Dismissal is a fundamental feature of the intellectual life. We are all finite and limited, both in time and in mental capacity, and so it will inevitably happen that we feel compelled to dismiss some cultural product or other — indeed, entire fields of cultural products.
The decision on what to dismiss is structurally unjustifiable. In principle, if you set about justifying your dismissal, you must engage in activities other than dismissal — critique, for instance. But for your critique to be valid, you must spend considerable time on the cultural product in question, which misses the point of dismissing it in the first place.
Let’s say, for instance, that I dismiss Lovecraft. I don’t care about Cthuhlu or any other theme, character, or event portrayed in Lovecraft’s work. Lovecraft just does not seem to me to be worthy of attention.
Then suppose someone challenges me on it: many smart people, even professional philosophers, think Lovecraft is great! How can I dismiss him? This is where I risk being drawn into the trap. If I critique Lovecraft, I reveal how laughably superficial my knowledge of Lovecraft is — hence my dismissal cannot be taken seriously. The only thing I can do if I want to justify myself is precisely to study Lovecraft closely, to engage deeply with the philosophical dialogue surrounding his work, in the hopes of finding it to be, as I suspected, valueless. And all that time spent proving I was right not to study Lovecraft would only result in dismissal by Lovecraft fans — after all, I did not approach Lovecraft with an open mind!
The only option is to have the courage of your dismissal. If someone tries to goad you into justifying your decision to dismiss something, the only possible answer is: “I just don’t care.” But how can you not care? “I don’t care.” The abyss of freedom emerges as the abyss of apathy, in which the space of reason and justification collapses into the sheer assertion of “I would prefer not to.” Only in dismissing Lovecraft, in short, are we truly free.