On Being an Imbecile

In the introduction to Less Than Nothing, Slavoj Zizek distinguishes three kinds of stupidity.  

There is the moron, who stupidly assumes the unquestionable truth of “common sense,” even when it is contradicted by his every experience.  Zizek’s example of this is the sidekick of the classical detective, who is ready to assume the impossible happened rather than question his assumptions about how the world operates.  I would suggest another example: the psychologist, who is blindly sure that any diagnosis listed in the DSM must be a universally experienced disorder with a “bio-psycho-social” cause, even when no actual person quite fits any such diagnosis, and many fit none at all.  The moron is anyone who continues to try desperately to fit the world to the categories and rules of hegemonic discourses, ignoring or distorting whatever doesn’t seem to be accounted for.  

Then there is the idiot, who too easily sees right through social conventions, takes every expression literally, and looks for some absolute ground to guide his actions.  Zizek’s example here is the child in the story “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” pointing out the absurdity of social conventions.  I would suggest that a better example would be the modern cult of reductionism, hoping desperately to find some biological determination for all human behavior, whether in the brain or in evolutionary biology, to avoid at all costs the possibility that human social practices are the reasons for much of what we do—that many of our behaviors might not be determined at all.  The idiot is unable to grasp the reality of the social, to even begin to understand why it might be desirable.  

But in between these is the imbecile, who sees that the common-sense version of reality is flawed and contradictory, but nonetheless sees its function, cannot escape recognizing the need for a social conventions, even while he sees that they are often at odds with reality.  Like the idiot, the imbecile can see that there are real material causes at work in the world, but like the moron he knows that they are not enough.  Zizek suggests Wittgenstein and Lacan as examples of imbeciles.  I would suggest Socrates or Marx.  But I would agree that being an imbecile is a goal worth striving for.

So my goal here will be to inhabit the role of the imbecile, unwilling to completely accept any socially constructed discourse, but also unable to pretend that there is any possibility that we can account for our existence without granting the realm of the social the status of reality, including real causal powers.  Often, I would say, causal powers that can be greater than those of mere brains and evolved tendencies.  

I’m going to do this in order to attempt to produce a tentative theory of interpellation. That is, beginning from the awareness that we are ideological animals by nature, I will try to consider how it is that we might become successfully interpellated into new and more productive ideologies, without falling into the foolish illusion that we can ever escape ideology, even for a moment, and inhabit a position of purely scientific objectivity.  This mistake is one danger of taking on the role of the imbecile.

Another danger is that of falling into yet another kind of stupidity, for which I don’t have a good name yet (suggestions would be appreciated).  While the imbecile, exactly because of his stupid lack of full immersion in any discourse, because of his incomplete or incorrect grasp of the rules and concepts at work, is able to maintain some kind of agency in the world, there is position quite close to imbecility which exactly works hard at abandoning all hope of agency completely.  

While the imbecile will recognize that that material dependence on conditions is in the nature of things, this other position will see any such dependence as oppressive.  That is, while the imbecile will maintain a distinction between dependence and determination, there is a danger of falling into the error of conflating the two, and so rejecting reality completely in favor of pure fantasy.  I have heard from such people often. They usually accuse me of being a tyrant, dictator, oppressor, etc., if I insist that one must accept what is unquestionably true.  There seems to be a fear that if it is not open to one’s own construction, then it is a form of oppression.  Such people have often responded to my arguments in this form (but never quite these words): I cannot refute your arguments logically, nor can I offer a single instance of factual occurrence that contradicts your position; nevertheless, I cannot believe something just because it makes sense and is demonstrably and empirically true—to demand that I do so is authoritarian!  This may seem like a fairly childish position, but it is surprisingly common.  One imagines a primitive society in which someone is trying to explain that every time we bury these seeds in the ground, in a few months we have an abundant source of food. And others insisting that it is constraining, unreasonable and oppressive to ask us to follow your “rules” and plant seeds—that suggests we cannot control the production of food with our freely-chosen rituals and chants!  We may starve come fall, but at least we’ll have freely chosen our practices, not had them dictated to us by your “reality.”  Sounds absurd, perhaps, but arguments like this are made all the time these days, usually with the added complaint that the proffered account of reality “just doesn’t resonate with me.”

