i'll be doing my anti-left-right-spectrum thing this friday at the european and american philosophy conference at the fordham law school up near lincoln center. noon in room 3-01. it may well irritate people, but you never know.
i'll be doing my anti-left-right-spectrum thing this friday at the european and american philosophy conference at the fordham law school up near lincoln center. noon in room 3-01. it may well irritate people, but you never know.
i am often frustrated that my books rarely get reviewed; i know a lot of authors who feel that way. but i did find a nice review of political aesthetics from the journal of aesthetics and art criticism, by paul voice from bennington.
i love the praise, of course, and he praises the book for strengths i do think it has. and i also think that his criticisms poke some of the weak spots. it is true that i have a hard time with the concept of 'the aesthetic'. i certainly have been worrying about it for decades, but even when a student asked me today in my beauty class what i meant by 'aesthetic' (properties, aspects, experiences) i fumbled around. and it does have a tendency to get bigger and bigger until it's not surprising that it engulfs everything. i am not satisfied with the general characterizations of the aesthetic i gave in the book, and i have no pop-up definition. but of course i could and do say something and then something else and so on about it; i don't think it's completely nebulous.
speaking of free will, here is the freedom chunk of entanglements, half or so of the ethics chapter of my magnum opusy thing. it does show the range of tones, or good portion of it, in the book, from a phenomenological and first-person account to riffing about louis armstrong to a fairly precise analytic-style argument that free will is not necessary for moral responsibility (an analogue in ethics to my view, also re-argued in entanglements, that justification is not necessary for knowledge). i wouldn't say i try to squarely solve the problem of whether we have free will; i'm trying to re-enrich it. i think an beautifully replete question has been nibbled away to nothing by analytic philosophers.
suddenly i have very much warmed to experimental philosophy. once, i was skeptical or even dismissive, for one of the things that very much attracted me to philosophy was that, unlike in many less rigorous disciplines, you could do your research lying in bed, maybe with a bunch of books lying around, maybe not. but however, experimental philosophers are vindicating my theory of knowledge, which, if i'm recalling correctly, is profoundly radical yet mind-humpingly simple. i conclude from this that their research methods are unassailable. k=tb, baby.
one thing i'll say for 'knowledge is merely true belief' that perhaps i didn't say back in the day: it's pretty darn economical, oh, elegant really. i think knowledge is a richer notion than is captured in analytic epistemology. but let's restrict ourselves to an account of 'S (a person) knows that p (a proposition [or something that can be true or false])'. i actually am not quite sure how to value simplicity as a quality of theories; i am not sure that a simpler theory is likelier to be true than a complex one. but S knows that p iff S believes p and p is true (or 'S knows that p iff p and S believes that p') is an extraordinarily simple theory (iff is 'if and only if'), and i assert that it does a surprisingly good job of covering 'the phenomena', which i make out to be the ways the term is centrally or paradigmatically used in ordinary language. that it can do that is what i was arguing in my early papers, and the survey materials lend at least some support to that notion. the simplicity might be compelling at this point because of the baroque refinements to jtb-style approaches post-gettier.
[or, to review: the usual account of knowledge is jtb: justified true belief. obviously, tb is more economical. also, that little j thing or whatever we may call a similar condition, or multiplying conditions, begins to become truly rococo: dude it leads into endless labyrinths, worlds full of barn replicas.]
i generated k=tb in jim cargile's graduate seminar in epistemology at uva in the late 80s. it was explicitly an attempt to display the philosophical power of sheer perversity, a not entirely atypical bit of playful grandstanding: alright, what position is no one taking? i literally built a grid of theories and saw a big hole, and one thing about finding a fissure in the taxonomy like that is that if you jump in, you see a bunch of assumptions other people are making, which you then can try to undermine. but there could have been other perverse approaches and here's why i went for this one: it leans on truth like a mofo. as david sackris and james beebe put it, "bringing about the truth of p is (except in exceptional circumstances) not a task that falls to S. Rather, that 'task' falls to reality" (9). everyone at the time was willing to delete the truth condition; i had a lot of more or less rortyan gard contemporaries. my approach was designed to fit into a reality program. (cargile thought it was ridiculous, but in a great way or just the way i'd hoped: blasphemy! he cried, with a big old smile. also he always called me 'jean-paul'. he gave the final version for the class/first version for the world a 'B+', if i recall.)
