03: Sexuality cont’d

with one comment

So, how do you spot this slippage between the new and the old? If you have the time and the energy, the first thing to do is to mobilize that “hermeneutic of suspicion” I wrote about in the History chapter: in other words, assume you are being bullshitted. Go and find some criticism of the people referring to the “new” masculinity, and see if this puts a different spin on things (and, for the sake of fairness, give the “old” critiques the same level of attention you would the “new” arguments): you can find a fair bit for free on the Internet. Of course, you’ll find criticism about anyone who operates in the public domain (including me), but the point is not to leave people unchallenged. Does the criticism sound credible to you? If you don’t really understand the criticism (which can often happen), how credible does the source of this criticism appear? Remember, when Plausible Position A is refuted by Plausible Position B, the former does not immediately become untenable: it simply means plausible arguments ‘aint always as they appear.

For example, on a number of occasions throughout his book, Lawlor refers to Australian Aborigines as exemplars for certain sexual codes in society. However, Mitchell Rolls—co-director of the Centre for Aboriginal Studies at the University of Tasmania, Australia—sees Lawlor’s presentation as an “Arcadian fantasy” and a “racist primitivism in which he seeks to permanently imprison Aborigines.” Let’s say you haven’t the foggiest idea what Rolls is talking about. I’m not suggesting you should blindly accept it, but at the very least you might want to take seriously the fact that someone who undertakes scholarly research in this field finds Lawlor highly problematic, and also have a think about what else might be lurking behind his book. You might want to go and have a look at the types of texts Lawlor refers to, for example The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin, and see if that makes you feel confident about the foundations of his argument (Nicholas Shakespeare’s biography of Chatwin does a good job of exposing him as a fantasist and charlatan, albeit one who wrote like an angel).



Written by Joseph Gelfer

August 1, 2010 at 12:37 pm

One Response

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  1. Good suggestions for opening up the reader to critical thought! A philosophy professor of mine would have us regularly write papers arguing Pro and Con. He would grade us on how well we argued both points well, based on strong arguments and evidence. This was an excellent practice for learning to think more critically and incorporate various views into a more integrated perspective.


    August 2, 2010 at 6:30 am

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