• Kenosha Kid
    3.2k
    In t'other thread, I posed the question of whether the postmodern era happened. Two thirds said Yes, one-third No. A tenth said Yeah but it was pomo's fault. Lots of commentary from a few of the naysayers and the yeah-butters but not so much about whether the postmodern era occurred, more along the lines of my starting point for this thread, a quote from our single-radianed elder statesman:

    Back in the day I'd found philosophical p0m0 to be an academically effete redundancy selling the news a day late and dollar short that "metanarratives, epistemes" were suspect because they – their subject Man – had been decentered. Big whup. Modernity organically grows out of the first great (though marginalized) decentering: Copernicus' Heliocentric model of the solar system, followed by (just the highlights):

    • Galileo's Mediocrity Principle, Relativity & (revived) "atomism"
    • Spinoza's Natura Naturans, Conatus, Affects ... & (first of a kind) biblical criticism/deconstruction
    • Newton's Gravity constant (death of telelogy)
    • Hume's Bundle theory of "the self", Induction problem & Is-Ought "guillotine"
    • Darwin-Wallace's speciation (descent) by Natural Selection
    • Boltzmann's 2nd law of thermodynamics ("heat death of the universe")
    • Schopenhauer-Nietzsche's Will ("unconscious") ... genealogical method, perspectivism, etc
    • political-economic anarchism (mutualist, syndicalist, libertarian communist, etc)
    • Einstein's Relativity theories
    • quantum uncertainty
    • Gödel's Incompleteness theorems (+ Turing, Von Neumann, Chaitin, Wolfram)
    • Shannon's Information entropy
    • Wittgenstein's forms of life-language games-meaning is usage
    • fallibilism ... falsificationism ...
    • semiotics ... structuralism ...
    • Chomsky's Universal Generative Grammar
    • absurdism (e.g. Zapffe, Camus)
    • economic democracy (stakeholder socioeconomics contra shareholder capitalism)
    • Kahneman & Tverksy's cognitive biases & prospect theory
    180 Proof

    The question is: Does postmodern philosophy add anything _new_?

    The way I'd probably break this down is as follows: does postmodernism have
    - descriptive
    - predictive
    - prescriptive
    - novel
    value? (Will add more e.g. cognitive if you like.)

    The previous thread suggests a small majority of us think it has a descriptive value. A few choice prognostications from Lyotard suggest a predictive value:

    - that it would be necessary for computers to legitimise future knowledge and discovery, e.g. that people would trust a computation before pen & paper type theory or human expertise, experience and skill.
    - that this dependence on technology would massively accelerate it's investment and growth
    - that knowledge (data, now it's all on computers) would be commidified and mercantilised, collected for the purpose of being sold to other people collecting knowledge
    - that the absorption of knowledge would become ever less about training minds and ever more vocational
    - that people would choose many disconnected micronarratives over grand narratives, for instance may hold different views in different contexts that, put together, would contradict or otherwise not cohere
    - that computation would aid these micronarratives by making access to information fast and easy.

    What about ethics? Okay, pomo has observed the world, found some epoch, and figured out where it's all going, but what are we supposed to do about it? Lyotard's answer to this was for us to abandon conformity in favour of diversity, to have lots of different kinds of knowing and not just one. This could be on an individual or social level: the important thing is that discourse is fleshed out from all perspectives.

    What Lyotard was arguing for, whether he knew it or not, was noise as an ethic. This makes pomo ethics part of an optimisation problem. When genomes mutate, what they're doing is adding noise (error, variance) to the genome, which allows for nature to find better solutions to ecological problems. However Lyotard champions noise for noise's sake: there is no fitness function, no selection criteria... No one has a perspective by which to judge a micronarrative inferior to another or to a grand narrative.

    180 argues that this is nothing new. Actually, no, he argues that this has precursors; he concludes that this is nothing new. The most obvious precursor is Wittgenstein, but Wittgenstein did not apply language games to ethics and politics; Lyotard did, so this is new, however incremental. And there's a little Darwin in there in moving from teleological, targeted, designed ethics to diversity through a pseudo-randomisation of narratives, but not so far as selection.