Probably the best example of this other kind of stupidity can be seen in the recent scandal in the discipline of psychology.  When a group of researchers took 100 frequently cited studies and attempted to replicate them, they found they could not replicate 65 of them.  The response was that these researchers are being rude, obnoxious, and dictatorial, demanding that just because someone makes a claim that they have scientifically proven something they ought to actually have some scientific proof. There was an outcry from many psychologists, pointing out that these researchers were often not tenured professors, and that they didn’t understand the “culture of psychology.”  There was even a call to fire the editor of one prestigious psychology journal for demanding that any study submitted for publication must include actual data to support its “scientific” claims.  The entire discipline, it seems, is horrified at the very idea that in order to claim something has been scientifically proven it must actually be demonstrably true about reality; psychology, after all, is just a matter of what one knows at an intuitive level is true.  (The same response, of course, occurs whenever someone points out that all the “scientific evidence” for the efficacy of mindfulness is just crap—these evil oppressors are demanding proof, but the mindfulnistas just know it really works, they need no evidence beyond its power to “resonate” with them, and make them money.)

The imbecile cannot abandon the obviousness of plain facts about the world, which will tend to hit us over the head whether they resonate with us or not.  On the other hand, the imbecile is also never confident in any particular social practice, always questioning its limitations. The danger here is of falling into the error of assuming that therefore all social practices, every discourse, is nothing but its limitations, nothing but a ruse or delusion.  Someone making this error will assume they are operating somehow free of all social discourses, in some radically original approach to the world that escapes the constraints of the social.  This error may seem a little more common, to those no longer duped by the kind of Romantic nonsense advocated by Deleuze, so popular for the last couple decades but now fortunately falling out of favor.  But while it may be falling out of favor, it is not yet gone.  I would suggest it is just being carried on in other terms these days—radically original terms, of course.  

Perhaps the best term I can find for this particular kind of stupidity is the postmodernist.  A role that is close enough to the imbecile for the two to be frequently confused, but also a role that it is seductively easy for the imbecile to fall into.  Caught between attack from the moron, who cannot grasp that the existence of  a term in his discourse doesn’t prove there is a thing that term actually names, and from the idiot, who obsessively insists that only the deepest layer of materiality is “really real,” it is too tempting to abandon the tightrope of imbecility and fall into the net of the postmodern.  Ironically, the defenders of bad science in the psychology scandal often accuse their critics of being “postmodern,” because they use intellectual methods (such as logical reasoning and the scientific method) to critique flawed studies.  I can’t count the number of times I have read the phrase “Pepper uses postmodernism to prove his position” in discussions of my writing.  The ultimate postmodern strategy, it seems, is to accuse one’s opponent of being postmodern! 

I’ll be trying, as I post my thoughts on ideology and interpellation, aesthetics, agency, social constructionism, and many other related topics, to avoid falling into this error.  Mostly, I suppose, by simply refusing to engage, on this blog, with the morons and idiots.  I doubt there are many interested readers of something like this, but then there aren’t many capitalist subjects who are neither morons nor idiots!  So, for now, I’ll just be recording my thoughts here, for when I need them as I work my way through the probably unpublishable book I’m writing.  

Comments are welcome, but all comments will be moderated—see the “A Blog for Buddhists Who Can Handle the Truh” page for my guidelines for comments.  As Steve Martin used to say in his stand-up routine, I can do this act alone…I often do! But responses from fellow imbeciles would be appreciated.  

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  1. Ruth

     /  January 2, 2019

    So glad the blog is back.

  2. I’m excited to see that you’re reviving this blog, Tom. The subject (no pun intended) that you intend to explore is much needed within (without?) Buddhist discourse.

    Might I suggest a term for the subject who exhibits the fourth variety of stupidity which you introduce? I feel that my background as a native Yiddish speaker could be of some use here (who would’ve guessed?).

    We have a wonderful word in Yiddish, which doesn’t quite have a satisfying English analogue: nebach. I’m sure that you of all people are acutely aware of how translations must inevitably omit the inherently cultural piece of a given word’s meaning, but I will nonetheless attempt to provide a sensible and relevant translation of this one, while being careful to preserve its authenticity.

    A nebach is someone who you might simultaneously look upon with genuine pity and pure contempt. The nebach is in a perpetually pathetic state: Everything constantly goes wrong for her, but her helplessness is never her own fault. Reality simply imposes itself on her, resulting in a person whose stubborn refusal to exhibit any agency whatsoever one can’t help but feel irritated by, but whose sincere intellectual ineptitude necessarily evokes along with this irritation a kind of pitiful compassion, like you might feel for, say, a person who is so narcissistic that they spend every waking moment sobbing in despair over the fact that other people exist.

