Was Judaism itself responsible for the Holocaust? At least one deconstructionist thinks so, claiming that Jewish belief in absolutes was the real culprit.
This draft is a casual, yet critical foray into the surreal world of deconstructionism. I will touch on a few salient points of deconstructionism’s ideology and social engineering agenda primarily as exemplified in a lecture given by a deconstructionist philosophy professor. This excursion includes a peek behind the curtain of the postmodernist stage to get a glimpse of post-structuralism unmasked.
Deconstructionists may readily object to my characterization of deconstructionism as ideology, claiming to the contrary that deconstructionism stands opposed to ideologies. Nevertheless, can we not identify in deconstructionism a more or less systematic body of ideas about human life and culture, a characteristic way of thinking, and a dogmatic mindset? Deconstructionism typically denies the existence of absolutes, including truth. The deconstructionists’ skepticism about truth is manifestly dogmatic. What deconstructionist, or any other skeptic, ever speaks doubtingly about skepticism.
Unlike the philosophical skepticism of Pyrrho, Montaigne, Gassendi, Bayle, Hume, Santayana, Camus and others, deconstructionism’s skepticism takes a non-philosophical turn. This is because deconstructionism is not philosophy as normally understood. It is anti-philosophical. In one sense, it is true that one must philosophize, and necessarily so, to argue an anti-philosophical position. On the other hand, from the perspective of deconstructionism’s social or ‘political’ agenda, we can accurately describe deconstructionism as a lateral move away from philosophy. This strategic move will someday merit deconstructionism a mere extended footnote in the history of philosophy.
Deconstructionism, as everyone knows, denies man the knowledge his senses and intellect are capable of attaining. However, deconstructionism fails to present any compelling philosophical argument supporting its position of radical skepticism, i.e. solipsism. For this, and certain other reasons, I characterize deconstructionism as primarily an attitude: an attitude of disaffection, hostility to permanent things, and a distancing from reality. It is a profusely articulated expression of teenage rebellion.
We will now look at an example of a deconstructionist’s use, or rather misuse, of the Holocaust account, as a means of social engineering, and an attack on absolute values and philosophy itself.
Professor Little plays the big Holocaust card
Some time ago, I attended a university lecture for graduate level philosophy students given by a deconstructionist philosophy professor, whom I will call Professor Little. Professor Little is a devotee of that aberrant French past time called Deconstructionism. Counted among his intellectual lights are Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Friedrich Nietzsche and (pro-Nazi) Martin Heidegger. Professor Little’s lecture was more bizarre that what I expected, yet he seemed brilliant, professional, and well spoken.
In typical postmodern speak, Professor Little, in a matter-of-fact way, made the contra factual claim the Jews themselves were responsible for the Holocaust. Specifically, the Jewish belief in absolutes of right and wrong, being, and truth created a climate of absolutist thinking from which arose the total state, absolute power, Nazi persecutions…and the rest is history. Professor Little offered no evidence or proof to support his position.
Like the courtroom theatrics of an attorney, Professor Little’s objective was to present a strictly persuasive argument, one that instills the desired attitude and beliefs in the audience. The question whether his assertion about the cause of the Holocaust is true, that is, true in the usual sense of the word, becomes a stillborn issue with the deconstructionist. Like any radical skeptic, the deconstructionist denies the existence of truth, so proof in its usual sense does not exist in his surreal world.
Deconstructionism asserts that we cannot read meaning out of texts. Neither can we extract an author’s intention from his text. For various reasons, deconstructionists claim that we can never be sure of an author’s intent. Therefore, we can only read our interpretation into texts. Standards do not exist by which to decide whether one interpretation is more accurate than any other interpretation. The most that texts provide us are springboards for our own ideas.
Therefore, what we might normally consider historically accurate or plausible accounts of the causes that brought about the Holocaust are, open to the deconstructionist reinterpretation. New interpretations will not be any less accurate than that any other reading. To object to Professor Little about his non-historical take on the Holocaust will lead to, as is typical with any deconstructionist, interminable and fruitless discussions about language, interpretation, truth, signifiers, signified, and subjectivity.
Historical accounts of the Holocaust are merely text for the deconstructionist to manipulate and use to his own purposes. Historical fact and truth, is the normal sense of the terms, does not enter the equation. What then is Professor’s Little’s purpose in advancing his dubious interpretation of the Holocaust?
Professor Little intended his polished, postmodern ‘political’ speak to undermine belief in western metaphysics. He was not teaching philosophy; he was proselytizing students to the position that absolutes do not exist. Therefore any reasonable understanding of intentionality, meaning and communication fall by the wayside, victims of deconstructionism’s road clearing to that brave new world. There is no truth in communication; no grasping the meaning intended by an author. To argue the truth or factual nature of any account of the Holocaust becomes moot.
Regarding belief in the non-existence of truth, the graduate philosophy students were already most of the way there, most believing that truth and morality are relative. Therefore, Professor Little’s implication that any belief in absolute values is dangerous, destructive and leads to enormous evils such as the Holocaust fell gently on receptive ears. Professor Little impressed on the audience the counter-valence of relativity while devaluing permanent things.
