egregious, Malthusian cant.”
Bullseye!

Chipoko
Chipoko
8 months ago
Reply to  Thomas Walling

The reason we don’t like your trans nonsense is because it is, once again, using the weak and uninformed to propagate leftist ideas of power and victimhood in order to cement their power and not have to answer for their failings.
‘We’re good, because we care. You’re bad, because you don’t.’
It’s evil, egregious, Malthusian cant.”
Bullseye!

Campbell P
Campbell P
8 months ago
Reply to  Mark M Breza

I think you must have missed the author’s point about the importance of history and context.

elaine chambers
elaine chambers
8 months ago
Reply to  Campbell P

It’s a bit of a mystery to me as to what the author’s point was. I think he lost it on the way down his paragraphs. The title, ‘Critical theory’, was accompanied by the image of a BLM symbol! Yet he never touched on critical race theory, he went off into science. What is of urgent concern here in the UK is that critical race theory is being taught in our schools and indeed in our primary schools and white children are being made to feel bad about being white. He never went there.

elaine chambers
elaine chambers
8 months ago
Reply to  Campbell P

It’s a bit of a mystery to me as to what the author’s point was. I think he lost it on the way down his paragraphs. The title, ‘Critical theory’, was accompanied by the image of a BLM symbol! Yet he never touched on critical race theory, he went off into science. What is of urgent concern here in the UK is that critical race theory is being taught in our schools and indeed in our primary schools and white children are being made to feel bad about being white. He never went there.

B Davis
B Davis
8 months ago
Reply to  Mark M Breza

Perhaps most of them? Who knows? That they were a part of the Slavery Economy is true. Given money, access & opportunity the odds are good that you, too, would have been a part of that very same system if you’d been born in that multi-millennial era. It was — at the time — a part of what the world considered ‘normal’ / expected. Does that make you and them both NOT nice people?
But what does it mean to be a ‘nice person’ anyway?
Hitler, it is said, loved dogs. Most everyone I know does…you, too, I suspect. Does that make all of us, Hitler included, a ‘nice person’? Ted Bundy, it is said, was extraordinarily personable, fun to be with, bright, witty, & engaging. He was also a sociopathic serial killer. BUT — most of the time, he, too, was a ‘nice person.
It’s a silly question, of course.
That any one of us can, at any given point in time, be considered to be a ‘nice person’ means nothing. Equally, at an entirely different point in time, we can probably also be considered an idiot or a**hole. In the end we say that our ‘moral value’ is timebound and constrained by what our society/our culture considers good & righteous & reasonable at that specific moment. Our ‘value’ also varies over time as we ourselves vary over time…changing our attitudes & behaviors, impacting the Other in different ways at different times.
If we were in 4th grade the Teacher would average all that out and give us a grade for the year. Life, however does not do that. It especially does not do that with any kind of ‘moral rating’. Our ‘dearly beloved’ might, but even she would be among the first to verify that we were all, far from perfect (but I hope she’d say we were generally a good guy).
As for CRT itself, as it is parsed & applied in 2023, especially in education — it’s post-modernist garbage — saying nothing, meaning nothing, anchored in unreality — and has no place anywhere of worth.
And men, like Rich Levine, pretending to be women even to the point of being recognized by USA Today as a ‘woman of the year’ ? That too is just ludicrous. He’s completely free, of course, to wear a dress & lipstick…he’s free to self-mutilate as much as he likes….and the rest of us are equally free to laugh & point in response to such silliness. You, too, if you like!

Andrew F
Andrew F
8 months ago
Reply to  Mark M Breza

No one cares what clothes you are wearing you mentally ill freak.
What people object to is forcing transgender minority nonsense down peoples throats.
You can wear whatever dress you like.
But I want to be able to laugh, loudly, at your idiotic pretensions of being a woman.

Thomas Walling
Thomas Walling
8 months ago
Reply to  Mark M Breza

For exactly the reasons he points out. Critical theory takes everything to the extreme, and produces ridiculous results.
It’s important to question everything, and fine-tune our beliefs and theories, but to follow particularly the French ‘philosophers’ like Foucault the Amoral, and any other intellectual who wants to tear down the greatness of Western civilisation, and to think you somehow supercede the wisdom of uncounted generations is both idiotic and the height of hubristic arrogance.
However we got here, we got here, and to destroy it because you don’t like the route we took is philistinism.
Some slave owners were undoubtedly bad, others were average, others were good people. It was considered a fact of life until the British Empire banned it and enforced the ban, at great cost.
The reason we don’t like your trans nonsense is because it is, once again, using the weak and uninformed to propagate leftist ideas of power and victimhood in order to cement their power and not have to answer for their failings.
‘We’re good, because we care. You’re bad, because you don’t.’
It’s evil, egregious, Malthusian cant, and you people who defend it should face the consequences when it all falls apart again.
So there.

Campbell P
Campbell P
8 months ago
Reply to  Mark M Breza

I think you must have missed the author’s point about the importance of history and context.

B Davis
B Davis
8 months ago
Reply to  Mark M Breza

Perhaps most of them? Who knows? That they were a part of the Slavery Economy is true. Given money, access & opportunity the odds are good that you, too, would have been a part of that very same system if you’d been born in that multi-millennial era. It was — at the time — a part of what the world considered ‘normal’ / expected. Does that make you and them both NOT nice people?
But what does it mean to be a ‘nice person’ anyway?
Hitler, it is said, loved dogs. Most everyone I know does…you, too, I suspect. Does that make all of us, Hitler included, a ‘nice person’? Ted Bundy, it is said, was extraordinarily personable, fun to be with, bright, witty, & engaging. He was also a sociopathic serial killer. BUT — most of the time, he, too, was a ‘nice person.
It’s a silly question, of course.
That any one of us can, at any given point in time, be considered to be a ‘nice person’ means nothing. Equally, at an entirely different point in time, we can probably also be considered an idiot or a**hole. In the end we say that our ‘moral value’ is timebound and constrained by what our society/our culture considers good & righteous & reasonable at that specific moment. Our ‘value’ also varies over time as we ourselves vary over time…changing our attitudes & behaviors, impacting the Other in different ways at different times.
If we were in 4th grade the Teacher would average all that out and give us a grade for the year. Life, however does not do that. It especially does not do that with any kind of ‘moral rating’. Our ‘dearly beloved’ might, but even she would be among the first to verify that we were all, far from perfect (but I hope she’d say we were generally a good guy).
As for CRT itself, as it is parsed & applied in 2023, especially in education — it’s post-modernist garbage — saying nothing, meaning nothing, anchored in unreality — and has no place anywhere of worth.
And men, like Rich Levine, pretending to be women even to the point of being recognized by USA Today as a ‘woman of the year’ ? That too is just ludicrous. He’s completely free, of course, to wear a dress & lipstick…he’s free to self-mutilate as much as he likes….and the rest of us are equally free to laugh & point in response to such silliness. You, too, if you like!

Andrew F
Andrew F
8 months ago
Reply to  Mark M Breza

No one cares what clothes you are wearing you mentally ill freak.
What people object to is forcing transgender minority nonsense down peoples throats.
You can wear whatever dress you like.
But I want to be able to laugh, loudly, at your idiotic pretensions of being a woman.

Chipoko
Chipoko
8 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

“… one should turn the techniques of Critical Theory on its proponents and see them as privileged oppressors propagating plausible but self serving BS in the pursuit of power.”
Superb!

Mark M Breza
Mark M Breza
8 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

So what percentage of slave owners and traders were nice people. Seems like a lot of parsing of turnips to disprove CRT. And why do humans wearing clothing of the opposite social gendered construct receive so much abusive constraints ?

Last edited 8 months ago by Mark M Breza
Chipoko
Chipoko
8 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

“… one should turn the techniques of Critical Theory on its proponents and see them as privileged oppressors propagating plausible but self serving BS in the pursuit of power.”
Superb!

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
8 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

Excellent comment!

Lord Plasma
Lord Plasma
8 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

Very well put

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
8 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

Excellent post. Much better than I could say.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
8 months ago

Pengetahuan saya tentang bahasa Indonesia sangat kecil, dan bagaimanapun saya berhenti menonton sepak bola ketika orang-orang bodoh mulai “berlutut”.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
8 months ago

Pengetahuan saya tentang bahasa Indonesia sangat kecil, dan bagaimanapun saya berhenti menonton sepak bola ketika orang-orang bodoh mulai “berlutut”.

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
8 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

Good post.
I dislike the use of “social construct” and think that “emergent behaviour” would be a better term because the former implies a nearly entirely arbitrary event but the latter would incorporate a lot more, including biological and environmental inputs.

Kurt Roeloffs
Kurt Roeloffs
8 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

Alex,
John doesn’t make the mistake you claim he made. The core realization of science as a social process is not that the theories are not “true” but that they are true within the limits of the purposes. behind the “truth” that they reveal. Engineers can rely on their science because its truth is functioning within its limits.
John is also justified in pointing to the narrow base of facts on which science is built. Consider dark matter and dark energy which represent as much as 95% of physical reality. We no nothing about any of it. Both are gigantic fudges to resolve mystery. Einstein admitted just that with his cosmological constant. Biologists also readily admit that only a tiny fraction of species have. been identified. Vast amounts of aquatic life is uncatalogued as is nearly all of microbial life. What is wrong with being humble enough to say that we understand a small fraction of reality?
I do agree with you that recursively turning critical theory is a rather amusing endeavour–if only because most critical theorists have long ago lost their sense of humour about their commitments and thereby fail to see their own complicity with power.

Alex Carnegie
Alex Carnegie
8 months ago
Reply to  Kurt Roeloffs

… but I am not sure I claimed he made the mistake as you suggest I did (!). My whole point is that sometimes it makes sense to see science (and other things) one way but sometimes to use a different lens. In physics, it sometimes is appropriate to analyse photons as waves but on other occasions as particles. This is a good metaphor for my approach.

I entirely agree with your point about how much there is yet to discover and the need for caution and humility and I am glad you share my amusement.

philip kern
philip kern
8 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

I appreciate your comments here (above and below), having expected as I read the article that what follows might be the more interesting. As I read your first remarks, however, I was thinking that we’re better at technology than science. An engineer doesn’t need an all-encompassing theory to improve on last-year’s airplane wing or to apply advances in silicon to new uses.

Last edited 8 months ago by philip kern
philip kern
philip kern
8 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

I appreciate your comments here (above and below), having expected as I read the article that what follows might be the more interesting. As I read your first remarks, however, I was thinking that we’re better at technology than science. An engineer doesn’t need an all-encompassing theory to improve on last-year’s airplane wing or to apply advances in silicon to new uses.

Last edited 8 months ago by philip kern
Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
8 months ago
Reply to  Kurt Roeloffs

The problem is not whether we understand a small fraction of reality. The point is whether (or rather where) what we do understand is true and reliable, or not. Sure, science works by probability and not certainty and some areas have a lot of room for improvement, but some of the probabilities are extremely high. As long as you license yourself to put “true” in quotation marks and come up with vague stuff like ‘true within the limits of the purposes. behind the “truth” that they reveal‘, you are allowing everybody to choose his own personal truth, to suit his own agenda. Which makes it pointless to look for truth in the first place.

Zeph Smith
Zeph Smith
8 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

There can be a difference between having acknowledged error bars for a value, and having no idea what a value is.
“true within the limits of purposes” could apply to most of the physics used in constructing bridges, where the reality of dark matter, or relativistic effects, rarely matter. That is, it has been empirically shown to be accurate enough for bridge building.
That acknowledged limitation is not an invitation for everybody to have their own personal physics truths, though.

