On Arrogance in my Writing

In the vein of curiosity and witnessing-consciousness…..not self-criticism nor self-glorification/defense.

All writing is arrogance….of a sort. To say anything, however humble, is to assume one has something to say that has some validity, that someone will find useful. I put these thoughts on the World Wide Web. That’s arrogance.

The Ultimate is best left unexpressed. Everything said is ultimately useless. Or neither useful nor useless I suppose. Words suck. Conventions of duality reinforcing the delusion (that strangely is freedom).

So the more interesting question I think is how one starts to discern the contours and more importantly (and more challengingly) the unconscious/shadow elements of one’s arrogance. As Jung said, the unconscious is really that—un-conscious. Related question: how willing is a person, a writer, in this example me, willing to admit to arrogance? To accept it. In a way that doesn’t just become an invitation to acting out or resignation, but is more compassionate with the arrogance, more humorous around it, hopefully not projecting it onto others.

There are I think greater and lesser degrees of arrogance in writing. But no such thing as completely non-arrogant writing. Even the most ego-less of persons is still pumping arrogance through their writings. And truth, and wisdom, and love, and generosity of spirit no doubt. But still I know what is right for all beings. I’m thinking of Eckhart Tolle on this one. Very egoless, caring, deep man, whose answer to everything in the world is a one-trick pony response of un-enlightened consciousness. Whether right or wrong, (or both) that takes some cojones as the President is fond of saying.

Even more, there are greater or lesser degrees of attention to and recognition of one’s arrogance. And more conscious disclosure of that arrogance/power over in writing-thinking. Putting it out on the table, willing to listen to well-intentioned criticism, and having a sense of humor about it to me are key components of diffusing its negative effects.

I think I’ve honestly learned to accept a good deal more of my arrogance inherent in the process of writing this blog, without the pendulum swinging too far towards total exuberant flaunting arrogance. I hope. Not perfectly no doubt. Don’t want perfection, too boring (at this on this subject matter). Mostly I want to accept my own share more and more so as to not shadow box and project.

Published in: on October 11, 2007 at 8:35 pm  Comments (4)  

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  1. Nice rationalization using your trademark verbalism. As well as evasion from the small problem that you act like an expert (example: on Justice Thomas and jurisprudence) when you obviously aren’t even close. And that you hilariously call yourself a long-range strategist. Riiight. It is your approach, rooted in Wilberian unearned generalizations upon unearned generalizations, not your mere writing, that wreaks of arrogance. Words suck? Or you suck with words. Stick to theology, dude. Write as if no one believes a fucking word you say, proposition you offer, conclusion you draw. And do so by cutting out 75% of your verbalism, because (taking the example of your Justice Thomas post) it needn’t take 10,000 words to say, “be thorough”. Concision, man!

  2. Judicial philosophy involves philosophy, something I’ve studied at the graduate level. (Though I’m not a philosophical genius by any stretch). I do know enough to recognize the presuppositions of a position.

    The argument regarding originalism is based on Kant, Whitehead, and a whole train of 20th century thinkers in anthropology, linguistics, science, hermeneutics, philosophy.

    Simply: It is that there is no original context outside of our interpretation of it. Even referring to the context as original is our interpretation, our choice. It may be right or wrong–not what I’m arguing here–but if it doesn’t admit that is what it is doing, then that is problematic.

    That doesn’t mean I disagree with every decision of Thomas’. As I said, his point of view is I think one to always take into account though imo it’s not the only one. Just like the Breyer-Stephens-Ginsberg Liberal crew has philosophically problematic elements within their judicial philosophy, doesn’t mean I write off everything they say either. I’m only specifically discussing one element: the element of the judicial philosophy.

    Rather than ad hominem attacks, actually make a specific, intelligent critique of the argument. That I would respond to.

    The argument again is: You can not go there (the original context) from here.

    You can get better or worse reconstructions of there, but they are our reconstructions.

    Not idealism (all in our heads), nor relativism (no objectivity), but not naive realism/empiricism either (what I see influencing too much of originalist discourse).

  3. Dude, the main criticism is that your writing is bloated, and that your rich bit about “arrogance” is bullshit rationalized by someone — you — who writes with arrogant disregard for accuracy, truth, commonly-held evidence, and limited assertions.

    Now, if you want to rhapsode about how to interpret the U.S. Constitution, then you ought begin with citing justices’ own words about how they do that. For example, how does Thomas say he does his job versus how does Ginsberg.

    Absent concrete is only hot air.

  4. Here is a link to the famous 1988 Taft Lecture by Antonin Scalia. In the city of my birth no less.


    [I realize this discussion started with Thomas and that Thomas isn’t a Scalia-clone, but for our purposes I think this works fine].

    In this speech Scalia famously (and brilliantly imo) moved originalism from “original intent” to “original meaning.” (I actually think that’s a better position within originalism).

    Scalia mentions difficulties with discovering the original meaning of the Constitution. e.g. There is a great amount of research, too much often for any one person to be done. Our historical records may be deficient in some way or another.

    But he never questions the epistemological assumption that the original meaning can be discovered in theory, if not always in practice.

    He dismissively refers to any such theoretical criticisms as those who say “words don’t have meaning.” Nice straw man argument to cover up the gaps in his own theory I think.

    The reason this originalist view, philosophically is wrong, is that it does not take sufficient account of the justice’s point of view.

    In fact, the entire project of originalism is designed to create a criterion separate from the subjectivity of the justice, according to Scalia himself (again see speech for reference).

    Philosophically this view is objectivism and naive realism/empiricism pure and simple. As such it involves major degrees of illusion.

    The illusion is that you can somehow get back to the original meaning by abstracting from the subjectivity of the judge/interpreter.

    The same applies in science, history, anthropology. There is no neutral observer.

    The original context is intrinsically shaped by our interpretations of it. By which facts a person highlights and de-emphasizes. It skips over the elements of the past that are alien to us. In the very definition–who has decided what is the original context? Not the people in that context themselves. Contemporaries like Scalia have, supporting my point.

    I think the project of trying to reconstruct the original meaning is a vital one, so long as we remember it is shaped by and for our current thinking, needs, and assumptions. I just think originalism hides this latter fact to its own theoretical detriment. There are better and worse reconstructions. But there are reconstructions. They involve a construction.

    So I will now repeat my charge. No more smoke and mirrors. No more ducking and stalling. Why is this philosophical criticism wrong? Feel free to cite facts, opinions, logical arguments, etc.

    Otherwise you show yourself (imo) to be out of your depth and would do better to admit it and walk away.

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