Saturday, September 15, 2007

Americans are increasingly indifferent to the truth-value of discourse

by Joseph Kugelmass (x-posted to The Valve)
Or, on the other hand, I could side with conservative philosophers like Harry G. Frankfurt, who argued in On Bullshit that Americans are increasingly indifferent to the truth-value of discourse; inevitably, he would see seducers and rules-mongers as a monkey wrench gang that wants words and signifying acts to have power independent of the world, of the way things “really are.” But this betrays my own feeling that we do, in fact, inhabit fictions, and that the value of those fictions is determined in large part by our happiness, rather than by their fidelity to a vast and impersonal truth.
Instead, I will end by suggesting that the intertwined phenomena of individuality and intimacy are both vastly expensive fictions: expensive in time, and rich in failure. In the truest sense of the term, they are luxuries. Luhmann considered it “impossible to specify how selflessness and an orientation to the other person might become embedded in a broader and deeper understanding of exchange.”
It isn’t enough to hold the line against seduction, or chicanery, or the irrational: the game is flawed. There is a chicken-and-egg problem here. I don’t see how we can embrace the larger fictions of selflessness and devotion without greater security, equality, and leisure, things one person cannot have at another’s expense. Nor do I see how, without that, we can hope to supplant the stingy, stagey drama of contemporary sexuality with something finer — as Yeats expressed it, with something wrought of high laughter, loveliness, and ease.

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