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February 20, 2007


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I don't really have a background in philosophy. I was only introduced to Zizek and Baudrillard because of the books they wrote about 9/11. Those books changed my life and my way of seeing the world, especially Zizek's. Reading "Welcome to the Desert of the Real" was like being hit with a 2,000 pound bomb.

If anything, the best thing that can be said about Zizek is that he sparked my interest in critical theory and philosophy--and I'm a person who used to regard both as pure nonsense.


Hi Jodi, very interesting post. I am particularly struck by "Generosity toward incommensurable views or positions is one mode of accommodation. In the political world, this is rarely possible..." In the United States today, I would argue this is clearly impossible. There is no generosity being put forward by the Right - their strategy seems to be "take no prisoners" - even after the mid term elections. I think this is precisely the impass traditional pluralism is inadequate to address and why "weak ontology" really doesn't get us very far.


I am a bit suspect of this notion of generosity amidst pluralism. Not the pluralism part, but rather the generosity part. Let me be clear, i'm not seeking to protest a politics of that which pluralism, or Alain above, seeks to oppose -- i.e., a politics of an ungenerous right, of an inhuman certainty, etc.

It's just that it seems hard to separate this sort of pluralism from liberalism. Isn't the liberal subject maintained in the mode of "the one who holds whatever perspective 'weakly'"? That is, weakness seems to reintroduce a "one" that governs, even if only in the last instance, even if only by setting forth a hermeneutic/dialogical horizon, the plurality.


I'm not sure that the weak ontology thing is identical to the generosity you're describing. If it is, it's hard to see how Taylor's philosophy would fit the label, since Taylor rules out our knowing beforehand that different ethical orientations can't be reconciled.


Wade--White draws from Taylor, but doesn't agree with everything Taylor says. One of the things he draws from Taylor is a sense of 'sources,' which he, White, understands in terms of the conditions of weak ontology. Sources might be thought of as incitements, commitments, ideals, starting points that one brings to bear on one's thinking and on one's positions. So, White thinks that Taylor is strong on sources but weak on, well, 'weakness;' conversely, Butler is weak on sources but strong on 'weakness' (or, contestability of fundaments).

Discard--I think the similarity to liberalism is strong. Where Connolly differs is with regard to liberalism's investment in secularism, one, and on the foundationalist justification strategies associated with political liberalism.

Alain--I completely agree with you. I don't want to be generous to the Right. And, I think that when, say, Democrats, are generous to the Right, they get eaten alive. Well, it's better to eat than be eaten.



Stephen White comes to mind when people discuss about weak ontology in the US. There is a precedent in Italian debates of the 1980s. Perhaps one could trace the discussion around this back to Gianni Vattimo and Pier Aldo Rovatti' edited volume on 'weak thought' (Il pensiero debole, 1983). The essays by Vattimo and Rovatti themselves, but also Crespi, develop the idea of weak thought as part of a project of post-foundationalism.


Thanks, Ben, I appreciate the cites--I'm not familiar with this work.

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