    The emphasis vis a vis the sense of pity relative to contempt can be flexible. Nebach can be applied in contexts where the pity is dominant or even exclusive. That is, in cases where the referent really is just completely helpless and pathetic, in which case nebach is simply another word for a loser. The term is also commonly used in a distinctly sarcastic manner, as in a “poor you” directed toward, for example, a millionaire executive who mourns a scratch on their brand new sports car: “Oy, nebach, how sad! It must be so painful to be privileged enough to experience such a trauma!”

    Most often, nebach is employed in a manner that communicates both a seriousness and sarcasm in tone, in a way that perhaps only Yiddish manages to do. This is the kind of usage which I think is relevant here. Nebach can function as a noun as well as an adjective or an exclamation. In fact, “nebach!” is precisely what I found myself exclaiming upon witnessing the tantrum thrown by those psychologists whose studies failed to replicate. Nebach, these poor souls spent their entire careers dressing up their pre-existing intuitions about the human mind in science-y sounding theories, and suddenly those theories are being exposed as mere ideological intuitions! Doesn’t the ensuing fit of intellectual flailing and staw-grasping evoke a kind of pitiful contempt for a maimed creature frantically trying to untangle itself from a knot of its own tying?

    I see the Western Buddhist subject as the platonic ideal of a nebach, being no more than a postmodernist dressed in a monk’s robe, and exemplifying the circularity of the pity-contempt juxtaposition: On the one hand, I can’t help but pity Buddhists for simply being too stupid to understand dependent origination as implying that our conditions are real but malleable, rather than illusory and escapable (yet somehow opressive). At the same time, it irritates me that this stupidity is maintained by nothing other than the Buddhist’s own refusal to participate in discourse that might clear up their confusion. The circularity, of course, stems from the fact that this very refusal is a product of the powerful atomistic delusion which makes them sincerely believe that they are an entity separable from their social and material conditions.

  3. Failed:
    I like the term nebach. It seems, on your description, to capture an important category of subjectivity today.

    Part of what I want to figure out is how to break through the circularity you mention—that the inability to understand dependent origination puts people in a sad and powerless position, but one from which by definition they cannot see an alternative to. Sometimes, some external force will push them out of this—some encounter with the Real. But the puzzle is how to break through the incapacity built into the discourse into which they are interpellated as subjects, short of a really disastrous event.

    I’m reminded of a guy I know who was profoundly conservative, always disdainful of anyone out of work or struggling. He’d gone to work for a printing company right out of high school and worked there for over thirty years, and was sure that anyone could succeed in America if they worked hard. Then, when he was about the age I am now, the company was bought and he, it turned out, had not had any idea how to do his job for decades—couldn’t even use a computer. He was just kept on the payroll because of sheer inertia for all those years, but now he was summarily let go. And found he had no skills with which to get another job. This confrontation with reality, with the “Real” outside of his construal of the world, was a traumatic shock. Suddenly, he began to change his politics, to have less disdain for others, like himself, in dire economic positions. He realized that failure might be caused by social conditions outside their personal control.

    But such a sudden encounter with what one denies the existence of is rare. My problem here is to determine if there is anything that might serve as a substitute wake-up call. If not, I suppose the next best approach is to have the alternative progressive discourses and practices in place for such people when the Real does hit the symbolic fan.

  4. Tom:
    I’m afraid my intuition in this regard does not bring me much comfort. I can’t possibly conceive of anything short of a catastrophic encounter with the limitations of one’s perception that can break this circularity. I tend to know better than to trust intuitions, so I continue to hope that this failure is a result of my own lack of imagination, and that thinking it through will eventually produce something useful.

    What I’m still unsure of is whether the trap can actually be escaped via intentional practice. I mean, thinking back to the very first time I visited SNB, it’s not that I didn’t like what I was reading and, in order to avoid disenchantment, intentionally exerted intellectual effort in an attempt to defend against it. I literally just could not comprehend what the words on the screen meant. It was only as a result of a very particular series of events, among them catastrophic ones, that I found myself, several months later, in a state in which the material actually began to resonate. There was nothing I did to get myself to that state, because the kind of subject I was couldn’t even concieve of doing so.

