• Gnomon
    715
    Introduction : I'm starting with a post from a thread, on the topic below, that had already run it's course. But I have only recently had the opportunity to dialogue with posters who seem to be arguing from a Postmodern worldview. PM never had much influence in my part of the world, so I had to do some quick Google research in order to begin to understand what the "PM posters" were talking about --- since they carefully eschewed defining terms.

    Personally, I have had no formal training in philosophy, so I don't fall into any of the usual sub-categories, except possibly the Pragmatists. And that is mostly because of my interest in Science, not because I am a disciple of Pierce. I assume that the PM critique of Modernism was justified, but I fail to see any positive basis for a 21st century worldview.

    So, in this thread I'm trying understand the appeal of the blatantly antiscience, and vaguely anti-reason, Postmodern philosophy. Here's a quote, referring to Focault, from a book surveying the varieties of philosophical thinking : "the relationship between power and knowledge, and how the former is used to control and define the latter. What authorities claim as as 'scientific knowledge' are really just means of social control." IOW, Science is Politics???


    From the other thread : "What's the use of discussing philosophy without definitions?"

    I have also been puzzled by some poster's aversion to defining terms. But I gradually came to suspect that it's due to a recent (20th century) split in the philosophical community that has been labelled as Analytic vs Literary, or Modern vs Postmodern. It may also be viewed as Reductive vs Holistic. I try to integrate analytical objective methods with holistic subjective intuition in my own personal worldview. But to see them as implacable enemies seems to require a desperate Win-Lose Good vs Evil attitude toward the world.

    Postmodernism was just beginning to become a "thing" in my part of the world as I graduated from college. At the time, and in my field of Architecture, I found the PM approach incomprehensible. So I went out into the real world, and forgot it as a passing fad. Until, 40 years later, I began to see PM terminology and attitudes popping-up on this forum. Therefore, I'm assuming that some posters were influenced in college by the holistic Literary doctrines of PM. Am I wrong in attributing the ambiguity of some forum "arguments" to Postmodern influences?

    In the last few weeks, I've made an attempt to understand where these PM posters are coming from. But they don't seem to be able to explain their avoidance of defining terms, except to imply that to "carve reality at its joints" is an arrogant or hubristic assumption that the continuum of reality can be broken down into reductive parts by those who are embedded in the system. As I noted, if that is so, then Science is impossible and Philosophy is fictional. Instead, the PM attitude seems to be more Political, in the sense that "truth" is whatever the powers-that-be say it is. Hence, PM philosophers seem to be trying to tear-down (deconstruct) the bastions of Modernist oppression, including Science and Capitalism.

    After some extended dialogues with what I'm calling "PM posters", I got the feeling of ennui that I associate with the play Waiting For Godot. It's a sense of Nihilism, meaninglessness and pointlessness of life. That may not be the way they feel, but it's my frustrated impression of a vague undefined disorganized hopeless worldview. Yesterday, I watched a Netflix movie, Everything Beautiful is Far Away, that gave me the same Godot feeling. There was no plot to speak of, just aimless people wandering in the desert for no apparent reason, except they didn't like to live in the polyglot multicultural confusion of the city. What little dialogue that passed between them was focused on pragmatic issues like food & water, or a hypothetical (mythical) lake of water in the desert as a possible destination.

    Is this ambiguous worldview just a minority trend in philosophy, or is it the wave of the future? Am I a dinosaur who believes in a rational world where motley people can communicate and coexist? Should I try to read Wittgenstein and Foucault? Or is it too late for me? :worry:
  • tilda-psychist
    53
    Introduction : I'm starting with a post from a thread, on the topic below, that had already run it's course. But I have only recently had the opportunity to dialogue with posters who seem to be arguing from a Postmodern worldview. PM never had much influence in my part of the world, so I had to do some quick Google research in order to begin to understand what the "PM posters" were talking about --- since they carefully eschewed defining terms.

    Personally, I have had no formal training in philosophy, so I don't fall into any of the usual sub-categories, except possibly the Pragmatists. And that is mostly because of my interest in Science, not because I am a disciple of Pierce. I assume that the PM critique of Modernism was justified, but I fail to see any positive basis for a 21st century worldview.