another motivation at that moment, however, was that (almost secretly) i was reading kierkegaard, and really, as people sensed when the stuff angered them, i was going to try to derationalize knowledge; i was going to let your faith count as knowledge if its propositional content was true, i was going to encourage you to intuit, i was going to claim that even reason rested on faith, and so on. i was going to argue that there were many sources of knowledge, reason/science being only some, anarchizing epistemology. the main purpose of the papers was to take the sting out of the actual results, to show that it wasn't irrationalist at all. well, maybe it wasn't, necessarily, without some ancillary arguments. i was going to sneak all that up on you after i pulled the rational part out of the conceptual analysis of knowledge.
i did get more convinced of it as time went by; also it was my hobby to go here and there to defend it against various onslaughts, so it provided amusement if nothing else; i did delight in its perversity, or even in the fact that everyone thought it was ridiculous. some people - including some eminent epistemologists - became genuinely angry, which is also not the worst thing in the world necessarily. it was a bit of a performance piece, but people did sincerely think it was absurd. i started touring it to little conferences and stuff as a grad student and had worked it through a million counter-examples before the first version came out in american philosophical quarterly. i certainly had a notion that it would be my little reputation-maker, that i'd be associated with that idea primarily. i'm glad it didn't quite turn out that way, i suppose.
there was a little sensation at the time when the second paper came out in the journal of philosophy, i guess, and i do remember defending the whole thing in front of an angry auditorium at an apa; i remember robert audi getting pretty hostile, e.g. but really, the thing blew over. i think one problem is this: if k=tb, too many problems on which people have spent too much time do not arise. if it were true, it really would mean a lot of the epistemology of the last x decades (again, gettier and after) was barking up the wrong tree. it just had no place in the line of the discourse at that time, is another way to put it. it was one of a number of times i mistakenly thought that people would find it delightful to be provoked.
no one would publish my book on the topic, which must have been profoundly frustrating at the time. they sent it out specifically to be refereed by people who had already attacked the argument in one venue or another. for awhile, they were assigning my papers to grad students at arizona - a big center of analytic epistemology - as an exercise, like a take-home final: what has gone so terribly wrong with this argument? an object-lesson in sophism. i used to get some emails every year or two with refutations from grad students (always on the same predictable lines). i actually didn't hate that; i've always thought the whole thing was a fun little thing to play with, and it came from a grad seminar in the first place, for god's sake.
there has been a trickle of references to it, but really it just dissolved. in a way, that was ok; it let me go on to other things, like the political stuff; otherwise i might have spent a career on it. after some years i got profoundly tired of the same objections and replies, and really wanted to go write about art or something. sriously, for a very long time if i was walking the halls somewhere with a name tag, philosophers would snap their fingers, like 'aren't you that guy?' it got to where i'd be: have you read my stuff on race? i started pretending not to remember my own argument, and then i really started not remembering my own argument.
but i definitely also still feel that this sucker has legs. people are going to keep circling back to it, i think. there are problems, but there are strategies for dealing with them. i think beebe and sackris show some of these better than i did. if i myself were going to return to a defense, i'd need to bone up on my own arguments! also rethink some. also it would need to be put into relation to developments in epistemology since the early '90s, like the 'truth-makers' stuff and timothy williamson's work in epistemology, to which it is interestingly related.
i feel very distant from the person who generated this idea, so maybe if i could be permitted to comment on its strengths? it is still out there as a fundamental challenge. no one has dispensed with it. (people were relieved to regard lycan's attack as decisive. not even close, i say, as beebe and sackris point out. but lycan reviewed the manuscript for one publisher or another.) the fact that many important epistemological problems do not arise if k=tb is right is not necessarily, all things considered, a strike against it. i still endorse it as a theory within limits (man it's going to be a little hard to deal with 'propositions' in my later ontology), but there should at least be a longer line of debate about it.
