Judith Butler‘s account of love makes her sound like some fickle nominalist God who not only leaves her subjects quaking in fear, but probably also scares herself. This is her recipe for scaring away any and all potential dates:
“On occasion when I am getting to know someone — when someone seeks to know me or, indeed, find in me the occasion for love — I am asked what my idea of love is, and I always founder. There are clearly those who have their ideas of love, who enter into their conversations, their letters, their initial encounters with an idea of love in mind. This is admirable in a way. And I am somewhat embarrassed by the fact that I have no answer, and that I cannot, in the moment of potential seduction, [have] an entrancing view of love to offer the one with whom I speak. … One knows love somehow only when all one’s ideas are destroyed, and this becoming unhinged from what one knows is the paradigmatic sign of love.”
Or, as Oppenheimer said after the first Trinity test, quoting the Bhagavad Gita, “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”
Bad theological ideas like nominalism don’t die, they become transposed and banalized into critical theory.
If you want more comic relief this Friday read the rest of the excerpts with a red pen in your hand and be prepared to apply it to your computer screen. It’s foolproof.
Don’t miss her proposed marriage of Freud and Kierkegaard; it seems to have issued from the pen of a precocious undergrad who needs more time to develop before graduate school. Trust me, I just got done grading 400 pages of undergraduate prose and I’m still trying to recover. Maybe it even has something to do with the essence [sic!] of this post?
However, if you’re looking for guidance in concrete relationships (and to perhaps avoid a divorce) then Denis de Rougemont’s Love in the Western World is an infinitely better guide:
“Romance feeds on obstacles, short excitations, and partings; marriage, on the contrary, is made up of wont, daily propinquity, growing accustomed to one another. Romance calls for ‘the faraway love’ of the troubadours; marriage, for love of ‘one’s neighbour.’ Where, then, a couple have married in obedience to a romance, it is natural that the first time a conflict of temperament or of taste becomes manifest the parties should ask themselves: ‘Why did I marry?’ And it is no less natural that, obsessed by the universal propaganda in favour of romance, each should seize the first occasion to fall in love with somebody else.”
Don’t you wish you’d forgotten? Now you can’t:
This is from Gender Trouble, yes? I had a lot of trouble with a lot of the arguments she presented there, precisely because of what you said–they’re basically nominalist-voluntarist. Her more recent work, though, seems to have developed quite a bit. Worth a conversation.
I’m not sure, brainpickings picked this essay out of some collection of bad relationship advice from famous philosophers. I recently read something out of /Precarious Life/ and it seems to go the opposite way toward Levinasian terrorism by the Other. I never really got into the Butler mania, not even the basketball team.
Heh. She is a convenient figure to use to talk about the ‘secular,’ though. We have John Milbank, José Casanova, Talal Asad, Charles Taylor…and JUDITH BUTLER??? WHAAAAA??????
Though I agree with the general sentiment: nominalism gets you caught in a bad romance.