dimanche, février 19, 2006

J'vais vomir

Le Washington Post le décrit comme leur 'left-leaning writer with vigorous skepticism, wit, and common sense', Richard Cohen Op-Ed:

Here's the thing, Gabriela: You will never need to know algebra. I have never once used it and never once even rued that I could not use it. You will never need to know -- never mind want to know -- how many boys it will take to mow a lawn if one of them quits halfway and two more show up later -- or something like that. Most of math can now be done by a computer or a calculator. On the other hand, no computer can write a column or even a thank-you note -- or reason even a little bit. If, say, the school asked you for another year of English or, God forbid, history, so that you actually had to know something about your world, I would be on its side. But algebra? Please.

What Is the Value of Algebra?, Richard Cohen, 16 février

C'est plus fort que moi: ZMag Special Issue: Rationality/Science, Noam Chomsky. La finale:

Particularly noteworthy is the divergence of popular attitudes from mainstream ideology. After 25 years of unremitting propaganda, including ten years of Reaganism, over 70 percent of the population still regard the Vietnam war as "fundamentally wrong and immoral," not a "mistake." Days before the U.S.-UK bombing began in the Gulf, the population, by two-to-one, favored a negotiated settlement with "linkage" rather than war. In these and numerous other cases, including domestic affairs and problems, the thoughts are individual and private; people have rarely if ever heard them publicly expressed. In part, that reflects the effectiveness of the system of cultural management; in part, the choices of left intellectuals.

Quite generally, there is a popular basis for addressing the human concerns that have long been part of "the Enlightenment project." One element that is lacking is the participation of left intellectuals.

However meritorious motives may be, the abandonment of these endeavors, in my opinion, reflects yet another triumph for the culture of power and privilege, and contributes to it. The same abandonment makes a notable contribution to the endless project of creating a version of history that will serve the reigning institutions. During periods of popular activism, many people are able to discern truths that are concealed by the cultural managers, and to learn a good deal about the world; Indochina and Central America are two striking recent examples. When activism declines, the commissar class, which never falters in its task, regains command. As left intellectuals abandon the field, truths that were once understood fade into individual memories, history is reshaped into an instrument of power, and the ground is laid for the enterprises to come.

The critique of "science" and "rationality" has many merits, which I haven't discussed. But as far as I can see, where valid and useful the critique is largely devoted to the perversion of the values of rational inquiry as they are "wrongly used" in a particular institutional setting. What is presented here as a deeper critique of their nature seems to me based on beliefs about the enterprise and its guiding values that have little basis. No coherent alternative is suggested, as far as I can discern; the reason, perhaps, is that there is none. What is suggested is a path that leads directly to disaster for people who need help--which means everyone, before too long.

Et dans sa contre-réplique, il réitère:

I ended my earlier comments by recalling that many scientists, not too long ago, took an active part in the lively working class culture of the day seeking to compensate for the class character of the cultural institutions through programs of workers' education, or by writing books on mathematics, science, and other topics for the general public. Nor have left intellectuals been alone in such work, by any means. It strikes me as remarkable that their left counterparts today should seek to deprive oppressed people not only of the joys of understanding and insight, but also of tools of emancipation, informing us that the "project of the Enlightenment" is dead, that we must abandon the "illusions" of science and rationality a message that will gladden the hearts of the powerful, delighted to monopolize these instruments for their own use. One recalls the days when the evangelical church taught not dissimilar lessons to the unruly masses as part of what E.P. Thompson called "the psychic processes of counter revolution," as their heirs do today in peasant societies of Central America.

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