The intended implication of privileging relativity is to promote the idea that a secular society of absolute relativists (is that an oxymoron?) will not experience atrocities such as the Holocaust. Deconstructionism refuses to recognize an objective standard that enables us to judge anything in itself as higher or lower, true or false, good or evil. Things are only what we say they are. Just as some people believe beauty only exists in the eye of the beholder, so deconstructionists assert that higher and lower, true and false, good and evil are strictly subjective values. What we value as evil today we may value later as good.
It is inconsistent, then, for the deconstructionist to judge the Holocaust as evil, since that value presupposes the existence of an objective standard for value judgments, a standard whose existence he summarily denies.
Truth, the politicizing of philosophy, and the demise of sound philosophy
It is mindboggling to realize that such drivel as Professor Little’s self-refuting claim, which says truth does not exist, passes these days for higher education. Consider this: If the statement, “Truth does not exist” is “true", then there exists at least one truth. Therefore, the statement, “Truth does not exist”, is false and self-refuting. Nonetheless, I could see that many attendees of the lecture felt (goose bumps all over) enlightened by Professor Little’s version of radical skepticism.
In deconstructing great works of the past, the deconstructionist would like us to believe that all language is ‘political’. His assertion is patently false because it fails to consider the multiple levels and functions of language. It is, rather, the deconstructionists’ own language, which is mostly ‘political’.
Deconstructionism does an end-run around truth by assuming that textual language is a chain of signifiers that does not point to independently existing signifieds. That is, texts do not portray a reality existing independently of the text. There is nothing outside of the text. Life itself is text.
According to the deconstructionist literary critic, understanding a text requires its deconstruction or dismantling to expose its covert rhetorical machinations. Textual deconstruction does not discover truth. Rather it claims to expose the emptiness and absence of truth that language previously concealed.
Language is all we can know. We do not know a single thing existing independently of the text. That we normally think of things as having independent, real existence in the world, apart from language, is merely an effect or by-product of language.
What normally appears as a consistent unified literary work, in the hands of a deconstructionist literary critic becomes a structure of rhetorical strategies and maneuvers. The critic exposes what is the absence of a unified, logically consistent, and intelligible meaning. This is the best that language can do for us since language is merely a chain of ungrounded signifiers.
Derridian criticism sees philosophical texts as often comprised of assumed opposites such as being and non-being, literal and metaphorical, and so on, in which one term is privileged over its opposite. Since, the gap existing between the polar signifiers is irresolvable, the deconstructionist critic may invert the oppositional terms, privileging the subsidiary term, which inverts the text, and by that exposes its contrivances. Since text is composed of terms that, for various reasons, the author privileges, and signifiers as previously mentioned are ungrounded, we find the absence of truth in philosophical texts, where once we thought truth existed.
What applies to the language of texts, applies in like manner to the language of speech. Deconstruction literary criticism, based on a false philosophy of language, is an almost pathological ravaging of literature, which substitutes for doing sound philosophy.
Professor Little’s next lecture point was a devaluation of Christian higher education. In so doing, Professor Little related the story of medieval university students debating how many angels are able to dance on the point of a needle. The audience laughed loudly. Professor Little implied that Christian higher education is for the silly minded and postmodern thinking is for the enlightened ones.
Angels on the point of a pin does sound like an odd subject to debate, but most people are unaware of the question’s significance. Even though some scholars find little evidence for this question in medieval universities, I believe it was an exercise in debate, logic, and ontology. For example, angels are incorporeal substances, so it matters not whether the corporeal object in question is the point of a needle, or something as large as planet Earth. In like manner, the logical analysis continues.
If our present-day universities taught sound philosophy, students might have the wherewithal to recognize Professor Little’s lecture as unadulterated nonsense – and he would be looking for another job, perhaps as a used car salesman. Now there is a rich idea for some creative writer! Can you imagine the sales pitch a deconstructionist car salesman might try out on a customer looking to buy a used car? For example, “The culturally conditioned idea that an automobile with four wheels is necessarily superior to this beauty with one wheel missing does not hold true for everyone. Superior and inferior are merely subjective terms lacking an absolute point of reference. Privileging four wheels discriminates. It marginalizes every wheel-challenged auto on this lot. What value attaches to a particular number of wheels varies with every individual’s unique perspective, which is determined by…...”.
Any person in their right mind would refuse to buy a car from this kind of salesman. Why, on the other hand, would anyone willingly buy into the deconstructionist’s lame sales pitch about that which is infinitely more important than a car, truth? The deconstructionist position on absolute truth is about as trustworthy as a car missing one of its wheels. Truth is an equation of thought and thing. When we deny the existence of immutable truth, we disassociate from reality and all that is knowable. Chaucer says in The Frankeleyns Tale, “Truth is the highest thing that man may keep.”
Universities were once bastions of truth; now they are bastions of anti-truth. There are exceptions, though, but I could almost count on one hand the number of universities in the U.S. that do genuine philosophy.
