Chomsky on Science and Postmodernism (PostStructuralism)

Noam is chomping away at postmodernism…

“Paris is the center of the rot…”

Read something here:

“Some of the people in these cults (which is what they look like to me) I’ve met: Foucault (we even have a several-hour discussion, which is in print, and spent quite a few hours in very pleasant conversation, on real issues, and using language that was perfectly comprehensible—he speaking French, me English); Lacan (who I met several times and considered an amusing and perfectly self-conscious charlatan, though his earlier work, pre-cult, was sensible and I’ve discussed it in print); Kristeva (who I met only briefly during the period when she was a fervent Maoist); and others. Many of them I haven’t met, because I am very remote from these circles, by choice, preferring quite different and far broader ones—the kinds where I give talks, have interviews, take part in activities, write dozens of long letters every week, etc. I’ve dipped into what they write out of curiosity, but not very far, for reasons already mentioned: what I find is extremely pretentious, but on examination, a lot of it is simply illiterate, based on extraordinary misreading of texts that I know well (sometimes, that I have written), argument that is appalling in its casual lack of elementary self-criticism, lots of statements that are trivial (though dressed up in complicated verbiage) or false; and a good deal of plain gibberish”

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4 Replies to “Chomsky on Science and Postmodernism (PostStructuralism)”

  1. I spent many years trying to see if postmodernists anywhere *ever* make a legitimate argument for their views. They *never* do. They either present bogus arguments (often based on a confusion of terminology), or, in lieu of actually making an argument, they refer the questioner to someone else’s argument (which in turn does little more than refer to someone *else’s* argument, which in turn . . ., etc. etc.).

      1. As I understand it, the debate between structuralism and poststructuralism pits the view that meaning resides *synchronically* in language or texts (structuralism) against the view that meaning is created in the interpretive act (poststructuralism). I do not accept the shared premise that meaning is synchronic, as I think it obvious that meaning lies with intending subjects (authors). I believe hermeneutics is a diachronic task, whereas structuralists and poststructuralists both (wrongly) assume that that view has somehow been proven wrong. If I *had* to choose between the two, however, I’d go with structuralism, as the idea that meaning is created during the act of interpreting is just too far out there. (I’d probably get the urge to wear a black turtleneck if I began to think that way.)

        In the previous post, I mentioned arguments that trade on shifting terminology. The argument that meaning is a readerly event is a good example, as it often amounts to little more than the unpacking of alternative definitions of “meaning”.

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