Google the debate if you care; Buckley was a popular figure head for an umbrella philosophy that was undefendable, back in his day. Bad as his job, but much better than Mike Cernovich.
Noam Chomsky’s intellect is a force of nature. Any time someone uses the term “pseudo-intellectual”, they are indirectly referencing Chomski – the litmust test of what a true intellectual is. You don’t want to be on the wrong side of an argument with that man. He’ll just figure out where you are correct and agree and move on to more interesting topics, leaving you trying to tread water in the middle of an ocean – you will drown eventually – he’ll just let you flail helplessly all you like, and keep showing you that you that you are in the middle of the ocean and are going to die.
It’s always been glaringly obvious to me that he is communist in ideology, because he glaringly says so often.
This is a good write up of what has been my glare about him:
Near the end of the century, Chomsky reflected on his debates with Foucault that took place thirty years earlier:
“We [Chomsky and Foucault] were in apparent disagreement, because where I was speaking of justice, he was speaking of power. At least, that is how the difference between our points of view appeared to me.” – Noam Chomsky, On Language, 1998
This, for me, is the key to their fundamental differences. Chomsky is a modernist. Foucault was a postmodernist. The modernist believes ‘justice’ and ‘truth’ have meaning and value independent of power. Human reason, used properly, can lead us toward a more just society. The postmodernist, on the other hand, believes that the meanings of the words ‘truth’ and ‘justice’ are socially constructed largely by those with power to hold and exercise such power.
How We Got Here
Imagine a beautiful Saturday morning in the seaside city of Lisbon, Portugal, on November 1st, 1755. It is All Saints Day, and people are worshiping at the many Churches and preparing for festivities. But late in the morning, about 10:00 o’clock, an earthquake estimated to be between 8.5 and 9.0 on the Moment Magnitude Scale, rattles most of the stone buildings, including the Cathedrals, into rubble. And then, amid the fires and the dead, and the chaos and treatment of the wounded, a tsunami rushes in causing even more devastation and suffering.
The time was ripe for Europe’s intellectuals to demand that we stop putting our faith in some fickle Deity and start putting our faith in man and human reason. It was time for ‘The Enlightenment’ and the ‘Age of Reason’. America, in fact, was born of the Enlightenment.
Fast forward 200 years, to the 1960s. I wonder if those 18th century intellectuals could have even imagined the technological progress we would make in just ten generations; for example, the elimination of polio, and of satellite weather forecasting. But even in the midst of such prosperity, there were serious doubts about our alleged progress. The Holocaust tormented the West’s consciousness, as did the Vietnam War. Even more agonizing was the growing realization of the failure of Marxist Communism. Communism was the star-child of the ‘enlightenment project’ believed to be the way to a more just, egalitarian world.
The answer was not to return to a faith in God, but at the same time to deny a faith in Man. Foucault spoke of the ‘death of man’ in the same way Nietzsche spoke of the ‘death of God’. And so we have the conflict between Noam Chomsky, who still believed in human reason and the value of the pursuit of justice, with Michel Foucault, who believed that truth and justice are ultimately manifestations of power and should not be glorified as though they had meaning outside of the power structures from which their meanings arose.
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They disagree about the nature of justice. Foucault is interested in asking “Why?”, and Chomsky is interested in asking, “And then what happens?” These two divergent approaches lead to different ideas about justice. Tom Gi also has a good point here, which is that Foucault is a postmodernist and Chomsky is a modernist. Foucault keeps attacking Chomsky by repeatedly asking for a transcendental moral foundation, which he knows Chomsky doesn’t want to provide. Chomsky keeps attacking Foucault by asking, “If you have no sense of what should be done, what the hell do you plan on doing?”
I incidentally have aexamining their debate. Just sayin’…
Listening to the first linked video, and the ones Youtube auto-plays next, there is humor in how the various arguments are so blantant and in your face abvious, and are positions I’ve many times adopted.
The first video especially. Post modernism versus morality. And then later videos of Chomsky directly addressing the issue.
I’ve taken both sides very explicitly, and here on this blog.
It’s blatant and unavoidable – unless you want to believe in an afterlife or otherwise need to sugar coat and avoid and dissimulate away from any painful thought.