Anyway, TMcD called me out for my casual dismissal of ID. First, let me say that I do not wish to be one of those non-believers who plays the dogmatist when it comes to so-called secularism. Indeed, on this front I follow Connolly's recent work: the line between religious faith and secular belief is thin and fuzzy. We are all animated by some sort of 'existential faith', and the hard line defence of 'secularism' is just a dogmatic form of faith rather than a reasonable one. OK, put all that aside, because I want to get at the really interesting bit.
How, for example, could any structure--even one we, creatures of nature that we are, superimpose--come from shere abject randomness, or how sense out of nonsense? [...]First let me do some ground clearing. I agree with #2, and embrace it wholeheartedly. As to #3, I contend (given my previous point) that I have no problem acknowledging it, but that 'explaining' it may be what we are all striving to do (or avoid doing) and which no one has much claim to having done perfectly. Next, let me say to anyone who wants to throw a 'anti-Rorty' party: please invite me!
human life is structured in a whole variety of ways, not just intellectual or even aesthetic, but "moral" as well, and these things cannot all be simply reduced to power relations.
I know that you, like a lot of others with "post-mod" sympathies accept this, but often have trouble acknowledging it or explaining it. I'm thinking, in particular, about Rorty's weak attempt to chalk it all up to "the kind of people we modern liberals ARE", or maybe Derrida's contradictory (and absurd) claim that "justice is not deconstructable."
So that just leaves us with the dismissal of Derrida and the initial claim - you see, my strategy with TMcD is just to agree with him until he and everyone else is bored with my post. Taking the last, first, I want to defend Derrida a bit. I don't think 'justice is not deconstructable' is absurd; I also don't think it's a 'claim'. That is, it's not a philosophical proposition that Derrida thinks we could prove or disprove. So, perhaps it is 'absurd' but that's very much for a reason. It's an effort to get at precisely what tmcd points to with #1: that things like morality, like the idea of justice, cannot merely be explained away or refuted. They have a quasi-transcendental status with which we must concern ourselves, but that we cannot merely deny. I take JD's sentence about justice to point to a certain ontology of immanence, but also to be precisely a rejection of nihilism.
And that gets me to the most important point, Tmcd's first point, which comes in the form of a question. And here's the thing: when I read it, when I hear it, I don't think the question has the 'hook', for lack of a better word, that tmcd expects it to. Perhaps I should be, but I'm not really all that bothered about how sense emerges from nonsense. Indeed, I think that's just how sense emerges from nonsense. We produce meaning in the world, we read it into a world without meaning, and as Paul tells us continually, we construct narratives that give that meaning a place to rest, and a place from which to emerge. Structure emerges out of randomness (see Paul's many iPod posts); order comes from chaos. I'm OK with that.
I had a consistent argument with a good friend in graduate school, who always took the Habermas as sociologist critique of Foucault, and it always boiled down to this question: 'but how can Foucault explain the emergence and existence of society, of structures of human organisation'? And to this day, I've never fully grasped the question in the depth with which he meant it, since I just don't see the need to explain those things: society exists right outside my window, and there are all sorts of more important questions than how it came to be. Structures of meaning and rationality - and morality and justice - also exist in the world. Do we need a transcendent structure (order, God, reason) to explain them? Perhaps. Perhaps not.