american philosophical quarterly, knowledge is merely true belief
journal of philosophy, why knowledge is merely true belief
(sorry about paywalls etc; maybe you can get them through jstor if you have a library connection).
frank hofmann, in defense of some sartwellian insights
ken morris, concerning sartwell's minimalist thesis
you know, my academic career has been a struggle. there are many factors in that, which i won't enumerate. but on the other hand i have tenure now and i've always had a job, even though i went into several mays not knowing if i'd be teaching in septembers. i cycled through disciplines; i've been a professor of communications, 'humanities and sciences', political science, 'art and art history' as well as philosophy. i've worked at vanderbilt, alabama, penn, millersville, penn state harrisburg, mica, and dickinson. honestly, all of this was just about trying to hold on. anyway, my kids had health insurance and shit. and what i'm proud of - and which has also partly been made possible by what i think of as my marginal career - is that i really did do whatever i wanted. i wrote exactly what i wanted, and i wrote it in exactly the ways i wanted to write it, and i honestly represented my own experience. i swore to do that after grad school, and i have. i have never not been paid a living wage to do what i wanted to do, including teach. so that is a lot lot to be grateful for. (on the other hand, i still owe 30k in student loans, and i'm 55).
if i could lament one thing about philosophy now, it is that most of it is written in a kind of generic academic voice, and takes up pretty well-defined disciplinary questions of the moment. the good part of that is that it ends up constituting a kind of collective project, even within the constant disagreements that have to be central to the conception of philosophy (it is a discipline of agument, after all). but when i think back on what and who is worth reading in the history of philosophy, it is great big and extraordinarily distinctive voices. surely if you named ten historical philosophers off the top of your head, they would have that quality. even someone like aquinas is remaking as much as instantiating the philosophical/theological discourse he's in, and on the other hand is stunted by all the texts he's trying to venerate and emulate and the institutions that embed him. i think we've lost a lot of that boldness and distinctiveness, and indeed we literally lost it when we lost people like davidson, quine, rorty, danto, baudrillard. this is what i admire about zizek, for example, or latour: they still give that flavor. right now they seem like outliers, though i'm not saying there aren't a lot of intersting eccentrics here and there. you'll often find them in the provinces, or isolated from the big research-1 discourse.
anyway, i don't mean to assert that i am playing on that level; i sincerely try to turn that over; the reception is not in my power, nor can it be, nor should it be. i have tried to write according to the demands of the project and the subject-matter, not in order to be acclaimed. sometimes i read my own stuff as being there, sometimes i don't, and nothing is harder to do than to squarely or honestly or 'objectively' assess your own work. but i did always intend to end up there, at least in the sense of saying exactly what i do believe in as me-ey a way as i can (well, also to prove my positions in your face). i am not going to stop trying.
i thought perhaps i'd hit you with some of my own greatest hits, in my own opinion:
nypress (later a version in harper's): al gore and nothingness
philly inquirer: headless human clones
philly inquirer: mathematical proof that the stones are better than the beatles (got me on howard stern, cnn, etc: my 15)
if you happen to be in chicago next week, i'll be speaking as part of a fine lineup of people (including lewis hyde) at the 'lived practice symposium' at the school of art institute. i go off at 10 am saturday, november 8 at the fullerton auditorium. here's the paper. yes, i will show taylor swift videos, but you will also get a dose of merle haggard. thinking about it, i might be working toward a book on the aesthetic dimensions of identity categories such as race and gender, or an aesthetic account of race and gender and sexuality and so on that would also be a broadening of aesthetics and all its central concepts ('beauty', 'form', 'expression' 'aesthetic experience', e.g.). i guess it would kind of pick up where my (er) best book, political aesthetics, left off.
