The first essay presents Shakespeare’s exploration of the debate between contemplative and active life. In this regard, Unhae Langis analyses Shakespeare’s play ‘The Tempest.’ According to the author, this play underscores, for present-day intellectuals, the necessity despite the difficulty of straddling both the contemplative and active worlds: while knowledge sought for its own sake is always valuable, it also can and must be directed to benefit the world surrounding us at the cost of a human debacle.
Secondly, Michelle Syba looks at the emergence of criticism, three centuries before the actual cultural turn. By analyzing the period of ‘the critick,’ from the 1670s to 1714 in London, she intends to broaden the Georg F. Simet and Nikita Basov xi discussion from the question of authorial intention to the public role and perception(s) of the literary critic. Following Noel Carroll’s statement of a crisis in criticism she shows that performing aesthetic judgments was not a self-evident activity, even in the beginning of doing critics.
At third, Kenny K. K. NG concentrates on Li Jieren (1891-1962) as the last epic storyteller in the People’s Republic of China. The author seeks to draw a broader picture of Li’s private and public lives in the SichuanChengdu province to examine Li’s tactics of alignment with the changing institutions and frustrated attempts in maintaining creative security in the Anti-Rightist movement in the 1950s. The paper throws light on the idea of ‘anachronism,’ in which an author was always anxious of lagging behind his times and seeking ways of catching up with the ideological ambience by shifting writing strategies.
The forth essay by Claire Heaney reflects on the role of the intellectual in society in the light of J. M. Coetzee’s storytelling. Adopting Stefan Collini’s definition of the public intellectual as someone regarded as possessing ‘cultural authority,’ her paper traces Coetzee’s rejection of the role of public intellectual in both his critical and his fictional works. It is the author’s belief that Coetzee’s fiction stages, in both form and content, urgent and compelling paradigms of ethical engagement; values that have too often been neglected by contemporary philosophical and critical praxis.
At last, Oleksandra Nenko looks at intellectuals in the field of contemporary art using the examples of the capitals Moscow and Kyiv.
Based on an analysis of several art magazines, she identifies three different positions and roles of the intellectual: an art critic; a medium (transmitting meanings about art into the public discourse); and a curator. In order to achieve effectiveness in these fields, the author describes three ways:
‘solitude’; Gemeinschaft; and ‘being one-self as an authentic individual.’ These trajectories might be combined to meet the diverse multi-perspectives of art in the post-Soviet societies of the Ukraine and the Russian Federation.
As a result of authors’ reflections, which are sometimes coherent and sometimes opposing each other, a ground for inspiring dialogue is brought to life. This multi-disciplinary cross-cultural dialogue provides a multi-dimensional portrait of intellectuals and intellectual work (e.g., knowledge creation and learning) in contemporary society that is of a great importance in the context of knowledge society emergence.
PART I Intellectuals and Ideas Trashing Truth in Eight Easy Steps: The Decline of Intellectual Commitment and the Importance of Militant Atheism Jerrold L. Kachur Abstract Anti-intellectualism has deep roots in Anglo-American societies, but in none more so than in the USA. The low profile of intellectuals in American society is not just about the changing nature of the public sphere but more significant is the failure of intellectuals to defend an absolute commitment to atheism and truth. The relativisation of truth is not only the product of neoliberal globalisation and of cultural commodification. The trashing of big T Truth originated with the birth of Modernity and was deepened through the internecine philosophical debates of the 20th century between the positivists, hermeneutic-phenomenologists and postmodernists. The debates have left secular humanists, freethinking agnostics and militant atheists defenceless to challenges from relativist liberal multiculturalists and fundamentalist religious conservatives. I suggest that the reconstructed materialist dialectics of Alain Badiou suggests a way out of the secularist malaise. Unlike constructivists, Badiou argues that truth should not be equated with knowledge. Rather, truth is a ‘hole in knowledge’ and big T Truth is a philosophical gathering of that knowledge.
***** 1. Intellectuals Speak Truth Writing in the early 1960s, Richard Hofstadter, author of AntiIntellectualism in America, would not have been surprised with populist truisms dominating discourse today because the intellectual has rarely been comfortable in the democratic and antinomian USA.1 For the AngloAmerican intelligentsia, this uneasy tension between democracy and intellect at its best remains unspoken common sense and at its worst trashes truth.