Many societies in the past held the philosopher in esteem, as a lover of wisdom: philo + sophia. He engaged in the most difficult of tasks—the pursuit of truth. The specific activity of philosophizing is contemplative; the true philosopher contemplates being. Teaching philosophy is the closest activity to philosophizing, but is not philosophizing (contemplating being). Still, everyone these days who earns a doctoral degree in philosophy proudly calls himself a philosopher. Most likely, though, he has only a meager background in traditional philosophy, and misunderstands key concepts of the greatest philosophers. One of my many pet peeves is the prevalence among philosophy professors of their faulty interpretation of Aristotle’s forms of physical beings as themselves physical. This fundamental exegetical error is reductionist and precludes a correct understanding of Aristotle’s metaphysics, psychology and epistemology. Form is the non-material component in every physical being. Immateriality is that which confers intelligibility on matter.
Still, many philosophy professors engage in a commendable search for truth, even though they are in significant error. The most pathetic of human beings are the so-called philosophers who dogmatically claim that truth does not exist.
This observation especially includes the deconstructionists, who exhibit a penchant for deconstructing every text in sight; from tomato soup can labels to classic works in political philosophy. The goal in deconstructing great works of western civilization is to create a rift by driving a wedge into the achievements of human reason and by it subverting belief in the truths of first philosophy, metaphysics.
The hijacking of Socrates, or, the deconstructionists’ most excellent adventure
Professor Little and his ilk fancy themselves as the true modern day disciples of Socrates. This is not a joke. Well, in a way it is. Professor Little, with a hint of self-satisfaction, lightly bemoaned that people accuse him of corrupting the youth of today just as the Athenians accused Socrates. (I can see why.)
I remember asking myself why a deconstructionist would consider himself a true disciple of Socrates. What could be more antithetical to each other than Socratic philosophy and deconstructionism? After all, Socrates argued against the Sophists, the relativists of his day. Socrates believed in absolutes such as truth, beauty, goodness and justice. He taught tendance of the soul (Know thyself); that man’s responsibility is to make his soul god-like (deiformity), and the human soul is immortal. The answer to my question came when Professor Little said Socrates taught what was “true” and needed for fifth century Athens, while he and other deconstructionists are teaching what is “true” and needed for our time. Now, why didn’t I think of that?
I hate to burst anyone’s bubble, but deconstructionists inarguably have nothing whatever in common with Socrates, but they do have a lot in common with the Sophists. As Parmendides said, "The ways of falsehood are many, while the way of truth is one." Deconstructionists have created their own path to falsehood.
Deconstructionism’s small world or, everything I need to know I learned from Jacques Derrida, et al
The deconstructionist imagines himself to be a Nietzschean “free spirit”, superior to the culture in which he exists. He feels enlightened by his so-called discovery that absolutes do not exist. He summarily relieves himself of that difficult age-old philosophical task of seeking truth. Life, in a sense, is simple for the deconstructionist because reality is for him (theoretically) unknowable. He exists in an small world of his own devise, contented with his summum bonum: deconstruction and doughnuts. If the deconstructionist ever roused the moral courage to admit the intelligibility of a world existing independently of the knower, he would then have to deal with it.
The deconstructionist has imprisoned his spirit, unable to know or believe in anything outside himself. Even more, the wedge he drives into culture to undermine western metaphysics is the same wedge he has driven into his own soul. He has created a rift within his psyche that keeps him from ever knowing himself in the Socratic sense.
As I previously mentioned, deconstructionism claims we cannot discover the meaning an author intends with his text. Thus, the deconstructionist’s wedge undermines human communication, and by it tries to sever present-day civilization from its past. Ideas do have consequences, and the deconstructionists’ objective is to sever western civilization from its roots (which is precisely our existing crisis) so man becomes malleable; re-formable according some type not yet specified.
Deconstructionism enslaves rather than frees. It is one more symptom of that spiritual disorder proliferating throughout western civilization during the last four centuries. Rather than being the free spirit he imagines himself to be, or superior to the culture in which he happens to exist, he remains a tragic, earth-bound product of the times.
(Note: I will post soon a discussion of the principles of a sound philosophy of language.)
The interminable French Revolution, or, thanks a lot Protestant Reformers
While reading the always-boring French deconstructionist, Jacques Derrida, I began speculating about the changing beliefs and ideas leading up to the infamous French Revolution. The French Revolution’s cults of Reason and Supreme Being, resulted from the subjectivity that spread throughout Europe—an outcome of the Protestant Reformation. Did the ideologies that resulted in the cults of Reason and Supreme Being degenerate even deeper into subjectivity? Did the cult of Reason morph into a subordination of Reason to Will, such as we find in Deconstructionism in which man becomes, at least ideally so, a mere play of forces? Thus, we have here our new age cult—the cult of Will. Has the disaffected postmodern intellectual merely replaced the French cult of a distant Supreme Being with the cult of vague Heideggerian philosophical ideas, or just resigned himself to a meaningless life of denying absolutes in post-structuralism’s solipsistic world?
It seems the French Revolution is playing itself out in our present-day, postmodern universities.