Jonah Goldberg

"I wish to deny the effectiveness of intellectual work. And especially, I always wish to counsel people against the decision to go into the academy because they hope to be effective beyond it." That's what Stanley Fish had to say at what was billed as historic "intellectual town meeting" at the University of Chicago on April 11.

Stanley Fish, as you may know, is one of leftist academia's all-stars. If he was an athlete, they'd have retired his number and inducted him to the Hall of Fame already. And so when he says "intellectual work" is ineffective, it means something.

But Fish wasn't the only one to in effect recant the utility of his life's work at what The New York Times described as the "scholarly equivalent of an Afghan-style loya jirga." Sander L. Gilman, a professor of liberal arts and sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago, declared, "I would make the argument that most criticism … is a poison pill."

He went on: "I think one must be careful in assuming that intellectuals have some kind of insight. In fact, if the track record of intellectuals is any indication, not only have intellectuals been wrong almost all of the time, but they have been wrong in corrosive and destructive ways."

As an amateur follower of the academic gobbledygook industry, I have to say this is music to my ears. It's almost as if the greatest and most successful plumbers in America, if not the world, got together and one by one declared that pipes, water pressure, gaskets, valves, even the very concept of "plumbing" was not only a fraud but a corrosive and destructive fraud.

Of course, it's not really like that at all, because the plumbers would be wrong. And, there's proof they'd be wrong. I turn the faucet on my sink and water comes out -proof that there's something to plumbing. Meanwhile, it's difficult to disprove the assertion that the forces of post-modernism have been anything but useless at best or corrosive and destructive at worst.

A quick recap may be in order. For those of you who have better things to do, there's this school of "thought" called "postmodernism" which puts quotation marks on "everything."- kind of like the way my dog Cosmo sheds his hair.

The reason so-called "PoMos" do this is because they believe there are no "capital-T" Truths. Rather, everything is mired in "perspective," which in turn is determined by various "interests," "privileges," and other "biases" and "prejudices," etc. All reality -or at least all of the reality we can experience -is "socially constructed," according to the PoMos.


Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the forthcoming book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
 
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