What About Penniless Gay Nazis from Africa?

Just a little more Harding – because the previous visits with her are on the August page, which no one will ever look at again, and because at least one reader thinks I may be giving her the straw man treatment. But in fact I’m making her sound better than she is rather than worse, because as I mentioned it simply is impossible to convey how feeble her arguments are via brief quotations. Brief quotations don’t, for instance, and can’t of their nature, make clear how absent any evidence is. They also can’t convey the cumulative effect of her writing, which is genuinely credulity-strainingly childish. Brief quotation for instance misses out how often she repeats the identical inane phrases, but that repetition combined with inanity is a big part of why her work makes such a bizarre impression. It’s like ‘The Dick and Jane Book of How to Know Stuff.’ The meaningless phrase ‘from the perspective of women’s lives’ is repeated multiple times on a single page, even in a single paragraph. The phrase itself is meaningless (lives don’t have perspectives); what Harding means by it (standpoint epistemology) is nonsense; and the endless iteration of meaningless nonsense does not make it more convincing, to put it mildly. But mere short quotations can’t illustrate that endless iteration; so the impression I give is actually better than the one she gives. Ironic, ain’t it.

Here’s some good stuff:

But from the perspective of groups that society excludes and marginalizes, this now conventional claim that all knowers should be interchangeable can appear to have certain antidemocratic consequences. If all knowers are interchangeable, then affirmative action in the sciences can be ‘only’ a moral and political agenda. It can have no possible positive consequences for the content or logic of the natural sciences; the scientific work of men and women, blacks and whites, Nazis and Ku Klux Klanners will be equally supervised and disciplined by scientific method. If all knowers are in principle interchangeable, then white, Western, economically privileged, heterosexual men can produce knowledge at least as good as anyone else can.

Fascinating, isn’t it? And lest you think she’s just describing reality there – she begins the next paragraph with the phrase ‘Even worse…’ No, these are the ‘antidemocratic consequences’ she’s talking about. Apparently she thinks it would be more prodemocratic if, say, the scientific work of women (white ones? ‘economically privileged’? Western? who knows) were ‘supervised and disciplined by scientific method’ in some way other than ‘equally’ with that of men or Nazis. (Well what about Nazi women? Huh? How do we figure all these items out? How does a rich Nazi gay male compare with a poor Western heterosexual female KKKer? Do they get points for each item and then we add them all up and figure out how to supervise and discipline their work? Or what?) Interesting notion. What would that way be, exactly? What other way is there to supervise and discipline scientific work? I would really like to know, but of course Harding does not in fact say. She never does. And that again is what it’s impossible to show by mere excerpt. You’re at liberty to assume that she in fact does say, farther down the page or into the chapter, and I just haven’t bothered to quote that bit. But no. She doesn’t. She just sets up these ridiculous pseudo-‘problems’ and then wanders off and talks about something else. She doesn’t even think through her own claims, or notice the glaring contradictions they’re full of.

So there’s no straw here; it’s all pure solid brick.

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