    Another prescription is the thorough open-mindedness of Derrida. While modernism is bias bottom-up, typically anthropocentrism, but also ethnic and gender bias (proof that modernists hardly tried to escape their own ignorance), Derrida teaches his own kind of pluralism, not of epistemologies but of viewpoints, to systematically find every possible interpretation of a text without preferring one over another, and every possible authorial bias that hides and us hidden by those readings.

    My favourite example is from queer critical theory but told to me by an American playwright who's name annoyingly escapes me at the moment (I swear it's David something but not Mamet). Deconstructing Shakespeare's Othello, a very strong case can be made that Iago is gay (his romantic-sounding pledge of devotion to Othello, his ambiguous "I lay with Cassio lately", but ultimately his frustrating (but genius) refusal to explain why he planned Desdemona's murder).

    We can't ask Shakespeare, but that's not grounds to accept a classical interpretation. We know that Hitchcock did a similar thing in Rope: had two gay villains that audiences didn't realise were gay, so it's far from unthinkable. Perhaps this is just my postmodern bias, but the story seems much better this way, much more satisfying and thrilling, and ultimately that's why I accept it. A reliance on some internal or external justification for either this or a classical interpretation is never going to be forthcoming: we cannot reason our way out of this; all we can do is generate hypotheses and choose what makes sense to us. Rationalism fails us, but diversity has our backs.

    Moral relativism is not a postmodern invention, however it is so strongly associated with pomo that it is the basis of Chomsky's criticism: you can't be a moral relativist, having all possible perspectives at once, so pomo is rubbish.

    But you can be a moral relativist. Moral relativism doesn't mean that you take every position. I don't agree with infant genital mutilation, but I understand that an orthodox Jew will have a different perspective, and that has an impact on how I discuss the issue with them (I'm not likely to appeal to shame, for instance). On less disturbing matters, such as trans women's use of ladies' toilets, I don't have my own opinion but am sympathetic to both contrary arguments, even if one of them is usually stated in a demented way (and it ain't the post-gender argument that's demented).

    How is this different from modernist relativism? In and of itself, not much. The difference is in the status of relativism. Postmodernism is about diversity, not necessarily within an individual but within a society; as such, relativism has a higher status in pomo than in modo (hence the association with the former more than the latter).

    All of the seeds of pomo ethics lie within modernism, but this isn't particularly insightful. Modernism has evolved. Eventually it speciated. We don't argue that humans are a kind of fish simply because of continuity. 180's list above is a good prehistory of postmodernism (except the last few entries): a sequence of blows to traditional modern ways of thinking that, with some historical events thrown in (suffrage, the world wars), modernism could not survive. It ceased to be itself. Where modernism ends and postmodernism begins is like asking how many grains of sand constitute a sand dune. But I digress.

    What is the novelty of postmodernism if it's largely a putting together of ideas that occurred during the modern era? The obvious one is its brand and application of plurality. If the postmodern condition is an acceptance that no simple set of metanarratives will apply to all, the superposition of different, contradictory micronarratives (such as the two views on ladies' toilets) is the inevitable result... shy of one group defeating the other by other means (political or violent oppression, for instance).

    Much of what we complain about in pomo is noise. Someone says something that is obviously stupid and biased and based on ignorance... #sopomo. But noise is how nature figured out how to make a human that could make a computer. Selecting one artefact and running with it, suppressing the rest, is not only disastrous in practice (there goes the planet), it doesn't work in theory. Yes, modernism evolved over time and, yes, we could keep calling whatever we have now modernism until it's explored every variant, contradicting itself many times over (DESCARTES: you can figure everything out by thinking hard; KANT: no you can't), but that's incoherent, slow, and unlikely to even approach success. A more optimal, fast-paced approach for our fast-paced lives is to do what Derrida said: explore all the possibilities now and let them co-exist, at least for a while.