Zeph Smith
Zeph Smith
8 months ago
Reply to  Rasmus Fogh

There can be a difference between having acknowledged error bars for a value, and having no idea what a value is.
“true within the limits of purposes” could apply to most of the physics used in constructing bridges, where the reality of dark matter, or relativistic effects, rarely matter. That is, it has been empirically shown to be accurate enough for bridge building.
That acknowledged limitation is not an invitation for everybody to have their own personal physics truths, though.

Alex Carnegie
Alex Carnegie
8 months ago
Reply to  Kurt Roeloffs

… but I am not sure I claimed he made the mistake as you suggest I did (!). My whole point is that sometimes it makes sense to see science (and other things) one way but sometimes to use a different lens. In physics, it sometimes is appropriate to analyse photons as waves but on other occasions as particles. This is a good metaphor for my approach.

I entirely agree with your point about how much there is yet to discover and the need for caution and humility and I am glad you share my amusement.

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
8 months ago
Reply to  Kurt Roeloffs

The problem is not whether we understand a small fraction of reality. The point is whether (or rather where) what we do understand is true and reliable, or not. Sure, science works by probability and not certainty and some areas have a lot of room for improvement, but some of the probabilities are extremely high. As long as you license yourself to put “true” in quotation marks and come up with vague stuff like ‘true within the limits of the purposes. behind the “truth” that they reveal‘, you are allowing everybody to choose his own personal truth, to suit his own agenda. Which makes it pointless to look for truth in the first place.

Michael McElwee
Michael McElwee
8 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

“If we wish to grasp the heart of science, we must come to grips with the decisive question; should science continue to exist for us, or should we drive it to a swift end.” When he asked this question, what did Heidegger mean by the “heart of science?” Is the answer “nothing?”

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
8 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

Allow me to join the chorus of your admirer’s today. Outstanding comment.
Having been exposed to it in a somewhat compulsory way as a student, I’d say there is a non-trivial subset of critical theory that undertakes searching yet fair-minded critiques of society, power, and class. But it too often deconstructs or destroys only to leave nothing but a pile of rubble. Then, in their lenses, the blinkered utopianism of the insistent Marxist is all that remains to rebuild with. Many people are not smart enough (perhaps including me, though I shudder to consider it), or (often in my own case, I must admit) patient and careful enough readers to pull the baby from the ideological-reductionist bathwater.
And does the valuable part of Critical Theory find no adequate expression elsewhere, one without a sponsoring fixed ideology and with at least a less predetermined outcome? In other words: If we ever did, why do we still need it?
While I don’t expect to find much opposition to my rhetorical nudge, I wonder if anyone here has the wherewithal and nerve to defend the essentialness of Critical Theory as such–for about the least favorably disposed readership one could imagine!

Last edited 8 months ago by AJ Mac
Alex Carnegie
Alex Carnegie
8 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

I am no expert on Critical Theory but my impression is that the latest iterations are far more nihilistic than the original version developed in the 1930s by the Frankfurt school. The latter was an attempt to update and strengthen Marxism by suggesting that the ruling class kept control less by physical oppression and ownership of the means of production, as Marx had suggested, than by cultural hegemony i.e. by convincing the working class that society was being run in their interests as well as those of the rich. Their solution was to dissect and discredit the dominant ideology by using “critical theory” thus laying the ground work for revolution, emancipation and utopia. In the meantime it led to some interesting analyses such as the ways in which western society “manufactures consent”. One did not need to agree with their political project to find their insights intriguing. 

After the linguistic turn in the 1970s, however, a new generation of critical theorists – many ex 1960s student radicals – absorbed the post modernist strictures of Michel Foucault etc and an infusion of recruits from literary criticism. The result IMO was that critical theory lost it moorings. What was left were the beliefs that virtually nothing was objectively true, that all that mattered was power relations, that it was obligatory to support the “marginalised” against the “privileged” – but these were no longer defined in economic terms but in an ever increasing number of ways as specified in intersectionality – that support for the marginalised need not be constrained by any concern for fairness, truth, etc and a certain aptitude for word games. This is the formula which has led not to emancipation and inclusion as hoped but the attempted crushing of dissent by new, implausible and unstable orthodoxies and the growing fragmentation of society into mutually antagonistic groups. It is not even if there is any clarity about the desired end state but only a commitment to permanent struggle pursued by unscrupulous means against a shifting cast of villains (with the current clash between radical feminists and trans activists being only a foretaste of the possibilities). Fortunately, I am more optimistic than most UnHerd readers about their prospects since – as you may have gathered – I am not a big fan of most of the current versions of Critical Theory.

I am sure others can provide a more sophisticated explanation.

 

 

Last edited 8 months ago by Alex Carnegie
J Bryant
J Bryant
8 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

Another very fine comment. I found your first paragraph particularly helpful.

Alex Carnegie
Alex Carnegie
8 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Yeah. The second para was OTT. Sorry about that. It was also inconsistent. If one is going to give credit to the earlier versions of CT for their insights, one ought to note some of the useful concepts that have emerged from more recent CT e.g. unconscious bias, intersectional difficulties of some categories, some of queer theory, etc. To be honest, it is their tactics not their ideas that upset me.

Campbell P
Campbell P
8 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

But unconscious bias, whilst it may be real -dato sed non concesso – albeit unproven, is now being used in a number of institutions, my own included, to indoctrinate certain tenets of belief about history and contemporary society for which there is very scant evidence but a great deal of assertion. And of course there is no proven automatic connection between an unconscious bias (if it actually exists) thought and a person’s consequent behaviour realising that thought. Conscience, however one views or defines it intervenes. Conscious bias is of course a very helpful thing from which we can, unlike it’s spurious cousin, learn to survive and flourish.

Alex Carnegie
Alex Carnegie
8 months ago
Reply to  Campbell P

I agree with you about much unconscious bias training which can not only, as you say, seem like indoctrination sessions but is often counterproductive and actually increase unconscious bias (according to some Yale research). Nevertheless I think unconscious bias is real and the idea has e.g. been used successfully to reform sentencing practices by English judges.

Last edited 8 months ago by Alex Carnegie
Zeph Smith
Zeph Smith
8 months ago
Reply to  Campbell P

A non-profit for which I used to volunteer extensively, has become very focused around converting customers to modern progressive viewpoints. They have used the Implicit Association Test for training volunteers, to convince them of their own unconscious bias. When I had a frank and honest discussion with one leader about the scientific issues with the IAT, that leader basically conceded all the faults with the test (which even the authors have conceded is not valid for testing individuals), but said in “we have to use it anyway because it’s the best tool we have”. When I tried to explore that, as in “what is the function of this tool in your training”, the answer was starting to sound like army boot camp trying to break down previous identity in order to form a new identity (to use the most favorable analogy).
(note from me: Except by using a known untrustworthy assessment without letting people know that; which puts it more in the category of polygraph tests used to frighten suspects who don’t know any better.)
Then they realized what they were saying and kinda changed the subject.
This was about a given test (IAT), which is not the same as unconscious bias, but is often highly interwoven with the latter concept in DEI trainings.
As a tool for personal reflection, I think that understanding the dynamics of unconscious bias (in any direction!) can be valuable. When weaponized as a tool for trying to force an ideological conversion on employees or volunteers, not so much. It’s a hand waving concept which is too fuzzy to pin down or quantize, so it’s more like “Satan’s influence” – omnipresent, invisible, and thus shaped however the perceiver wishes to imagine it for their purposes. It’s essentially unfalsifiable, and thus very useful for bad faith (or self-deluded) rhetoric.
Which doesn’t mean that unconscious bias doesn’t exist!! Just that weaponizing that concept is a problem.

Alex Carnegie
Alex Carnegie
8 months ago
Reply to  Campbell P

I agree with you about much unconscious bias training which can not only, as you say, seem like indoctrination sessions but is often counterproductive and actually increase unconscious bias (according to some Yale research). Nevertheless I think unconscious bias is real and the idea has e.g. been used successfully to reform sentencing practices by English judges.

Last edited 8 months ago by Alex Carnegie
Zeph Smith
Zeph Smith
8 months ago
Reply to  Campbell P

A non-profit for which I used to volunteer extensively, has become very focused around converting customers to modern progressive viewpoints. They have used the Implicit Association Test for training volunteers, to convince them of their own unconscious bias. When I had a frank and honest discussion with one leader about the scientific issues with the IAT, that leader basically conceded all the faults with the test (which even the authors have conceded is not valid for testing individuals), but said in “we have to use it anyway because it’s the best tool we have”. When I tried to explore that, as in “what is the function of this tool in your training”, the answer was starting to sound like army boot camp trying to break down previous identity in order to form a new identity (to use the most favorable analogy).
(note from me: Except by using a known untrustworthy assessment without letting people know that; which puts it more in the category of polygraph tests used to frighten suspects who don’t know any better.)
Then they realized what they were saying and kinda changed the subject.
This was about a given test (IAT), which is not the same as unconscious bias, but is often highly interwoven with the latter concept in DEI trainings.
As a tool for personal reflection, I think that understanding the dynamics of unconscious bias (in any direction!) can be valuable. When weaponized as a tool for trying to force an ideological conversion on employees or volunteers, not so much. It’s a hand waving concept which is too fuzzy to pin down or quantize, so it’s more like “Satan’s influence” – omnipresent, invisible, and thus shaped however the perceiver wishes to imagine it for their purposes. It’s essentially unfalsifiable, and thus very useful for bad faith (or self-deluded) rhetoric.
Which doesn’t mean that unconscious bias doesn’t exist!! Just that weaponizing that concept is a problem.

Zeph Smith
Zeph Smith
8 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

I would be happy to hear about the “useful concepts” that have been produced by earlier or later version of CT. But I would like to see them discussed in more depth.
“unconscious bias” – do you regard this concept as an innovation specifically from Critical Theory?
“intersectional difficulties of some categories” – a few examples would help (besides the idea that quotas for Black employees and for female employees need to be augmented with a quota of Black female employees, because the first two can be met while failing the third)?
“some of queer theory” – which parts?
I know that I’m extracting elements which you mentioned in passing, but I’m genuinely curious about an expanded and annotated list of positive contributions from Critical Theory which are useful today. Are you aware of any?

Alex Carnegie
Alex Carnegie
8 months ago
Reply to  Zeph Smith

I tried to post a fuller response but the UH software would not accept it. Bottom line: I am not aware of a published annotated list. Personally, I see the most useful – to a conventional old style liberal – ideas that have emerged from CT are class, cultural hegemony, the manufacture of consent, unconscious bias, intersectionality and, on occasion, the post modernist interrogation of identity and norms embraced in the more recent versions of queer theory.

Zeph Smith
Zeph Smith
7 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

I would find exposition of those subjects very interesting, from someone who is not a true believer but a critical thinker, like yourself.
If you ever write in more detail about what you see as the value of those concepts, I hope to run across it.
I have some tendency to dismiss those concepts as either trivial/shallow, or of little value beyond use for rhetorical weaponization. But I can easily admit that I may too hasty in such a judgement, so I’d like to encounter a stronger rational argument favoring the best concepts.
To take an example, intersectionalism. Most of us by now are likely aware of the old “you might have the right quotas of Black employees and of female employees, but you could still be short of quota on Black female employees” example – and it makes some sense to drill down on such “intersections” if one is looking to enforce ever finer grained (defacto) quotas as the tool for social justice. And extending it is easy to imagine – how many disabled Muslim Black lesbians on the Autism spectrum does a company employ? Not everybody is on board for that strategy, but suppose for the moment that “create ever finer resolution intersecting oppressions to compare with each other strategy” is acknowledged.
But other than that example, how does this framing improve society? We’ve all seen how easily it can degenerate into “the oppression olympic” where the more oppressions one can name the higher one’s status or earlier one get to speak (“the progressive stack”), etc. But what are the more helpful aspects?

