The Tyranny of –isms

I dislike many things, among them, the tendency of some academics (particularly philosophers) to dismiss certain arguments or statements as examples of some “–ism” or other.

In this game, one “thinker” dismisses the statement of another with a phrase that includes an “–ism” word (or an “–ist” word), together with an explicit or implicit claim that this particular “-ism” (or “–ist” claim) has already been well described, and is today totally refuted. The critical refutation of said “–ism” is an already settled matter among those cool kids who are in the know. Don’t you know?

Not being in the know myself, and being the sort of person who in any case tends to see academic “knowledge of things” as a kind of rhetorically constructed set of power-relations among privileged disciplinarians, this kind of thing just really hacks me off.

In other words, people, when you quickly dismiss anyone’s arguments (but especially mine) because they depend on “naturalism,” “positivism,” “constructivism,” “reductionism,” “foundationalism,” “scientism,” “rationalism,” “materialism,” “psychologism,” “historicism,” “idealism,” “realism,” etc., then you get to go on my naughty list. Even if I like you well as a person. Even if I ultimately will agree with you.

I understand that what I am reacting against is a useful shorthand for philosophers. It must get so tiring to have to repeat the same old arguments against particular patterns of bad ideas, over and over again.

Too bad philosophers. You don’t get to mask or fold-away your arguments by special appeals to authority, tradition, and inside knowledge. Because the problem is, believe it or not, that “philosophy” has yet to unveil any system (or –ism) that can claim the status of “consensus view.”

Or is my claim there too rooted in positivist assumptions for you?

what do you think?