    My personal view is that humans will naturally provide the rest of the optimisation, the selection criteria to eliminate the bullshit and keep the best of all possible narratives, which takes us into memetics. It won't bring back metanarratives any more than evolution will result in a single species of identical individuals.

    As a final observation, since we're not an infinite number of monkeys, the postmodernism we ended up with is only one of many possible postmodernisms. It's not necessarily good. (In principle, as someone pointed out, you could deconstruct Of Grammatology and get different deconstructions.) A lot of the science criticism, especially from the feminist social constructivists and religious bandwagon-jumpers, has been utterly moronic. I've previously argued that's the price to pay for the good stuff that has improved science practice, but here I'd like to point out that even if the quality of postmodern criticism hasn't been high on average, that doesn't mean we should abandon diversity and deconstruction, pick a metanarrative or two, and carry on under the pretence that we're right. We could demand, or at least wish for, a better class of pomo. In fact, the best tools against things like rampant social constructivism and post-truth politics seem to me to be the very tools of postmodernism, to dismantle shallow narratives and lay bare the biases of their authors. Certainly better and quicker than waiting for a paradigm shift.
    1. Is any postmodern philosophy justifiable? (Please comment why.) (10 votes)
        Yes
        40%
        No
        60%
  • Wayfarer
    16.8k
    Humanity needs to realise its role in the cosmos, which is not as an accidental fluke or the outcome of chance. That we're more than an 'evolved species' but the way that the Universe realises new horizons of being. This will never be acheived whilst materialism holds sway, and while anti-religion is still the predominant influence. This doesn't mean a 'return to religion' but the ability to see what religion symbolises without being held captive by its mythologies. ('Atheists are those who still feel the weight ot their chains' said Einstein.)

    'Freud remarked that "the self-love of mankind has been three times wounded by science’, referring to the Copernican revolution, Darwin’s discovery of evolution, and Nietszche’s declaration of the Death of God. In a strange way, the Copenhagen Interpretation gives back to humanity what the European Enlightenment had taken away, by realising the central role of observation at a fundamental level of reality'.

    A human being is a part of the whole, called by us "Universe", a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest — a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. The striving to free oneself from this delusion is the one issue of true religion. Not to nourish the delusion but to try to overcome it is the way to reach the attainable measure of peace of mind. — Albert Einstein

    Unless and until humanity overcomes 'the illusion of otherness', which is precisely to see and understand the world from the egological point of view, as something other to and outside the self, conflict will never cease and peace will never be achievable. That requires a reorientation, a conversion of mind, metanoia, which is the only subject of philosophy proper. This lies in a completely different direction to academic postmodernism, and academic philosophy generally.

    Such an attitude is post-modern in that it is able to supersede the typical obsessions and tropes of the modern period, but it is a-historical, in that it is deeply informed by the worlds' perennial philosophical traditions.
  • ssu
    6.7k
    Do we need two P0m0 threads, Kenosha Kid?

    Or should I pose the question to the administrators?
  • Kenosha Kid
    3.2k
    Such an attitude is post-modern in that it is able to supersede the typical obsessions and tropes of the modern period, but it is a-historical, in that it is deeply informed by the worlds' perennial philosophical traditions.Wayfarer

    For the record, I'd say a philosophy with the qualities you describe is assuredly _not_ postmodern. It sounds like a narrative that aims for one over-arching answer to everything.

    EDIT: But yes I appreciate it's not modernism either.

    Or should I pose the question to the administrators?ssu

    Be my guest.
  • Wayfarer
    16.8k
    For the record, I'd say a philosophy with the qualities you describe is assuredly _not_ postmodern.Kenosha Kid

    Yes, I suppose I’m offering a meta-narrative, of the kind that postmodernism rejects.
  • 180 Proof
    11k
    What do you mean by "justifiable"?