    I run up against this same phenomenon all the time now when I foolishly attempt to engage in a dialogue with people who are steeped in capitalist ideology. So many of them take capitalism so self-evidently that they seem literally incapable of considering that it is an ideology. I constantly witness people get worked up into a fury by my refusal to grant an obviously ideological proposition that they percieve as being obviously true. I’ve even had people nod their heads as if they understood what I was saying, and then proceed to express their agreement with the exact opposite of what I said. There is nothing about the fact that I’ve been on the other side that helps me out in such situations.

    The issue, as I see it, is that there doesn’t seem to be anything useful that I can learn by attempting to reverse-engineer my own ideological history in some way. That is, absent of any atomistic self who could have moved through and learned from its experience, there is simply no possibility of accounting for the sheer dumbness of luck that resulted in this particular subjective configuration. This is why any attempt at coming up with some prescriptive “practice” that can be universally taught seems to me bound to fail. All we can do is attempt to produce new discourses and hope that they have a chance of affecting even one or two people who encounter them.

    That was probably a very roundabout way of expressing my point, but I’m wondering if you have any thoughts on this dilemma.

    In any case, despite my lack of optimism, I still see the kind of thinking that you’re doing here, and that’s happening on SNB, as being necessary and useful, since they seem to be the only real alternatives to the dominant discourses that are currently available. I’m finding it increasingly difficult, even nauseating, to participate in many of the practices that I’ve viewed as unproblematic for such a large part of my life. So I appreciate the work you’re doing.

  5. Failed,

    From your comments, and from reading some of the posts on your blog, it seems to me you’re in almost the same place I was about six or eight years ago. But clearly, we got there in very different ways. So I would say that it is in fact useful to “reverse engineer” your own ideological shift—not because it can be applied in any literal sense, but because it can provide some useful insight into the general nature of ideological commitment and the capacity to change those commitments. I think I’ve learned a bit about how to enable this shift, for instance, from my own transformation, but also from reading Kierkegaard—-not that either provides a “prescriptive practice” because no such thing would be possible, but they give some small guidance into how to respond to a specific situation in a novel way.

    So, yes, I do have some thoughts on this matter. Most of the book I’m working on is trying to deal with this issue. There are a lot of preliminary points to get clear, of course—about the nature of langauge, of concepts, of objects, of subjects, etc. The posts on this blog are going to be devoted, sometimes a bit indirectly, to my thoughts on this matter.

    And one possibility is that the many people in America today may have already had the “catastrophic encounter.” Surely not the affluent folks who frequent Buddhist retreats—but white men in their fifties are killing themselves and overdosing on drugs at record rates, and more young adults than ever are on some kind of psychiatric medication. It seems there may be a few million Americans, at least, who are in that crisis that might enable them to abandon their attatchments to the naive common-sense view of the world (neoliberalism, Lockean empiricism, etc.) that is so at odds with their own existential experience.

  6. James

     /  January 4, 2019

    wtpepper, et al.:

    I’ve been catching myself up to speed for about a little over a year now on what you, Glenn, and some others have been writing about for some time, and I think it’s important to share my gratitude for your critiques. Despite having come to a meditative practice through MBSR, psycho-therapy, and several Sangha’s, I luckily don’t find myself in the position of “what these critiques are saying doesn’t resonate”; I’ve never bought (…) into capitalism, but even for myself, it took a number of experiences with psychedelics and a significant amount of personal grieving to come to accept just how doomed we are. What’s sadder still, psycho-therapy, the setting supposedly best suited to helping subjects grieve, is co-opted by the capitalist machine.

    The ideas that you are presenting are, for me, the single most stimulating source of criticism. I found my way to you through Tim Morton, whom I stumbled upon during a time when I was in a long running debate with a marxist about whether we should change the subject to change society, or change society to change the subject. I’ve come to see how defining either of these as fixed, non-ambiguous entities begets the slough of ideological problems that fuel our present catastrophes.

    With regard to what to do about them, I agree completely with Failed’s view, re: reproducing my own ‘dumb-luck-circumstantial’ discourse seems bound to fail, while at the same time re-instantiating the non-ambiguous, identitarian politics that I think we should aim to avoid. Yet, I cannot write off the significance of good-faith encounters between humans in vulnerable states. I cannot also write off the significance of traumatic encounters between humans in any state. Is facilitating vulnerability and addressing trauma just another empty, ideological dead end? It is my intuition that it is not. At the same time, I have few colleagues who are as philosophically pessimistic as I am, and perhaps it is my own cynicism that inhibits my own capacity for productivity.

    I look forward to reading what will come in the future.

