Sunday, January 20, 2008

No Country for Old Men

"It was the cognoscenti's last joyride after the death of God." That's how art critic Maureen Mullarkey describes deconstruction's heyday in 2008. Wait, make that 1998. Sorry, wrong again, 1988. Or was it '78 or '68? Ah, that's right. 1968.

She then connects Weiner's World (party time, excellent) to that joyride. When a catalog marries Weiner's conceptual art to hot theorists Baudrillard and Lacan, she invokes philosopher Roger Scruton, who
"once charged both with charlatanism. He called them impostors who abuse the terms of their disciplines 'to deceive the reader into thinking that they are thinking when in fact they are doing no such thing.'"
This leads to a question: Why is it that deconstruction historically received a colder reception in philosophical country than in the literature or art worlds? Philosophy professor Anthony Kenny (whose new book is reviewed in the current First Things) has an answer, and it's not snarky as much as it is straightforward. The fame of Derrida (et. al.), has prospered in art and literature departments because their members "have had less practice in discerning genuine from counterfeit philosophy."

Fortunately, the sterling discipline of theology is, like philosophy, able to detect any and all counterfeits. Right? Well, no. And perhaps that's why James K.A. Smith seems so concerned.