criticism and method
In response to my response to his mention of Nancy’s Sense of the World (in which I also mentioned Graham Harman’s constructive criticism / reserved appreciation of Nancy) Peter Gratton makes a good point about the methods and goals of philosophical criticism. To summarize:
The point is not to critique Harman’s view of Nancy…. if your view is that Harman is wrong [about Nancy], then the best way to show this is to use Nancy to show that Harman is right (about OOO in general, not, obviously, Nancy). … Then you can demonstrate, perhaps, ways in which Nancy’s work explores places of sense as of now left out unaddressed in Harman’s work…. Then that shows Nancy or some other figure (this is just an example) to be a theoretical tool for provoking thought on these topics, rather than simply taking the hammer to hit the saw and forgetting about the wood to be worked.
Now, I think it is important that if we have genuine philosophical disagreements (as I do with some aspects of Harman’s approach) or that if we find some ideas to be more accurate or helpful than others, that we be clear and direct about this. But Gratton is right that simply defending one philosopher or theory or idea from the criticisms of another by arguing that the first is “right” and the second is “wrong” is likely not to produce a very constructive exchange. In this instance, I wouldn’t be motivated to take any kind of stance with regard to Harman’s appraisal of Nancy (and again, here I’m only relying on one short blog post) if I didn’t (1) find much in Harman’s work that I think is worth engaging and developing further, and (2) think that Nancy’s work can and should be brought into a constructive conversation with it. This point is applicable even more so to the urge I personally so often have to play the role of apologist for Derrida: it’s not that I simply think Derrida is “right” where others are wrong, nor that I feel compelled out of some sense of loyalty to correct what I perceive to be misinterpretations on the part of his readers and critics (as many of and as egregious of those as I do think there may be). Rather, it’s that I see in Derrida’s work many resources for other work outside of the “phenomenological” and/or “deconstructive” niches, and it seems that it would benefit both sides if these different areas were brought into more constructive and less dismissively critical conversations.