    So, in this thread I'm trying understand the appeal of the blatantly antiscience, and vaguely anti-reason, Postmodern philosophy. Here's a quote, referring to Focault, from a book surveying the varieties of philosophical thinking : "the relationship between power and knowledge, and how the former is used to control and define the latter. What authorities claim as as 'scientific knowledge' are really just means of social control." IOW, Science is Politics???


    From the other thread : "What's the use of discussing philosophy without definitions?"

    I have also been puzzled by some poster's aversion to defining terms. But I gradually came to suspect that it's due to a recent (20th century) split in the philosophical community that has been labelled as Analytic vs Literary, or Modern vs Postmodern. It may also be viewed as Reductive vs Holistic. I try to integrate analytical objective methods with holistic subjective intuition in my own personal worldview. But to see them as implacable enemies seems to require a desperate Win-Lose Good vs Evil attitude toward the world.

    Postmodernism was just beginning to become a "thing" in my part of the world as I graduated from college. At the time, and in my field of Architecture, I found the PM approach incomprehensible. So I went out into the real world, and forgot it as a passing fad. Until, 40 years later, I began to see PM terminology and attitudes popping-up on this forum. Therefore, I'm assuming that some posters were influenced in college by the holistic Literary doctrines of PM. Am I wrong in attributing the ambiguity of some forum "arguments" to Postmodern influences?

    In the last few weeks, I've made an attempt to understand where these PM posters are coming from. But they don't seem to be able to explain their avoidance of defining terms, except to imply that to "carve reality at its joints" is an arrogant or hubristic assumption that the continuum of reality can be broken down into reductive parts by those who are embedded in the system. As I noted, if that is so, then Science is impossible and Philosophy is fictional. Instead, the PM attitude seems to be more Political, in the sense that "truth" is whatever the powers-that-be say it is. Hence, PM philosophers seem to be trying to tear-down (deconstruct) the bastions of Modernist oppression, including Science and Capitalism.

    After some extended dialogues with what I'm calling "PM posters", I got the feeling of ennui that I associate with the play Waiting For Godot. It's a sense of Nihilism, meaninglessness and pointlessness of life. That may not be the way they feel, but it's my frustrated impression of a vague undefined disorganized hopeless worldview. Yesterday, I watched a Netflix movie, Everything Beautiful is Far Away, that gave me the same Godot feeling. There was no plot to speak of, just aimless people wandering in the desert for no apparent reason, except they didn't like to live in the polyglot multicultural confusion of the city. What little dialogue that passed between them was focused on pragmatic issues like food & water, or a hypothetical (mythical) lake of water in the desert as a possible destination.

    Is this ambiguous worldview just a minority trend in philosophy, or is it the wave of the future? Am I a dinosaur who believes in a rational world where motley people can communicate and coexist? Should I try to read Wittgenstein and Foucault? Or is it too late for me? :worry:
    Gnomon

    Post-Modernism is rejecting reason and rational thinking. Post-modernists typically reject post-modernist thinking when it benefits them and accept it when it benefits them. An example of this is an air traffic controller at an airport has to reject post-modernism. The philosopher on sites like this can get away with anything they want and speak all the non-sense they want.

    The funny thing is religionists are very often the ones who ones who reject post-modernism.

    The absolute truth may be very hard to get sometimes but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist.
  • unenlightened
    5k
    I am so far from being post-modern as to not even to have attained mere modernity. Ancient and decrepit is where I'm at. Still, definitions are of very limited use. If I asked you to define 'post modernism', the best I could hope for is that you would explain the word with some other words. Hopefully, I would understand these words without having them defined, because if not, there is a danger that you will run out of words to explain the words to explain the explanations of the definitions of the words that define the word that i wasn't clear about.

    So the ancient decrepit view of postmodernism is that it basically says that philosophy can never escape the text, and that the world of definitions is still a text, but a particularly vacuous, dull and above all circular text, called "a dictionary".

