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> 'only The Most Intelligent...', debate for fkalich?
Saoirse O'Shea
post Apr 4 2010, 04:07 PM
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Just thought that your point here was interesting and kind of deserved a follow up and that that you might enjoy my musings on this.

What follows are a couple of dense, not particularly well thought out and rapidly thrown together paragraphs.

Original post is l=""]here[/url] and the slightly out of context quote:

'He [Paul McCartney] describes things in the 3rd person, only really intelligent people do that.'

I neither completely agree or disagree with this. My immediate reaction is that there is a presumption that intelligence and objectivity are in some way [presumed to be] linked in this statement: objectivity because that is the discursive style of writing in the 3rd person; intelligence figured as a scientific search for truth; the two together as together they become 'rational project' that reduces subjectivity to un-reflexive mere experience. Thus we have [a rather simplified version of] Karl Popper's argument on scientific rationality. Objectivity here is only intelligent to the extent that intelligence is able to reflexively turn upon and so exam itself and its own base. That is to say that objectivity of itself is not necessarily intelligent; it only becomes so when it critically reflects [cf Gasche]. Thus Science is meaningful when it is able to critically consider its own limitations and work to transcend them.

This however perhaps overplays the extent to which objectivity is objective and underplays subjectivity. In the first instance you have Feyerband's critique of scientific objectivity as mired in subjective belief, experience and politics: a mire that no degree of reflexivity is ever able to escape. For Feyerband there is a false presumption that the objective rationalist can stand outside themselves and objectivise reality. That is to say that nothing can fully stand outside itself and fully understand and mitigate it's own limitations and ground: Science's own presumption of objectivity is unobjective.

In the second instance there is a second reflexivity and it is a subjective reflexivity that is ignored in the above exchange. Science would know the World and Truth; subjectivity would experience [NOT know] the self. Science emphasises knowledge, subjective reflexivity emphases experience. This is in part the argument that Duns Scotus [and a little obliquely David Hume] put forward several hundred years ago and that a more contemporaneous pragmatist like Richard Rorty repeats now. Before Scotus subjective rationality is very much to the fore in St Augustine's confessions - he only approaches God when he is able to reflect upon himself as a human, very human, subject. Pragmatism however does not perhaps go far enough - subjectivism as reflexive loses itself in the turn to an 'I' that is only an experience: as soon as you try to explicate experience it is no longer experience but rational, objectivised project. This is both Hegel's phenomenology of spirit and Sartre's argument that [hu]mankind is an empty conceit. Truth is not negated [which is what some post-structuralist and some post modernists might argue] but the search is now for an unobtainable, ephemeral movement. There is here the argument (which is Bataille contra Hegel) that we should not equate experience and project with an object or objective end: life is lived and experienced and not something that is possessed and employed. That however does negate a need for us to search for Truth - and indeed the very basis of human work is that project [Hegel]- nothing more and nothing less. What does however come out of it is that it is a falsehood and a human conceit to assume that it is recoverable by objective or subjective means: neither is right and neither is enough by itself.

So to come back to Frank's point: yes and no because, to me, it depends on the form of reflexivity involved and that they are appropriately reflexive. Some of the most profound works of literature and philosophy are in the 1st person, some in the 3rd. It is also why Blanchot describes literature, and not philosophy, in terms of a 'work of fire': literature's purposes are to convey a lived experience and to be an experience: philosophy's purpose is to seek Truth.

As an aside - I'm sometimes asked what area of philosophy I follow and my only answer is none and that I am not a philosopher. When I did my academic training in philosophy many years ago I came out of a background in the hard, natural sciences. Perhaps because of that I focused on phenomenology, and particularly the scientific phenomenology of Husserl, and assumed that Truth was recoverable if only we adopted a rigorous and objective enough method. I drifted from this position however and ended up producing a thesis that argued very much for the Human Condition as something that is experienced and not necessarily understandable. Some while after that I completed my higher doctorate by arguing that the Human Condition is neither of these but is the tension caused by the two: experience/understanding, and subectivity/objectivity are perhaps less polar opposites as held within each other and the resulting tension makes us human. [A similar argument to Bataille's that what sets us apart is ipseity as the contradiction that marks me as both the 'I' that is an individual and that also sublates the individual 'me' as part of human society.] The irony is that in arguing this I had to refuse my own training in philosophy and as a phenomenologist and so am no longer a philosopher.

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