The demotion of the status of the truth has impacted contemporary cultural life, undermined the value of higher education, and seriously modified the nature of intellectual life.2 The low and declining status of intellectuals during the 20th century in the Anglo-American world is correlated to (1) the declining status of universal knowledge as objective truth privileging theoretical inference; (2) the reduction of particular ‘knowledges’ to subjective truths 4 Trashing Truth in Eight Easy Steps privileging personal experience and pragmatic accommodations to capitalist functioning; and (3) the uneasy relation that modern secularists have had with Absolute Knowledge and its many euphemisms (God, the One, the big Other, the Real, Infinite, capital X, the set of all sets, or big T Truth). The USA’s dysfunctional truth-trashing anti-intellectualism requires important consideration because of its proximity and power as well as its shared values with other Anglo-American countries and its imperial influence on other countries. Furthermore, as Antonio Negri writes ‘without the American proletariat, and American intellectuals, and American music […] in short, without the American multitudes, permanent revolution is not possible, nor is the free development of that great transformation of life we are living through.’3 However, in the important intercivilisational dialogues of the 21st century a significant barrier to teaching Americans the truth about anything is the dominant intellectual culture: anti-intellectualism, anti-rationalism, and anti-elitism.4 Secular intellectuals in the West have played a significant role in relativising truth generating the preconditions for what I call ‘the trashing of big T Truth.’ ‘What, then, is truth for an intellectual’ I answer this question based on the understanding provided by Alain Badiou.2. Intellectuals, God and Truth Hofstadter writes ‘that the professional man lives off ideas, not for them.’6 Whereas intelligence seeks to grasp, manipulate, re-order, adjust, intellect examines, ponders, wonders, theorizes, criticizes, imagines. The intellectual’s personal truth emerges through a thinking engagement in the gap between historical truth with roots in the secular humanist orientation and Absolute Truth in the dogmatic religious orientation, both held simultaneously in the mind as an ambiguous torsion, filling the internal dialogue with both playfulness and piousness. However, the intellectual also performs a social function, as Antonio Gramsci writes: ‘All men are intellectuals, […] but not all men have in society the function of intellectuals.’7 Gramsci supplements Hofstadter’s definition of intellectual as an ‘eloquent mover of feelings and passions’ and as an active participants in practical life yet superior to ‘the
mathematical spirit.’8 Similarly, Edward Said writes of the universalising orientation: ‘What I was trying to suggest was the standards of truth about human misery and oppression were to be held despite the individual intellectual’s party affiliation, national background and primeval loyalties […],’9 and, fundamentally, a relationship to power: public intellectuals ‘Speak Truth to Power.’10 What expresses the intellectual approach to truth Alain Badiou, as a Platonist of multiplicity, defends the foundational principles of post-Cantorian set theory.Accordingly, the doctrines of ‘inconsistent multiplicity’ and ‘the void’ bridge the gap between set theory’s infinity of sets and the multiples of situations.In Badiou’s set theory of truth, philosophical Truth or the Void is a gathering Jerrold L. Kachur point of local truths and follows Cantor’s assumption: ‘The Absolute  can only be acknowledged and admitted, never known, not even approximately.’13 However, big T Truth also equates with strong realism, that a proposition is true when things are the way the proposition says they are and this Truth can be known. It is most easily recognizable in monotheism of the Abrahamic traditions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) and the first of the Ten Commandments: ‘I am the Lord your God […] you shall have no other gods before me.’14 Pope Benedict XVI declares in his encyclical letter of 2009, Caritas In Veritate, that Love – caritas - is an extraordinary force, ‘its origin in God, Eternal Love and Absolute Truth.’ Even George W. Bush communes with the Absolute and consulted with a ‘Higher Father’ instead of his earthly father, George H. W. Bush, about going to war in Iraq.15 In a message to Americans and Iraqis and broadcasted in October 2003, Osama Bin Laden cites Quran 9:73 and draws on the classical rules of Islamic legal discourse to praise God and the Prophet.16 And President Barack Obama’s January 2010 First State of the Union Address ends with the now mandatory:
