‘My daughter please understand I am displaying your great uncles in a bad light they was wild and often shicker they thieved and fought and abused me cruelly but you must also remember your ancestors would not kowtow to no one and this were a fine rare thing in a colony made specifically to have poor men bow down to their gaolers. – The True History of the Kelly Gang, Peter Carey.
LI’s politics starts from a simple principle, which is that, no matter what the advantage, poor men should not bow down to their gaolers. It gets more complicated after that.
We’ve been thinking about elites and about the famous “noble lie” principle. It is famous now because of the Straussians. But according to Steve Fuller, in his Thomas Kuhn, a philosophical history, the noble lie principle, or the double truth principle, was not direct from Plato to Leo Strauss. Fuller’s book, an all out assault on Kuhn, mentions other famous 20th century figures who held the principle, and implies that it is integrated into the way Kuhn perceived the history of science.
The principle goes like this: the philosopher who writes the truth, in a state or culture where the truth is placed under various interdictions, risks punishment. One strategy, then, is to write so that a certain audience – who Fuller calls the elite – can understand you, but also so another audience – the vulgar (and – by some inexplicable turn of events – the rulers) can understand you. Both versions will contain some truths, but only the elite version, the secret writing, will contain comprehensive truths.
Now, before we talk about elites – and that is what we want to do – a few words about Fuller. We generally agree with Fuller’s assault on Kuhn (for his unbearable mediocrity, for encoding a seemingly revolutionary perspective on science, one that separates it from truth, to effect a really reactionary program in science, one that preserves what Weber called the legitimation of authority – of, in Kuhn’s words, normal science – in the one social domain where rationality can never be radical enough, etc. etc.). We also like the way Fuller tackles philosophy on the level of gossip (of which his footnotes are full) as well as making larger metaphysical-political claims. Fuller is a radical Popperian, with views that seem close to Feyerabend’s. He is not a radical sociology of science guy – he has no time for Latour.
Okay. That’s Fuller. In the end, we were more interested in Fuller’s idea of elites – elites in the sciences, for instance – than we were in Fuller’s radical Popperianism.
Our next post is going to be about elitism. What is it? Are we against it? Is elitism alien to poor men not bowing down to their jailors -- or are those poor men ineradicably elitist?