Wokeism and Critical Theory

For me, for decades, the idea that (even scientific) truths always have a political dimension has been central to my epistemic agenda. Not that science was my specific target, more the general orthodoxy that logically-positive objective-determinism presumes to fully explain the truths of real-world causation. And I’ve said so from my perspective as a science-educated geek, with my heroes in science and a long career in physical engineering and management systems.

The cause celebre when I first took to seriously researching the nature of the problem was the post-9/11 2001 “God vs Science” wars of the New Atheist movement. [More in “previously” footnotes.] I was instinctively against that movement and its four horsemen from the start (even as a fan of Dan Dennett’s philosophical thinking), which lost me a few friends, but my agenda hasn’t changed. That “too easy” communications of electronic media generally, short-circuits systemic complexity and reduces all topics to simplistic false-binary choices within the first few exchanges. So binary that having chosen sides the other is simply denied or cancelled, and that the narratives-in-mind are so entrenched and reinforced, change cannot even be countenanced.

The antithesis of reasonable discourse and the enemy of any kind of truth, objective or otherwise.

Since 2015, from my UK perspective, the exemplary case became the Gender-wars, and still is for me but with a growing background of DEI, BLM, de-colonialism, you name it, any “critical-theory”-supported positive discriminations not just in favour of perceived victimised minorities, but positively demonising their respective majorities, even where prejudiced discriminations may be as much historical as current or institutionalised. There’s always been a name for this – “tyranny of the minority” – it’s just that wokeness is forever discovering new minority interests to champion tyrannically.

Two things happened yesterday and today to prompt that musing.

The first was a strange Twitter thread from Peter Boghossian that anti-woke was now some kind of bandwagon attracting newcomers that had failed to take it seriously, now that it was somehow risk-free to do so? Boghossian was previously involved on two different sides of this from my perspective. With his Street Epistemology in the original god vs rationality wars and as part of the University of Austin anti-woke academic venture. [More in “previously” footnotes.] And whilst there have been encouraging signs of progress, there are also active cases of livelihood-threatening “cancellation” in academia and in employment happening right now. Far from risk free. Boghossian represents the polarising anti-woke side to the woke problem. Still “part of the problem” for me. A pox on both their houses.

The second was the incredibly moving documentary about the George Floyd case that created the BLM and Defund-Institutions poisonous streak in the whole woke cultural tragedy. Firstly this interview with John McWhorter of Columbia University and New York Times talking about the documentary, followed by the film itself.

As McWhorter comments, whatever the selective biases in the legal and documentary-making processes, you can’t fail to be moved by the humanity of those branded by the woke as the bad guys.

And finally, as a reminder, so many of these woke fallacies are couched in the language of rights of oppressed minorities in complete disregard of the rights of the rest of us, let’s remember that today is Universal Human Rights day. Many people sharing this image of Eleanor Roosevelt – who was “cancelled” as too radical, from speaking at Montana State University when Robert Pirsig was teaching there:

What goes around comes around.
There is very little new under the sun.

==== =

Previously on Psybertron:

Mar 2003 Dawkins Hyper-Rationalism
(First time – after several positive readings of Dawkins – I spotted where he was going wrong. And a few days later “Stalled a bit recently in reaction to “hyper-rational” rants by Rand (objectivist) and Dawkins (scientist) which boiled my blood and knocked my confidence a bit. Picked-up Nietzsche’s “Beyond Good and Evil” … and the rest is now history.)

Jun 2007 Dawkins vs God – one of many posts about Dawkins’ “The God Delusion” and equivalent works of his “horsemen” colleagues. Most of my thoughts are embedded as comments in a critique of Dawkins book by a vicar / theologian.

Sept 2015 Galileo’s Middle Finger by Alice Dreger
(My first encounter with Sex / Gender ambiguity as political ideology.)

Oct 2015 Street Epistemology – a curate’s egg.
(It’s just the Socratic Method, with its limitations and drawbacks. Part of the reason I came to formalise better “Rules of Engagement” beyond naïve interpretation of Socrates and other rules & methodologies.

Nov 2021 Follow The Money? – Or does the money follow them?
(Kathleen Stock and Peter Boghossian go to Austin. With an interesting comment thread on developments. Forget “the money” per se, but also picking-up on the recurring factor that naturally left/liberal/social sources have much greater difficulty acknowledging woke issues than right/libertarian/capitalists to – so it gets cast as some right-wing conspiracy. One of several Catch-22’s driving degenerate polarisation.)


[PS – Hat Tip to Dicky Fisher for a recent “good example” of the Street Epistemology” Socratic method process in a Gender ideology context. Will add notes when reviewed.]


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.