Wednesday, March 07, 2012

On Being A Second-Rate God

In skilful treatment of what I suppose is a quite natural theme for a detective story, that of manipulating what others understand of what has happened by choosing what to conceal and what to reveal, Andrea Camilleri makes powerful use of a metaphor, the shape of water (novel: tv adaptation, which I preferred). Water of course has no shape, merely filling what, if anything, contains it. Treating others like vessels, into which to pour whatever conceptions happen to suit us, is often at the very least a morally compromising thing to have done. I've often become quite infuriated with pieces of political theory which I think instrumentalize the discipline, try and make it serve an end that, rather than being loyal to the demands and difficulties of working out how we ought to organise the institutions we share, is instead chosen by their author. I'm sure, were I well-known enough, others would feel the same about my work, I suspect some of it in particular. Political theorists are hardly police inspectors, and especially not imaginary, charmingly conflicted ones, but there's a pleasing sense of vocation that comes from sharing, however tenuously, a set of moral dilemmas.