Saussure, so far

November 21, 1997

Contrary to Christopher Stanley's accusation (THES, November 14) my critique of Lacan does not mean that I oppose all radical thinking, that I support the "banal violence of managerialism" or that I am afraid of "dangerous thought". My track record speaks for itself. My book on consciousness (The Explicit Animal) is totally at odds with the current scientistic orthodoxy.

My critiques of post-Saussurean theory and other adverse trends in contemporary thought - Not Saussure, In Defence of Realism, Newton's Sleep, Enemies of Hope, etc. - advance radical and heterodox views on the nature of language, of art and of the future of society.

In short, I am willing to think as radically as is necessary to pursue the truth. I draw the line only at stupidity, error and dishonesty - in short, at bull****. The utterly opaque muddle of theory lies beyond that line. Theory, incidentally, is about as dangerous in terms of impact in the real world as Noddy in Toyland. Its total impotence in Stanley's sphere of interest (the law) was admitted by the pomo legal theorist Joel Handler in his presidential address to the Law and Society Association in 1992.

Moreover, Stanley should check his facts before accusing me of refusing to engage with Nietzsche, Heidegger, the French existentialists or the German Romantics. Heidegger and Sartre are acknowledged as crucial influences on The Explicit Animal. Holderlin has the last word in Newton's Sleep and Nietzsche provides one of the fundamental ideas of that book. What is most disturbing about Stanley's letter is the assumption that these thinkers are owned by the purveyors of theorrhoea. Has Stanley not heard of the bitter dispute between Sartre and the post-Saussureans? To oppose the pomos' totally muddled representation of great thinkers is not the same as to oppose the thinkers themselves.

Raymond Tallis

Valley Road Bramhall, Cheshire

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