May 3, 2011

"The difference between an idea and a theory is that the first can generate an agenda — a call to action — and the second cannot."

"Those who believe that women have long been marginalized and suppressed have something to do — propose legislation, stage rallies, withhold labor or sex. Indeed the idea demands that something be done. Those who believe that truth is a matter of correspondence with reality have nothing to do except debate (forever, as it has turned out) with those who believe the opposite."

Says Stanley Fish. He quotes Sean Pidgeon:
“Feminists should not … say that patriarchy is social constructed,” as if saying so was a step toward dislodging it. Instead, “Feminists should come out and say patriarchy is wrong” and then say why by pointing to harmful, demeaning practices....

44 comments:

ricpic said...

The Patriarchy is hiding in the corner, whimpering "Uncle."

BJM said...

Not necessarily; global warming is a theory that became a call to action.

AST said...

It seems to me that feminists are really saying, we don't care about patriarchy; we just want to be the patriarchs.

Kirby Olson said...

A theory needs an idea, it would seem, or even a set of ideas. Can you have a theory without an idea?

His terminology is confusing and confused.

Patriarchy in mythology means not so much that it's men in charge, but that principles are in charge (instead of whims). I think that whims are not theories, but that principles have to be based on ideas.

So I think he's saying that women need patriarchy.

Matriarchy is rule by whim. And I think he's saying that instead of whims, feminists need to argue that there are clear ideas in place, and that women need to point to them.

Well, I guess I have no idea what he's saying and I doubt if he does, either.

A woman needs a Fish, like a bike needs a ...?

Smilin' Jack said...

Feminism is socially constructed.

chickelit said...

Fish swims in soft science.

bagoh20 said...

We currently live under a victimarchy, and it's victimizing me.

Mary Beth said...

Let's argue semantics so we don't have to argue ideas.

Freeman Hunt said...

Hysterics.

traditionalguy said...

"What is truth", asked Pilate. No one has an answer to that one yet. Keep trying guys.

Gabriel Hanna said...

A scientific theory is a description of reality, and as such it cannot be a "call to action" any more that a sunrise can be made out of vinyl.

Science can never tell us why we should do so something, only how to go about doing it.

BJM brought up global warming: the planet is or is not warming due to industrial carbon dioxide emissions but science cannot tell us whether we want try to do anything about it. Just like relativity and quantum mechanics don't tell us who we want to nuke, if anyone--just tells us how to build nuclear weapons if we want.

Science is knowledge, it is not wisdom.

Mark O said...

I think they should be seen and not heard.

Freeman Hunt said...

I saw someone on Facebook post the other day that she was sure she'd see the US roll back all of women's rights during her lifetime to force them to live under a Taliban-like Christian theocracy.

Also not long ago, a woman on Facebook, upon finding out that I am anti-abortion rights, told me that her grandmother had an ectopic pregnancy, and did I wish that her grandmother had died?!

A little intellectual rigor could go a long way in helping the "cause," whatever, exactly, it is these days.

GulfofMexico said...

Economics is littered with theories that generate a call to action.

If you draw a venn diagram, shouldn't the "idea" circle and the "theory" circle overlap?

Freeman Hunt said...

I read the article.

Seems like he's basically saying, "Tapping into thoughts is all well and good, but it's tapping into emotions that gets things done."

Am I wrong?

Freeman Hunt said...

If that is what he's saying, it's probably true in general. It's also fairly depressing.

edutcher said...

Sounds like the usual academic Lefty obfuscation.

Carol said...

Haha, relativists now want objective truth back, in service of their agenda. But, but, haven't we been hearing for 30 years now that *my truth* is not *your truth* blah blah??

veni vidi vici said...

Stanley Fish needs a bicycle.

Peano said...

global warming is a theory that became a call to action.

I'd say that global warming is fiction that was created as a call to action, much like Uncle Tom's Cabin. The latter, of course, accurately represented facts. Global warming is a religion with a non-existent god.

Henry said...

A man needs patriarchy like a woman needs a fish. Give a man a fish and he will turn it into chunk bait. Back after lunch.

Peano said...

A scientific theory is a description of reality, and as such it cannot be a "call to action"....

Oh, rilly?

If you dial 911 and describe the reality that your house is on fire, what happens next?

Henry said...

Freeman Hunt wrote: Seems like he's basically saying, "Tapping into thoughts is all well and good, but it's tapping into emotions that gets things done."

Not quite so, in my opinion. First, he's pointing that theories operate at a high level of abstraction and so have no motivating power. They tell you what to expect, not how to act. I run into the problem of abstraction fairly often in my design work. "Innovation" is not a business model, let alone a product. (Alienation, on the other hand, can staff a thousand studies departments.)

Freeman Hunt said...

If you dial 911 and describe the reality that your house is on fire, what happens next?

Operator: "Your house is burning in your reality? We'll get some trucks from our reality right over there."

cahlmeeishmael said...

Freeman Hunt said: "I saw someone on Facebook post the other day that she was sure she'd see the US roll back all of women's rights during her lifetime to force them to live under a Taliban-like Christian theocracy."

I guess I can't say it's utterly impossible, but on the scale of things to worry about, I think I'll buy a book on surviving a zombie invasion.

orthodoc said...

What a lot of bafflegab for a simple point: "Well done is better thna well said."

Peano said...

