12 June 2011


“To be a critic by profession and to proclaim that one understands nothing about existentialism or Marxism [today, we might say "Postmodernism or Christianity"] (for as it happens, it is these two philosophies particularly that one confesses to be unable to understand) is to elevate one’s blindness or dumbness to a universal rule of perception, and to reject from the world both Marxism and existentialism:  ’I don’t understand, therefore you are idiots.’
“But if one fears or despises so much the philosophical foundations of a book, and if one demands so insistently the right to understand about them and to say nothing on the subject, why become a critic?  To understand, to enlighten, that is your profession isn’t it?  You can of course judge philosophy according to common sense; the trouble is that while ‘common sense’ and ‘feeling’ understand nothing about philosophy, philosophy, on the other hand, understands them perfectly.  You don’t explain philosophers, but they explain you.  You don’t want to understand the play by Lefebvre the Marxist, but you can be sure that Lefebvre the Marxist understands your incomprehension perfectly well, and above all (for I believe you to be more wily than lacking in culture) the delightfully ‘harmless’ confession you make of it.”
—Roland Barthes, “Blind and Dumb Criticism”, in Mythologies.