James Lindsay on Cynical Critical Theories
"James Lindsay talks with Jim about his parody scholarly article project, intentions of his latest book, liberalism as a process, history of social progress, illiberalism from the left, the history of postmodernism & its impact on science, cultural & economic power dynamics, postmodern principals & themes, the postmodern applied turn, identity politics, strategic essentialism, post-colonialism, fighting reason & empiricism, research justice, the scope of postmodern cultural influence, queer theory, sex & gender, critical race theory & intersectionality, IQ’s impact on cognitive bias, personal responsibility vs victimization, the challenges of fighting illiberal postmodernism, and more."
"James: And those, if I can name them all in one go, those are the blurring of boundaries. So trying to take any categories that you might be able to think of, whether it’s man and woman, whether it’s knowledge and storytelling, and blur the boundaries between them so that everything kind of becomes the same thing. Second one is the almighty power of language or an exaggerated focus on the power of language. We just described that, the belief that words almost work like magic spells to structure the sociology of a thing. A third one would be cultural relativism, which would be both in terms of morals. So ethical relativism, moral relativism, as you’d hear, you can’t judge one culture. There’s ethics from the position of another culture, which had imported from some of the early moves in anthropology. And then also epistemological relativism, that you can’t judge one knowledge system from within another knowledge system. So as they phrase it, there are ways of knowing. One way of knowing, like science can’t bear upon the validity of another way of knowing like witchcraft, because they’re relative and that they’re products of their distinct cultures, and so one can’t speak to the other.
James: And then the fourth is the dissolution. So we talked earlier about liberalism, is the dissolution of the belief in a universal humanity and the dissolution of the belief in the autonomous individual. People are products of their social groups and holy products of their social groups. And so it comes down to defining how those social groups are defined, with the original post-modernist, it would have been particular time and place in culture. So France, 1960 would have been maybe a thing or France in the late medieval period would have been a thing.
James: And this over time has evolved to where your cultural groups have now been wedged into identity categories, though the original postmodernists wouldn’t have thought that way, but the point was that you’re not an individual, you’re a French person in the medieval period. And that’s how you think. There’s this consciousness that goes with being in which culture at what time you happen to be. And then there’s no universal humanity because one group can’t genuinely understand each other, because they have completely different ethics and completely different epistemologies. So they can’t even properly speak to one another. So there’s this eraser of all of the fundamental principles of liberalism, like understanding the world clearly, universal principles of humanity, and viewing people as individuals and saying that, yeah, we can make some universal judgments about right and wrong, and no, we don’t have to get tricked by word games. There is a fundamental reality beneath it all that we can understand and talk about on shared terms." (https://jimruttshow.blubrry.net/the-jim-rutt-show-transcripts/transcript-of-episode-73-james-lindsay-on-on-cynical-theories/)
- The book: Cynical Theories