I keep teaching my students the need to unlearn: unlearn the desire to ‘show off’ their erudition; unlearn shallowness and so on. I am more than convinced that whatever we have learnt about human beings can be formulated in a jargon-free language and in a simple manner. There is no need to appear ‘mysterious and profound’; nor is there a need for exhibiting one’s erudition or ‘critical capacities’. On all these counts, most of Foucalt’s writings (and that of his commentators) can only call forth anger and irritation.
It is my belief that everyone of us (whatever our specializations) are capable of contributing to the research programme. The nature and kind of their contributions (whether they write books and/or articles in scientific journals) depends on many factors, including, only partially, their knowledge of the domain. (However, keep in mind that many fundamental scientific revolutions have required rank ‘outsiders’ to make the breakthroughs.) What we need (I would almost say, almost the only thing we need) is a willingness and ability to think about our experiences. In what language we do it, what our terminologies are, what our background knowledge is, etc. determine the form of our contribution, no doubt, but not its content.
In some senses, I would say, your doubts zero-in on the real problem: we believe we need some specialized theories to formulate our problems. But such theories do not exist. Guided by the belief that there are such theories, we take recourse to jargon, use bloated terminologies, appeal to fads and fashion to say simple things. In that process, we end up completely losing track of what we wanted to say or the insights we are trying to express.
The research programme seeks something very, very simple: to reflect on our experiences. Our public is people like you and me, not as specialists but as ordinary human beings. Let us write to each other and begin a process of thinking. There are no ‘outsiders’ in this process: you are as qualified as I am. The only difference between you and me is the time we spend doing that and the expertise we bring to bear in formulating our insights.
I asked you to read Popper to help you get rid of some confusions that arise because of the pseudo-philosophy we have absorbed in our lives. It does not either give you the experiences you need to think about or how to formulate them, except to tell you to do so in simple and understandable terms.
- Law of Excluded Middle: Christian Beliefs
- Self-reflexivity of Religion