Monday, April 21, 2008

More on French Theory

Stanley Fish follows up his blog entry on Deconstructionism from a few weeks ago (and mentioned here) with another entreaty today. (emphasis mine)

So, the bottom line (a phrase I do not apologize for) is that deconstructive or postmodernist arguments don’t take anything away from anyone (except the ability to affirm arguments they have dislodged).

[...] The lesson that we are always dealing with and living within constructions is once again too general to be powerfully helpful. What is required if criticism of a settled authority is to be effective is a demonstration that the construction on which it rests is pernicious; demonstrating that it is a construction will not do the job, because as I said in my first column, you can’t criticize something for being socially constructed if everything is. As a general thesis about knowledge, deconstruction doesn’t do any work [...]

[...] Since deconstruction cannot provide us with a way of distinguishing between the socially constructed contexts it finds everywhere, it drives us back to those contexts and to the standards, protocols and evidentiary procedures that reside, however provisionally, within them. Not only does deconstruction not threaten anything or deliver anything, it doesn’t change anything. This is not to say that it is useless, just that its uses are properly confined to the ongoing conversation about epistemology in which it is a participant.
Good stuff.

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