Fight Postmodernism: A Rambling

“Michel Foucault has identified the major targets: “All my
analyses are against the idea of universal necessities in human
existence.” Such necessities must be swept aside as baggage from
the past: “It is meaningless to speak in the name of—or against—
Reason, Truth, or Knowledge.”

The dominant trend in the contemporary age is called post-moderism. Without getting into its meaning, which can easily be referenced here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postmodernism, I wanted to point out the book: where this qoute is coming from:

Explaining Postmodernism

Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault

Stephen R. C. Hicks

…and how startling the Foucault quote was to me, and should be to anyone who really thinks about it. I never really heard directly the outright confession of post-modernism as being anti-intellectual, but this quote makes so clear that it truely is. That someone would actually go so far as to make one’s entire philosophy revolve around what amounts in the end to the meaninglessness of human existence. As I have observed from friends who have fallen prey to this thinking, a fundamental lack of self-esteem seems to be handled very well by the ease of simply giving up on life which is so easily taken care of by post-modern notions of living.

It is not as if I am new to post-modern writers, Marshall McLuhan for instance is a very post-modern figure I think who comes at post-moderism well in terms of his take on its origins and place in the human brain. Umberto Ecco, is I think the only other direct postmodern writer I can think of where I know his work well enough. As this book points out, Michel Foucault, along with people I don’t really know yet but have hear of: Jacques Derrida, Jean-François Lyotard, and Richard Rorty–are the headliners of postmodern thought in philosophy who have their roots in Kant, no doubt.

Recently and thankfully, I am I think discovering writers and even philosophers like Hicks or Paul Boghossian and Russell Jacoby who just might signal an end to the hegemony post-modern or rather, subjectivist philosophy has held over the mind of man for the entire last century with what Hicks calls, ‘The Twentieth Century Collapse of Reason. Ayn Rand might have been one of the first to explicitly identify post-modernism as subjectivism at its root, and it is relieving to hear someone like Hicks pointing out the social-political consequences of post-modern thinking as being a ‘threat liberal democracy’ which I think it very well is, and needs to be pointed out and dealt with.

The alleged meaning of post-modernism is purely historical, in being a historical period after and in reaction to the modern, but no system of thought can ever escape the principles of philosophy, since everything is a philosophy at some point. The ruling or root of postmoderist thinking is the phiosophy of subjectivism which holds that either a) all true knowledge is unknowable to man, b) that no real knowledge exists, c) that humans create reality with their minds.

All of the above have little to no evidence to back up their claims and yet THIS is the dominant mode and content of virtually all modern thought.

As I have observed it in friends for instance as well as in thinkers tainted with the post-modern spirit, which abound and can be found nearly everywhere, such as Howard Gardner who forgoes the scientific method and replaces testing with ‘research’ which consists of things he’s read, which would be fine if it pointed to more than a few facts rather than being just a slightly novel idea (the idea of Multiple Intelligences) with a very fragmented overview of intelligence.

I can see this philosophy everyday when I talk to friends who claim there are no answers to be found, even at the expense to common sense, which I find is more often than not, trumped by abstruse scientific readings.

We can see it in politics where the idea that Foucault is against ‘universal standards to human existence’ is trampled upon and forgotten. We forget that democracy itself is based upon an observed working set of common denominators in human existence. It is just a matter of time before the true consequences of post-modern philosophy are truely known to mankind.

www.nealcormier.com

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3 thoughts on “Fight Postmodernism: A Rambling

  1. Let me start by saying that I am ABSOLUTLY embarrassed to admit that, while I have a minor in Philosophy from Villanova University, in which I spent a good part of four years studying primarily French Postmodern theory, I am SO out of touch that I need to do some serious homework. I guess I never really LEARNED that much after all… but maybe that IS part of the nature of Postmodernism. Why does it even matter if in this new age of all encompassing, accessible, instant information I can just push a few buttons and get my answer? Well, of course, it DOES matter, and I hate myself for not retaining it better (I should also admit that I smoked quite a bit of pot at the time and had a MAJOR crush on my Philosophy prof. Ed Kazarian. Ahhh Ed. A self admitted Nihilist artsy type who always wore black and a leather coat and constantly had smoke breaks during class) Anyway, I REALLY wish that I could still have contact with him because he would really be able to contribute to the conversation in a new, really knowledgeable way. I’ve been trying trying desperately to track him down since graduation but to no avail.