Zeph Smith
Zeph Smith
7 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

I would find exposition of those subjects very interesting, from someone who is not a true believer but a critical thinker, like yourself.
If you ever write in more detail about what you see as the value of those concepts, I hope to run across it.
I have some tendency to dismiss those concepts as either trivial/shallow, or of little value beyond use for rhetorical weaponization. But I can easily admit that I may too hasty in such a judgement, so I’d like to encounter a stronger rational argument favoring the best concepts.
To take an example, intersectionalism. Most of us by now are likely aware of the old “you might have the right quotas of Black employees and of female employees, but you could still be short of quota on Black female employees” example – and it makes some sense to drill down on such “intersections” if one is looking to enforce ever finer grained (defacto) quotas as the tool for social justice. And extending it is easy to imagine – how many disabled Muslim Black lesbians on the Autism spectrum does a company employ? Not everybody is on board for that strategy, but suppose for the moment that “create ever finer resolution intersecting oppressions to compare with each other strategy” is acknowledged.
But other than that example, how does this framing improve society? We’ve all seen how easily it can degenerate into “the oppression olympic” where the more oppressions one can name the higher one’s status or earlier one get to speak (“the progressive stack”), etc. But what are the more helpful aspects?

Alex Carnegie
Alex Carnegie
8 months ago
Reply to  Zeph Smith

I tried to post a fuller response but the UH software would not accept it. Bottom line: I am not aware of a published annotated list. Personally, I see the most useful – to a conventional old style liberal – ideas that have emerged from CT are class, cultural hegemony, the manufacture of consent, unconscious bias, intersectionality and, on occasion, the post modernist interrogation of identity and norms embraced in the more recent versions of queer theory.

Campbell P
Campbell P
8 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

But unconscious bias, whilst it may be real -dato sed non concesso – albeit unproven, is now being used in a number of institutions, my own included, to indoctrinate certain tenets of belief about history and contemporary society for which there is very scant evidence but a great deal of assertion. And of course there is no proven automatic connection between an unconscious bias (if it actually exists) thought and a person’s consequent behaviour realising that thought. Conscience, however one views or defines it intervenes. Conscious bias is of course a very helpful thing from which we can, unlike it’s spurious cousin, learn to survive and flourish.

Zeph Smith
Zeph Smith
8 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

I would be happy to hear about the “useful concepts” that have been produced by earlier or later version of CT. But I would like to see them discussed in more depth.
“unconscious bias” – do you regard this concept as an innovation specifically from Critical Theory?
“intersectional difficulties of some categories” – a few examples would help (besides the idea that quotas for Black employees and for female employees need to be augmented with a quota of Black female employees, because the first two can be met while failing the third)?
“some of queer theory” – which parts?
I know that I’m extracting elements which you mentioned in passing, but I’m genuinely curious about an expanded and annotated list of positive contributions from Critical Theory which are useful today. Are you aware of any?

Alex Carnegie
Alex Carnegie
8 months ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Yeah. The second para was OTT. Sorry about that. It was also inconsistent. If one is going to give credit to the earlier versions of CT for their insights, one ought to note some of the useful concepts that have emerged from more recent CT e.g. unconscious bias, intersectional difficulties of some categories, some of queer theory, etc. To be honest, it is their tactics not their ideas that upset me.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
8 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

Well I don’t pretend to be an expert on it either, more a semi-informed dabbler and non-enthusiast who was made to read substantial chunks of Foucault, Audre Lorde and several others in grad school. These two I mentioned are not spouters of pure nonsense (in my estimation) but their underlying radical socialist loyalties and ideological advocacy tinges most of their writings to some extent. I would assert that Foucault in particular has had a net pernicious effect, especially for those who have not read enough by and about him to recognize how he was a detached provocateur who cared little about anything but his own amusement and pleasure despite his professed concern for the oppressed and “othered”.
I’ll agree with your general charge of a growing nihilism over time in the Critical Theory world. The utopianism morphed more and more into what Paul Ricoeur called the hermeneutics of suspicion: “a style of literary interpretation in which texts are read with skepticism in order to expose their purported repressed or hidden meanings” (Wikipedia). And what in a literary context Harold Bloom called the School of Resentment.
Not that I prefer violence-ready utopians, but nihilists are another breed of not great.

Last edited 8 months ago by AJ Mac
Alex Carnegie
Alex Carnegie
8 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Thanks for your kind words and an interesting dialogue. As you said in one of your earlier posts, one cannot dismiss these thinkers as being entirely without merit. They may have a “net pernicious effect” but still contains nuggets of insight. In any case, it is far more interesting to read authors one disagrees with than to merely reinforce one’s own prejudices … but then my prejudice in favour of open debate probably just reflects when I was at University. No doubt if I had gone to Cambridge in the last five years then I would be a hard core progressive just like my nephew! (He sincerely believes that no one argues for free speech unless they have a hidden desire to unleash racist rants on the public.)

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
8 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

Thanks to you too. I agree with your open approach to reading and discussion and to the extent I don’t practice that I hope to take another page out of that book, so to speak. It’s a great mistake to trust the summaries and opinions of other readers too much, professors and “experts” even, allowing ourselves to dismiss or brush past great, enduring works–and new, “disruptive” ones–as if they are reducible to a one-paragraph synopsis. No one can read everything, but those with an appetite should eat.
While almost any youngster or new student of something can be led into extremes for awhile, I doubt you’d remain a “hardcore progressive” or extremist of any kind for long.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
8 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

Thanks to you too. I agree with your open approach to reading and discussion and to the extent I don’t practice that I hope to take another page out of that book, so to speak. It’s a great mistake to trust the summaries and opinions of other readers too much, professors and “experts” even, allowing ourselves to dismiss or brush past great, enduring works–and new, “disruptive” ones–as if they are reducible to a one-paragraph synopsis. No one can read everything, but those with an appetite should eat.
While almost any youngster or new student of something can be led into extremes for awhile, I doubt you’d remain a “hardcore progressive” or extremist of any kind for long.

Alex Carnegie
Alex Carnegie
8 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Thanks for your kind words and an interesting dialogue. As you said in one of your earlier posts, one cannot dismiss these thinkers as being entirely without merit. They may have a “net pernicious effect” but still contains nuggets of insight. In any case, it is far more interesting to read authors one disagrees with than to merely reinforce one’s own prejudices … but then my prejudice in favour of open debate probably just reflects when I was at University. No doubt if I had gone to Cambridge in the last five years then I would be a hard core progressive just like my nephew! (He sincerely believes that no one argues for free speech unless they have a hidden desire to unleash racist rants on the public.)

Greg Simay
Greg Simay
8 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

If objective truth is abandoned, then there is no basis for the “obligatory” support for the “marginalized” over the “privileged.” After all, if one ethical system has no more grounding in truth than another, then why not choose the one that is the most self-serving to you? Other than the threat of force, what compelling reason do you have to favor the interests of anyone but you and yours? (Certainly not being shamed by an ethical system deprived of any basis for having moral authority.) And why should you bow to a threat of force rather than resolve to counter it? CRT + Deconstructionism indeed throws out the ethical baby with the hidden agenda bath water, and leaves us with “a war of all against all.”

Andrew F
Andrew F
8 months ago
Reply to  Greg Simay

Exactly.
Far left don’t believe in any meaningful truth.
They just want to impose their, always failed, ideas on the rest of the population.
Your point about using force is very relevant.
The only good far lefty is a dead one.
Idea that far left can be persuaded by arguments is moronic.
The only language they understand is extreme violence a la Franco or Pinochet.

Andrew F
Andrew F
8 months ago
Reply to  Greg Simay

Exactly.
Far left don’t believe in any meaningful truth.
They just want to impose their, always failed, ideas on the rest of the population.
Your point about using force is very relevant.
The only good far lefty is a dead one.
Idea that far left can be persuaded by arguments is moronic.
The only language they understand is extreme violence a la Franco or Pinochet.

Andrew F
Andrew F
8 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

I think people tend to overcomplicate CT.
Nothing useful ever came from Marxism and Leninism and Maoism etc apart from violence, poverty and mass murder.
I think Neo-Marxists are trying to tangle supporters of democracy and real humanity in this useless ahistorical “facts” about slavery 200 years ago etc.
While ignoring millions of deaths caused by their ideology.
Let’s not forget that Nazism and Fascism were response to mass murder of Communism and had origins in the same ideology.

J Bryant
J Bryant
8 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

Another very fine comment. I found your first paragraph particularly helpful.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
8 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

Well I don’t pretend to be an expert on it either, more a semi-informed dabbler and non-enthusiast who was made to read substantial chunks of Foucault, Audre Lorde and several others in grad school. These two I mentioned are not spouters of pure nonsense (in my estimation) but their underlying radical socialist loyalties and ideological advocacy tinges most of their writings to some extent. I would assert that Foucault in particular has had a net pernicious effect, especially for those who have not read enough by and about him to recognize how he was a detached provocateur who cared little about anything but his own amusement and pleasure despite his professed concern for the oppressed and “othered”.
I’ll agree with your general charge of a growing nihilism over time in the Critical Theory world. The utopianism morphed more and more into what Paul Ricoeur called the hermeneutics of suspicion: “a style of literary interpretation in which texts are read with skepticism in order to expose their purported repressed or hidden meanings” (Wikipedia). And what in a literary context Harold Bloom called the School of Resentment.
Not that I prefer violence-ready utopians, but nihilists are another breed of not great.

Last edited 8 months ago by AJ Mac
Greg Simay
Greg Simay
8 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

If objective truth is abandoned, then there is no basis for the “obligatory” support for the “marginalized” over the “privileged.” After all, if one ethical system has no more grounding in truth than another, then why not choose the one that is the most self-serving to you? Other than the threat of force, what compelling reason do you have to favor the interests of anyone but you and yours? (Certainly not being shamed by an ethical system deprived of any basis for having moral authority.) And why should you bow to a threat of force rather than resolve to counter it? CRT + Deconstructionism indeed throws out the ethical baby with the hidden agenda bath water, and leaves us with “a war of all against all.”

Andrew F
Andrew F
8 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

I think people tend to overcomplicate CT.
Nothing useful ever came from Marxism and Leninism and Maoism etc apart from violence, poverty and mass murder.
I think Neo-Marxists are trying to tangle supporters of democracy and real humanity in this useless ahistorical “facts” about slavery 200 years ago etc.
While ignoring millions of deaths caused by their ideology.
Let’s not forget that Nazism and Fascism were response to mass murder of Communism and had origins in the same ideology.

Alex Carnegie
Alex Carnegie
8 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

I am no expert on Critical Theory but my impression is that the latest iterations are far more nihilistic than the original version developed in the 1930s by the Frankfurt school. The latter was an attempt to update and strengthen Marxism by suggesting that the ruling class kept control less by physical oppression and ownership of the means of production, as Marx had suggested, than by cultural hegemony i.e. by convincing the working class that society was being run in their interests as well as those of the rich. Their solution was to dissect and discredit the dominant ideology by using “critical theory” thus laying the ground work for revolution, emancipation and utopia. In the meantime it led to some interesting analyses such as the ways in which western society “manufactures consent”. One did not need to agree with their political project to find their insights intriguing. 

