Fish hook

Stanley Fish laments:

The difference between making arguments and analyzing them is not
always recognized, and when it is missed, readers get outraged about
things I never said.

Denying such subtle philosophical distinctions–obvious to all–is what Stanley Fish often does in his columns.  I don’t mean this as an argumentum ad hominem tu quoque–you’re wrong Stanley because you do it  too–because, after all, he’s right, after all, about this.  Such distinctions ought to be a little more frequent in his columns (and radio "appearances"), especially when he critiques the arguments of others.  Here’s an example from today’s column:

He proceeds to write:

This distinction between tribal identity politics and policy or
interest identity politics could of course be challenged (as it was by
many posters), but the challenge would be to its cogency or adequacy,
not to its agenda, because it has none. The distinction is descriptive,
not normative
. In offering it, I do not say, “practice identity
I only say that those who do take identity into
consideration either by voting for someone on the basis of an identity
affiliation or choosing a candidate because he or she is perceived to
be friendly to identity interests are not doing something patently

Get that–he doesn’t say "practice identity politics," he says "it’s not wrong to practice identity politics."  For those who practice identity politics, "it’s not wrong to practice identity politics" is the same as "keep practicing identity politics–it’s ok really"  He’s making a distinction that regards what one ought to do (or ought not to do). 

But more to the point, Fish’s distinction in this passage regards–and I think we wrote about this a bit ago–the kind of non-distinction drawing about "identity politics" he complains about in others.  Fish asserts that any interest voting is "identity" politics.  That seems fine, but it has the air of a truism.  Besides, that’s not the kind of "identity politics" that people are talking about.  So calling every interest "identity" does nothing to address the issue that most people have with identity politics.  It’s like saying "everything is political."  May be true, but it’s uninformative.