Zero Squared #145: Thaddeus Russell against Rationalism

Thaddeus Russell is a historian, author, and professor. He has taught history, American Studies, and the history of philosophy at Columbia University, Barnard College, and the New School for Social Research. He is also the host of the Unregistered Podcast and the guest on this week’s podcast. While we start off discussing the anti-SJW industry and Russell’s own encounters with it, we quickly veer off into a conversation about Capitalism, Foucault, whether rationalism is necessarily imperialist, Sam Harris, Noam Chomsky and a variety of other topics. The pull quote from this episode is probably near the end of this first half of the conversation when Russell says something like, “Wait, I’m not finished. I’m building a total refutation of the entirety of what you think, Doug.”

I want to thank James T, Jason R, Andrew F, Matt S, and R for becoming patrons in the last few days. They along with 200 hundred other Patrons of the Inside Zero Books podcast are making the expansion of Zero Books’ digital content production possible. And I also want to remind listeners that if you enjoy this podcast, especially if you enjoy this conversation with Thaddeus, you might want to become patrons of Inside Zero Books this week as the second half of this conversation is coming out for members only this weekend.

If you haven’t already you might pick up a copy of Marx Returns by Jason Barker or get ahold of Angela Nagle’s Kill All Normies which was recently selected as one of the top ten books of 2017 by the novelist George Saunders. Or, if you’ve had enough of Nagle and want to re-embrace the call out culture you can get yourself a copy of Shaun Scott’s Millennials and the Moments that Made Us which was published by Zero Books in February.

Zero Squared: A New Year’s Special

This special January 2nd, 2016 episode of Zero Squared explores why Critical Theorists deploy the word “problematic” and what they are REALLY saying when they talk about your fave.

Clips in this episode/collage include KMO from the C-Realm, John Berger, The Wireless Philosopher on the Problem of Perception, Michel Foucault Beyond Good and Evil (1993), music from the Truman Show, Laci Green, Tori the Queer, Evan Edinger, Noam Chomsky, Robin Williams, and clips the film A Day in the Afterlive of Philip K Dick.

Here’s an excerpt from the collage:

What’s problematic in today’s Critical Theory? That is, what is it that motivates the critical theorist to call something “problematic?”
According to the Philosophy dictionary online (that’s www.philosophy-dictionary dot org) something is a “problematic judgement” when it involves “the consciousness of the mere possibility” or, when it does not contain the consciousness of actuality or necessity.

To clarify, something is a problematic judgement, when it is subjective. In Hegel’s Science of Logic he labels the problematic as “assertoric.” This just means that it is an assertion given by a particular subject. Hegel’s logic is quite complicated, but the claim here is that when one asserts something, like “twerking is bad” one is asserting more than a particular fact about one’s own subjective experience. One is also making a claim about a universal notion.
To make this clearer still, something is problematic or problematized when it can seen to be self-generated and thereby self-interested rather than objective or necessary.
Again, the problem in the term “problematic” is the subjectivity of experience. A claim is problematic when its relationship to a universal notion or an objective fact has not been determined.
We might wonder then why it is that so many people use the term “problematic” a bit differently.