After the linguistic turn in the 1970s, however, a new generation of critical theorists – many ex 1960s student radicals – absorbed the post modernist strictures of Michel Foucault etc and an infusion of recruits from literary criticism. The result IMO was that critical theory lost it moorings. What was left were the beliefs that virtually nothing was objectively true, that all that mattered was power relations, that it was obligatory to support the “marginalised” against the “privileged” – but these were no longer defined in economic terms but in an ever increasing number of ways as specified in intersectionality – that support for the marginalised need not be constrained by any concern for fairness, truth, etc and a certain aptitude for word games. This is the formula which has led not to emancipation and inclusion as hoped but the attempted crushing of dissent by new, implausible and unstable orthodoxies and the growing fragmentation of society into mutually antagonistic groups. It is not even if there is any clarity about the desired end state but only a commitment to permanent struggle pursued by unscrupulous means against a shifting cast of villains (with the current clash between radical feminists and trans activists being only a foretaste of the possibilities). Fortunately, I am more optimistic than most UnHerd readers about their prospects since – as you may have gathered – I am not a big fan of most of the current versions of Critical Theory.

I am sure others can provide a more sophisticated explanation.

 

 

Last edited 8 months ago by Alex Carnegie
michael stanwick
michael stanwick
8 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

What is the reference for “gender” in this context?

Alex Carnegie
Alex Carnegie
8 months ago

I was differentiating between sex – a matter of biology – and gender – the sense of identity and associated behaviours which normally reflects cultural norms but recently has become more varied. Obviously both words are used differently by different people so I apologise if was being confusing.

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
8 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

No problem. I was wondering whether “gender” is an “identity without an essence”(to steal from QT). In other words, it doesn’t have a reference in material reality and so is a reified abstraction or immeasurable claim.

michael stanwick
michael stanwick
8 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

No problem. I was wondering whether “gender” is an “identity without an essence”(to steal from QT). In other words, it doesn’t have a reference in material reality and so is a reified abstraction or immeasurable claim.

Alex Carnegie
Alex Carnegie
8 months ago

I was differentiating between sex – a matter of biology – and gender – the sense of identity and associated behaviours which normally reflects cultural norms but recently has become more varied. Obviously both words are used differently by different people so I apologise if was being confusing.

Ray Andrews
Ray Andrews
8 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

“There are times when it is illuminating to see all knowledge as “social constructs” but most of the time it is more useful for e.g. aircraft designers …”
There is no contradiction. ‘But’ is not the appropriate conjunction. Science is one of whitey’s social constructs but that does not make it any less useful. The Chinese are as smart, but they did not develop science, we did and the difference is in our social environments. Awareness of the social origins of science only makes it stronger.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
8 months ago
Reply to  Ray Andrews

You group associate yourself with the “social construction” of Science according to your skin color. Wow. How white were/are the Greeks? What about the luminaries of the Islamic World during the medieval period in Europe?
Yours is not a correct use of the admittedly annoying term “social construct”. Yes, science emerged in its modern, rationalist incarnation primarily within a northern European social context, flourishing from the 17th century onward, but with many antecedents that include the European Ancients (Greece and Rome) and even the early technological advancements of the Egyptians and Mesopotamians.
By your reckoning I guess written language itself belongs to the people of the Fertile Crescent? And tool use is the special province of Africa?
You didn’t develop science and neither did we (yeah, I’m a white guy), except in the We of humanity itself. But not by your facile group-self-association with some of the smartest white folks who have ever lived. Even most of their own contemporaries or close family members couldn’t have held a candle to the intellects of Galileo and Newton. And neither can most present-day people, whether or not they bear some superficial resemblance to surviving portraits of past greats.

Last edited 8 months ago by AJ Mac
Carl Valentine
Carl Valentine
8 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Some decent points, however your aggressive (defensive) tone, spoils the read a little… (these are just opinions)

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
8 months ago
Reply to  Carl Valentine

I’m sure that’s true for many and I’ll try to be nicer when I grow up. I admit that “We developed science” grated on me and sparked some aggressive pushback.

Zeph Smith
Zeph Smith
8 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

I suspect that the “we developed science”, written in 2023 in the Western world, may be somewhat reactive to the political environment.
The current political strategy of dividing people into conflicting tribes (er, intersectional identities) seems to have morphed into trying to isolate a source of all evil – in particular able-bodied neurotypical mentally healthy cisgendered heterosexual white males. (With haloes of not-quite-as-evil supersets like all white people, or all heterosexuals, etc).
However, this approach assumes that it can foster a sense of pride and entitlement and unity and strength in all of the “oppressed” tribes, while the designated “oppressor/privileged” tribes will be neutralized with guilt, leading to a win.
Instead, I fear that it’s going to push a lot of people into reactivity. Self interest among a majority group can only be suppressed to some degree for some period, by guilt. Once you push people with “you are not my tribe, I have no empathy for you, you are supposed to have empathy for me and agree with whatever I ask, but I need not compromise” etc – there’s going to be some nasty reactions which none of us want to invoke.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
8 months ago
Reply to  Zeph Smith

I agree with nearly all of that. No likely human being falls neatly on one side of a victim/oppressor divide for his or her whole life. That would run contrary to all known history and inward experience.
“Corrective injustice” is still injustice. As a matter of principle, I reject both vilification and valorization by association (a bit harder to practice this principle than announce it).
But I don’t think asking for one-sided understanding on one’s own behalf earns the name empathy, though perhaps it’s applied that way at times these days. A unidirectional empathy? That’s more like pity, or self-pity.
Compassion and understanding are two-way streets. At least I’ve never seen this street sign in my travels: Empathy Blvd.–One Way.
Tribalism, distrust, and antagonism are mutual too. We can probably agree that a lot of people have already been pushed, or felt pushed, into reactivity. The notion that an Appalachian 18-year-old whose parents were high-school dropout drug addicts (whatever else they were, people tend to be more than such labels) has an active “white-privilege card” is absurd. A kid from a wealthy, middle-class black family, with equivalent or even lesser credentials, should go to Harvard ahead of that kid? (Why am I using rhetorical formulations when I expect you’d agree?!).
I don’t think the idea that the Left or Right can or should ever win in some conclusive culture war makes any real sense. No side holds all the good marbles, and compromise, like empathy, falls apart when it is not a reciprocal operation.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
8 months ago
Reply to  Zeph Smith

I agree with nearly all of that. No likely human being falls neatly on one side of a victim/oppressor divide for his or her whole life. That would run contrary to all known history and inward experience.
“Corrective injustice” is still injustice. As a matter of principle, I reject both vilification and valorization by association (a bit harder to practice this principle than announce it).
But I don’t think asking for one-sided understanding on one’s own behalf earns the name empathy, though perhaps it’s applied that way at times these days. A unidirectional empathy? That’s more like pity, or self-pity.
Compassion and understanding are two-way streets. At least I’ve never seen this street sign in my travels: Empathy Blvd.–One Way.
Tribalism, distrust, and antagonism are mutual too. We can probably agree that a lot of people have already been pushed, or felt pushed, into reactivity. The notion that an Appalachian 18-year-old whose parents were high-school dropout drug addicts (whatever else they were, people tend to be more than such labels) has an active “white-privilege card” is absurd. A kid from a wealthy, middle-class black family, with equivalent or even lesser credentials, should go to Harvard ahead of that kid? (Why am I using rhetorical formulations when I expect you’d agree?!).
I don’t think the idea that the Left or Right can or should ever win in some conclusive culture war makes any real sense. No side holds all the good marbles, and compromise, like empathy, falls apart when it is not a reciprocal operation.

Zeph Smith
Zeph Smith
8 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

I suspect that the “we developed science”, written in 2023 in the Western world, may be somewhat reactive to the political environment.
The current political strategy of dividing people into conflicting tribes (er, intersectional identities) seems to have morphed into trying to isolate a source of all evil – in particular able-bodied neurotypical mentally healthy cisgendered heterosexual white males. (With haloes of not-quite-as-evil supersets like all white people, or all heterosexuals, etc).
However, this approach assumes that it can foster a sense of pride and entitlement and unity and strength in all of the “oppressed” tribes, while the designated “oppressor/privileged” tribes will be neutralized with guilt, leading to a win.
Instead, I fear that it’s going to push a lot of people into reactivity. Self interest among a majority group can only be suppressed to some degree for some period, by guilt. Once you push people with “you are not my tribe, I have no empathy for you, you are supposed to have empathy for me and agree with whatever I ask, but I need not compromise” etc – there’s going to be some nasty reactions which none of us want to invoke.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
8 months ago
Reply to  Carl Valentine

I’m sure that’s true for many and I’ll try to be nicer when I grow up. I admit that “We developed science” grated on me and sparked some aggressive pushback.

Carl Valentine
Carl Valentine
8 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Some decent points, however your aggressive (defensive) tone, spoils the read a little… (these are just opinions)

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
8 months ago
Reply to  Ray Andrews

You group associate yourself with the “social construction” of Science according to your skin color. Wow. How white were/are the Greeks? What about the luminaries of the Islamic World during the medieval period in Europe?
Yours is not a correct use of the admittedly annoying term “social construct”. Yes, science emerged in its modern, rationalist incarnation primarily within a northern European social context, flourishing from the 17th century onward, but with many antecedents that include the European Ancients (Greece and Rome) and even the early technological advancements of the Egyptians and Mesopotamians.
By your reckoning I guess written language itself belongs to the people of the Fertile Crescent? And tool use is the special province of Africa?
You didn’t develop science and neither did we (yeah, I’m a white guy), except in the We of humanity itself. But not by your facile group-self-association with some of the smartest white folks who have ever lived. Even most of their own contemporaries or close family members couldn’t have held a candle to the intellects of Galileo and Newton. And neither can most present-day people, whether or not they bear some superficial resemblance to surviving portraits of past greats.

Last edited 8 months ago by AJ Mac
David Mottershead
David Mottershead
8 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

Thankfully I came across no Marxist theory during the course of my English literature degree. I just read great books. Fantastic.

Middle March
Middle March
8 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

Excellent

R Kays
R Kays
8 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

“… form a privileged class with an interest in furthering its own influence and grabbing more than its share of wealth and privilege.”

The same disease infects the contemporary CRT cadre. Greed; self-interest; privilege.

To quote a wise man who “got it:” There is nothing new under the sun.

Andrew F
Andrew F
8 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

I am surprised that you are so gentle with the author theories.
He mixes Neo-Marxists critical theory with criticising wider science as having the same failures.
But proper science like physics and engineering is based on theory confirmed by experiments.
Otherwise GPS would not work.
It is not to deny that some branches of “science” like climate theories were captured by activists and no one is allowed to express different opinions without being cancelled.
But then what fo you expect from Neo-Marxists?

Rasmus Fogh
Rasmus Fogh
8 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

Exactly!

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
8 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

Excellent comment!

Lord Plasma
Lord Plasma
8 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

Very well put

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
8 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

Excellent post. Much better than I could say.

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
8 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

Good post.
I dislike the use of “social construct” and think that “emergent behaviour” would be a better term because the former implies a nearly entirely arbitrary event but the latter would incorporate a lot more, including biological and environmental inputs.

Kurt Roeloffs
Kurt Roeloffs
8 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

Alex,
John doesn’t make the mistake you claim he made. The core realization of science as a social process is not that the theories are not “true” but that they are true within the limits of the purposes. behind the “truth” that they reveal. Engineers can rely on their science because its truth is functioning within its limits.
John is also justified in pointing to the narrow base of facts on which science is built. Consider dark matter and dark energy which represent as much as 95% of physical reality. We no nothing about any of it. Both are gigantic fudges to resolve mystery. Einstein admitted just that with his cosmological constant. Biologists also readily admit that only a tiny fraction of species have. been identified. Vast amounts of aquatic life is uncatalogued as is nearly all of microbial life. What is wrong with being humble enough to say that we understand a small fraction of reality?
I do agree with you that recursively turning critical theory is a rather amusing endeavour–if only because most critical theorists have long ago lost their sense of humour about their commitments and thereby fail to see their own complicity with power.

