From: Scott Yates <syates@xxxxxxxxx>
Date: Thu, 18 Feb 1999 15:37:30 +0000
I want to register my agreement with many of your points. Firstly, I think there
is an obvious bias amonst many academics in the Anglo-American tradition against
continental philosophy. The most and least valuable philosophers poll which came
fout of America recently bore this out (I think it was Derrida who was judged to
have made the least valuable, most over-rated contribution to philsophy
throughout history, and I wonder how many who registered votes for this had made
a real effort to engage with his work).
This isn't to say that I don't think there can be accusations levelled at
certain theorists for being unnecessarily obtruse (Mary Gergen springs to mind),
but it seems as though there exists in many places an overt prejudice against
post-structuralism/postmodernism as a whole. I think that Chomsky, whose work I
studied a few years ago, highlights something on this. Unfailingly, his response
to any question involving postmodernism is 'Sorry, I don't understand that.
Maybe I'm missig a gene or something.' I think that this is actually quite
dishonest. When such a renowned intellectual makes a comment like this, it's
quite a resounding dismissal. The dishonesty comes in when you discover that he
never has never made any effort to engage seriously with a body of work he is
dismissing out of hand.
I agree also, that the way human beings understand and relate to themselves and
one another is a hugely complex issue. Where on Earth are easy answers on this
supposed to come from, and if there are any, then why haven't I heard them?
One point where I would differ with you, though, is one the subject of
introductory texts. While I admit that many do over-simplify important work, I
think it is the mark of a good introductory text that it creates the desire for
engagement with the original work. I know that, whilst I am interested in the
work of Nietzsche, Heidegger, Derrida and Husserl (to name but a few) as well as
Foucault, given the constraints on my time from teaching, preparing papers,
giving departmental presentations, and carrying out my research, I don't have
the time to properly read enough to get any understanding of these thinkers.
Consequently, I highly value good-quality introductory texts which I prefer to
see as a means to ease me into difficult works rather than substitute for them,
even if a more thorough engagement with the original texts must be deferred
until time permits.