    You ducked my question on your previous thread about p0m0 when I'd asked
    My question for the apologists: What has p0m0 proposed in philosophy that e.g. atomists, skeptics, kynics, freethinkers, anarchists, fallibilists, critical rationalists or absurdists have not already proposed more clearly, cogently and also that is less co-optable – commodifiable – by late capitalism (i.e. Neoliberal "post-truth" populism)?180 Proof
    because I don't see anything significant or important. Whether or not that makes p0m0 "justifiable" I can't say until I have a better idea of your meaning, KK.
  • Kenosha Kid
    3.2k
    What do you mean by "justifiable"?180 Proof

    The way I'd probably break this down is as follows: does postmodernism have
    - descriptive
    - predictive
    - prescriptive
    - novel
    value? (Will add more e.g. cognitive if you like.)
    Kenosha Kid

    I appreciate that the OP is unforgivably long.
  • 180 Proof
    11k
    The question is: Does postmodern philosophy add anything _new_?

    The way I'd probably break this down is as follows: does postmodernism have
    - descriptive
    - predictive
    - prescriptive
    - novel
    value? (Will add more e.g. cognitive if you like.)
    Kenosha Kid
    Okay, somehow this got lost on first read of the OP.

    No no no no no ... Nada. The p0m0s are great exemplars of how not to do philosophy: obsession with philosophies – and adjacent (media? lifestyle? consumer? rhetorical? sociological?) signifiers / narratives / representations / identities :yawn: – in lieu of philosophizing. That said, I think "justifies" is the wrong word (it hangs me up); intellectually beneficial, or edifying, seem clearer. Anyway, my verdict: p0m0 isn't worth a philosopher's time. In this sense I vote "no".

    Humanity needs to realise its role in the cosmos ...Wayfarer
    In light of the 'decenterings' (i.e. shredding the (Western) palimpsest of metanarratives) included in the OP, I wonder, Wayf, how much – if any – of my take on this idea ("new horizons of being") you agree with.

    https://thephilosophyforum.com/discussion/comment/571229
  • Janus
    13.2k
    The question is: Does postmodern philosophy add anything _new_?Kenosha Kid

    I want to know just which philosophers you count as being postmodernist and why you would count them as such before answering that question.
  • prothero
    401
    Attaching one world labels to systems of thought and speculative philosophies has always seemed fraught with some difficulty for me.
    So called Deconstructive Postmodernism (Foucault, Derrida, Lyotard) seems to be popular in the field of philosophy (maybe not for pure analytics or logical positivists) but exploring how language and culture limits and determines our worldviews and systems of values seems a useful endeavor.

    I suppose the usefulness of critiques of modernism depends on what one assumes to be the basic tenets of modernism. If they are materialism, reductionism and determinism then yes I think critiques are well placed and very useful.

    I am a strong fan of so called constructive postmodernism particularly the process philosophy forms.
  • Kenosha Kid
    3.2k
    Okay, somehow this got lost on firest read of the OP.180 Proof

    I can't imagine how, it was right there on page 6 of 29.

    The p0m0s are great exemplars of how not to do philosophy: obsession with philosophies – and adjacent (media? lifestyle? consumer? rhetorical? sociological?) signifiers / narratives / representations / identities :yawn: – in lieu of philosophizing. That said, I think "justifies" is the wrong word (it hangs me up); intellectually beneficial, or edifying, seem clearer. Anyway, my verdict: p0m0 isn't worth a philosopher's time. In this sense I vote "no".180 Proof

    But as per the last thread, that's not answering the question being asked. In fact, you answered this question in the previous thread:

    (pomo needs a better class of postmodernist).
    — Kenosha Kid
    I'll drink to that! :up:
    180 Proof

    in which you agreed that the issue is not with there being a postmodern philosophy but with the postmodern philosophers we had. But then I think getting straight answers out of the pomophobes is a big ask :razz:

    I want to know just which philosophers you count as being postmodernist and why you would count them as such before answering that question.Janus

    For this purpose it's not relevant. I'm not asking which pomo philos are worth a damn, just whether we should have postmodern philosophy at all. Essentially it takes the answer to the last poll as a given and asks whether dealing with the postmodern condition in philosophy in particular is worthwhile, irrespective of the particular personalities and their takes on it.

