tools to cudgel or flatter

Bit of a callback here to last week’s post:

Addressing the vacuity of the words fascism and democracy, [Orwell] wrote “the word fascism has no meaning except insofar as it signifies ‘something not desirable.’” Calling something a democracy is not very different except that “we are praising it.” Fascism is reduced to meaning not good and democracy good. In both cases, people fear that we “might have to stop using the word if it were tied down to any one meaning.” Devoid of legible meaning, such words become tools to cudgel or flatter rather than to understand and communicate.

Currently snowed in somewhere in mittel Deutschland, being gently amused at the way the field of philosophy has noticed that this whole “technology” thing has rather passed it by, and is now trying to catch up, but is hampered in its doing so by refusing to engage with social theory and/or sociology, and by a general disdain for crass empiricism, with the end result that it’s very sincerely trying to retool ideas from the philosophy of art and language that were current half a century ago, but falling over constantly because it just doesn’t know much about how “technology” happens, or indeed that “technology” happens in a dizzying variety of highly situational ways, and that trying to theorise “technology” in the abstract, as a generalised category, is such a foundational mistake that it’s almost charming in its naivete. And don’t even get me started on the relentless reification of the social/technological dichotomy!

Lovely people, mind you. And a charming venue…

Bizarre for me, after ten years in academia feeling that I was very much a theoretical and abstract thinker, to be confronted with the real thing and know that I actually think a lot more concretely than I had realised heretofore.



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