Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Roy Bhaskar: Worst Writer Ever?

We've had our field of anuses, just like a pack of wolves recently. But as far as incomprehensible philosophical bobbins goes, I had an abiding memory of something I posted on the UK Left Network almost a decade ago that topped it. And now I've uncovered it after a little digging in the archive. "Critical realist" Roy Bhaskar is the culprit, so open your eyes and be dazzled by a legibility fail so epic it's almost a thing of beauty.
Indeed dialectical critical realism may be seen under the aspect of Foucauldian strategic reversal of the unholy trinity of Parmendean/Platonic/Aristotlean provenance; of the Cartesian-Lockean-Humean-Kantian paradigm, of foundationalisms (in practice, fideistic foundationalisms) and irrationalisms (in practice, capricious exercises of the will-to-power or some other ideologically and/or psycho-somatically buried source) new and old alike; of the primordial failing of western philosophy, ontological monovalence, and it's close ally, the epistemic fallacy with it's ontic dual; of the analytic problematic laid down by Plato, which Hegel served only to replicate in his actualist monovalent analytic reinstatement in transfigurative reconciling dialectical connection, while in his hubristic claims for absolute idealism he inaugurated the Comtean, Kiekegaardian and Nietszhean eclipses of reason, replicating the fundaments of positivism through its transmutation route to the superidealism of a Baudrillard. (Plato, etc. p.215)
Makes Althusser's Contradiction and Overdetermination look like a Peter and Jane book. Is there anything worse out there?

16 comments:

Andrew Coates said...

I'm afraid you've been pipped at the post on this one, The Times Literary Supplement, Private Eye, and indeed What Next? noted this a long time back.

The latter is interesting. Bob Pitt cited Bhaskar's previous lives, his reincarnation as a Hindu love-god,(no doubt when he was Hilary Wainwright's partner).

BenSix said...

Can you imagine the guy's pillow talk?

Indeed intergender intercourse may be seen under the aspect of a Foucauldian strategic union of romantic/sexual/reproductive intentionalism..."

asquith said...

I always think people who write along those lines are deliberately unclear in their language because they know if they wrote what they really thought, in a legible way, they would be execrated for it.

Lobby Ludd said...

I wonder whether whatsisname could tell you what he meant by all that. If he can, then why not do so in simpler language. If it can't be expressed in simpler language, say why that is so.

If there is something you wish to say to others, it is best to do so in ways they might understand.

My guess is that Roy Bhaskar has no interest in communicating with others,he just wants to say things. God knows why.

David said...

I'd just like to point out that in 1996 Roy Bhaskar won the 'Bad Writing Contest' for the indecipherable essay quoted in the above post.

Some even worse examples, including citations from the works of Judith Butler, are available on the following page, which details the history of the contest:

http://www.denisdutton.com/bad_writing.htm

@ Lobby Ludd: I agree on your last point about Bhaskar seemingly not wanting to communicate the results of his inquiry. He may not even understand it himself (the American philosopher John Searle once said that 'If you can't say it clearly, you don't understand it yourself'.)

David Hillman said...

The meaning of the text is in the positive absense of meaning.

David said...

The density of Bhaskar's prose does make you wonder: when he goes to the toilet, does he have an Armitage Shanks interface defecation scenario, or does he just have a shit? (see "The Day Today").

bristle said...

I have no idea who Roy Bhaskar is (is he in Corrie?), but I was starting to feel left out.

Anonymous said...

I once saw a flyer for a conference that Bhaskar was running at North-East London Poly, and it was being held in its Barking Precinct. Very apt, I thought.

To be honest, Bhaskar's piece looks like it's produced on the Postmodern Essay Generator, which you can have lots of fun with, at:

http://www.elsewhere.org/pomo/

Dr Paul

Anonymous said...

You want to see samples from the absolute worst writer in history? http://www.jenniyfrench.blogspot.com/

Ben W said...

As a 'critical realist' (and, coincidentally, someone who started their academic career at the Barking Campus of UEL (ex-NELP)) I feel I should intervene in his defence. Clearly that quote, and quite possibly the whole book from which it came, is a big wordy turd of no relevance to anyone. BUT, Bhaskar's breakthrough book of the '70s, A Realist Theory of Science, is a model of clear, engaging, concise, and - above all - convincing philosophy. Most critical realists distance themselves from Bhaskar's 'spiritual turn', which is what led to the production of excretions like that quoted. However, it's not fair to suggest he's the 'worst writer ever', when he has produced at least one, perhaps as many as five, excellent, accessible books. I would actually be more inclined to go for Foucault, whose ridiculously highbrow esoteric cultural references and painful 'style' form a horrible barrier to reading about what are actually quite good ideas!

Ben W said...

And just one more thing [[Columbo-style-turn and cigar-point]]... Though it does read like po-mo drivel, Bhaskar remains much closer to Marxism, see for example his 2003 debate with Alex Callinicos published in the Journal of Critical Realism. Critical realism is basically an elaboration of Marxist philosophical presuppositions.

Anonymous said...

This is quite interesting. Dr. George Brosan the original director of N.E. London Polytechnic wrote in the Grauniad in about 1972 (and I have reason to remember it well) that 'the fundamental purpose of the polytechnics is to attempt to refute the putative dichotomy between vocation and intellect.' Perhaps its catching?

Mark A. Foster, Ph.D. said...

Bhaskar's writing style does not devalue his philosophy and social theory. Others, myself included, have attempted to present his ideas in a more accessible form.

Anonymous said...

Dr.Foster, I have heard your online lectures and they are totally clear and very helpful? But why would Bhaskar need a 'translator' or someone who can present his ideas in a more coherent manner? Why couldnt he do that himself by using more simple language in the first place?

Anonymous said...

That paragraph makes perfect sense if you've studied the book. It is referencing terms defined and explained in earlier chapters (and books). I don't see the problem here.