it's a familiar idea that these things are 'social constructions' but that's just the sketchiest of starting points. how are they constructed? where are they constructed? by whom? (even if they are not entirely or exhaustively social constructions, they surely have very many siocially-constructed aspects or inflections at a given place and time.) if we wanted to know how they are being made right now, where would we look? well we should look in my opinion at the arts very broadly construed: styles of movement and slangs, musics and scents, body adornments and modifications, designs of devices and device interfaces, arrangements of environments: what ranciere calls 'the distribution of the sensible'.
yes, i will be assessing sailor twift's 1989 after a day or two to absorb it (i'll give you something on the new lucinda too). i think when i first hopped on (with my daughter, circa speak now), people were all like "i hate that poppy auto-tuned bullshit!" to which i responded: i can hardly imagine a critic listening attentitively to this album and not coming away impressed. that has been borne out: she is a critical darling, and even brats who hate everything but indie dirge-pop can't frigging help themselves.
i do have some concerns about the decline of rock criticism, however, perhaps encapsulated by the lead of marlow stern's review in the daily beast. of the best pop songs, stern writes, "Ever present, they absorb the viscous lava of contempo culture through their pores, let it course through their veins ‘til a diffuse plexus of melodies and rhythms form, and then release the bubbly potion onto an unsuspecting audience." dave marsh and greil marcus might have been kind of boring and predictable in their opinions - they might still be - but they didn't write sentences like that, and if they (or we) did, their editors didn't wave them through. maybe it's supposed to be lesterbangsy? lord.
i guess the people i read most in the msm these days are the folks on the guardian: alex petridis (who loved the taylor album) and kitty empire, for example. i do think sasha frere-jones in the new yorker is good, so i'll give the old monocled one that.
alright, so, i started writing rock criticism at the washington star in 1980. i was a copy boy; our critic was on vacation when i started but i got to do records and shows by people like the ramones, clash, bb king. then the star croaked and i went to grad school in baltimore. i wrote for the city paper through the early 80s: hundreds of shows and records. it's funny to think the free-circ urban weekly should be shrouded in nostalgia now; really we did generate a lot of content. i was watching the wire recently, and noticing that rafael alvarez was all over the writing credits; he was all over the cp then. jd considine, who i started reading when he dominated the old baltimore news-american, was in the sun and then the rolling stone publications, so that was a a kind of model, though i'd have to say the actual critical approach was a counter-model.
so in the usual fashion i sent out clips, and soon i was reviewing for a number of mags. record magazine was probably the main outlet; it was a sub-rolling stone put out by the rolling stone dedicated entirely to music. but i guess i sort of knew the rs-type critics and editors of that era (anthony decurtis, for example), mostly at a distance. i reviewed many amazing shows and many turkeys, from donna summer and pat benatar to flipper and the dead boys, run dmc and the fat boys to tammy wynette and chaka khan. i kept almost but not quite reviewing records for rolling stone, but i did have the lead review in record sometimes. prince's purple rain, e.g.. they killed my review of born in the usa for the reasons i came to hate the whole operation: they were always trying to manufacture a consensus or pretend there was one, and soon the critics just didn't have very individual tastes or voices, which is how they wanted it.
my wife at the time, rachael, had a certain wanderlust, and we were always driving across the country or settling temporarily for the summer here and there. i would always pitch the local paper, so for example i wrote up roger miller and barbara mandrell for the albuquerque journal, or did stuff for the weekly out in seattle.
then she managed to drag me to london, which was the height of my little career. there has never been more rock criticism anywhere at any time than london in the '80s, and they had three tabloids the size of the new york daily news of that time every week, entirely devoted to music: sounds, new music express, and melody maker. i took my clips around; just walked into the newsrooms and pitched the editors. i caught on at melody maker, and soon was reviewing a couple of gigs a week, a variety of lps, etc, and doing features and interviews too. i met the nicest person in the world, cyndi lauper,
and the nastiest people, the members of x, for example. i got to see like everyone who played london in '83 and '84, which looking back on it had a lot to recommend it, even though i was pretty ambivalent about the 'synth-pop' then dominant. (god i hated depeche mode, live or on record, but culture club was excellent, for example.) chrissie hynde slammed a door in my face. i got knocked unconscious in the mosh pit at a killing joke concert by heavily booted mohawk punk thug, or thunk, as i think of them.