God Bless you. And God Bless the United States of America.’If all this God-talk disturbs you, then you shouldn’t hide from it. Critical theorist and methodological atheist, Jrgen Habermas (2008) has highlighted the importance of engaging with God-talk as a post-metaphysical philosopher. He has also declared a post-secular age and reflects on the enduring centrality of religion and the limits of secularism.18 He has personally dialogued with the current Pope Benedict XVI.19 Cultural studies star Slavoj iek calls on the Left to retake Christianity from the religious Right: ‘To become a true dialectical materialist, one should go through the Christian experience.’20 Alain Badiou also challenges and defends assumptions about the Absolute in developing his meta-ontology for militant atheists, a system developed in the axioms of Set Theory implicating the Void and Choice.3. Constructing Eight Steps to Trashing Big T Truth The significance of the modernist denial of ‘God’ or the Absolute for free thinkers, secular humanists and militant atheists goes hand in hand with its pervasive presence in many guises, for example, Ludwig Wittgenstein: ‘What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.’However, a defence of freethinking, secularism and atheism can no longer be self-satisfied with variations of Deism, Agnosticism, Negative Atheism or Wittgenstein’s silence regarding the Absolute. In contrast, Badiou writes about unicity of the One, the property (+) which defines a multiple as different, as does the empty set: ‘Such is the multiple ‘God,’ in onto-theology […] Any unique multiple can receive a proper name, such as Allah, Yahweh,, 0.’23 For Badiou, this ‘God’ may be admitted and acknowledged but not known absolutely. As a counterpoint let us take a short tour of contemporary 6 Trashing Truth in Eight Easy Steps highbrow anti-realism and the eight ways that an intellectual approach to Truth is trashed.No Big T Truth (Modernity): God, Nature, Man. Nietzsche ‘God is Dead;’ Foucault ‘Man is Dead.’ Big T Truth is dead is the Modern break with the pre-modern religious order based on Theism - in particular monotheism.
Many Little t truths: nihilistic postmodernism draws on Friedrich Nietzsche (truth as mobile army of metaphors, a hammer to smash idols);
optimistic postmodernism draws on William James (an idea is true if it is profitable to our lives - truth has cash value and lives on a credit system).
Another term for this position is multi-perspectivism.
Postmodern democratic populism: to fix the relativism in place requires locating a Community of norms and practices. This democratic populist turn breaks with Nietzsche and Foucault’s aristocratic aestheticism.
We thus get the equation of democratic populism with optimistic postmodernism as an intellectual lobotomy locating truth in the doxa or opinion of the demos. With critique sufficiently cordoned off, the turn to demos implies a cultural turn to ethos which itself can be tyrannical majority and anti-democratic for subordinated minorities.
Postmodern minority populism: the ethos of marginalized minorities thus can locate so-called ‘critical’ challenges to majority power to normalize the Other (e.g. postmodern feminism). However, claims to otherness tied to victimization, a marginalisation requiring ‘an inclusion of diversity’ within the demos raises the issue about what to do about those other ‘not so nice’ marginalized minorities and subjugated knowledges: cannibals, serial killers, KKKers, rich tycoons, religious fundamentalists and the long ignored list goes on and on.
Global ethnocentric populism: intellectual critique is further reduced to ethical disputes based on communities of difference - you have your truth and I have mine as communities - ethos (ethical communication) is transformed to ethnos (ethnic communities) as is complicit with reactionary nationalism as well as religious fundamentalism, Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations.
Linguistic relativism and the new absolute: this shift to the absoluteness of the cultural dispute forms an alliance in the post-modern approach to ‘truth.’ With radical relativism and absolutist certainty as two oars on the same boat, the boat of the new Absolute God: ‘language’ as Being triumphs. This ends with Derrida’s boat sinking in the limits of deconstruction regarding responsibility, justice and other key transcendent Truths.
Competing political theologies: an uneasy alliance now exists, strangely between religious fundamentalists and post-modern populists; what started as the Death of God ends with the Triumph of God. Competing big T Truths, which no one believes in except their own.