Saturday, 3 January 2009

Small post on cultural studies and elitism

So this article is the result of a discussion with a french scholar and a french student for whom I both have esteem, and through our disagreements, I tend to develop certain ideas. This one is on our culture and the easy rejection sometimes made by the intellectuals of our world. It started with a television program on astrology. And jokes were made on the comment made by the astrologers on the show.

I was a bit uneasy at the jokes made, since the student and the scholars had both no knowledge of astrology. I wouldn't say I'm an expert on it either. But I am victim of this curiosity for every kind of knowledge and sciences made throughout the ages. That is where our disagreement started. The student had a problem with the term astrology I guessed. Since he does classical studies and philosophy, there was no apparent logos in this term, since it was based purely on invented concepts, and the facts were improperly studied. To which I retorted that metaphysics was more or less the same. But in his opinion, metaphysics are based on some facts. Something I yet need to see, if that's possible. His second argument was that just like alchemy, astrology was an outdated science for our world to still consider it relevant in any way. Which I thought was funny coming from a classical study student.

The scholar had a problem on the fact that astrology was a belief, therefore not being a subject of quality for a study. I proposed theology to that. And he explained me that most of the important scholars in this discipline would never believed in miracles, but would interpret the miracles in the bibles to explain concepts inside the religion.

I actually agreed on both these points, but I still wouldn't accept there objection of astrology. Astrology is actually one of the oldest science on earth. It has the interesting aspect of having existed in most of the important cultures on earth.

Though it is not a science since it's theory are hardly provable, it is too stupid to reject it. I'm not saying that we should believe in it. I'm not saying that every astrologers are worth listening to. I guess most of them are charlatans. But I would listen to someone who studied astrology, who would explained me the different concepts developed by astrologers throughout history, its evolution and the difference in the angle taken towards this belief in the different cultures.

But astrology is here only an example of this presumption of people to know what is worthy of knowledge or not. These people I had these arguments with are both guys I respect. They are not pragmatist as such. They do favour culture over practice I'd say. But it is the culture of the elite more that a widespread view on culture. It is in a way restrictive. I understand the fear of letting the unworthy culture, if such a thing exists really, enter the realm of the intellectuals. But I think that such a fear shouldn't really be. What should be feared is only the person pretending to be master of a certain culture, and be rejected for his knowledge of the culture for the sole fact it is not recognised as a valuable culture, instead of having qualified authorities in this certain culture that can properly judge each other, under a proper epistemological scrutiny.

In a way, every angle of our culture is worthy of being known, but there is a certain minimum to be known every time to be able to properly talk about it. I wouldn't reject an astrologers as long as he knows well his subject, nor would I reject a good alchemist, a good lawyer and so on. As Jet Li said in Fearless, as Huo Yuanjiia, “ Every martial art is good, it is the knowledge the fighter has of his martial art that would make him a suitable fighter or not”. And this is true for every aspect of our culture.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I happen to know the student and scholar ; ) I love your argument re the dubious empirical basis of metaphysics - especially because the said student is a fan of phenomenology which as far as I am concerned is the emperor's new clothes! Biz, ta vieille soeur.