Michael McElwee
Michael McElwee
8 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

“If we wish to grasp the heart of science, we must come to grips with the decisive question; should science continue to exist for us, or should we drive it to a swift end.” When he asked this question, what did Heidegger mean by the “heart of science?” Is the answer “nothing?”

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
8 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

Allow me to join the chorus of your admirer’s today. Outstanding comment.
Having been exposed to it in a somewhat compulsory way as a student, I’d say there is a non-trivial subset of critical theory that undertakes searching yet fair-minded critiques of society, power, and class. But it too often deconstructs or destroys only to leave nothing but a pile of rubble. Then, in their lenses, the blinkered utopianism of the insistent Marxist is all that remains to rebuild with. Many people are not smart enough (perhaps including me, though I shudder to consider it), or (often in my own case, I must admit) patient and careful enough readers to pull the baby from the ideological-reductionist bathwater.
And does the valuable part of Critical Theory find no adequate expression elsewhere, one without a sponsoring fixed ideology and with at least a less predetermined outcome? In other words: If we ever did, why do we still need it?
While I don’t expect to find much opposition to my rhetorical nudge, I wonder if anyone here has the wherewithal and nerve to defend the essentialness of Critical Theory as such–for about the least favorably disposed readership one could imagine!

Last edited 8 months ago by AJ Mac
michael stanwick
michael stanwick
8 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

What is the reference for “gender” in this context?

Ray Andrews
Ray Andrews
8 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

“There are times when it is illuminating to see all knowledge as “social constructs” but most of the time it is more useful for e.g. aircraft designers …”
There is no contradiction. ‘But’ is not the appropriate conjunction. Science is one of whitey’s social constructs but that does not make it any less useful. The Chinese are as smart, but they did not develop science, we did and the difference is in our social environments. Awareness of the social origins of science only makes it stronger.

David Mottershead
David Mottershead
8 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

Thankfully I came across no Marxist theory during the course of my English literature degree. I just read great books. Fantastic.

Middle March
Middle March
8 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

Excellent

R Kays
R Kays
8 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

“… form a privileged class with an interest in furthering its own influence and grabbing more than its share of wealth and privilege.”

The same disease infects the contemporary CRT cadre. Greed; self-interest; privilege.

To quote a wise man who “got it:” There is nothing new under the sun.

Andrew F
Andrew F
8 months ago
Reply to  Alex Carnegie

I am surprised that you are so gentle with the author theories.
He mixes Neo-Marxists critical theory with criticising wider science as having the same failures.
But proper science like physics and engineering is based on theory confirmed by experiments.
Otherwise GPS would not work.
It is not to deny that some branches of “science” like climate theories were captured by activists and no one is allowed to express different opinions without being cancelled.
But then what fo you expect from Neo-Marxists?

Alex Carnegie
Alex Carnegie
8 months ago

Very well written but I fear it misses an important point; such sophisticated thinking tends to end up throwing out the baby with the bath water.

There are times when it is illuminating to see all knowledge as “social constructs” but most of the time it is more useful for e.g. aircraft designers to have a firm grip on science and engineering. More broadly, “Enlightenment values” should be critiqued but the pursuit of “objective truth” through evidence and reason – however imperfect – has led to two and a half centuries of increasing understanding, prosperity and freedom. For most purposes we should continue to rely on them.

I am fully aware of the defects and limitations of modern science but it is wrong to dismiss it as a “vast social process built atop a relatively narrow foundation of natural facts” and an exaggeration to say that we could ”quite easily end up with a completely different model of the world” (at least for the hard sciences; social sciences are a different story).

A parallel is that, intellectually, Einstein’s theories have superseded Newtonian mechanics. For astronomers it may be important to know that gravity can bend light and that matter and energy are interchangeable but for most of us we can still rely on the “fact” that if one drops an apple it will fall in a straight line downwards and aircraft designers can rely on their textbooks.

In a similar fashion, Critical Theory is right to see expectations of how e.g. women behave in different societies as partly a social construct and to argue that it is possible to “perform” gender in new and different ways but, for most of us in most situations, it is sufficient to see 99% of people as belonging to one of two sexes. To go one step further and deny the existence of sex and see only socially constructed gender roles is delusional.

For me, the most amusing part of the essay was the suggestion that one should turn the techniques of Critical Theory on its proponents and see them as privileged oppressors propagating plausible but self serving BS in the pursuit of power.

Last edited 8 months ago by Alex Carnegie
Arthur G
Arthur G
8 months ago

Any theory that presupposes that man is marching towards a utopia on earth is fatally flawed before it formulates its first conclusion.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
8 months ago
Reply to  Arthur G

Mankind did march towards an utopia on Earth. Thanks to normal, everyday, flawed capitalism, and the massive progress in income levels, living standards, medical technology, standards of freedom, even a low income family today is better off than royal families in 19th century Europe.

All that these morons are doing is to reverse that progress and break the scientific and technological bodies that it possible.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
8 months ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

So we’ve been marching to utopia for generations and only the those who felt the invisible hand of the almighty Free Market realized it?
I can see how the mono-metric of free market utopianism might be superior to the utopian mono-metric of victorious class struggle, but it is still a reductive, single lens. Even right-libertarians should recognize that not everything is a commodity.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
8 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

To borrow Churchill’s phrase, capitalism is the worst economic system invented by man, except for all the others that have been tried.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
8 months ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

Yeah, that saying is a whole lot better in the original, when democracy is called the best of the worst, not capitalism.

Andrew F
Andrew F
8 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Do you care to provide example of democratic system which is not capitalist one?

Zeph Smith
Zeph Smith
8 months ago
Reply to  Andrew F

I assume you are distinguishing between socialism (including Communism), and social welfare capitalism (currently the dominant economic model of the Western world). So an answer like “Denmark” is not going to fly.
That leaves pretty slim pickings, but I’d love to hear of a non-capitalist democracy if anybody can find one.

Zeph Smith
Zeph Smith
8 months ago
Reply to  Andrew F

I assume you are distinguishing between socialism (including Communism), and social welfare capitalism (currently the dominant economic model of the Western world). So an answer like “Denmark” is not going to fly.
That leaves pretty slim pickings, but I’d love to hear of a non-capitalist democracy if anybody can find one.

Andrew F
Andrew F
8 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

Do you care to provide example of democratic system which is not capitalist one?

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
8 months ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

Yeah, that saying is a whole lot better in the original, when democracy is called the best of the worst, not capitalism.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
8 months ago
Reply to  AJ Mac

To borrow Churchill’s phrase, capitalism is the worst economic system invented by man, except for all the others that have been tried.

Arthur G
Arthur G
8 months ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

And yet humans in the most advanced societies are less and less happy. They have rates of mental illness that are off the charts. They engage in myriad denials of reality. The atomization caused by late capitalism (as opposed to the free-market) has played a major role in this.
Humans are not fulfilled by having more stuff. Once you have sufficient food, clothing, and shelter, more material goods do not buy happiness. If your income increases, your happiness improves briefly, until you adjust to the new level, then you’re just as miserable as before.
People value relationships, achievement, and relative status. The modern man on the dole may have more material confort than a Medieval noble, but the Medieval noble felt a lot better about himself because he had status, power, and achievement.
Unfortunately status is at best a zero sum game, and with the ever increasing globalization, may actually be a decreasing sum game.

Last edited 8 months ago by Arthur G
Samir Iker
Samir Iker
8 months ago
Reply to  Arthur G

“Once you have sufficient food, clothing, and shelter”
It’s thanks to modern capitalism that these things are taken for granted.

Arthur G
Arthur G
8 months ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

Again, you’re confusing the free market with modern capitalism. The free market does produce great wealth. Modern capitalism is about rent seeking and syphoning off that wealth, through Gov’t regulatory capture, anti-competitive practices, and outright corruption.
Google and Facebook produce nothing, yet they extract immense wealth. If they disappeared tomorrow, world GDP wouldn’t fall by $1. We’d be just fine using the 2nd best search engine, and email our stupid photos to our friends and relatives.

Carl Valentine
Carl Valentine
8 months ago
Reply to  Arthur G

Your’e a man after my own heart, couldn’t agree more.
What was wrong with the ‘Yellow pages’? Why do so few people realise how much ‘social media’ sucks? Can’t believe JFK and Martin Luther were assasinated yet Zuckerburg and his ilk still ‘walk amongst us’ I guess their PR is better. 🙁

Andrew F
Andrew F
8 months ago
Reply to  Arthur G

Pathetic nonsense.
You can use 2nd best or even worse search engine now.
Email was an invention as well.
Just jump on your horse and ride to a pub to have half of mild.

Carl Valentine
Carl Valentine
8 months ago
Reply to  Arthur G

Your’e a man after my own heart, couldn’t agree more.
What was wrong with the ‘Yellow pages’? Why do so few people realise how much ‘social media’ sucks? Can’t believe JFK and Martin Luther were assasinated yet Zuckerburg and his ilk still ‘walk amongst us’ I guess their PR is better. 🙁

Andrew F
Andrew F
8 months ago
Reply to  Arthur G

Pathetic nonsense.
You can use 2nd best or even worse search engine now.
Email was an invention as well.
Just jump on your horse and ride to a pub to have half of mild.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

Not by a large segment of the population.

Andrew F
Andrew F
8 months ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

But the very idea that “sufficient” whatever has any meaning is nonsense.
I would rather drink chateau Latour than 10 quid plonk, eat in Michelin star restaurants twice a week, smoke Cohibas every day and ski in Courcheval and Aspen every year.
So, clearly, sufficient is only relevant in context of your own expectations.
That why Communism is nonsense and any attempt to implement it always fails.
Cheers…

Arthur G
Arthur G
8 months ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

Again, you’re confusing the free market with modern capitalism. The free market does produce great wealth. Modern capitalism is about rent seeking and syphoning off that wealth, through Gov’t regulatory capture, anti-competitive practices, and outright corruption.
Google and Facebook produce nothing, yet they extract immense wealth. If they disappeared tomorrow, world GDP wouldn’t fall by $1. We’d be just fine using the 2nd best search engine, and email our stupid photos to our friends and relatives.

Clare Knight
Clare Knight
8 months ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

Not by a large segment of the population.

Andrew F
Andrew F
8 months ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

But the very idea that “sufficient” whatever has any meaning is nonsense.
I would rather drink chateau Latour than 10 quid plonk, eat in Michelin star restaurants twice a week, smoke Cohibas every day and ski in Courcheval and Aspen every year.
So, clearly, sufficient is only relevant in context of your own expectations.
That why Communism is nonsense and any attempt to implement it always fails.
Cheers…

philip kern
philip kern
8 months ago
Reply to  Arthur G

Reminds me of John Calhoun’s Universe 25 experiment. Put mice in “utopia” and the population grows for a while, but ultimately kills itself off (by becoming aggressive, abandoning its children, losing interest in mating, and engaging in homoeroticism). I think it’s been replicated.

Andrew F
Andrew F
8 months ago
Reply to  Arthur G

Yes, problem is that too many idiots are persuaded that there are exceptional in modern society.
It probably started with abolition of 11 plus and grammar schools.
Then process was accelerated by John “failed bus conductor” Major creating another 100 pseudo universities.
Since you require IQ of at least 110 to 115 to pursue serious graduate course, it is statistically obvious that only about 20 to 25% of the population can do it.
So we end up with useless graduates in useless subjects expecting to be awarded with careers for their efforts.
Hence proliferation of jobs in Human Remains (HR) and other box ticking functions.
What is the solution?
That is when difficulty starts.
No parents wants to admit that their little darlings are a bit thick.
So no selection before university will be popular.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
8 months ago
Reply to  Arthur G

“Once you have sufficient food, clothing, and shelter”
It’s thanks to modern capitalism that these things are taken for granted.

philip kern
philip kern
8 months ago
Reply to  Arthur G

Reminds me of John Calhoun’s Universe 25 experiment. Put mice in “utopia” and the population grows for a while, but ultimately kills itself off (by becoming aggressive, abandoning its children, losing interest in mating, and engaging in homoeroticism). I think it’s been replicated.

