Home > Uncategorized > Inanna’s take on French scholars and abstruseness

Inanna’s take on French scholars and abstruseness

Initiated by: http://critical-theory.com/foucault-obscurantism-they-it/

LOL. Nonsense. Foucault’s prose is beautiful in French and has a unique musicality that clarifies his thought-process, his method, as well as his thoughts. I’d say that the problem with Foucault is that he writes in a sometimes deceiving way, like a magician who hides his tricks (and avoids spelling out specific ‘relations’ or ‘meanings’, and this was picked up by his peers from the very beginning, when he defended his doctoral thesis). If Derrida is ‘obscure’ or ‘incomprehensible’, it’s only to the extent that, and precisely because, the language available to him is insufficient and inappropriate to do what he’s doing, which is recover the meanings that language necessarily hides – ‘clarity’ in this sense would be self-defeating (and I think, ultimately, the influence of Judaism on him is very important to understand his posture and his relation to language – you can intuitively understand that because of the common nature of, and relation to, ‘texts’ in the Islamic and Sufi part of our heritage). As for Bourdieu, he has the characteristic ‘clarity’ of the French sociological tradition since Comte and Durkheim, and his language is wonderfully precise and hence ‘clear’ and adequate to convey exactly what he wants to say (to me, Bourdieu’s language is like exactly like Bach’s music: I wouldn’t remove or add a word to it!). The problem for a non-French speaker is that it is grounded in the etymological universe of the French language, which allows him to play with the symmetries and oppositions within families of nouns and verbs in a way that cannot be translated exactly into English, because the latter is less consistent etymologically. So the most expressive of Bourdieu’s ‘formulas’ lose clarity as well as eloquence and beauty in English translations. And he also spoke in EXACTLY the same way as he wrote, so I have no idea what Searle is talking about here. Besides, how much ‘clarity’ do you need to understand that Bourdieu is not a ‘philosopher’! The irony is that the popular expression Searle refers to in the video/audio: ‘ce qui n’est pas clair n’est pas français’, originates in a quite nationalist/chauvinist perception of the uniqueness and rigour of the French language as opposed to others. The full citation is: ‘Ce qui n’est pas clair n’est pas français; ce qui n’est pas clair est encore anglais, grec, ou latin’ (de Rivarol, 18th century philologist I think). And I suspect Searle is simply expecting French ‘philosophers’ to conform with that folk myth called ‘French cartesianism’ where language follows the linearity of logical-mathematical expressiveness. Also, I find the way he mentions Foucault’s personal views on Derrida very cheap and inappropriate, and it doesn’t reflect the nature of their relationship and mutual respect despite their differences and disagreements.

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