• Tom Storm
    5.4k
    I'd like to explore how moral choices might be informed by postmodern philosophy (which I recognize is an umbrella term for a range of positions). I hope we can keep this as jargon free and concise as is possible for such a famously recondite and sometimes a triggering, culture war subject. Obviously, the question is immense, but I'm just looking for a few salient clues or steppingstones. To any postmodernists, forgive the crudities or assumptions underpinning my OP.

    It is often argued by traditionalists (simplistically perhaps) that postmodernism is mere ethical relativism. It does not allow for moral systems, since everything is perspectival, and the totalizing metanarrative has been dismantled. What can be the foundation for moral philosophy when there is just language and powerplay and where truth and absolute values elude us? Has postmodernism gone beyond binary structure, beyond good and evil?

    We also know that postmodern philosophers do take moral positions on issues. Richard Rorty was famously progressive in an old, reformist Left sense and Derrida's later work explored notions of responsibility, he also took strong positions against the Vietnam war, the death penalty, South African Apartheid. What is the bridge a postmodernist can take to transition from a foundationless world to positions on justice?

    How might postmodernism be helpful in determining how we should/could live?
  • Paine
    862
    I think Foucault's Care of Self works are an important advance toward seeing how the matter of personal well-being played an important part in different classical texts as a preface to the emphasis given to it today.

    That being said, I wonder whether the notions of what health is changes in the various ways morality is established.
  • Jackson
    1.8k
    What can be the foundation for moral philosophy when there is just language and powerplay and where truth and absolute values elude us?Tom Storm

    Same as it always was. Morality is just conventional practice. Norms.
  • Paine
    862

    Does that mean you don't fiercely hold what you consider to be correct in your encounters?
  • Jackson
    1.8k
    Does that mean you don't fiercely hold what you consider to be correct in your encounters?Paine

    I act in accordance to the situation.
  • Paine
    862

    How does that relate to the norms you referred to?
  • Jackson
    1.8k
    How does that relate to the norms you referred to?Paine

    Custom. Like saying hello to strangers or asking how they are.
  • Paine
    862
    Are you not presented with moral dilemmas beyond trying to be polite?
  • Jackson
    1.8k
    Are you not presented with moral dilemmas beyond trying to be polite?Paine

    Not really. I never experienced a moral dilemma.
  • Paine
    862

    So, you have never betrayed a friend, kissed the ass of a boss, represented your failures in the best possible light, or deferred blame to another as long as it wasn't you?
  • Jackson
    1.8k
    So, you have never betrayed a friend, kissed the ass of a boss, represented your failures in the best possible light, or deferred blame to another as long as it wasn't you?Paine

    All part of life. I didn't create reality, I decide how to act in it.
  • 180 Proof
    10.2k
    How might postmodernism be helpful in determining how we should/could live?Tom Storm
    As far as I can tell, p0m0 suggests "we should live" by transgressing – subverting – every "should" which, of course, is self-refuting (i.e. we could not live that way).
  • Angelo Cannata
    246
    I think that an essential element that is normally ignored in discussions about postmodernism is history. History considered at all levels: the history of universe, history of nature, of people, your own personal history. If you don’t think about it, history will make choices for you. History includes also your DNA, your body. As people that have some psychological feel of freedom, we try to bring some active contribution in history, by using awareness, intelligence, critical sense, emotions, spirituality, to make choices. This way you don’t need any fixed rule, any dogma, any principle: you received from history your humanity, sensitivity, emotions, intelligence, everything. Every moment you make your best synthesis of all these things and you make your choices. Once you become familiar with this way, you can see that you have no need for principles, values, reference points. You are just a human, a person, a good person, and, as such, you don't need moral systems. What are moral systems for?
  • praxis
    5.5k
    How might postmodernism be helpful in determining how we should/could live?Tom Storm

    Undermine the powers that be.
  • Tom Storm
    5.4k
    Every moment you make your best synthesis of all these things and you make your choices. Once you become familiar with this way, you can see that you have no need of principles, values, reference points.Angelo Cannata

    That's a big claim. Can you demonstrate it? Isn't the act of making such a synthesis itself a reference point and value?

    transgressing – subverting – every "should" which, of course, is self-refuting.180 Proof

    A performative self-refutation and a potential moral quagmire, surely?

