I need to preface the following by noting that I haven’t finished Ramsay’s book. He could very well address and put to rest the issues I’m about to raise, which is to say that they’re being put forward on a priori shaky ground. But I thought I’d take advantage of the relatively strong reactionary streak I’ve hit, which I’ve found is typically forgotten or ameliorated by the end of a book.
What I’m getting at is that I find statements like
It is not difficult to see why a contemporary criticism temperamentally and philosophically at peace with intuition and serendipity would choose to ignore the corrective tendencies of the computer against the deficiencies of ‘human reading’ (4)
to be…misleading; or, put another way, rhetorically corrupt. To be ‘at peace’ with intuition and serendipity (which, in Ramsay’s (early) presentation, are the only alternatives to hard empiricism) suggests a kind of mental laziness, as if they’re conditions one should be in conflict with; to say that these readers then ‘choose to ignore’ the computer(‘s ‘corrective tendencies’) is to appeal to a completely linear, input/output psychology that gets stuck in the ruts it’s found to work in the past: put another way, these traditional critics are serendipity-intuition machines. Isn’t this a bit of a paradox? Serendipity and intuition are inductive, not deductive; they’re a-linear…they can’t be ‘at peace’ with anything besides ‘not being at peace’.
Since I don’t really feel like I’m making a successful rhetorical case, I’ll turn to a discourse I’m more familiar with, psychoanalysis. The notion of veracity in psychoanalysis (which is, in a sense, a science of reading) is intimately bound to affect: never can one claim scientific infallibility based on efficient or even formal causes, to put it a bit awkwardly. The only proof of a successful reading is its product, its final cause. Methodology can never be a guarantee.