Andrew F
Andrew F
8 months ago
Reply to  Arthur G

Yes, problem is that too many idiots are persuaded that there are exceptional in modern society.
It probably started with abolition of 11 plus and grammar schools.
Then process was accelerated by John “failed bus conductor” Major creating another 100 pseudo universities.
Since you require IQ of at least 110 to 115 to pursue serious graduate course, it is statistically obvious that only about 20 to 25% of the population can do it.
So we end up with useless graduates in useless subjects expecting to be awarded with careers for their efforts.
Hence proliferation of jobs in Human Remains (HR) and other box ticking functions.
What is the solution?
That is when difficulty starts.
No parents wants to admit that their little darlings are a bit thick.
So no selection before university will be popular.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
8 months ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

I respectfully disagree. Capitalism wasn’t a march towards utopia. It was just a process of individuals risking their capital in the hope of earning a return on their investment, with the mostly but not entirely felicitous result of a marked improvement in material well-being.

Campbell P
Campbell P
8 months ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

Why has noone mentioned ‘ human nature’, that which can both inspire and destroy regardless of which economic system is used? Utopia is a myth because of human nature; it’s that simple.

Andrew F
Andrew F
8 months ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

You must be joking?
Yes, progress in science and technology was incredible in the last 200 years.
Buy claiming that low income family now is better of than Royal families of 19th century is ridiculous.

Last edited 8 months ago by Andrew F
AJ Mac
AJ Mac
8 months ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

So we’ve been marching to utopia for generations and only the those who felt the invisible hand of the almighty Free Market realized it?
I can see how the mono-metric of free market utopianism might be superior to the utopian mono-metric of victorious class struggle, but it is still a reductive, single lens. Even right-libertarians should recognize that not everything is a commodity.

Arthur G
Arthur G
8 months ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

And yet humans in the most advanced societies are less and less happy. They have rates of mental illness that are off the charts. They engage in myriad denials of reality. The atomization caused by late capitalism (as opposed to the free-market) has played a major role in this.
Humans are not fulfilled by having more stuff. Once you have sufficient food, clothing, and shelter, more material goods do not buy happiness. If your income increases, your happiness improves briefly, until you adjust to the new level, then you’re just as miserable as before.
People value relationships, achievement, and relative status. The modern man on the dole may have more material confort than a Medieval noble, but the Medieval noble felt a lot better about himself because he had status, power, and achievement.
Unfortunately status is at best a zero sum game, and with the ever increasing globalization, may actually be a decreasing sum game.

Last edited 8 months ago by Arthur G
Richard Craven
Richard Craven
8 months ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

I respectfully disagree. Capitalism wasn’t a march towards utopia. It was just a process of individuals risking their capital in the hope of earning a return on their investment, with the mostly but not entirely felicitous result of a marked improvement in material well-being.

Campbell P
Campbell P
8 months ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

Why has noone mentioned ‘ human nature’, that which can both inspire and destroy regardless of which economic system is used? Utopia is a myth because of human nature; it’s that simple.

Andrew F
Andrew F
8 months ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

You must be joking?
Yes, progress in science and technology was incredible in the last 200 years.
Buy claiming that low income family now is better of than Royal families of 19th century is ridiculous.

Last edited 8 months ago by Andrew F
Samir Iker
Samir Iker
8 months ago
Reply to  Arthur G

Mankind did march towards an utopia on Earth. Thanks to normal, everyday, flawed capitalism, and the massive progress in income levels, living standards, medical technology, standards of freedom, even a low income family today is better off than royal families in 19th century Europe.

All that these morons are doing is to reverse that progress and break the scientific and technological bodies that it possible.

Arthur G
Arthur G
8 months ago

Any theory that presupposes that man is marching towards a utopia on earth is fatally flawed before it formulates its first conclusion.

Tom D.
Tom D.
8 months ago

Critical race theory is founded on narcissism, bitterness, and resentment. The Enlightenment principles are those of individualism, and quite capable of interrogating, challenging, and indeed being critical of the racism and bigotry of the American Democrats and European Left.

Last edited 8 months ago by Tom D.
Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
8 months ago
Reply to  Tom D.

Unfortunately, the American and European right are also racist and bigoted.

Charlie Dibsdale
Charlie Dibsdale
8 months ago
Reply to  Judy Johnson

Mmm, using that silly card to try and shut right-leaning people up. I think extremism on the right or left is reprehensible.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
8 months ago

That’s because extremism on the left IS extremism on the right.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
8 months ago

That’s because extremism on the left IS extremism on the right.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
8 months ago
Reply to  Judy Johnson

Unfortunately, the American and European left are also racist and bigoted.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
8 months ago
Reply to  Judy Johnson

The Conservative Party has had a leader of jewish descent in the 19th century, three women as leaders and has presently a Hindu educated at the oldest school in the World, Winchester College. The Conservative Party has also had ministers of Pakistani Muslim, Hindu and African heritage. As a Jewish man said of Britain ” It is one country where I can vote Conservative and not worry about the sound of jackboots “.
There is a long tradition of Conservative members fighting in elite units where if captured they would have bee executed by Nazis – Airey Neave MP, Lords Jellicoe and Lovat, Fitzroy Maclean,Billy Mclean, etc . Guy Gibson VC was selected to be a Conservative MP but died in combat.
What did J P Sartre do in WW2?

Andrew F
Andrew F
8 months ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

Supported Communism and pedophilia.

Andrew F
Andrew F
8 months ago
Reply to  Charles Hedges

Supported Communism and pedophilia.

Andrew F
Andrew F
8 months ago
Reply to  Judy Johnson

That supposed right racism is what really?
Not wanting their countries flooded with low IQ savages?
Who don’t want to integrate and contribute very little to society apart from crime, terrorism and huge benefit burden.

Charlie Dibsdale
Charlie Dibsdale
8 months ago
Reply to  Judy Johnson

Mmm, using that silly card to try and shut right-leaning people up. I think extremism on the right or left is reprehensible.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
8 months ago
Reply to  Judy Johnson

Unfortunately, the American and European left are also racist and bigoted.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
8 months ago
Reply to  Judy Johnson

The Conservative Party has had a leader of jewish descent in the 19th century, three women as leaders and has presently a Hindu educated at the oldest school in the World, Winchester College. The Conservative Party has also had ministers of Pakistani Muslim, Hindu and African heritage. As a Jewish man said of Britain ” It is one country where I can vote Conservative and not worry about the sound of jackboots “.
There is a long tradition of Conservative members fighting in elite units where if captured they would have bee executed by Nazis – Airey Neave MP, Lords Jellicoe and Lovat, Fitzroy Maclean,Billy Mclean, etc . Guy Gibson VC was selected to be a Conservative MP but died in combat.
What did J P Sartre do in WW2?

Andrew F
Andrew F
8 months ago
Reply to  Judy Johnson

That supposed right racism is what really?
Not wanting their countries flooded with low IQ savages?
Who don’t want to integrate and contribute very little to society apart from crime, terrorism and huge benefit burden.

Judy Johnson
Judy Johnson
8 months ago
Reply to  Tom D.

Unfortunately, the American and European right are also racist and bigoted.

Tom D.
Tom D.
8 months ago

Critical race theory is founded on narcissism, bitterness, and resentment. The Enlightenment principles are those of individualism, and quite capable of interrogating, challenging, and indeed being critical of the racism and bigotry of the American Democrats and European Left.

Last edited 8 months ago by Tom D.
Jeff Butcher
Jeff Butcher
8 months ago

Anaesthetic dentistry, water that doesn’t kill you, a world without smallpox, machines that fly, vastly reduced female mortality in childbed, vastly reduced infant mortality, increased longevity, the ability to communicate in real time with people on the other side of the planet – the list goes on.
Any critique of science needs first to address its profound success in dealing with some very ancient and challenging human problems before it declares it to be just another form of knowledge, on the same level as say blood letting or astrology.
Isn’t it funny that all the most successful, wealthy and healthy nations are those that have pursued enlightenment values and ways of thinking?
And isn’t it funny that these very same countries are the ones the vast majority of the world’s population want to reside in?
The success of science, contrary to what CT and the author say, is that it works in spite of the social and cultural environment it is situated in, not because of it.

Ray Andrews
Ray Andrews
8 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Butcher

You score an own-goal there. As you point out, science is the child of Western/White civilization. It is that form of knowledge particular to whitey and notwithstanding it’s successes we see that as Whiteness is cancelled, science is becoming corrupt. Of course there is always that theoretically pure idealized science, OTOH there is ‘science’ as we have it now — increasingly the handmaiden of wokeness.

Jeff Butcher
Jeff Butcher
8 months ago
Reply to  Ray Andrews

Sorry I don’t understand what you’re saying. What does ‘whiteness is cancelled’ mean?

Andrew F
Andrew F
8 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Butcher

I am not sure why Ray was downvoted.
The way I read it, with attempts to decolonise science, we get pseudo science, where cultures which created little of value to modern society are given equal or superior standing to Western civilisation.

Andrew F
Andrew F
8 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Butcher

I am not sure why Ray was downvoted.
The way I read it, with attempts to decolonise science, we get pseudo science, where cultures which created little of value to modern society are given equal or superior standing to Western civilisation.

Jeff Butcher
Jeff Butcher
8 months ago
Reply to  Ray Andrews

Sorry I don’t understand what you’re saying. What does ‘whiteness is cancelled’ mean?

Ray Andrews
Ray Andrews
8 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Butcher

You score an own-goal there. As you point out, science is the child of Western/White civilization. It is that form of knowledge particular to whitey and notwithstanding it’s successes we see that as Whiteness is cancelled, science is becoming corrupt. Of course there is always that theoretically pure idealized science, OTOH there is ‘science’ as we have it now — increasingly the handmaiden of wokeness.

Jeff Butcher
Jeff Butcher
8 months ago

Anaesthetic dentistry, water that doesn’t kill you, a world without smallpox, machines that fly, vastly reduced female mortality in childbed, vastly reduced infant mortality, increased longevity, the ability to communicate in real time with people on the other side of the planet – the list goes on.
Any critique of science needs first to address its profound success in dealing with some very ancient and challenging human problems before it declares it to be just another form of knowledge, on the same level as say blood letting or astrology.
Isn’t it funny that all the most successful, wealthy and healthy nations are those that have pursued enlightenment values and ways of thinking?
And isn’t it funny that these very same countries are the ones the vast majority of the world’s population want to reside in?
The success of science, contrary to what CT and the author say, is that it works in spite of the social and cultural environment it is situated in, not because of it.

David Morley
David Morley
8 months ago

This is what makes critical theory useful. Treat a belief as though it’s timeless and context-free and all you can do is accept or reject it; recognise that every belief has a history and a cultural context and you can understand it instead.

Which leads us to a central problem of critical theory – that the critique is one sided, especially in its modern forms. Opponents are pathologised, by way of explanation, while those you agree with are treated naively. It’s a taking of sides not a balanced critique.

Critical Theory can be useful when it is turned against its proponents – when we start to ask why the young bourgeoisie has adopted woke ideology, for example, and what role that ideology plays – rather than treating them as Latter Day Saints sacrificing their own self interest for the good of the downtrodden.