    I disagree. I think one can act out one's philosophy.
  • 180 Proof
    1.4k
    Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better. — Samuel Beckett°

    My 2 bits - insofar as Modern philosophy (Modo) proposes° solutions to the 'criterion' & 'demarcation' problems which, on pain of vicious circularity, such proposals° are necessarily noncognitive, Postmodern philosophy (p0m0) reduces (1) nonphilosophical cognitivity (truth-values) to philosophical noncognitivity (meaning-uses) and then (2) noncognitivity as such to mere narrative, or textual, form (i.e. institutional norms aka "power") - without warrant, or noncognitively. :gasp: :shade:

    For decades I've asked "Why? To what end?" As if Modo isn't also inherently pyrrhonian (re: categorical dis/beliefs), critical° (re: antinomies, meta-nonsense) & fallibilist (re: truth-claims). Like nihilism (though not even a specimen of that dis-ease), p0m0 amounts to a relativism so radical it refutes itself, which many adherents (i.e. contemporary sophists & cliteratti) seem to celebrate as a feature (i.e. post-rational(?), post-logo/phallo-centric(???)) rather than as a bug (e.g. vicious circularity, etc).

    :mask:
  • Kenosha Kid
    519
    I think one can act out one's philosophy.unenlightened

    So long as you don't tell anyone about it :rofl: Although it's interesting to wonder how well we could even put together one's own philosophy without language.

    Postmodernism interests me, in part because of its scepticism and relativism, in part because of its contribution to literature and architecture, but also because it's odd that something that has so many elements that have entered a mainstream that also roundly denounces it, which is a measure of just how shit the shit parts were.

    I think pomo tends to get delineated in philosophy to the science wars and religious opportunism, with maybe a sneering nod toward Derrida. I see it as part of a broader change in thinking starting with Kant, going through Darwin, through relativity and quantum mechanics, through the phenomonologists and existentialists, through Popper, Wittgenstein and Derrida, to a healthy scepticism or even antagonism toward nationalism, moral objectivity, populism, anthropocentrism, rationalism, religion, and political ideology.

    I think, similar to the existentialists, the big problem with postmodernists was that, once they'd established a scepticism toward grand narratives, they promptly constructed a grand narrative around it. Another similarity with existentialism was that, even if you accepted it, there's not much else you can do with it.

    And what people did do with it was bad. Scepticism got replaced by selective scepticism, grand narratives rearing their heads on the basis that science, the figurehead system of knowledge of modernism, could provide no more insight than anything else. The humanities queued to tear it down, leaving a distrust that hasn't really shifted. Feminism found systems of power even in office air conditioning.

    Truth became up for grabs, alternative facts entered the right-wing political mainstream, and now we're post-truth altogether, with nationalism, moral objectivity, and populism getting by on "What's truth anyway?" Which is a shame, because the whole point of pomo was to call bullshit out.
  • Gnomon
    715
    PM never had much influence in my part of the world, so I had to do some quick Google research in order to begin to understand what the "PM posters" were talking about --- since they carefully eschewed defining terms.Gnomon
    Last night I saw a YouTube video by philosopher Stephen Hicks, who seems to specialize in analyzing PM from a scientific and analytic perspective. He connects it with far left politics (including Socialism). Which may explain why I don't hear much about it, here in the far right deep South. Here's a quote from Amazon books :

    Explaining Postmodernism : philosopher Stephen Hicks provides a provocative account of why postmodernism has been the most vigorous intellectual movement of the late 20th century. Why do skeptical and relativistic arguments have such power in the contemporary intellectual world? Why do they have that power in the humanities but not in the sciences? Why has a significant portion of the political Left - the same Left that traditionally promoted reason, science, equality for all, and optimism - now switched to themes of anti-reason, anti-science, double standards, and cynicism? Explaining Postmodernism is intellectual history with a polemical twist, providing fresh insights into the debates underlying the furor over political correctness, multiculturalism, and the future of liberal democracy.
    https://www.amazon.com/Explaining-Postmodernism-Skepticism-Socialism-Rousseau/dp/0983258406
  • tilda-psychist
    53
    Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.
    — Samuel Beckett°

    My 2 bits - insofar as Modern philosophy (Modo) proposes° solutions to the 'criterion' & 'demarcation' problems which, on pain of vicious circularity, such proposals° are necessarily noncognitive, Postmodern philosophy (p0m0) reduces (1) nonphilosophical cognitivity (truth-values) to philosophical noncognitivity (meaning-uses) and then (2) noncognitivity as such to mere narrative, or textual, form (i.e. institutional norms aka "power") - without warrant, or noncognitively. :gasp: :shade:

