I’ve been posting about Graham Priest, the nature of philosophy’s history, cinema, and Kraftwerk a lot over the last couple of weeks, but I’ve also been working on a review for the Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective (which will be posted next week), and I’m still reading some old sociological philosophy to help synthesize ideas for the Utopias project. As well, I’m working through Lee Edelman’s No Future to expand my mind, because Phil Sandifer has never steered me wrong.
However, I remain a little hesitant to write critical thoughts, even though I do have issues in reaction to what Edelman says. If he can be taken as a reasonable representative of queer theory in general, then I’m hesitant to engage with this direction in philosophy at all. The fact is, when it comes to LBGT(etc) issues, politics, and ideas, I’ve become very hesitant to say anything at all. I’m hesitant to ask any critical questions about the methods and directions of the movement(s), especially online.
Reading Edelman, I see want to engage critically with his work, because I see it as philosophically and ethically challenging, complex, and valuable. But I still expect that if I were to go on a forum and ask the types of questions I will ask in this weekend’s posts, I would meet only hostility and aggression. Multiple sexualities exist in my immediate family and my circles of friends. And I’ve treasured those people in my life, as I treasure all my family and friends. But I’m hesitant to call myself an Ally, because I don’t know if, as a straight person, I would be allowed to ask critical philosophical questions, even though asking such questions is what philosophy does.
As I discussed last Monday, Edelman creates a fascinating concept in his work, reproductive futurism. However, unlike other acts of philosophical creation, he has created this concept to identify and attack a profound opponent in thought. As I see it in No Future, reproductive futurism is how queer people experience the social pressure to conform to a common morality or social order, with regard to their sexuality and its expression. That common morality, in this context, lies in the unquestioned good of creating and raising children. Reproductive futurism is the moral principle that acting to maintain the organic continuation of humanity is a true, and obviously true, good. Any challenge to this, any life that does not include reproduction and care for children as a goal, would be an evil lifestyle. Queer sexualities are, for Edelman, in their very existence, such an evil for the reproductive futurist.
Those who would find comfort in the stability of society often associate that stability with cultural homogeneity.* It’s an ironic vocabulary, since what precisely provokes those people into hostility is how the open acceptance of queer sexualities makes our society more diverse. Associating cultural homogeneity with social and political stability and peace implies that you understand divergent moralities and lifestyles as sources of social conflict.
* A lovely coincidence that I’m reading this at the same time as I’m looking into the ideas of Karl Mannheim, who explained, confronted, and critiqued this very point in Ideology and Utopia in 1936. I’ve come to wonder how many other debates contemporary academia repeats that occurred in the past in almost the same form, simply because the key thinkers of those past debates weren’t canonized deeply enough that everyone has read them.
Indeed, they can be. But they need not be. Part of what I’ve written for Social Epistemology, which will be available open source next week, touches on how the philosophical and political developments of the modern epoch (urban cultural diversity, mass communication, the availability of media and cultural products from countries all over the world) has given us the tools to live in a heterogeneous culture peacefully. We can easily accept that there are many ways in morality and lifestyle to satisfy the general physical goods of humanity. Human nature underdetermines the moral principles and systems that can satisfy human needs and goods; that’s why humanity developed so many moralities in the first place. An attitude of curiosity and acceptance can accept these moralities peacefully, as different paths to achieve our needs and goods.
But the question of what those common human goods are may still be up for debate. And if you consider one of those goods the reproduction of the human species through creating and raising children, then the existence of people whose sexualities are queer is a rebuke to you. Even in a society as open as urban Canada (which has many problems, especially widespread ignorance of how queer people actually live, but includes not nearly the intensity and violence of oppression that queers face in many other parts of the world), Edelman maintains that queer sexualities are considered evil for their challenge to the status of creating and raising children as an obvious good.
This would rarely be explicit in our liberal society. But Edelman finds one troubling articulation of such hostility to the moral, social, and political implications of queer existence: the yearly presence of film adaptations of A Christmas Carol all over our televisions. To be continued. . .