    Anyway… he was big on:

    Gilles Deleuze; Felix Gauttari; (Deleuze and Gauttari (who is more of a psychoanalyst) wrote some stuff together including “A Thousand Plateaus” which I bought one Christmas and attempted to read or I should say understand. The book itself IS Postmodern to the Nth degree. “In fact, Deleuze and Guattari argued that the entire “book” is not a “book” at all, but a multiplicity of plateaus. Chapters and books are self-contained worlds with beginnings and ends; with climaxes that dissipate the accumulated energy”. Yeah. But the book DID have some interesting ideas on capitalism and society and the ‘war machine’)

    Jacques Derrida (who was the father of Deconstruction meaning he was almost a linguist focused on not just the meaning of words but the way the meanings are constructed in a particular society. Again, really interesting stuff),

    Herbert Marcuse (actually, the only German on the list. He was more towards the side of psychology/sociology in that he was part of the Frankfurt School and was interested in Freudian concepts being applied to society itself as a whole. (“Eros and Civilization” is a good read),

    Jean Baudrillard (originator of the terms “simulacra and simulation” and the book of the same title. Interested in cultural phenomena and a kind of semiotics of the pastiche),

    Roland Barthes (arguably the originator of the concept of “mythologies, ie: significations in the field of Semiotics. Actually, “Mythologies” is a really great book with such chapters as “Operation Margarine”. “Barthes’ many monthly contributions that made up Mythologies (1957) would often interrogate pieces of cultural material to expose how bourgeois society used them to assert its values upon others.”

    Jacques Lacan (who is also more of a psychoanalyst interested in Freud and the idea of The Imaginary, The Symbolic, and The Real; or, the Three Orders. For the life of me, I can’t remember too many details about that theory, but obviously also deals with signs, signals, symbols, simulations… You know, all the big Postmodern “S”s)

    Maurice Merleau-Ponty (all I can remember is phenomenology)

    But boy, isn’t it fun saying all those cool French names?! God, I guess I’m more of a historian of French Postmodern Philosophers!

    …and then there’s Foucault. Probably the most troublesome of the bunch, I really did intend to go more into something when I started, but this job thing is really getting in the way of my life. Anyway, back to Michel…For me, Foucault always came across as sort of an instigator; someone who liked to be contrary just for the sake of it. He has his own ideas, but most of his contemporaries even sort of, well, disliked him. Nevertheless, you should know that the main driving factor behind his apparent disdain for reason is sort of historical and psychological not necessarily metaphysical. In his book “Madness and Civilization” he goes into how in the past crazy people were thrown into these “hospitals” (really horrible places back in the day) because they were considered the Un-reasonable. In short, Foucault argued that what was presented as an objective, incontrovertible scientific discovery (that madness is mental illness) was in fact the product of eminently questionable social and ethical commitments. We could write a whole blog JUST on this subject and Foucault; but…

    Backing up a bit, I guess I’m also trying to convey that Postmodernism isn’t JUST Subjectivity and anti-reason. In fact, many of these major figures are interested in trying to figure out WHAT things mean, WHY they mean them and HOW they are presented in order to interpret meaning. Then again, along those lines, it does sort of deny that we can have objective knowledge, (but does not necessarily mean objective reality) because what we call knowledge has to be made with the linguistic and other meaning-making resources of a particular culture, and different cultures can see the world in very different ways, all of which “work” in their own terms.

