virus: On Deconstruction

Reed Konsler (
Thu, 27 Mar 1997 13:39:04 -0500 (EST)

Welcome to post-modernism everyone!

If you have at least one coherent ideology you can
engage in the most pleasing of all mental pursuits,
namely, deconstruction.

Now, don't confuse deconstruction with
"Deconstructionism" which is a much more refined
and specific kind of thing, of which I claim to
know quite little.

deconstruction (small "d" intentional) is a process
wherin one reduces some set of phenomena
(substantive or cognitive) into a set of categories
defined by the ideology and demonstrates how
the ideology is useful in prediciting future
phenomena and manipulating and understanding
those present.

For a while we had many excellent examples of
"Objectivist-deconstruction" which showed us
how everything we thought and did could be
explained using a set of three axioms.

Recently, Tad has given us a very nice example of
"Four-Principles-deconstruction" applied to this
list (well, in truth, I'm not quite sure exactly
what entity Tad was deconstructing but I found
the post very amusing anyway).

I like deconstructing things. I think it's a worthy
pursuit. What I don't think is that, in the end, it
must result in much changing of opinions. I think
sometimes we get so enamored of deconstruction
that we believe all we must do is flay open
someones elses ideas with the scalpel of our own
perception and they (the ideas, of course) will curl up and die.

It even works, sometimes. Less frequently, as time
goes on, however.

Often we will have"deconstruction-wars" in which
two or more people try to reduce one anothers
ideology into their own...and this is the tricky part...
at the same time. Very interesting. Very exciting

Not very productive, of course, but I'm not sure
that is the point, anyway.

After a while I find myself bored with such games.
I don't mean to sound in any way superior...if I
thought I could "win" I'd be right in there. But it
reminds me of "WarGames" when the computer
plays Tic-Tac-Toe against itself...

"The only way to win is not to play"

I'm reminded of an old philosophy professor I had
who also grew bored with deconstruction. His
advice to us was the to critique a philosopher's
work based upon the following questions:

1) Where is the author going?
2) Do you think they get there?
3) What compromises do you have to make
to go with them?
4) Can you get there "cheaper"; making less
5) Do you want to go there?

I think the order of these questions was significant.

I don't want to be misinterpreted as against deconstruction. I'm a
practioner myself. I just
wanted to point out (explictly) that it doesn't prove
much...any decent ideology, with a creative analyst,
can be used to reduce any set of phenomena.

In debate there is a related concept called a "general". This is an
argument which applies to all
possible platforms under the topic. A common
debater tactic is "focusing", "spinning", or
"narrowing" the "general"...or altering the
attack such that it's components are more specific.

One of the reasons I got out of debate was because
of strategies like this. I felt they were intellectually
dishonest. As a debater, it wasn't my responsibility
to logically weigh and argue the was to
"win". I was pretty damn good, but in the end I
was disgused. I couldn't bear to listen to myself
speaking so quickly, coniving, inserting
non-seqitors in an attempt to disrupt my "enemies"
train of thought.

I "won" a lot. But I never really learned that much
about the topic. It was this realization that hit me
hardest. I had adopted a "truth-neutral" attitude
toward knowledge and logic. I wanted to win.
I made a damn good lawyer. I learned dick.

And in the end, I didn't pursuade anybody of
anything. None of my fellow debaters grew
more enlightened. I was respected, not for my
wisdom, or even my knowledge, but for my
ability to deconstruct. I was a shark.

What is the problem with "generals" and with
deconstruction? Well, in essence the logic rail-roads
us into conclusions that are obviously inconsistent
with our perception.

For instance:
Nazis used the "Four Principles"
Brodie uses the "Four Principles"
The US Army uses the "Four Principles"
Harvard University uses the "Four Principles"
The Simpsons use the "Four Principles"
MTV uses the "Four Principles"

Obviously, all these "institutions" are equivalent.

Consipracies everywhere!
Graduate School is a Cult!
The AMA is the inquisition!

Sure. So what.

In debate every "negative" leads to nuclear war, well
it did in the 80's anyway. But, obviously, everything
doesn't lead to nuclear war. Just like every group is
not like the Nazis, every feminist isn't a man-hating dyke lesbian, and all
pornography isn't child-pornography [check out the meme-evolution
on that one!].

All of our understanding is by analogy. The question
is, how strong is the analogy? Is it a metaphor or
a simile? Is it loose or tight? Were are the
differences? Where are the boundaries?

I suppose some of us take great pleasure in attacking
one "honing our skills". Me, I've had
enough of it. I'll admit it, I'm a gunslinger and at times I slip into my
old "wild-west of ideas" ways.

It's time to hang up the guns, though. It doesn't
get us anywhere.

I'm for deconstruction. I'm against this childish
glee in out-arguing one another. "I deconstructed
your idea-toy and now it's going to fall down and

Yea for our team.


Reed Konsler