Queer Theory – A new one on me, something I know literally nothing about, but I’ve been following an interesting series of social media threads from @Glinner (Graham Linehan) doing battle with the more PC extremes of gender and sexuality “terminology” – particularly the “self-identifying trans” debate – and getting inundated in trolling and flak attacks for his efforts. He’s on the right side of this, but …
Things we need to recognise as binary-distinct for good reasons and the terminology or taboo / lack thereof that limits our ability to talk about them is pretty central to my epistemological – “how do we know?” – thesis. However, I do defend PC considerations in their place, using PoMo philosophers to support my arguments where appropriate. It’s the extremes that kill us, especially when bureaucratically (autistically) enforced. Rules are for guidance of the wise and the enslavement of fools – especially when it comes to language and terminology. (I call myself PoPoMo.) Language is useless without wisdom.
My ears pricked-up when @Glinner shared this short video of Derek Jensen with a class of students talking about “queer theory” and Foucault gets a mention (along with other founding proponents of its ideas) – basically using the theory to justify paedophilia (!)
[The clip is actually fascinating from the whole safe-spaces / trigger-warning perspective – on who’s allowed to say what in an educational environment – and how Jensen handles his jeering students. A exemplary lesson in teaching practice I’d say – but that would be to digress for now.]
Foucault is well known as one of the “foggy froggie” PoMo’s and controversially extreme on his rights, freedoms and equalities agenda in sex & gender and on society & crime – about which I know little beyond “controversial”.
He is however an interesting philosopher from a fundamental metaphysical perspective. Foucault is someone I’ve used explicitly.
Again it’s about the need to make distinctions – choose distinct words – whilst nevertheless understanding their proper dynamic relations. If we set the distinct items up as “objects” in their own right, we end up fighting battles over how definitive they are. This is necessarily polarising between extremes unless we apply PC rules that “ban” certain distinctions, limit meaning and flatten the dialogue. A choice between polarisation and meaninglessness. It’s “Identity Politics”, but we need distinctions to function. However distinctions need to have “good fences” because good fences make good neighbours and meaning is allowed to flow across them whilst we nevertheless respect their distinction.
For me this is another whole example of the populism problem when it comes to accentuating extremes. Explicitly here the idea that Foucault was controversial therefore to be condemned as entirely bad unless you’re agenda is to defend some specific political aim. Whereas like most human thinkers, good in parts but whacky, speculative, mischievous or plain wrong in others. Take care not to selectively misappropriate sound-bite quotes that can only ever make sense in some more nuanced context, and may not have been that good in the first place. The immediate preceding post was another example – whereby “pop-psychology” turned left-right brain considerations into caricatures too toxic for serious scientists to risk talking about.