    Another way of asking this is: even if you detested every postmodern philosopher to date, is there good reason to wish for some better postmodernism of the future, or is the whole field pointless by virtue of being postmodern?
  • Banno
    19.9k
    ...but Wittgenstein did not apply language games to ethics and politics;Kenosha Kid

    I'll take exception to this on Wittgenstein's behalf!

    Whereof one cannot speak... you would have him apply language games?! No, that would be absurd. Instead he acted, choosing the most dangerous activities as an Austrian solder; going to work as a mere hospital orderly during the second war.

    And if Cornish is to be believed, he was also politically active...

    Lyotard did...Kenosha Kid
    ...and in so doing undermined his own foundations.
  • Kenosha Kid
    3.2k
    exploring how language and culture limits and determines our worldviews and systems of values seems a useful endeavor.prothero

    I think so to. Logocentrism needs some sanity-checking.

    I suppose the usefulness of critiques of modernism depends on what one assumes to be the basic tenets of modernism. If they are materialism, reductionism and determinism then yes I think critiques are well placed and very useful.prothero

    Yeah this is a huge issue. Post-modern architecture is a revolt against modern architecture, which is essentially Marxist. It is not a revolt against modern literature or philosophy. Postmodern art is a revolt against modern art, which is essentially Freudian. It is not a revolt against modern ceramics or philosophy.

    This diversity of what pomo is (or is against) has a correlate with the diverse (sometimes contradictory) modes of modernism itself. There isn't really a thing called modernism. Like postmodernism, it's fundamentally an era, not a movement.

    A modernism that can be both Descartes and Kant, both science and idealism, both industry capitalism and Marxism, is not coherent. Really what modernism is as I see it is a general way of thinking in terms of history, destiny, and the limitless transcendental power of the mind. It's a belief in a universal ideal that we are destined to arrive at, a rationalist Zion.

    Postmodernism is the acknowledgement that there's more losers than winners in that game. The only way to have more winners is to have more games, different rules sitting side-by-side: architecture that is austere and flippant, culture that is high and low, ethics that are personal and global, etc.

    I'll take exception to this on Wittgenstein's behalf!

    Whereof one cannot speak... you would have him apply language games?! No, that would be absurd. Instead he acted, choosing the most dangerous activities as an Austrian solder; going to work as a mere hospital orderly during the second war.
    Banno

    That started out like a contradiction but didn't end that way...
  • Banno
    19.9k
    That started out like a contradiction but didn't end that way...Kenosha Kid

    :wink:

    That's my area of interest this week.
  • 180 Proof
    11k
    The p0m0 philosophers = p0m0 philosophy. You're taking what I wrote out of context to make a distinction without a difference.
  • Cheshire
    1k
    Yes, so we can do philosophy more correctly.
  • Janus
    13.2k
    Another way of asking this is: even if you detested every postmodern philosopher to date, is there good reason to wish for some better postmodernism of the future, or is the whole field pointless by virtue of being postmodernKenosha Kid

    So are you asking whether we should have philosophy that rejects or eshews grand narratives? Or?
  • Kenosha Kid
    3.2k
    The p0m0 philosophers = p0m0 philosophy. You're taking what I wrote out of context to make a distinction without a difference.180 Proof

    I don't see how. I'm assuming you can differentiate between carpentry and a firm of bad carpenters.
  • Kenosha Kid
    3.2k
    So are you asking whether we should have philosophy that rejects or eshews grand narratives? Or?Janus

    Yes, or a philosophy of ethics, politics, aesthetics, etc. for that already being accepted as the case. Is there some need, whether it has been met fully, partially, or not at all, to move beyond modernism to something that deals with the living in postmodern condition (the perceived breakdown of grand narratives, as you say)?
  • Banno
    19.9k
    Post-modern architecture is a revolt against modern architecture, which is essentially Marxist.Kenosha Kid


    Consider:
    croizer_fig09a.jpg

    It's not Soviet brutalism; nor the phalic expressions of capitalism. It sits in the heart of a avowedly communist nation, a postmodern twist.

