Levi Bryant recently worried about teaching suspicion in critical thinking:
I worry about this with the humanities classroom. Is there a chance that we might be creating “dogmatists of suspicion”? That is, are their pedagogical strategies that risk turning suspicion into an axiom, such that our students become critically immune to any facts or evidence?
And given my inclinations towards rehabilitating paranoia (and a paranoia-critical method), I thought to offer a brief defense of suspicion. In teaching suspicion and doubt (and the heuretics of paranoia, the formulation of the method taken to its extreme that I am developing) there is, indeed, the possibility of creating a dogmatics of suspicion. It is unfortunate.
Indeed, in radical openness and undecidability there is always the threat of the backlash. When you open up the possiblity knowledge such that more things can count as knowledge, such that invention might be a part of academic research, there is the possibility of dogma and epistemic closure. Fear is deeply ingrained. Ideology is difficultly shed.
Paranoia (positively aligned) can trace novel paths, invent associative connections and meanings where they may or may not “exist”, move past and through (disciplinary) boundaries. A paranoiac method that resides in radical openness, that strives towards disrupting research paradigms that would ignore the anomalous and particular for those that might revel in it, and use the anomaly to subvert ideology, is the opposite side of the coin from the backlash of conspiracy theory and private (traditional conservative) truth. Doubting climate change is not, after all, radical doubt. It is doubting science and doubting the government while, in equal measure, trusting big business, capitalist consumption patterns, and religion (the dominion of man, &c).
Can you have radical openness without some retreating in fear to “tradition” and “family values”? I don’t know. It is worth it if a backlash is unavoidable? Is the backlash merely a slower reaction, the first stage grief? This is the dark side of the method I want to develop and it will be necessary to keep the threat in mind as my research continues.