  7. James,
    Thanks for you comment. I would suggest that the debate over whether we need to change the subject or society first is a false dilemma. Clearly, only a sujbect with agency could possibly change society, but once you have produced a (collective) subject capable of doing this (not to mention interested in doing this) you have already, to some extent changed society. That is, it is a dialectical process. My goal now is to try to figur out how we might produce the kind of collective subject that would want to change the world (that is, really want to do it, not just talk about or wish for it). This has been done before, but doing it in the era of global capitalism is a daunting task.

    You say that you are pessimistic and cynical. The first step is to recognize that this is not YOU, but the ideology in which you participate. “You” are part of collective subject constructed to be pessimistic and cynical. I know, from experience and observation, that the only way out of this collective subject is through rigorous thought—which is of course the one thing the discourse of psychology (and MBSR, CBT, most American Buddhist Sanghas) would insist you must avoid.

    You point up one problem I will need to try to address at some point: the idea that we cannot learn general lessons from individual examples, because they are too “dumb-luck circumstantial” to be of use. I would not agree. The apparent radical singularity of an individual case of re-interpellation will always yield some more general knowledge of the ideological problem, if considered from within the right kind of discursive practice. (That’s probably an excessively obscure sentence, right? But as I said, I’ll have to deal with it at greater length at some point.)

  8. Tom (Re: #5)

    I suppose my hesitation around trying to “reverse engineer” stems from my general mistrust of human (post-)rationalization and retroactive “introspection”. But given that this is all we have to work with, I suppose you’re right that it’s worthwhile. You raised a really important point about the necessity of a kind of “discursive introspection”, as opposed to some idealized and unachievable “pure introspection” fantasized by pop Buddhism and Western psychotherapy.

    And one possibility is that the many people in America today may have already had the “catastrophic encounter.” . . .

    Yes, I think this is where efforts should be directed, just as only x-buddhists whose own experience rubs up against their tradition’s interpretation of it have a chance of being dis-identified. I used to think we must try to cater to everyone, even those deeply entrenched, but at some point it’s simply a waste of time to try to engage, and it’s the same whether we’re talking about Buddhism, capitalism, or anything else.

    This was actually one of the most difficult things for me to come to terms with: that there are rarely such straightfoward things as “disagreements”. A person who believes in astrology doesn’t merely disagree with me on whether it is an accurate predictive model of human personality and behavior. To believe in astrology requires such a fundamentally different understanding of reality than mine, on so many different levels, that the gap between our discourses is virtually impossible to bridge, because we are operating on fundamentally incompatible ontological axioms which are also built into the language we are using to communicate. Am I understanding correctly that this is what you mean when you say that “there are a lot of preliminary points to get clear . . . about the nature of langauge, of concepts, of objects, of subjects, etc.”?

  9. Failed,
    I would suggest that doing the “reverse engineering” you mention doesn’t have to fall into the kind of rationalizing and justifying we all tend to do in our normal discourses. It’s important to remember the nature of the subject—that it is dependently arisen, and collective not atomistic. For instance, my own “conversion” resulted in part from being raised by television. My parents never made any attempt to guide or instruct us in any way about morals, economic reality, etc. We spent most of our childhood watching television six hours a day or more, and the disparity between the world I was led to expect from television deptictions and my actual reality was itself a shock. Then, of course, there was the unusually low cost of higher education in New York in the 80s, which enabled me to go to an R-1 research university, where I was taught by professors who were actually leaders in their fields (although I didn’t know this at the time) for an annual cost that was about what I made in two months working construction jobs over the summer. None of these are factors that are unique to me as a special individual with unusual gifts. If more people were led to expect a better life than they’re living (or to look up from their phone long enough to see that they’ve forgotten to live a life), and had available a quality education, maybe there wouldn’t be so many morons and idiots in the world.

    One thing I’m working on is exactly how to attempt to engage with people who have fundamentally different understandings of the world. How do we begin to get a more correct understanding, instead of just accepting the PoMO nonsense that all perspectives are equally valid? The Brandom book I’m reading right now suggests some ways to engage this, in a kind of Socratic method that works to push any discourse to make explicit all of its implicit commitments. What if it became necessary for astrology to make explicit all the assumptions about reality, and all the consequences, it commits an individual to? Admittedly, this might be hard with someone intellectually limited enough to believe seriously in astrology, but not so impossible with someone who is just a common-and-garden moron neoliberal.