    Undermine the powers that be.praxis

    How do we know what the powers that be are, how do we even identify power apart from the crassly obvious versions? Isn't the statement that the metanarrative is dead itself a totalizing statement?
  • Angelo Cannata
    246
    Every moment you make your best synthesis of all these things and you make your choices. Once you become familiar with this way, you can see that you have no need of principles, values, reference points.
    — Angelo Cannata

    That's a big claim. Can you demonstrate it? Isn't the act of making such a synthesis itself a reference point and value?
    Tom Storm

    Of course I can demonstrate it: my daily life, second by second, is a continuous evidence of what I said. The act of making a synthesis is a temporary reference point: the synthesis is never made once for all; instead, it is always criticized, revised, changed, modified, and criticism as well is criticized in turn. There is no absolute, static, fixed reference point.
  • Tom Storm
    5.4k
    Of course I can demonstrate it: my daily life, second by second, is a continuous evidence of what I said.Angelo Cannata

    How is that more compelling than someone saying that their daily life is continuous evidence of Jesus working though them? I generally don't take people's word for things but consider it is part of a belief system that makes sense to them, but not necessarily to others. Your approach seems subjective and interpretive. Does it address the OP?
  • Tom Storm
    5.4k
    That being said, I wonder whether the notions of what health is changes in the various ways morality is established.Paine

    Yep. Idea's inform and modify each other.
  • Banno
    19.2k


    The most telling criticism of post modern ethics comes from a critique of Feyerabend's dictum that anything goes.

    If anything is permissible, then there is no reason to change what we are now doing.

    Expressed as an aphorism: If anything goes, then everything stays.

    Hence far from being progressive, post modernism becomes a model for conservatism.

    There's a nascent essay here, explaining how Trump's ubiquitous lying derives from an acceptance of post modern notions of truth by the GOP.
  • Angelo Cannata
    246

    Yes, exactly, my approach is subjective and interpretative and my intention is to address the OP. Jesus works on me, through me, on my daily life, and I don’t think he is the Son of God; he lives in me like other people I like live in me, like Socrates, Gandhi, Vattimo, Heidegger, Heraclitus and many others.
  • Tom Storm
    5.4k
    Expressed as an aphorism: If anything goes, then everything stays.Banno

    Nice.

    Yes, exactly, my approach is subjective and interpretativeAngelo Cannata

    Ok. And I am not trying to give offence here, Angelo, but why should anyone care? Are you saying that morality is simply a matter of personal preferences - between you and your god/abyss? In which case is there any position that can't be justified using this personal approach, from pedophilia to genocide?
  • Tom Storm
    5.4k
    Are you a relativist simply because you say, for instance, that the other is the other, and that every other is other than the other? If I want to pay attention to the singularity of the other, the singularity of the situation, the singularity of language, is that relativism? … No, relativism is a doctrine which has its own history in which there are only points of view with no absolute necessity, or no references to absolutes. That is the opposite to what I have to say. … I have never said such a thing. Neither have I ever used the word relativism.”
    ― Jacques Derrida
  • Tate
    1.4k
    If anything is permissible, then there is no reason to change what we are now doing.

    Expressed as an aphorism: If anything goes, then everything stays.

    Hence far from being progressive, post modernism becomes a model for conservatism.
    Banno

    If anything is permissible, there is no reason to preserve the status quo.

    Expressed as an aphorism, if anything goes, there's no telling what we'll do next.

    Hence far from being conservative, we have a model for progressivism.

    Obviously, it's neither.
  • Tom Storm
    5.4k
    he lives in me like other people I like live in me, like Socrates, Gandhi, Vattimo, Heidegger, Heraclitus and many others.Angelo Cannata

    Do only redemptive figures live in you? How do you eliminate Pol Pot, Donald Trump, Mussolini, Genghis Khan, Adam Sandler?
  • Banno
    19.2k
    why should anyone care?Tom Storm

    This is an excellent, devastating criticism of not just post modernism, but most of what attempts to pass for ethical thinking hereabouts. Ethics is at its core about how we interact with others, hence any claimed ethic that does not tell us what to do in our relations to others is void.

    The account given by starts with considerations of "history" - what I might call "background" or "being embedded" - but then slides into being "subjective", opening itself up to your critique. It has failed to follow through on the fact of our shared world, reverting to some form of solipsism, and as a result fails to deal with the problem of what we ought to do.
  • Banno
    19.2k
    If anything is permissible, there is no reason to preserve the status quo.Tate

    Yes, there is: inertia.
  • Tom Storm
    5.4k
    Ethics is at its core about how we interact with others,Banno

    Yes, some of our first interactions here helped me towards an awareness of this. Morality is in the doing, not in the vast edifices of theory and principle. Its performative.
  • Tate
    1.4k
    Yes, there is: inertia.Banno

    Inertia works for both sides.
  • Banno
    19.2k
    No, it doesn't. It works for the status quo.
  • 180 Proof
    10.2k
    If anything is permissible, then there is no reason to change what we are now doing.

    Expressed as an aphorism: If anything goes, then everything stays.

    Hence far from being progressive, post modernism becomes a model for conservatism.
    Banno
    :100: :smirk:

    In other words, p0m0 is GIGO
  • Banno
    19.2k
    Morality is in the doing...Tom Storm
    Indeed.

    So a competent defence of Post modernist ethics must show how it sets out what we ought to do. There may be some here up to that task, but I doubt it. It's essentially the same critique as that levelled against existentialism, that it leads equally to marxist coffee drinking in Paris, as to realestate investments in New York followed by buggering the Democratic institutions of the USA. Both affirm one's existence in the face of the void...
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