Thursday, October 24, 2013

in praise of constructive engagement

Why do persons with a personality disorder (e.g., narcissism) need therapy to get beyond it, rather than merely changing their ways in light of empathic critique?

Of course, personalities get invested in ways of perceiving, ways of reading, ways of regarding oneself that gave psychoanalysis its credibility (which infused literary criticism long before Deconstruction). The therapeutic calling can be a critical hermeneutics that requires quiet tact. Those who regard philosophy as therapy get there through experience.

The academic critic can go through bad scholarship with all the considerate detail-by-detail that s/he can muster, but that likely gives the misguided scholar undeserved attention. It may change others’ views toward the “scholarship,” and can have a preventive efficacy for new viewers; but it doesn’t change the misguided views that are invested.

After years of engagement in critique (e.g., Frankfurt School style), I’ve learned that, because life is short, the way of the world is often what I call the high school cafeteria answer to bad reading: I switch tables. I ignore bad scholarship. I hope that others do, too, so that it just fades into being out-of-print as soon as possible. But the market loves short memories and fabricated controversy—and bad scholarhip is a no-brainer, if it sells books. It’s just business.

But a constructive point in this is that confrontation doesn’t work well. Constructive engagement is the key to the realm. Heidegger knew constructive engagement (as do all good politicians, successful administrators, and profiting businesspersons). Yet, quiet diplomacy may be a difficult capability to instill. Leadership is required.