    I’ve tried to do this in the past—my essay on Speculative Non-Buddhism about Thannisaro Bhikkhu was such an attempt, to expose the assumptions and consequences one is committed to when accepting this teachings. The response was mostly intense and stupid fury. So part of my task here is to try to determine whether there are better ways to do that kind of thing, ways that might work even if the collective subject being addressed is not yet experiencing any dissonance. That is, if there might be a kind of discursive practice that can exactly be the source of that “rubbing up against,” that necessary friction.

    One final note in too long a comment: I’m often criticized for using discourse and never suggesting a practice. I’m asked “what would the practice be? what practice would lead to awakening?” My point is, and again Brandom’s book is helping me think through this, that discourse just IS a practice—the belief that thinking is somehow NOT a practice we undertake like sitting still and feeling our breathing, is one of the great delusions to overcome. Thinking is just as much a practice natural to humans as hive building is a practice natural to bees. But that’s enough for now.

    Thanks for your comments. I’m curious to hear what you would make of OOO?

  10. Tom,
    Good points in the first paragraph. That’s what I was trying to inarticulately point to, that any introspection must recognize the collective nature of what (and “who) is being investigated, not thinking that it is a personal endeavor. Funny you should mention the role of television in your conversion. My upbringing was just the opposite: I grew up in an extremely insular Hasidic community where all media—TV, books, non-Jewish newspapers, etc—were banned. Our “education” also included almost no instruction in secular subjects such as math, science, history, social studies, etc. The little that we were taught was heavily censored (like any instances of the word ‘library’ in a textbook being colored over with black ink). When I broke out as a teenager into the real world (bracketing the ambiguity of that term), I could barely even construct a sentence in English, and had the equivelent of a third grade education/cultural understanding, if that. You can imagine the confusion of having to catch up with the last couple of centuries of cultural and scientific knowledge, and consistently running into instances where the new narratives that you’re learning don’t quite line up with what seems to actually be happening. In this sense I’ve always felt like something of a cultural outsider, even while moving between the subject of my childhood and a more “typical” American capitalist subject.

    The Brandom book I’m reading right now suggests some ways to engage this, in a kind of Socratic method that works to push any discourse to make explicit all of its implicit commitments. What if it became necessary for astrology to make explicit all the assumptions about reality, and all the consequences, it commits an individual to?

    Yes! This is exactly what I’ve been thinking about lately, with some difficulty, given that what the method looks like would be highly specific to the ideology that it takes an object of critique. What I’ve been doing a lot lately is applying this method of implicit–>explicit conversion of ideological commitments, every time I see an advertisement on the subway or a billboard, or read something in the news, and so on. It’s actually a lot of fun (and at times disillusioning). I’ll get myself a copy of Articulating Reasons.

    I remember the Thannisaro Bhikkhu essay. The responses were indeed mesmorizing, almost a perfect reductio ad absurdum of exactly what you were criticizing. I think there will have to be some level, even minimally, on which someone is already willing to genuinely consider that they might be wrong. Then, one might be able to guide them toward a sort of ideological explication—a “pointing out”, to borrow from Tibetan Buddhism—of the nature of ideology.

    But yes, people invariably seem to prefer some kind of “practice” that doesn’t involve actually having to do any difficult work. Why think when you can become omniscient by simply following your breath or whatever?

    As for OOO, I haven’t really read much about it, to be honest. The little I have read didn’t seem coherent to me, so I don’t think I actually understand it enough to have a strong opinion. I’m reflexively suspicious of any frameworks used as promises of a “theory of everything,” but I’ll watch the YouTube video you posted and see if anything changes. For now it appears to be just another fustrating instance of philosophy’s inability to think outside the reductionism/subjectivism dichotomy: “Oh, you think such and such is socially constructed? You must be a postmodern idealist!”; “What, you think consciousness doesn’t transcend the material world? You must be a reductionist!” But I may just be missing something here.

  11. I don’t really think OOO is all that coherent, myself. I’m just interested in why it is popular despite its obvious incoherence–like Metzinger or Thanissaro Bhikkhu or Alan Wallace, why do people want so much to ignore what it explicitly says and see it as a solution to all problems?

    Yes, ideological explication is a good term for what I would consider the first step here–but then also the work of interpellation. Of course, the trick is to perform this socratic task without Socrates’s fate. Not just execution, but worse: cooption by the idealists.

  1. Tom Pepper is an Imbecile | Speculative Non-Buddhism

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