CF Hankinson
CF Hankinson
8 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

And often those using the tools of Critical Theory are misunderstood or cancelled. Powerful institutions are signed up to unbalanced uncritical theories in the name of inclusion which sounds so benign but are, as Marcuse would say, false consciousness. It was from this that Woke was born and now is eating itself.

Ray Andrews
Ray Andrews
8 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

Is that not exactly what the author is saying? I don’t think he’s wanting to cancel Newton and Kepler and Einstein, he’s wanting to cancel Robin DiAngelo. He says the CT gurus should examine themselves.

David Morley
David Morley
8 months ago
Reply to  Ray Andrews

Yes – for about one sentence. Then he veers off into Latour and the sociological critique of science. And just when his article looked like it might become interesting. Perhaps he just didn’t have enough examples to support his own thesis, so he borrowed from Latour et al.

David Morley
David Morley
8 months ago
Reply to  Ray Andrews

Yes – for about one sentence. Then he veers off into Latour and the sociological critique of science. And just when his article looked like it might become interesting. Perhaps he just didn’t have enough examples to support his own thesis, so he borrowed from Latour et al.

CF Hankinson
CF Hankinson
8 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

And often those using the tools of Critical Theory are misunderstood or cancelled. Powerful institutions are signed up to unbalanced uncritical theories in the name of inclusion which sounds so benign but are, as Marcuse would say, false consciousness. It was from this that Woke was born and now is eating itself.

Ray Andrews
Ray Andrews
8 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

Is that not exactly what the author is saying? I don’t think he’s wanting to cancel Newton and Kepler and Einstein, he’s wanting to cancel Robin DiAngelo. He says the CT gurus should examine themselves.

David Morley
David Morley
8 months ago

This is what makes critical theory useful. Treat a belief as though it’s timeless and context-free and all you can do is accept or reject it; recognise that every belief has a history and a cultural context and you can understand it instead.

Which leads us to a central problem of critical theory – that the critique is one sided, especially in its modern forms. Opponents are pathologised, by way of explanation, while those you agree with are treated naively. It’s a taking of sides not a balanced critique.

Critical Theory can be useful when it is turned against its proponents – when we start to ask why the young bourgeoisie has adopted woke ideology, for example, and what role that ideology plays – rather than treating them as Latter Day Saints sacrificing their own self interest for the good of the downtrodden.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
8 months ago

I really enjoyed this read. Humanity can use a good dose of humility. We are not the end all and be all, and maybe we’re not much more enlightened than those before us.

However, it didn’t really deliver a critique of critical theory, at least not one that I could appreciate.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

That’s possibly because it wasn’t a critique of critical theory….. He thinks it provides a valuable way of looking at the world.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
8 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

You’re right about that.

CF Hankinson
CF Hankinson
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Yes the accompanying photo was perhaps misleading click bait; it wasn’t directly about critical race theory.

Instead it was a thoroughgoing examination of how critical theory reveals our indomitable belief in human progress and how the process of selection, editing, and curating is always towards a belief system which too must be acknowledged and examined as revealed by the Frankfurt School.

They gave us the tools of critical reflection which of course includes the examination of its own structures benefits and beliefs. These are valuable tools though often mishandled.

I thought it was excellent.

CF Hankinson
CF Hankinson
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Yes the accompanying photo was perhaps misleading click bait; it wasn’t directly about critical race theory.

Instead it was a thoroughgoing examination of how critical theory reveals our indomitable belief in human progress and how the process of selection, editing, and curating is always towards a belief system which too must be acknowledged and examined as revealed by the Frankfurt School.

They gave us the tools of critical reflection which of course includes the examination of its own structures benefits and beliefs. These are valuable tools though often mishandled.

I thought it was excellent.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
8 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

It’s a critique from an albeit sympathetic standpoint of critical theory’s failure to interrogate itself.

Andrew F
Andrew F
8 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

Yes, like all the useless theories derived from Marxism.
Then he was a leader of Druids, whatever that is.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
8 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

You’re right about that.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
8 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

It’s a critique from an albeit sympathetic standpoint of critical theory’s failure to interrogate itself.

Andrew F
Andrew F
8 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

Yes, like all the useless theories derived from Marxism.
Then he was a leader of Druids, whatever that is.

Rara Tanowidjaya
Rara Tanowidjaya
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Human rights conference, statistik witan sulaeman , & live streaming bola

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

That’s possibly because it wasn’t a critique of critical theory….. He thinks it provides a valuable way of looking at the world.

Rara Tanowidjaya
Rara Tanowidjaya
8 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Human rights conference, statistik witan sulaeman , & live streaming bola

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
8 months ago

I really enjoyed this read. Humanity can use a good dose of humility. We are not the end all and be all, and maybe we’re not much more enlightened than those before us.

However, it didn’t really deliver a critique of critical theory, at least not one that I could appreciate.

leonard o'reilly
leonard o'reilly
8 months ago

“Now take that [ a specious rendering ] of four centuries of scientific effort, and the result is a vast social process built atop a relatively narrow foundation of natural facts. Those facts are….assembled by the social process into a model of the world. Ask different questions, use different equipment, give the results a different theoretical spin, and you can quite easily end up with a completely different model of the world.”
This reminds me of a quote from Schiller: “Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain.”
A few points ( in vain ):
The scientific method is not a social process in any sensible meaning of the word. It is a highly disciplined enterprise carried out by exceptional individuals.The usual power laws apply, in spades.It is absurd to call the body of scientific knowledge accumulated over the past four hundred years “a narrow foundation of facts”. That “narrow foundation of facts” transformed the lives of human beings and created the modern world. Most of the men who are responsible for that transformation lived and worked within an ~1200 km radius, say, of Brussels, say, and their descendants.( My apologies to Budapest and Moscow. ) Knock yourself out figuring out why that is the case.A model of aspects of the world arises from those facts, and is never final.How different a model of the world would we end up with? One governed by myth and magic? Indigenous ‘knowledges’? One not governed by physics, chemistry, evolution, genetics, etc, etc?Science is of course a collaborative effort. CTs and Pomos ( i.e.postmodernists ) always start with a banal truth. But it is a very rigorous kind of collaboration: observation, hypothesis, experiment, publish, critical analysis by peers. This process is never final and is always in some measure provisional ( not a haughty laying down of the law, as this man asserts ). The replication crisis is a result of bad science. Read John Ioannidis. You can ascribe a large part of the blame for that crisis on the malignant influence of CT and Pomo.They have spent a half century trashing customs, values and norms. It was inevitable they would come for science.I could go on for pages ‘deconstructing’ this, but I see that I am at 170 over 90, and rising.

Ray Andrews
Ray Andrews
8 months ago

“It is absurd to call the body of scientific knowledge accumulated over the past four hundred years “a narrow foundation of facts”. That “narrow foundation of facts” transformed the lives of human beings and created the modern world.”
Non sequitur. That science transformed the world is not relevant to the claim that it is a narrow set of facts. Indeed one of the key strengths of science is precisely that it knows which facts are useful and which are not — it knows how to ‘narrow’ facts down to those that can be modeled into natural laws.

B Davis
B Davis
8 months ago

What you say is true…but…
1) In fact, the ‘foundation of facts’ which “transformed the lives of human beings and created the modern world” is indeed narrow. Why not? Compared to what we don’t know, that pile of ‘facts’ must inevitably be seen as narrow….and, to your point…discovered by an even narrower subset of men….who worked in a very narrow slice of human time.
2) Again, you’re right, the physical world — our physical reality — is indeed ‘governed’ (though we might quibble the phrase) by physics, chemistry, genetics, etc. But…consider how much of our total world transcends such physical constraints: our loves, our hates, our friendships, and enemies, our families, our neighbors, the relationships with our spouses, children, parents, and strangers. These things are not governed by physics or chemistry (save in the sense that existence itself is so limited) rather they’re governed by the movements of our ‘heart’, our mind, our attitudes, our predilections, our fears & desires, our anxieties, our hungers. Right now we go to our own modern Witch Doctors to ‘suss out’ how & why we feel one way vs. another…but that portion of the world (the one which means the most to us) is indeed driven by ‘myth & magic’ for lack of a better term.
3) A much more minor point…the scientific method SHOULD BE a highly disciplined enterprise carried out by exceptional individuals….but too often it is neither. This is not the fault of the idea but the fault of the individuals (who may be far from exceptional) who bend, twist, fold, & mutilate the method.

Ray Andrews
Ray Andrews
8 months ago

“It is absurd to call the body of scientific knowledge accumulated over the past four hundred years “a narrow foundation of facts”. That “narrow foundation of facts” transformed the lives of human beings and created the modern world.”
Non sequitur. That science transformed the world is not relevant to the claim that it is a narrow set of facts. Indeed one of the key strengths of science is precisely that it knows which facts are useful and which are not — it knows how to ‘narrow’ facts down to those that can be modeled into natural laws.

B Davis
B Davis
8 months ago

What you say is true…but…
1) In fact, the ‘foundation of facts’ which “transformed the lives of human beings and created the modern world” is indeed narrow. Why not? Compared to what we don’t know, that pile of ‘facts’ must inevitably be seen as narrow….and, to your point…discovered by an even narrower subset of men….who worked in a very narrow slice of human time.
2) Again, you’re right, the physical world — our physical reality — is indeed ‘governed’ (though we might quibble the phrase) by physics, chemistry, genetics, etc. But…consider how much of our total world transcends such physical constraints: our loves, our hates, our friendships, and enemies, our families, our neighbors, the relationships with our spouses, children, parents, and strangers. These things are not governed by physics or chemistry (save in the sense that existence itself is so limited) rather they’re governed by the movements of our ‘heart’, our mind, our attitudes, our predilections, our fears & desires, our anxieties, our hungers. Right now we go to our own modern Witch Doctors to ‘suss out’ how & why we feel one way vs. another…but that portion of the world (the one which means the most to us) is indeed driven by ‘myth & magic’ for lack of a better term.
3) A much more minor point…the scientific method SHOULD BE a highly disciplined enterprise carried out by exceptional individuals….but too often it is neither. This is not the fault of the idea but the fault of the individuals (who may be far from exceptional) who bend, twist, fold, & mutilate the method.

leonard o'reilly
leonard o'reilly
8 months ago

“Now take that [ a specious rendering ] of four centuries of scientific effort, and the result is a vast social process built atop a relatively narrow foundation of natural facts. Those facts are….assembled by the social process into a model of the world. Ask different questions, use different equipment, give the results a different theoretical spin, and you can quite easily end up with a completely different model of the world.”
This reminds me of a quote from Schiller: “Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain.”
A few points ( in vain ):
The scientific method is not a social process in any sensible meaning of the word. It is a highly disciplined enterprise carried out by exceptional individuals.The usual power laws apply, in spades.It is absurd to call the body of scientific knowledge accumulated over the past four hundred years “a narrow foundation of facts”. That “narrow foundation of facts” transformed the lives of human beings and created the modern world. Most of the men who are responsible for that transformation lived and worked within an ~1200 km radius, say, of Brussels, say, and their descendants.( My apologies to Budapest and Moscow. ) Knock yourself out figuring out why that is the case.A model of aspects of the world arises from those facts, and is never final.How different a model of the world would we end up with? One governed by myth and magic? Indigenous ‘knowledges’? One not governed by physics, chemistry, evolution, genetics, etc, etc?Science is of course a collaborative effort. CTs and Pomos ( i.e.postmodernists ) always start with a banal truth. But it is a very rigorous kind of collaboration: observation, hypothesis, experiment, publish, critical analysis by peers. This process is never final and is always in some measure provisional ( not a haughty laying down of the law, as this man asserts ). The replication crisis is a result of bad science. Read John Ioannidis. You can ascribe a large part of the blame for that crisis on the malignant influence of CT and Pomo.They have spent a half century trashing customs, values and norms. It was inevitable they would come for science.I could go on for pages ‘deconstructing’ this, but I see that I am at 170 over 90, and rising.

