I am two weeks into my “theoretical approaches to sexuality” course, and I find myself troubled by the base layer of theory being used in the course. Critical Theory is central to the course’s material. To me, Critical Theory is a little too much like metaphysics for the social sciences. I accept the basic premise that there can be no such thing as academic Truth and that there is only a culturally and temporality relevant perception of Truth. From what I understand of the history of the theory itself, it was created out of squabbling between academic departments over who is “right”. I find the fact that it required the creation of post-modern critical theory to allow interdisciplinary studies to come into existence to be absolutely disgusting. Perhaps I am just a bid jaded by the fact that I come from an academic background of philosophy, art, computer science, psychology and sociology. Art, computer science and the collective remainder do not interact or overlap in their areas of study, so perhaps I didn’t notice from that. As for philosophy, psychology and sociology, I find the disciplines to interact peacefully and not have many conflicts over teachings. There is the concern of “Social Psychology” and “Psychological Sociology” (sometimes “Social Behavior”), but that is merely a minor issue of what to focus on.
The key component of post-modern critical theory seems to be the rejection of a unitary theory of the whole. I am totally OK with that aspect, I think we (collective academic we) can all agree that there is no single theory that covers everything or that is acceptable to everyone. I also accept that any “truth” in academics is merely a consensus of enough heads in the subject area. My problems with critical theory begin with the fact that we loose valuable information as a society or culture as a result of abandoning those Truths of consensus. I believe that throwing out all existing theories as a result of their non-compliance with the anti-bias rules of postmodernism is irresponsible. Our current “Knowledge” and understanding has been created from the movements that began during the Enlightenment. While it has been a long time since the beginning of the age of reason, those values are still in use and are still important to our understanding of the world around us. Abandoning those ideas pre-maturely seems like something that could throw society into another dark age. One of the key questions I have seen in postmodernist writings is “how do we write about the world now?”. There have been plenty of writings on the topic, but it is mostly critical theory being used to analyze itself, essentially getting us nowhere. I do believe that human modes of inquiry must evolve, but I do not feel that we have evolved enough academically or even reasonably to begin to move toward the type of intellectual inquiry that critical theory asks us to use.
Still, the class is being taught using that method of inquiry and I must go along with it. I shall keep an open mind as I always do in an academic environment. I just feel that time could be better spent exploring the depths of sexuality and not just establishing this new field of inquiry. As pointed out by Dr. Jane Flax, there are numerous modes of inquiry already in existence that can be used to compliment each other to develop a tangible understanding of sexuality and gender issues.