    As I was trying to illustrate yesterday, (and I’m kind of disappointed you didn’t give me any credit for jumpstarting this discussion ;-)) Postmodernism is one of those terms that gets flung around a lot to encompass way more than one word could. It’s a period of time; it’s an art form, it’s a theory, it’s a sense of life… It’s Semiotics, it’s Deconstructionism, it’s Sociology, it’s psychology… Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Don’t label it before you know more about it than just one theorist or based on the critiques of others. As I said yesterday, I’ve been trying to develop a more concise explanation of how one, (me) could be a Postmodern Objectivist. Unfortunately, I still have a lot more to sift through, but I still stand by my contention that Objectivity and Postmodernism are not intrinsically opposed to one another. In fact, I would dare to say that they are not really in the same category to compare. We need to develop a concise definition of Postmodernism to really incorporate all that it brings to the table. As some dude who I randomly came across in my studies said, “Postmodernism is a loose alliance of intellectual perspectives which collectively pose a challenging critique of the most basic assumptions of modern society.” Now, unfortunately, I guess I have to get back to work.

  2. As McLuhan, a postmodern writer and theorist, once said “my assertions are not conclusions, but tentative probes intended not necessarily to convey meaning, but to reflect, to drill, to dig deeper…”

    He also said: “It’s not the hole the drill is digging, nor even the drill itself, but rather, what the drill churns up, that I’m interested in.”

    He also said: “We don’t exist in the medium, or ‘media’ we exist in the noise, and the environment is the real conditioner.”

    I would say that Marshall McLuhan is prolly the only truely postmodern thinker I’ve read at length, but he IS pretty postmodern, I just think he’s able to explain what the essence of postmoderism really is from and what it means.

    Here’s my understanding of it:

    Modernism got carried away with labeling everything, categorizing everything, and as you say, Foucault is reacting to the historical and societal implementation of reason which is interesting and I had not considered that.

    But as I bet is the truth and is certainly true of McLuhan in SOME ways, they are less about identifying objective reality and more into its shadow, in a sort of Platonic way, they are into ‘what the drill churns up.’

    I think that they are into seeing the differences between things and not the similarities and that ‘objectivists’ (broadly used to identify people who want to find constancy) tend only to look for the simiarities, whereas objective reality would have to include both.

    So, essentially postmodernism I think you will find, is more of a way of, as I think you recently suggested actually, interpreting data to find an alternate perspective to things, no matter where that leads.

    But there are adjectives that run across the board which identify postmodernism:

    -disonance
    -disparate
    -subjective
    -reflective
    -externalist

    McLuhan even theorizes (which I tend to agree with) that postmoderism is the result of electric media, which incourage a return to the right side of the brain, which is itself, subjective, concrete, non-linear, like MUCH of postmodern thinking, writing, and art.

    He thought this due to the ‘nature’ of electric media which he called ‘decentralist-non-linear-indepth,’ which if you think about it vs. industrial and print media, its true, print is sequential, one-at-a-time, a train, runs on a linear track…LINEAR. He linked postmodernism and the rise of subjectivity to primitivism and in fact thought (as I do) that postmodernism is simply tribalism in another form.

    His overall assertion points to the psychological and hence, socially transforming impact that the organization, configuration and nature of matter and environment have on the human existence.

    This would make sense with the rest of the Twentieth century history, think about it:

    Nazism – which is very tribal, with the advent of Radio

    FDR and the New Deal – very tribal, in fact, socialist, just like Hitler’s National Socialist party

    WW2: War has always been a method of deconstruction, a pertinent part of postmodernism

    1960’s Revolution – hippies, communes, socialist revolution in France – very tribal to say the least

    1960’s music – a return to primative drums and beat, singing rather than passive symphonics

    From the 1970’s 80’s and 90’s we have had recurring postmodern along with, not coincidentally, primitive and tribal themes.

    So, I believe postmoderism is actually a huge mass dellusion perpetrated on the part of media (not ‘the media’ nor the content of media) themselves and their effect on our minds.

  3. Oh shit, I meant to link the 1960’s revolution to the advent of TV, which is I think its cause, and computer, CD and internet, the cause of the mini-revolution (in comparison) in the 1990’s, not just in America, but globally.

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