Paul Ten
Paul Ten
8 months ago

The giveaway is in the sentence Ask different questions, use different equipment, give the results a different theoretical spin, and you can quite easily end up with a completely different model of the world.’ No you can’t. You might end up with different terminology, discovery of things in a different sequence, a different route to the building up of scientific knowledge if priorities were different, but the underlying model would be equivalent. We would know this because of its applications: aeroplanes would still fly, electronic devices would still work, drugs would still cure disease, because they would be founded on the same principles.
 
For sure, the scientific process is influenced by the same factors that affect all human endeavour: ambition, vanity, politics, fashion, cultural assumptions and moral judgements. For sure, scientists overreach themselves and sometimes confuse the above with the scientific method, but the underlying narrative does not (or should not) change. In other disciplines, these factors are embedded in the narrative, indeed sometimes they form the narrative. That is why the scientific ‘narrative’ enables me to board an aeroplane with a high degree of confidence that it will fly, but the historical ‘narrative’ tells me nothing about what will happen to the world in 10 years’ time.

Ray Andrews
Ray Andrews
8 months ago
Reply to  Paul Ten

“No you can’t.”
Yes, you can. I think what we need to do is understand that there’s a spectrum here. Yes, Newton’s Laws of Motion would still be exactly the same. At the other end of the stick, take The Science regarding the Pandemic. All the forces the author mentions distorted small ‘s’ science to the point that The Science was anything but science. Yes?

Paul Ten
Paul Ten
8 months ago
Reply to  Ray Andrews

No. The underlying scientific models of biochemistry, viral transmission and epidemiology actually explained the pandemic very well, and underpinned, for example, the development of vaccines. That is because they are objectively better, and more grounded in reality, than some alternative, ancient-knowledge miasma theory of disease. Where ‘the Science’ fell down during the pandemic was in over-reaching: in presenting predictions as objective facts when they were clearly incapable of handling the complexities, and in failing to accept the moral trade-offs between viral suppression and other societal damage. So, yes, scientists over-reached during the pandemic, and politicians and leaders misused ‘the Science’, but thank goodness no-one thought the fundamental science was just another set of mythologies.

Andrew F
Andrew F
8 months ago
Reply to  Paul Ten

That is only partially true.
What we had known for years now, is that vaccines did not prevent transmissions and vere ineffective in preventing serious illness and death anyway.
However too many scientists were willing to prostitute themselves to support government policies which had no basis in science.
We were not in Stalin Russia.
No one forced clowns like Whitty and Vallance and many others to spout voodoo rubbish on tv.
Shame on them.

Andrew F
Andrew F
8 months ago
Reply to  Paul Ten

That is only partially true.
What we had known for years now, is that vaccines did not prevent transmissions and vere ineffective in preventing serious illness and death anyway.
However too many scientists were willing to prostitute themselves to support government policies which had no basis in science.
We were not in Stalin Russia.
No one forced clowns like Whitty and Vallance and many others to spout voodoo rubbish on tv.
Shame on them.

Paul Ten
Paul Ten
8 months ago
Reply to  Ray Andrews

No. The underlying scientific models of biochemistry, viral transmission and epidemiology actually explained the pandemic very well, and underpinned, for example, the development of vaccines. That is because they are objectively better, and more grounded in reality, than some alternative, ancient-knowledge miasma theory of disease. Where ‘the Science’ fell down during the pandemic was in over-reaching: in presenting predictions as objective facts when they were clearly incapable of handling the complexities, and in failing to accept the moral trade-offs between viral suppression and other societal damage. So, yes, scientists over-reached during the pandemic, and politicians and leaders misused ‘the Science’, but thank goodness no-one thought the fundamental science was just another set of mythologies.

Ray Andrews
Ray Andrews
8 months ago
Reply to  Paul Ten

“No you can’t.”
Yes, you can. I think what we need to do is understand that there’s a spectrum here. Yes, Newton’s Laws of Motion would still be exactly the same. At the other end of the stick, take The Science regarding the Pandemic. All the forces the author mentions distorted small ‘s’ science to the point that The Science was anything but science. Yes?

Paul Ten
Paul Ten
8 months ago

The giveaway is in the sentence Ask different questions, use different equipment, give the results a different theoretical spin, and you can quite easily end up with a completely different model of the world.’ No you can’t. You might end up with different terminology, discovery of things in a different sequence, a different route to the building up of scientific knowledge if priorities were different, but the underlying model would be equivalent. We would know this because of its applications: aeroplanes would still fly, electronic devices would still work, drugs would still cure disease, because they would be founded on the same principles.
 
For sure, the scientific process is influenced by the same factors that affect all human endeavour: ambition, vanity, politics, fashion, cultural assumptions and moral judgements. For sure, scientists overreach themselves and sometimes confuse the above with the scientific method, but the underlying narrative does not (or should not) change. In other disciplines, these factors are embedded in the narrative, indeed sometimes they form the narrative. That is why the scientific ‘narrative’ enables me to board an aeroplane with a high degree of confidence that it will fly, but the historical ‘narrative’ tells me nothing about what will happen to the world in 10 years’ time.

David Morley
David Morley
8 months ago

It’s a shame that this article veers off into the well trodden paths of science critique. That side of things has already been done to death.

I also think it misses a few things:
A kind of one-up-man ship between sociology and science – you think you explain reality – but we explain you!
The relative strength of evidence for the clams of science as opposed to the claims of those doing critical theory – is relativity theory really on shakier evidential ground than patriarchy theory? What about turning a similar critical eye on the latter?
And even if we concede that e=mc2 is a sexist (or sexed) equation – it still makes sense to ask – so does e=mc2, or doesn’t it?

Last edited 8 months ago by David Morley
Rob C
Rob C
8 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

Best comment!

Thomas Walling
Thomas Walling
8 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

Good comment.
I particularly enjoyed ‘the clams of science’ as a typo. It somehow seems appropriate.

Rob C
Rob C
8 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

Best comment!

Thomas Walling
Thomas Walling
8 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

Good comment.
I particularly enjoyed ‘the clams of science’ as a typo. It somehow seems appropriate.

David Morley
David Morley
8 months ago

It’s a shame that this article veers off into the well trodden paths of science critique. That side of things has already been done to death.

I also think it misses a few things:
A kind of one-up-man ship between sociology and science – you think you explain reality – but we explain you!
The relative strength of evidence for the clams of science as opposed to the claims of those doing critical theory – is relativity theory really on shakier evidential ground than patriarchy theory? What about turning a similar critical eye on the latter?
And even if we concede that e=mc2 is a sexist (or sexed) equation – it still makes sense to ask – so does e=mc2, or doesn’t it?

Last edited 8 months ago by David Morley
Laurence H
Laurence H
8 months ago

“in Germany, the term is die Aufklärung, literally “the Clearing-Off’ ”
The verb klären means “to clarify” – preposition auf most usually means “up”, “on” (the contrary to “off”), “upon”, “at”, etc.
Aufklärung = “clarification” (as in brightening, making translucent, clarifying, purifying), perhaps “clearing up”. “Elucidation”, “resolution” (of a long-standing confusion, as of a former riddle): the underlying associations all suggest moving from darkness, murkiness, into light, brightness, clarity.
Looks pretty like “enlightenment” to me – he needs to clear off and find a better dictionary!
(from someone broadly sceptical of Enlightenments)

Last edited 8 months ago by Laurence H
Peter D
Peter D
8 months ago
Reply to  Laurence H

Yep, that bothered me too Laurence. It is funny how a grievous error that completely changes the meaning pulls you out of the article
Also clear off is a nice way of saying fire truck off!

Peter D
Peter D
8 months ago
Reply to  Laurence H

Yep, that bothered me too Laurence. It is funny how a grievous error that completely changes the meaning pulls you out of the article
Also clear off is a nice way of saying fire truck off!

Laurence H
Laurence H
8 months ago

“in Germany, the term is die Aufklärung, literally “the Clearing-Off’ ”
The verb klären means “to clarify” – preposition auf most usually means “up”, “on” (the contrary to “off”), “upon”, “at”, etc.
Aufklärung = “clarification” (as in brightening, making translucent, clarifying, purifying), perhaps “clearing up”. “Elucidation”, “resolution” (of a long-standing confusion, as of a former riddle): the underlying associations all suggest moving from darkness, murkiness, into light, brightness, clarity.
Looks pretty like “enlightenment” to me – he needs to clear off and find a better dictionary!
(from someone broadly sceptical of Enlightenments)

Last edited 8 months ago by Laurence H
AC Harper
AC Harper
8 months ago

It’s a fair point to argue that Science suffers from very human failings, but in the long run Science is self correcting because it has to correspond to the universe as it is. Whereas critical theories tend to spiral off into social status games with no resolution in sight.

“…and picking up those older habits and stories and technologies that are better suited to the world we find ourselves facing.”

So Druidism (for instance) would provide better sanitation, more energy, less poverty, less slavery?

Last edited 8 months ago by AC Harper
AC Harper
AC Harper
8 months ago

It’s a fair point to argue that Science suffers from very human failings, but in the long run Science is self correcting because it has to correspond to the universe as it is. Whereas critical theories tend to spiral off into social status games with no resolution in sight.

“…and picking up those older habits and stories and technologies that are better suited to the world we find ourselves facing.”

So Druidism (for instance) would provide better sanitation, more energy, less poverty, less slavery?

Last edited 8 months ago by AC Harper
Christopher Chantrill
Christopher Chantrill
8 months ago

Critical theory begins with Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. Kant wrote that we cannot know things-in-themselves but only appearances.
This means that everything, from physics to religion, is built on a theory that tries to make sense of the appearances. I say that the assumption that we cannot know things-in-themselves leads directly to relativity and quantum mechanics, do not pass Go.
And there are plenty of chaps, like Thomas Kuhn in his Structure of Scientific Revolutions who understand this completely.
But politics and religion and Regime Narratives need the answer to the question about the meaning of “life, the universe, everything” right now. And that’s where things start to go wrong. Because everyone wants to think that they have a direct line to reality and those pesky things-in-themselves.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
8 months ago

Really that began with plato not kant.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
8 months ago

I think that’s a misrepresentation of Kant, but more importantly, it’s not “Regime Narratives” but just plain ol’ ordinary you, me and our fellow humans who want to understand the meaning of our lives and our place in the universe. It is, after all, the key question in human existence.

philip kern
philip kern
8 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

You’ve got my attention. I’m ignorant here, but thought the chief contribution of Kant was the distinction between the noumenal and the phenomenological. Where is the misrepresentation?

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
8 months ago
Reply to  philip kern

I wish Unherd would upgrade its comments section to alert you when someone responds to your comment. I would have been happy to have this conversation with you but didn’t know about your question.
There is nothing in Kant that suggests that our knowledge is defective or inadequate because we cannot know things-in-themselves (and any suggestion that Kant is responsible for quantum mechanics is beyond fanciful). The point of Kant’s distinction is to create a framework to reconcile the two competing epistemological perspectives of his day – rationalists who thought knowledge began with logical forms, and empiricists who thought knowledge began with perception.
Consider “two” – this idea seems different from any particular sense perception (i.e., from any two particular things), but by the same token the idea cannot be expressed without reference to sense perception (even just forming the numeral). Is “two” an abstraction from our many experiences of two things, or is “two” a logical precondition which enables us to experience two things? The point of noumena is to give an intellectual framework to answer these kinds of questions.
Kant is such an important figure in Western history that you can connect almost any subsequent intellectual movement to him one way or another.