In Open Culture:
On Friday we posted an excerpt from an interview in which linguist Noam Chomsky (something of a political celebrity himself) excoriates Jacques Derrida and Jacques Lacan, along with Lacan’s superstar disciple, Slovenian theorist Slavoj Žižek, for using intentionally obscure and inflated language to pull the wool over their admirers’ eyes and make trivial “theories” seem profound. He calls Lacan a “total charlatan.” Lacan had a penchant for using trendy mathematical terms in curious ways. In a passage on castration anxiety, for example, he equates the phallus with the square root of minus one:
The erectile organ can be equated with the √-1, the symbol of the signification produced above, of the jouissance [ecstasy] it restores–by the coefficient of its statement–to the function of a missing signifier: (-1).
Chomsky’s criticism of Lacan and the others provoked a wide range of comments from our readers. Today we thought we would keep the conversation going with a fascinating audio clip (above) of philosopher John Searle of the University of California, Berkeley, describing how Michel Foucault and Pierre Bourdieu–two eminent French thinkers whose abilities Searle obviously respected–told him that if they wrote clearly they wouldn’t be taken seriously in France.