(everyone else was very nurturing, and i found myself under solicitous care propped up against a wall at the...hammersmith palais?)
[that represents the dominant pop sound of that moment in the uk; i must have seen twenty or thirty groups in this mode, swaying around and playing synthesizers. all the vocalists somehow sounded the same.]
i lost a night in paris where they flew people over to see inxs; me the nme guy ended up in a coke-and-groupie limo discohopping paris adventure with hutchence &co that i basically don't remember. the band rolled us into our hotel at 5 and we both missed our plane back to london.
so then i started turning pretty seriously toward the academic career and writing in that mode, but i did work through the late '80s. i interviewed lemmy for creem, etc. then around 2000, marion winik, disconcerted by my monthly country cd budget, suggested i pitch someone a country column so people would send me free cds. the guys from the balt city paper - russ smith and john strausbaugh - were doing the super-odd rollicking nypress, and i wrote the farm report in the persona of a 300-pound ultra-rightist farmer named crispin sartwell. then blogging...
come to think on it, i might could scan in some clips.
i have an essay on atheism up at the atlantic. i might put the point a bit more strongly: no one lives without faith, and no one's belief system can establish itself with no assumptions or no passionate commitments or no irrational kierkegarardian leaps.
probably the best statement of the sort of position i develop in the piece is santayana's scepticism and animal faith.
my book of esays is out. it's in my less academic, more rollicking voice. stuff on magic, bluegrass and punk, graffiti and dutch painting, cynicism and the meaning of life, addiction and terorism. some bits are from this blog.
i'm currently ranked #14,763,620, with a bullet.
laying down the smack in the atlantic today. but readers of this blog have been familiar with this approach since 2011. i like to call the cred indextm "arrow's extreme improbability theorem", not because kenneth arrow is involved, but because i like the word 'arrow', nicely combining the phallus, the nobel prize, and kacey musgraves.
if you read this blog, you are familiar with my perhaps somewhat incessant attack on the left-right spectrum. honestly i might have been getting a little pissy about the whole thing, and i never had much success getting anyone to sign up. but yo, it's up at the atlantic. dedicating that one to the shade of ralph waldo, baby.
i will be on the al-jazeera english show "the stream" live at 3:30, talking with a cool panel about contemporary anarchism. now, al-jazeera english is not al-jazeera america, nor is the stream on aja the same as the stream on aje. and plus aje is "geo-blocked" in the states. one might be able to access it here, and maybe i'll be able to post a link to the video at some point.
i was surprised to find out that there's a new spanish translation of six names of beauty. it's a super-cute little object, too. i look back with mortification on some moments of my writing history, but i'm happy and proud that i wrote that book.
this morning i finished a submittable draft of entanglements: a system of philosophy at around 210k words. the basic outline is six chapters: ontology, theory of truth, epistemology; then the axiology: ethics, aesthetics, and political philosophy. it's the first such system since samuel alexander's space, time, and deity fell stillborn from the press 100 years ago or whatever it may be. or maybe not. anyhow, now i've just got to tack on the kant/schelling/hegel/schopenhauer style preface: 'Since the very dawn of time, members of our amazing species have wondered about this and that. Well, ain't gots to worry no mo, cause ole Uncle Crispy has figured this sucker out, in a way that makes rational disagreement conceptually impossible. In the book you are about to read, all knowledge is comprehended in a new rigorous science, the universe reaches perfect self-consciousness, and history is annihilated into ecstasy. Or just about, anyway."
my argument against 'the n-word' grows ever-more elaborate, almost tumescent, you might say. ok, sue me, fire me etc: i am inordinately proud of the thing.
i've been writing eyeofthestorm/cheese it, the cops! for exactly ten years. i was hoping to get to a million page views by now, but it's 968,021 at the moment. in some ways, blogging kind of spoiled me for other writing; i more or less quit my syndicated column simultaneously (well, and newspapers went broke). like i always wanted to be an op-ed columnist so i could instantly comment on whatever. the meaning of 'instant' changed. plus you can't cuss in the los angeles times. sometimes i've been surprised not to be arrested, or have an angry mob show up here at harbold's school or wherever i was huddled/concealed at the time.
