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"What is a Theoretical Terrain?" [PDF download]

Based on some emails I've received regarding previous posts where I have talked about the practice of philosophy, and used terms such as theoretical terrain, I have decided to post a draft PDF fragment of an essay that might or might not explain this problematic.  This draft was written while I was working on a manuscript for a [still incomplete] book about what it means to practice philosophy as a marxist.  Originally it was intended to be part of a chapter in this book but, deciding it was too fragmentary, I edited out of the book draft and replaced it with something that was much more concise and less metaphorically abstract.  For the past year and a half I have tried to think of a way to reincorporate it with a book in question but have continuously found it out of step with the narrative tone.  Although I might still find a way to force this reincorporation, at the moment it is still far too abstruse to function within that manuscript as it has developed without a substantial structural overhaul––either to the book in general or the expurgated essay.

[Tangental note: these days I receive more direct email queries than comments because the glitches in Blogger seem to prevent a lot of people from making comments.  I am not sure why this is the case, and I myself find that I can't view and/or reply to comments with some search engines.  The general rule seems to be, from my own experiments, that if you cannot see this blog's background image, pages bar, and proper fonts, then commenting is impossible.  The only workable solution to this problem so far is to use Firefox and click the "refresh" icon until the back images, pages bar and fonts appear––then commenting is possible.]

My decision to post this fragmentary PDF is mainly due to some email questions I received regarding my recent post on Amil K.'s Gramsci essay.  It was in this post that I again spoke of theoretical terrains, as well as another book sized manuscript I've been working on, and apparently it produced some confusion.  Hence, when I argued that Gramsci's work was limited by the Leninist "terrain", I received two emails from readers who wanted to know what I meant by the word "terrain" vis-a-vis Leninism.  My response was to promise a post that would clarify this use of terminology.  Upon reflection, however, I remembered this old fragmentary draft where I defined the analogy of theoretical terrain and decided that it might be useful to instead provide this draft as a download.  At the very least, I would be able to do something with thousands of words that might otherwise be relegated to my personal dustbin of history.

Before making a few comments about this essay, however, I am going to provide the PDF download link:



(If you like the essay, regardless of its flaws, feel free to kick some purchasing money my way by going to my donate page––which is now generally invisible thanks to the same Blogger glitch that hampers commenting.)

This picture, of a Mona Hatoum installation, does in some way connect to the downloadable essay.

Apologies in advance for the way in which the metaphor of theoretical terrain produces, at times, obscurantism.  As noted above, there is a reason I initially removed this essay from the manuscript with which it was meant to participate.  Having a low tolerance for this kind of writing, I wasn't keen on replicating what I often find bothersome with philosophy, particularly "continental" philosophy.  There is a point where the extended metaphor of terrain becomes, in my opinion, over-bloated because I am trying too hard to use this metaphor to explain too much and, in the process, fail to provide clarity for my own explanation.  What I was trying to do was use an extended metaphor to explain the practice of philosophy as well as to provide a crude guide about how to look at a body of theory, as a marxist, and engage with this body of theory.  I'm not sure if I accomplished my aims in this essay; its fragmentary composition might stand in the way of this express goal.

However, the fact that I wrote this essay in an attempt to provide some set language that could be helpful for marxist philosophical praxis, and that some of its terminology has become implicit in what I have posted on this blog and what I am working on elsewhere, made me think that it is worth posting since it will probably otherwise just die in my documents folder.  So download and enjoy!

Comments

  1. > [Tangental note: these days I receive more direct email queries than comments because the glitches in Blogger seem to prevent a lot of people from making comments. I am not sure why this is the case, and I myself find that I can't view and/or reply to comments with some search engines. The general rule seems to be, from my own experiments, that if you cannot see this blog's background image, pages bar, and proper fonts, then commenting is impossible. The only workable solution to this problem so far is to use Firefox and click the "refresh" icon until the back images, pages bar and fonts appear––then commenting is possible.]

    Would it be possible to move away from this abomination of a theme? I'm pretty sure the obscene reliance on javascript is causing that, and many other problems.

    1. Hardly anything works correctly when viewing this website through an iframe (such as the reddit toolbar).
    2. The javascript interferes with shortcuts for my vim navigation plugin, and many others I'm sure.
    3. There's a loading screen for the blog...
    4. There are needless and annoying animations everywhere.
    5. The default view for a post is an in-page popup. It's a horrible reading environment.
    6. I don't have a mobile phone, but I suspect all this javascript makes it even worse on a mobile browser.
    7. The javascript interferes with proper and expected navigation principles. Too many times I've found myself suddenly transported back to the homepage with the back button only sometimes working.
    8. The whole site is awfully slow.
    9. The widget on the right-hand side obscures the scrollbar.

    ReplyDelete

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