    For decades I've asked "Why? To what end?" As if Modo isn't also inherently pyrrhonian (re: categorical dis/beliefs), critical° (re: antinomies, meta-nonsense) & fallibilist (re: truth-claims). Like nihilism (though not even a specimen of that dis-ease), p0m0 amounts to a relativism so radical it refute itself, which many adherents (i.e. contemporary sophists & cliteratti) seem to celebrate as a feature (i.e. post-rational(?), post-logo/phallo-centric(???)) rather than as a bug (e.g. vicious circularity, etc).

    :mask:
    180 Proof

    if you wrote a book like that, no one would buy the book. For someone to interpret that they would have had to have sat for 15 minutes looking up each term. I'm sure you'll have some explanation for why i'm the dumb one but go ahead.

    You essentially wrote your answer like it was math proof or like the user was reading object oriented code like a Java program.
  • Banno
    8.3k
    what is it good for? — Gnome

    Who else can't read this without adding an emphatic shout of "Absolutely nothin'"?

    Good Lord!
  • Gnomon
    715
    p0m0 amounts to a relativism so radical it refute itself,180 Proof
    Where did you find that PoMo review written in PM doublespeak? :razz:

    Doublespeak : deliberately euphemistic, ambiguous, or obscure language.
    Term from the book 1984
  • Banno
    8.3k


    Waiting for Godot was presented by the Lockdown Theatre Company last night; it was four in the morning here, a somehow apt time. A dreadful play, one I find hard to avoid.

    But again, who are the post moderns of whom you speak? I hadn't noticed any since the departure of @Landru Guide Us.
  • Pfhorrest
    2.5k
    Postmodern philosophy (p0m0) reduces (1) nonphilosophical cognitivity (truth-values) to philosophical noncognitivity (meaning-uses) and then (2) noncognitivity as such to mere narrative, or textual, form (i.e. institutional norms aka "power") - without warrant, or noncognitively. :gasp: :shade:180 Proof

    I think postmodernism is poorly defined in general, but the closest thing that fits the label is exactly this kind if “reverse scientism”, reducing talk of descriptive truths to attempted power grabs. I consider it, along with regular scientism, a kind of (for lack of a better word) “cynicism”, that inevitably leads to nihilism, which as you say if self-refuting.

    I write on that topic:

    The other kind of reductionism that I consider tantamount to cynicism is constructivism, which claims that all assertions of supposed facts are in actuality just social constructs, ways of thinking about things put forth merely in an attempt to shape the behavior of other people to some end, in effect reducing all purportedly factual claims to normative ones. That is to say, in claiming that all of reality is merely a social construct, such constructivism reframes every apparent attempt to describe reality as actually an attempt to change how people behave, which is the function of normative claims. On such a view, no apparent assertion of fact is value-neutral: in asserting that something or another is real or factual, you are always advancing some agenda or another, and the morality of one agenda or another can thus serve as reason to accept or reject the reality of claims that would further or hinder them. This is simply the flip side of the same conflation of "is" and "ought" committed by scientism: where scientism pretends that a prescriptive claim can be supported by a descriptive claim, constructivism pretends that all descriptive claims have prescriptive implications. Constructivism responds to attempts to treat factual questions as completely separate from normative questions (as they are) by demanding absolute proof from the ground up that anything at all is objectively factual, or real, and not just a normative claim in disguise or else baseless mere opinion. So it ends up falling to justificationism about factual questions, while failing to acknowledge that normative questions are equally vulnerable to that line of attack. Thus such constructivism is tantamount to cynicism with regards to factual questions, inevitably leading to metaphysical nihilism. (This is remarkably similar to the concept termed "bullshit" by Harry Frankfurt, which he defines as a kind of dishonest speech that is worse than lying, in that while a liar cares about what is or isn't true and aims to convince people that falsehoods are true or vice versa, a bullshitter doesn't care at all what is or isn't true, and instead cares only about what people can be made to do by making a superficially descriptive claim that was never really meant to describe anything).

