What is Destructive Critique?
Bacon, in 1620, wrote of smashing “idols” of incorrect thought in his _Novum Organum Scientiarum_. In a similar vein, in 1927, Heidegger published _Being and Time_, which included a thorough logical criticism of Descartes’ presuppositions. Heidegger called this “destruction” and unfortunately a stupid man called Jacques Derrida rode on Heidegger’s coat-tails by selling a supposed method of “deconstruction.” Various merchants of “deconstruction” often promise to smash presuppositions, but their customers often feel that “deconstruction” does not deliver results that are worth the price.
The present work takes it as established that Heidegger had some good ideas, but Derrida did nothing good for philosophy. Thus “destructive critique” is meant to steer philosophical criticism away from the modern habit of Derrida, back toward something that more closely resembles Bacon or Heidegger’s work.
What is Destructive Critique, in semantic, logical, and epistemological terms?
I, the writer, and you, the reader, undertake destructive critique of some popular notion that seems to be stupid. While Russell followed Ayer’s example of decrying incompatible arguments as “meaningless noise,” destructive criticism attempts to show the details that make the arguments into meaningless noise.
Semantically, we must be able to agree on an understanding of the target argument. Logically, we must be able to agree on the structure of the target argument. (Since the argument will usually originate in some barbaric and unacceptable format, we will have to generate refinements, and if the original authors hear of it, they will probably accuse us of misrepresentation.) Epistemologically, we must be able to agree on some set of justified claims which appear to be knowable and true to the best of our knowledge; in comparison to our set of justified claims, we will be able to show how the target argument fails to justify its claims.
What are the personnel requirements of Destructive Critique?
The basic effort should start in a functioning logic classroom, where reviewers and operators can be recruited. Most reviewers will have Ph.D.’s and most operators will lack Ph.D.’s. The function of the operators will be to work through logic problems and the function of the reviewers will be to verify correctness and academic interest.
Once some basic efforts have been published, the method can be reproduced and elaborated, both inside and outside classrooms. (Outside of a classroom, this will rely heavily on the reader’s effort, since I cannot verify that the reader is following the debate. Further, non-trivial targets will probably require publication of solved problem sets, in the style of a mathematical logic textbook.)
Why do we need Destructive Criticism?
Formal philosophy carefully avoids the pitfalls of rhetorical ochlocracy. Informal debate often falls into the pit of mob rule. Informal debates can start from a position of shaky consensus, and the orators often sacrifice philosophical truth to political posturing. Deconstructionism, in particular, was often abused by Alinsky-ite leftists. Just as a man who has drunk poison should be forced to vomit the poison out before it can take effect, so too a society that has swallowed the lies of Deconstruction should be forced to vomit out its lies in order to save its life.
Future works will consider the aspects of Lyotard’s aphorism –
“Simplifying to the extreme, I define postmodern as incredulity toward metanarratives.”
– with which I agree. I suspect that Lyotard had many useful and true arguments; I am interested why I disagree so profoundly with those academics who consider themselves his followers.
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