i've felt burned out and repetitive at times or just left it there for a week or three, but sometimes i've on my own account done some very good blogging. one thing i love: write, then publish, then revise, then publish: it solves a problem i always had in newspapers and magazines: aw shit, now that i see it on the page...
anyway, thanks for reading and thanks especially to frequent commenters over the years (and of course the ol' crusader). and just remember that famous, prestigious stuff very frequently sucks chode: kennedys, for example; pablo picasso; james joyce; plato; the beatles; bob dylan; bruce springsteen; hillary clinton; neil gaiman; ludwig wittgenstein; u2; serious art music; willem de kooning; socialism; allen ginsberg; john ashbery; new york; 'literary fiction'; our heroic military men and women; being proactive; jay-z, kanye, beyonce, and kim; the italian high renaissance; neil young; gay aesthetics; the velvet underground; modernism; postmodernism; elizabeth warren; neuroscience; foodies; europe; and human evolution, which has brought us here and dropped us off. i do love many things too, as you must admit.
54 is a good age for a person in my line of jive to transform his hopes for sudden recognition of his transcendent genius to hopes for transcendent posthumous success. really when i was but a wee philosopher i thought i could be a transformative figure. insofar as i am in contact with reality, i'd have to be convinced by now that such a thing is not likely, possibly due to insufficient talent. princeton and stanford aren't calling; indeed, it's more like i'm lucky to have a job. i fantasize about a macarthur or something, but i didn't even get the grants i applied for for my sabbatical. i keep writing books and they get published, but putting it mildly they don't launch a discussion, much less whole new lines of actual inquiry, ecsatic worldwide acclaim etc.
now i might tell myself things like this: oh they just don't see how incredible i am because they're too...narrow-minded, conventional etc. however, one would have to notice that radical or unconventional figures often do extremely well. so then it oscillates to: well you must just suck, you pathetic fuckhead. it's hard to tell about yourself how smart you are, or how good you actually are at your job , isn't it? at least, it's hard for me.
so i tell myself that all i can really do is to try to keep plugging away, or doing the best work i can. i berate myself: are you doing this because you believe what you're saying and because you love what you are saying it about - are you doing it for it - or are you doing it to be loved and admired? i want to be intrinsically committed to the material, not the career: that's how i feel i could do meaningful work. but then: i am writing a 'system of philosophy.' it might be tending to become massive. and i have to ask myself: who would read something like that from you? ok if some famous dude at harvard or the sorbonne was doing something like that, someone might publish it and people might read it. but the world surely is not begging for that from crispin sartwell. i do think about audience/success enough to ask myself, stongly enough to make me take the day off, whether anyone will actually read this stuff i spend years typing. and then i find myself in a fantasy: oh you know in 2075 somebody will casually find my book in the stacks of an academic library and go: wow that's amazing! revolutionary! let's write some dissertations about this. i portray myself in my own head - in what i cannot but regard on reflection as really a pathetic attempt to bolster a repulsively saggy ego - as a van gogh, etc: someone laboring away in obscurity in his own time only to sell for $100 million a hundred years afterwards. i waver between crazed grandiosity and useless defeatedness.
just possibly these reflections are somewhat heightened by the news that my ex-wife - with whom, pathetically, i am still in love - is dating an academic who just got a 200k advance on his next book, and whose divorce decree states specifically that should he win the nobel, she gets a third. i am so far from worrying about your pathetic nobels! he sobbed.
i just uploaded a kids'/ya e-novel about overthrowing a middle school. though the main character is a girl, it's based on my revolution against alice deal junior high school in dc, and some of my daughter emma's subversive adventures at carver high school, towson, md. it could actually be a manual on how to drive your principal literally insane, which my little guerilla band did do circa 1972. it's published on kindle at amazon and in multiple formats at smashwords.