    But in rejecting constructivism, I am not at all rejecting the employment of social constructs in the description of social behavior. I am merely against the claim that all of reality is merely a social construct, and thus that there there can be no mere attempts (however fallible) at description of an objective reality that are not implicitly pushing some prescriptive agenda. Social constructs are actually defined in a sense by their unreality: to say, for example, that money is a social construct, is to say that there is nothing intrinsic about gold, or seashells, or any other token of currency, that makes it really money, that could be found in a thorough description of the gold or shells or whatever themselves. Nothing is really money in any objective sense; things are only subjectively accepted as money by some people, and to say that something is money (to some people) is really to say something about the people (namely, that they will accept the thing in trade), not about the thing itself, but phrased in such a way as to project what the people think about the thing onto the thing itself. That is undoubtedly an indispensable concept for describing many social behaviors, but to say that all of reality is merely socially constructed is consequently to deny that there is anything really real about reality, or at least to refuse to even attempt to talk about it, or to believe that others are genuinely doing so, insisting instead that all that can be discussed is the things that people think about it.
  • Gnomon
    715
    Who else can't read this without adding an emphatic shout of "Absolutely nothin'"?Banno
    Although I don't speak the language of DoubleSpeak, I still think there must be some kernel of insight or wisdom that appeals to liberal-minded academics. I can see why it might appeal to marginalized people of oppressed sexes and races. But I don't understand why it has to be expressed in such vague language and paragraph-long sentences. I can be sympathetic with social justice and skepticism toward the "inhumane & materialistic" worldview of Scientism. But PM seems to go to the opposite extreme. Is this a new secular religion for the downtrodden masses? I doubt that the masses uderstand arcane academic abstractions.

    The posters who raised these questions in my mind, did not identify as PM, but seemed to find some kinship with my own inclusive worldview, and scientific speculations. So in order to find some common ground for communication, I tried to discover their reason for avoiding analytical definitions, in the traditional manner of philosophical dialogue. For an obviously highly intelligent person to think in such abstruse terms, there must be something that PM is "good for". :nerd:

    But again, who are the post moderns of whom you speak?Banno
    I'm not going to identify them, and they didn't represent themselves as PoMo. That was my best guess as to their motivation. :cool:
  • Gnomon
    715
    I think postmodernism is poorly defined in general, but the closest thing that fits the label is exactly this kind if “reverse scientism”, reducing talk of descriptive truths to attempted power grabs. I consider it, along with regular scientism, a kind of (for lack of a better word) “cynicism”, that inevitably leads to nihilism, which as you say if self-refuting.Pfhorrest
    That reminds me of Plato's negative attitude toward Sophistry. They seemed to be like lawyers, who are not interested --- or don't believe --- in Truth, but use complex language as a weapon to win us-vs-them competitions. :smile:
  • Banno
    8.3k
    It's just that philosophy uses words, and hence philosophers take words seriously. Hence, starting with a definition is likely to be problematic, since the discussion itself will consist in developing that very definition.

    In any case this is perhaps a side issue, and others have rebutted PoMo most satisfactorily.
  • Pfhorrest
    2.5k
    what is it good for?
    — Gnome

    Who else can't read this without adding an emphatic shout of "Absolutely nothin'"?

    Good Lord!
    Banno

    Say it again!

  • Banno
    8.3k
    That's the one. Probably a Boomer thing.

    We have all the best music.
  • Gnomon
    715
    such constructivism reframes every apparent attempt to describe reality as actually an attempt to change how people behave, which is the function of normative claims. On such a view, no apparent assertion of fact is value-neutral:Pfhorrest
    That may explain why my innocent attempts to define my personal meaning of relevant terms were rejected as promoting some hidden agenda. My only agenda was to make sure we were both talking about the same thing. :smile:
  • Banno
    8.3k
    My only agenda was to make sure we were both talking about the same thing.Gnomon

    The issue is, that's not were you start in philosophy, it's where you finish.
  • Pfhorrest
    2.5k
    nationalism, moral objectivity, populism, anthropocentrism, rationalism, religion, and political ideology.Kenosha Kid

