Russell Jacoby Against the Buzzwords

by John Holbo on December 26, 2022

Russell Jacoby has a piece out in “Tablet” that got approvingly retweeted by Richard Dawkins, then by Elon Musk. So maybe it’s worth giving it a read. (This post lightly edits my tweet response.)

I’m sympathetic to Jacoby’s old line: a lot of ‘theory’ silliness got spread about in the humanities in the 80’s-90’s. There were perverse incentives – professional rewards – for doing ‘philosophy’ badly in various ways. This was not good. I’m happy to badmouth bad stuff. But honestly, as Jacoby himself used to acknowledge, it wasn’t threat-to-the-republic-grade. Anyone who pretends ‘ivory tower-types being eccentric’ = ‘barbarians at the gates of western civ’ is one more funny, bug-in-his-ear character in some David Lodge novel. [click to continue…]