The ideology of persuasion; or: Gaps (after Adorno) (6 JUL 2007)

“The injunction to practice intellectual honesty usually amounts to a sabotage of thought. … This demand not only invokes the liberal fiction of the universal communicability of each and every thought and so inhibits their objectively appropriate expression, but is also wrong itself as a principle of representation. For the value of a thought is measured by its distance from the continuity of the familiar [the Whole].” (Minima Moralia) Knowledge, Adorno continues, proceeds from what he calls experience, but what in other terms might be called the machine of desire—of beliefs, inclinations, lacerations, joys, and love.

The existence of discursive and logical structures is not teleological. The purpose of these structures is not consensus (Einverstandes)—not even Rawls’ “overlapping consensus”, which itself is a symptom of the problem to which Lévinas draws us: democracy cannot be totality or homology. Democracy, radical democracy, is instead dissensus (Näsström). Rawls wants to preserve plurality; better: we must create multiplicity. Discourse is multivalence. “Discourse” is not the communication of ideas but is nothing other than the life of ideas (Mill). What, ultimately, we need is to be attuned not to the “pleasure of the text” (Barthes) but to the life of a text.

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