Operator: "Your house is burning in your reality? We'll get some trucks from our reality right over there."

"Oh, no, you needn't do that. This isn't a call to action. I just wanted to describe my reality to you and chat a bit."

Bob Ellison said...

Theories are testable; ideas are fishy. Gussy the terms up with adjectives, and you end up with garbage.

Quaestor said...

BJM wrote: Not necessarily; global warming is a theory that became a call to action.

Hardly a theory since its proposed mechanism contradicts a real theory, namely the laws of thermodynamics. No AGW, or climate change, or climate pollution (the damned thing shifts its nomenclature more often than the Russian secret police) is a best a speculation.

rhhardin said...

"The difference between an idea and a theory is that the first can generate an agenda - a call to action - and the second cannot."

Gamesmanship calls this plonking.

Quaestor said...

Feminism isn’t an idea, nor is it a theory, nor is it an ideology. Feminism is a nebulosity of wingeing minor complaints, shrewish scoldings and rank hypocrisy. It exists to give women of a certain class a password to the domain of initiates, to give the some of the most puerile emanations of the human mind a molecule-deep patina of respectability, and to guaranty to a new college of vestals a comfortable product-free career as guardians of a scurrilous intellectual fraud called “women’s studies.”

Feminism feasts on picked-over bones of the dead horses and straw men of ancient practices and mythical affronts, while real atrocities are ignored and excused. It leads open-minded young women of the West down dead-end lanes into shadowed forests of frustration, doubt and recrimination, and to the girls of the East, bound in rusty chains of tribal barbarism feminism offers the bright burnished new chains of cultural relativism.

Phil 3:14 said...

So I guess feminism and patriarchy are like two ships passing in the night.

(And I assume reality if the iceberg in this analogy.)

Dennis said...

A theory is the proof or disproof of an idea. The issue is not about apples and oranges or the utility -or better, the nutrition of an apple, the issue is about orange blossoms and oranges. If a theory is tested and the test is positive, then you have strong but not complete evidence that an idea is sound.

Oligonicella said...

“Feminists should come out and say patriarchy is wrong” and then say why by pointing to harmful, demeaning practices....

And be prepared to listen to the same kind of harmful, demeaning practices that women do with the same courtesy expected from men.

I love how the implication is that matriarchy is a better deal.

rcocean said...

I have theory that Fish isn't worth reading. I think I'll act on it.

Seriously, how much does this BS artist make a year? He should be back at the U teaching some English Lit course like "Marxism, Feminism and Jane Austen".

Big Mike said...

But what happens when the theory has been falsified and the ideas have been shown to be wrong?

In the real sciences, the practitioners learn and develop new theories that better explain the observed phenomena.

In the world of feminism, the practitioners just shout louder.

paul a'barge said...

It's Offend a Feminist Week over at Stacy McCain's.

Hoo-rah!

Kirby Olson said...

I liked the phrase "victimarchy" from Bagoh20. Brilliant. Let's spread it through the blogosphere.

I also think "Stanley Fish needs a bike," is a pretty solid phrase. It's not there yet, but it's on the way.

"A theory needs an idea like Fish needs to bicycle."

There's something int his, but my brain doesn't want to go uphill. Someone else do it.

The Crack Emcee said...

My idea is to fight feminism with every fiber of our being.

Not in theory but in reality.

Iapetus said...

"Feminism feasts on picked-over bones of the dead horses and straw men of ancient practices and mythical affronts, while real atrocities are ignored and excused. It leads open-minded young women of the West down dead-end lanes into shadowed forests of frustration, doubt and recrimination, and to the girls of the East, bound in rusty chains of tribal barbarism feminism offers the bright burnished new chains of cultural relativism."

Congratulations Quaestor, that's a mighty fine start for an entry in the Bulwer-Lytton writing contest.

Quaestor said...

Congratulations Quaestor, that's a mighty fine start for an entry in the Bulwer-Lytton writing contest.

That will be a dark and stormy night, undeed. BTW, fuck you, too.

Gabriel Hanna said...

@Peano:

"Oh, no, you needn't do that. This isn't a call to action. I just wanted to describe my reality to you and chat a bit."

Your description doesn't tell the fire department to put your house out. Their desire to put out fires is what motivates them, and your desire not to have your house burn motivates you to call them. If you'd set the fire yourself you probably wouldn't call them.

@Quaestor:Hardly a theory since its proposed mechanism contradicts a real theory, namely the laws of thermodynamics.

Tiresome nonsense. Creationists say the same about evolution; they don't understand thermodynamics any more than you do.

rcocean said...

"Feminism feasts on picked-over bones of the dead horses and straw men of ancient practices and mythical affronts..."

How can anyone feast on strawmen and picked over bones?

"...while real atrocities are ignored and excused. It leads open-minded young women of the West down dead-end lanes into shadowed forests of frustration, doubt and recrimination"

Well, at least they didn't take that Streetcar named desire. It was a real bummer for one woman.

"...and to the girls of the East, bound in rusty chains of tribal barbarism feminism offers the bright burnished new chains of cultural relativism."

This makes no sense but its quite poetic. And do any of these 'girls of the East' go to Brandais?

Fen said...

This makes no sense but its quite poetic

Makes perfect sense to me. He's saying that, for the women of 3rd World despots, American feminism only offers to replace one set of chains with another.