i realize that if you buy it, you'll pay $4.99. however, i'm broke and i get like $3.50 for every copy sold
some folks who know me well have lately been saying to me that i'm a "theoretical" anarchist, or that i'm an anarchist because of the philosophical leverage or point of view it yields. well, there's something to this. as i urged in against the state, anarchism performs the function in political philosophy that skepticism performs in epistemology; it presses people to justify their fundamental assumptions.
but they're also gently saying i'm a hypocrite, because i pay taxes and use roads, for example, and because i do not take up arms against the state. not that the accusation of hypocrisy is entirely unwarranted, but let me respond briefly. there are things i actually want to do in this world - like teach, and write books, and raise kids. i don't hate the world, even with the state in it, and i will point out that i reject the idea that the state makes everything about our lives together possible: all kinds of things happen outside or in spite of it, and all kinds of things it does are things i think might be done in some form without it. i oppose the state, but there are other things i want to do besides merely constantly oppose it; on a good day i want to be able to ignore it, and i live in such circumstances that i often can, and i take advantage of these circumstances and try to appreciate them. what i'm interested in primarily is doing what i want, and i pay taxes so i won't have to enter into some nightmare hassle with the authorities.
i went through a period as an actual revolutionary of sorts; but then i sort of realized that that would condemn me to a personal history consumed by rage and unproductive activity. (well a lot of folks who were revolutionaries in 1973 realized it wasn't going to work out.) and also i realized that i can comfortably be part of no movement, that i'm temperamentally unsuited to solidarity. one way i continue to realize this; anarchists don't think i'm an anarchist. libertarians don't think i'm a libertarian. even tiny fringe splinters of the ideological spectrum extrude me, until i'm a movement of one. not exactly your effective revolutionary front!
in this and in many other senses (though not all!) i am an individualist. (not all: i do not endorse greed or think that human beings are naturally only self-seeking, e.g.) (not all: i think human individuals exist only in and as relation: to each other but also to non-human things.)
my life included an extreme anti-authority rebellion, expressed with regard to my parents and my schools. i still have that, and it takes the form of what you might call epistemic perversity; it is extremely important to me, evidently, to reject the consensus of the people around me; i constantly really feel reverse peer-pressure, i might say. i've had to learn to compromise with this, because mere rejectionism doesn't really lead you to truth either. i make an effort to listen and try to find a consensus plausible. but i never am perfectly clear on the extent to which i believe what i believe for anti-social reasons. on the other hand, i also think that real insights are available here; if i am proud of anything, it's that i often see things from a different angle than other people, and see things they don't or can't. obviously, i also have my blind spots. but on the other hand, i do immediately detect the authoritarian elements in any discourse, practice, or policy (including the benevolent, good-hearted ones), and work to expose them.
non-anarchists often tease me about being an anarchist; they assume this means that i'm a libertine, and that i can't stand any rules or principles. they think i'm a hypocrite for wearing clothes or writing syllabi with grading standards, or in admiring or practicing or demanding monogamy or sobriety or industriousness or, um, punctuality (cs: the punctual anarchist). but here i'm just going to say that that's wrong. it's coercion i reject, not rules or principles or self-discipline. you can't play chess without rules; the rules are the game. emerson said that "Wild liberty develops iron conscience. Want of liberty, by strengthening law and decorum, stupefies conscience." my desire is to live by rules i impose on myself, and by rules we make together in social activities, or in play. my idea is that rules imposed by coercion make people worse, make conscience and self-discipline and cooperation apparently unnecessary. my ex-wife regards me as puritanical. well, i am puritanical, in proportion as i am always about to tumble into vice. but being that and expressing it or even expecting it of others is not itself incompatible with my anarchism. (that's why i no longer believe a lot of what i wrote in obscenity, anarchy, reality, much to the disappointment of a few fans of that approach.)
so anyway, it is a complex position/life, and complexly related to the various things people - both those who account themselves anarchists and those who don't - mean by 'anarchism.' but there it is.
i'll be delivering some version of 'political aesthetics' - complete with immortal tech videos - at notre dame [corrected date and time] at 4 next friday (april 8). annenberg auditorium of the snite museum of art.