What Jacques Derrida and George Bush have in common.
I enjoy watching politics; but it's next to impossible for me to sit firmly on either side of the fence. For a long time, I've been frustrated with the lack of places a fence-sitter like me can go to research the issues without partisanship obfuscating things.
Jim Faulconer, one of my favorite philosophy professors, made a post over at times and seasons that seemed to speak right at my problem. Though he begins by talking about the mischaracterizations people have of Jacques Derrida, a giant of a philosopher who passed away a few days ago, he moves on to discuss political issues as well:
"As I mentioned on another thread, I do not understand the kinds of discussions that have probably always dominated in politics and at least now seem also to dominate much of the academy: We align ourselves with slogans, calling on secondary sources to justify our alignments, secondary sources that themselves usually rely only on other secondary sources. It is more important that we be in the right camp than that we understand what we are talking about. Politics and academics as fashion and anti-fashion."
"Some insist on aligning themselves with what they perceive to be a new voice. Others insist on aligning themselves against the new. But neither group actually bothers to find out what the voice in question has to say. In these discussions, explanations are not explanations, they are demands for concession, and criticisms are not criticisms, they are brickbats and clubs. "
"If we do not respect that with which we agree or disagree enough to understand it, to take it seriously, we do not to respect ourselves and we certainly do not respect those whom we engage in discussion. It is no secret that I am a partisan of Jacques Derrida and a critic of President Bush. But if I cannot read Derrida and see where I disagree nor listen to Bush and see where he is right, then I cannot claim to understand either. And I have no intellectual or moral right to either criticize or recommend what I do not understand. I have an intellectual and moral obligation to hear those who disagree with me in a way that allows me to see not only where they are wrong, but where they may be right. "
"Presumably anyone reading this blog thinks of himself or herself as an intellectual—as someone concerned with matters of the intellect—regardless of how many years he or she spent in school. In fact, whatever your claims to the contrary, by definition you are an intellectual if you read this blog more than once. Presumably almost everyone reading this blog is also a Latter-day Saint. As Latter-day Saints and as intellectuals, we ought to seek understanding rather than to glom onto whatever slogans first strike us as according with what we already believe. "