O que é French Theory?
O debate sobre a French Theory pega fogo em duas colunas do Stanley Fish no NYT, recomendo efusivamente: no geral, foi justo, ainda que um pouco celebratório, do que a gente convencionou chamar de Descontrução. Acho ótimo que se coloque as coisas em termos bem claros, e bem direto ao ponto. O Fish explicou sem apelar para obscurantismos, palavras dificeis ou grande argumentos teológicos.
Este trecho é da primeira parte:
The Cartesian trick of starting from the beginning and thinking things down to the ground can’t be managed because the engine of thought, consciousness itself, is inscribed (written) by discursive forms which “it” (in quotation marks because consciousness absent inscription is empty and therefore non-existent) did not originate and cannot step to the side of no matter how minimalist it goes. In short (and this is the kind of formulation that drives the enemies of French theory crazy), what we think with thinks us.
It also thinks the world. This is not say that the world apart from the devices of human conception and perception doesn’t exist “out there”; just that what we know of that world follows from what we can say about it rather than from any unmediated encounter with it in and of itself. This is what Thomas Kuhn meant in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions when he said that after a paradigm shift — after one scientific vocabulary, with its attendant experimental and evidentiary apparatus, has replaced another — scientists are living in a different world; which again is not to say (what it would be silly to say) that the world has been altered by our descriptions of it; just that only through our descriptive machineries do we have access to something called the world.
This may sound impossibly counterintuitive and annoyingly new-fangled, but it is nothing more or less than what Thomas Hobbes said 300 years before deconstruction was a thought in the mind of Derrida or Heidegger: “True and false are attributes of speech, not of things.” That is, judgments of truth or falsehood are made relative to the forms of predication that have been established in public/institutional discourse. When we pronounce a judgment — this is true or that is false — the authorization for that judgment comes from those forms (Hobbes calls them “settled significations”) and not from the world speaking for itself. We know, Hobbes continues, not “absolutely” but “conditionally”; our knowledge issues not from the “consequence of one thing to another” but from the consequence of one name to another.
E este, da segunda coluna:
So, the bottom line (a phrase I do not apologize for) is that deconstructive or postmodernist arguments don’t take anything away from anyone (except the ability to affirm arguments they have dislodged). But if deconstructive and postmodernist arguments don’t have the negative effects cited by their detractors, neither do they have the positive effects celebrated by their champions. They do not for example lead us to be less dogmatic because in hearkening to them “we acquire a ‘soft’ stance on what we believe to be ‘true.’ We stop believing that our truth is THE truth and so we are always open for dialogue.”
But (to make the point again) the degree to which our conviction of a truth is firm or soft will depend on how massive and conclusive the relevant evidence is, and an account of truth that flies far above any set of facts on the ground will not be relevant; you can’t get from it to any position on a disputed matter. As for “openness to dialogue,” we are more or less open to dialogue depending on the extent to which we think that a question is or is not settled. And if a settled question is to be reopened, it will not be because a general deconstructive doubt had been raised, but because a doubt has been produced by the invalidation of a specific piece of evidence (and remember general theories are not pieces of evidence) that had been considered conclusive.
Ainda na segunda coluna, acho que este resumiu tudo:
But even if deconstructive arguments do not mandate or generate particular political positions, do they not by alerting us to the socially constructed nature of any position encourage a progressive rather than a conservative politics? “The political power of deconstruction,” declares Robert Siegle, lies “in its ability to denaturalize what is typically assumed to be natural, or given.” The idea is that the insight that our convictions rest not on bedrock but on historically produced and revisable assumptions can be used to challenge claims that this or that practice (slavery, misogyny, anti-Semitism) is a reflection of the way things are and must be; it can be an engine against authority. “Once we acknowledge that we are dealing with constructions… then we can question what we are told.”
But the lesson that we are always dealing with and living within constructions is once again too general to be powerfully helpful. What is required if criticism of a settled authority is to be effective is a demonstration that the construction on which it rests is pernicious; demonstrating that it is a construction will not do the job, because as I said in my first column, you can’t criticize something for being socially constructed if everything is. As a general thesis about knowledge, deconstruction doesn’t do any work. It may be an invitation to work, but the work, if done, could well reveal that the challengeable assumptions underlying a conservative political position are ones you are inclined to embrace. I stand by my assertion that deconstruction does not and could not have a politics.