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Re: Pseudsday Tuesday
How to go after the pseuds and draw real blood? R. R. Reno reviewing Philip Rieff's My Life Among the Deathworks: Illustrations of the Aesthetics of Authority in ISI's Intercollegiate Review (not available online), on the difficulty of taking on the permanent, ongoing nihilism of the "third world" using inherited tools of the constructivist "second world" (the "first world," as defined by Rieff is the primitive, pagan world of antiquity):
Many defenders of reason—itself a second world god term—have reduced Derrida to absurdity, just as countless philosophy professors have demonstrated the incoherence of the solipsistic relativism of so many undergraduates. But they make no headway, because the third world project is therapeutic rather than dogmatic. It urges fictions rather than truths; it can not come into focus as a positive project with this or that position or doctrine to be rationally assessed. To play the professor and observe that the truth that there is no truth refutes itself only brings a wry, knowing smile to the face of the third-world acrobat.
The "Deathworks" in Rieff's title, albeit including a couple of my favorites, are works that, says Reno, "show us how to pull apart our cultural inheritence, rearrange the pieces, and produce a playful new culture that finds its psychic joys in a mockery of and freedom from the old [...]
Its aesthetic power rests in a promised release from inherited authorities. The anti-faith is straightforward: life will be better if the power of this commandment (perspective and proportion, sequential narrative, prohibitions against adultery: take your pick) is diminished. Life becomes fuller with the death of the sacred.
I had been thinking to read the Rieff (I'm embarassed to report I've only read his essential The Triumph of the Therapeutic: Uses of Faith after Freud, and that was long ago). But after reading Reno on Rieff, I most certainly will. If only to continue to distance myself from pseuds who no longer read whole books, whether for pleasure or edification: the reading of a book is a signal act of defiance in our times.