Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Discipline Wars

Back when I was an MA student and unsure of the future direction of my academic study, I was obsessed with a perceived divide between literary studies and philosophy. Critical theory and cultural studies seemed like a lot of hocus pocus to me, where good old-fashioned analytic philosophy had the methodological rigor to get the truth out of real questions.

Well, that perceived divide is no longer a big issue with me (the value of one and the limitations of the other have become more apparent), so it's somewhat amusing to see disciplinary rancor when it crops up. I'm currently reading a book called Fame by a professor of philosophy named Mark Howlands. He's talking about the Protagorean view that "man is the measure," by which one understanding of the phrase is that truth claims such as the earth's roundness are always relative to the observer. This, however, "is a truly asinine doctrine," he says, "that can find a home only in university English and cultural studies departments" (33). 

And as much as I"m not a big believer in certain intellectual trends within cultural studies, nowadays it's hard to score polemics points with me . . . and I'm annoyed at such a bad paraphrase of a complicated set of ideas.

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