    China wins, again.
  • Kenosha Kid
    3.2k
    It's not Soviet brutalism; nor the phalic expressions of capitalism. It sits in the heart of a avowedly communist nation, a postmodern twist.Banno

    Weirdly, Soviet architecture was much more decorative than Western modernist architecture. I think their take was that buildings still ought to inspire. Marxist architecture is purely functional and cheap.

    %D0%9C%D0%93%D0%A3._%D0%92%D0%B8%D0%B4_%D0%BD%D0%B0_%D0%B3%D0%BB%D0%B0%D0%B2%D0%BD%D0%BE%D0%B5_%D0%B7%D0%B4%D0%B0%D0%BD%D0%B8%D0%B5..jpg

    EDIT: Actually I was in East Berlin recently, and the architecture is surprisingly decorative.

    LSGwhNGQow9rg6936
  • Manuel
    3.1k
    I wouldn't want to repeat exactly what I said in the other thread, so I'll perhaps say something closely related but not identical:

    Something is needed in so far as it solves a problem or is generally speaking useful. This last part of being useful is subject to the "but what's useful depends on the person" - type argument. I don't see how the main figures in postmodernism helped much. If someone thinks that writing obscurely or playing with words is substantive, then fine, it is useful for a few people.

    I fail to see why "metanarratives" are a better way of talking that speaking of "points of view" or "perspectives". That language games can be used to create a certain framework to stifle or control or shape thought and discourse, is not new either. Orwell wrote about that quite clearly.

    The onus is on those that think that postmodernism is needed to explain why.
  • Banno
    19.9k
    There's something of Geometrical Inconsistency to it - Oscar Reutersvärd. And the Freudian implications of a hole through the whole... A cunt of a building?

    Implicit is the pomo breaking of expectations. But in the land that let a thousand flowers bloom, Post modernism is one more flower.
  • 180 Proof
    11k
    Lipstick on a swine doesn't make me wanna kiss it or call it purrty.
  • Banno
    19.9k
    Pomo got it wrong in an interesting way, and as usual it is up to analytic philosophy to set things straight... after all, that's what it does.
  • 180 Proof
    11k
    And AP tends to set things straight ... in the most uninteresting way.
  • Janus
    13.2k
    Yes, or a philosophy of ethics, politics, aesthetics, etc. for that already being accepted as the case. Is there some need, whether it has been met fully, partially, or not at all, to move beyond modernism to something that deals with the living in postmodern condition (the perceived breakdown of grand narratives, as you say)?Kenosha Kid

    If, as you say, the grand narratives have broken down and we are in a postmodern condition, then it could be that postmodernist philosophical. literary and sociological movements brought about, or helped to bring about, that condition. That said, how would you see a postmodern philosophy as helping to deal with that condition?

    (Bear in mind that I am skeptical, as I said in the other thread, that the modernist grand narrative has significantly broken down; it seems to me that the abiding grand narrative now, at least in the so-called "developed" nations, is that science will enable us to understand everything, not only about nature but about ourselves, and overcome all obstacles to human survival, flourishing and even immortality).

    I'd say that any philosophy that helps to overcome that particular grand narrative (scientism) should be welcome, since that narrative or set of beliefs would seem to, ironically, contain the seeds of humanity's, or at least civilization's, destruction, not to mention that, if taken seriously, it detracts from the richness of human experience.
  • Kenosha Kid
    3.2k
    Okay then :roll:

    Actually I was in East Berlin recently, and the architecture is surprisingly decorative.Kenosha Kid

    Well that didn't work. Anyway, it's lovely :rofl:
  • Kenosha Kid
    3.2k
    Pomo got it wrong in an interesting way, and as usual it is up to analytic philosophy to set things straight... after all, that's what it does.Banno

    Interested to know what you think AP will get right that pomo got wrong.
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