    Two of these things are not like the others.
  • Gnomon
    715
    Hence, starting with a definition is likely to be problematic, since the discussion itself will consist in developing that very definition.Banno
    That seems to be their fear, that I would exclude too many possible meanings in the interest of clarity. But I was inviting them to present their own definitions, so we could find common ground. But, the very idea of analytical definition seemed repugnant. I am open to the concepts of subjectivism & Holism, but communication between parties requires us to strip away most of the irrelevant shades of meaning, and to work with the kernel. :smile:
  • Pfhorrest
    2.5k
    My only agenda was to make sure we were both talking about the same thing.
    — Gnomon

    The issue is, that's not were you start in philosophy, it's where you finish.
    Banno

    Well, there’s at least two things to be addressed in philosophical conversations: do these ideas relate to each other in such-and-such way, and are these ideas the proper referents of such-and-such words. You can define the meaning you want to give the words you’re going to use so you have some way to have the first conversation without having to settle the second conversation first. But then even if everybody agrees on the first conversation, there’s still the open question of the second one.
  • Gnomon
    715
    Thr issue is, that's not were you start in philosophy, it's where you finish.Banno
    I assume you mean, that you start with a general concept and weed-out irrelevancies, in order to reach a meaning that is specific to the situation at hand. The definitions of assumptions I was talking about were the first step on that journey. :smile:

    "The beginning of wisdom is the definition of terms" ---Socrates

    “If you wish to converse with me, define your terms.” ___Voltaire
  • Banno
    8.3k
    Much of what you say is well-crafted, but then you write something such as this.

    Taking words as the names of ideas - "are these ideas the proper referents of such-and-such words" - is tantamount to assuming that words are the names of private mental things. Hence this description of philosophical discussion is already half way to the subject/object dichotomy.

    Words are part of the world, much the same as chairs and rocks. Only some of them are nouns.
  • Gnomon
    715
    Truth became up for grabs, alternative facts entered the right-wing political mainstream, and now we're post-truth altogether, with nationalism, moral objectivity, and populism getting by on "What's truth anyway?" Which is a shame, because the whole point of pomo was to call bullshit out.Kenosha Kid
    Does that mean the PoMo movement has resulted in driving the political Left and Right farther apart? I hadn't thought of the cynical "fake news" notion as a reaction to Postmodern pushing from the Left. :chin:
  • Banno
    8.3k
    "The beginning of wisdom is the definition of terms" ---SocratesGnomon

    And yet the Socratic Method consists in showing the faults of those definitions.

    How's that?
  • Enai De A Lukal
    94


    180 Proof's (quite spot on, imo) response uses, almost without exception, well-defined/understood technical terms in philosophy. And as this is quite literally "The Philosophy Forum"... I'd say any problem lies on the other end. Using relevant technical terminology is hardly a legitimate criticism in this context- if there's terms you aren't familiar with, ask for clarification (or just perform a simple Google search).
  • Banno
    8.3k
    Hmm. The Murdoch Press and Trumpian Bullshit are the greatest adherents to the notion of the relativity of truth.

    If truth is irrelevant, and power is what is to decide, then it is the powerful who make the decisions. And they will do so in their own favour. Hence, the outcome of a PoMo approach is not radical change, but arch conservatism.

    The greatest criticism of Feyerabend's "Anything goes" is pointing out that this will have the effect that everything stays.
  • Banno
    8.3k
    Perhaps you are not yet ready for present company.
  • Pfhorrest
    2.5k
    I’m not talking about private language at all, but about how we can arbitrary publicly apply short easy-to-use labels to a big long descriptions of things, and then talk about how those big complicated things relate to each other more easily without having to repeat the big long descriptions over and over as we do so — and without having to first decide what is “the right” label for such a big long description.

    But even then, there IS still an open question as to whether that big long thing is what ordinary people not there for the labelling will take your use of such labels to mean.
  • tilda-psychist
    53


    I like to be productive with my time.
  • tilda-psychist
    53


    "p0m0 amounts to a relativism so radical it refute itself,"

    That about summarizes what you were saying. To many people what you were saying is obvious after they've spent alot of time discussing this issue. Many of us have been discussing post modernism for a long time. When i'm on a philosophy forum i'm usually required to be coherent and would be accused of being snobbish if phrased things the way you did. However in our defense people who use forums like this tend to prefer technical terms.
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