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PostSubject: Postmodernism Wed Jan 16, 2013 9:05 pm

Deleuze/Guattari on Postmodernism

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PostSubject: Re: Postmodernity Sun Jan 20, 2013 12:45 pm

John David Ebert on Peter Sloterdijk



Peter Sloterdijk's Spheres I: Bubbles by John David Ebert



The soundquality is not good, but the guy is VERY good.

Peter Sloterdijk's Rules for the Human Zoo by John David Ebert

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PostSubject: Re: Postmodernity Sat Mar 30, 2013 3:44 am

Quote :

In the form of Schäume/Foams Peter Sloterdijk has now brought to an end his three-volume endeavor to retell the history of humankind.

The concept of the sphere refers back to Sloterdijk's main proposition, namely that life is a matter of form. »It suggests that life, sphere images and thought are different expressions of one and the same thing.«

The first volume Blasen/Bubbles appeared in 1998 and reconstructs how the close co-existence of people creates a special kind of intérieur. The emphasis in that first volume of the Spheres was on the hypothesis that compared with the individual it is actually the couple/pair that is the far stronger entity. In the second volume, the philosophical Roman Globen/Globes (1999) Sloterdijk narrates how classical metaphysical thought qua contemplation of the large round whole expands to appropriate the world, the globe, and thus triggers several forms of globalization.

Schäume/Foams, the third and last volume, now offers a philosophical theory of the present age from a specific angle: Life, or so Sloterdijk claims, unfolds in a multi-focal fashion. The cheerful image of »foam« serves to re-assert the pluralism of world inventions and invented worlds, thus allowing Sloterdijk to formulate a philosophical-anthropological interpretation of modern individualism that goes beyond existing descriptions. Schäume/Foams likewise answers the question as to what shape a bond must take in order to bind the individuals together to form what the sociological tradition terms »society«.
By virtue of the fact that the third section of the Sphären/Spheres concerns itself with the most urgent and compelling questions, it is quite possible to read it as if it were the first of the triad.

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PostSubject: Re: Postmodernity Sun Mar 31, 2013 6:54 am

It's a shame that "postmodernism" has become a sort of bogeyman for more Platonic-minded conservatives; usually they'll complain about how post-structuralist epistemology, and by extension, deconstruction, is a sort of intellectual marxism in regards to ontology. what's ironic is that much of "postmodern" philosophy (even Adorno!) can EASILY be appropriated to support conservative/traditionalist paradigms.
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PostSubject: Re: Postmodernity Sun Mar 31, 2013 7:25 am

I haven't read Adorno. Sorry, the lie. It is part of my plan to get smart, pluralistic (?) (I use a term a member on here Lyssa used towards me) people like you to post and read on here. (Bringing "right" and "left" together.) This being a more "right wing" forum at it's top. Though Satyr in my version of his Feminization-essay names Zizek and even Marx, not to speak of Freud as amongst his teachers(influences). Welcome! I am sure you are right with your comment. I will have to check out Adorno.

I don't even know what "Postmodernism" means myself yet. I sometimes throw balls into the unknown, to learn about things. I am a bit crazy.

What do you mean by "platonic-minded" and "postmodernism"?

(I just used the title "Postmodernism" as a provocation to be honest.)
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PostSubject: Re: Postmodernity Sun Mar 31, 2013 7:42 am

by "platonic-minded", i mean those with strong realism in regards to the existence of supra-phenomenal bases for knowledge and values (IE objective morality, eternal truth, abstract essences, etc.), instead of an approach to knowledge through a more contextual, historic lens. generally, postmodernism is a smearing umbrella term used to denote approaches to philosophy and the humanities with an emphasis on the interplay between socially instituted normalities in the discourse of memetic semiotics and the phenomenology of socially engaged agents (world disclosure in relation to Dasein, to use Heideggerian terminology).
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PostSubject: Re: Postmodernity Sun Mar 31, 2013 7:58 am

I didn't feel comfortable with that lying post in the "my teachers" topic (mentioning Adorno). I had given thought to deleting it. (Now I have to leave it of course.) I felt kind of cornered because of these acccusations of me being a cultist, because I studied some Hubbard. (It is not recommended to lie on here. It will get back to you.)
_______

Then I am platonic minded as well. I am now re-reading Sloterdijks "Spheres I" at least. It starts with Plato and the inscription he put above his Academia. "Here shall enter only those who are Geometers." I guess that is a german term. Those who are familiar with Geometry. So he states a form of elitism.

"instead of an approach to knowledge through a more contextual, historic lens. generally, postmodernism is a smearing umbrella term used to denote approaches to philosophy and the humanities with an emphasis on the interplay between socially instituted normalities in the discourse of memetic semiotics and the phenomenology of socially engaged agents (world disclosure in relation to Dasein, to use Heideggerian terminology)."

This is a long complicated sentence for me. I am no native english speaker. "Smearing umbrella term": like "paganism" (or "heathens"), by Christians, as Lyssa pointed out. I don't know what "semiotics" is. Satyr once mentioned it to me, but I never took the time to look it up to a full understanding. I will now.

Thanks for posting!
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PostSubject: Postmodernity Thu Apr 10, 2014 12:15 pm

Postmodernity is the globalistic, new age and era of the world.

West and East civilization are clashing, but, the ideology of humanism is spreading everywhere. Because it's too powerful of a cultural ideal. "We are all one race, the human race." This is too appealing to turd worlders and untermenschen around the world. Everybody wants to become included into "humanity" because this specie identification automatically puts the best of humanity with the worst.

And all are leveled, made equal.

Everybody is beautiful, strong, tall, smart, capable, healthy. There is no such thing as ugliness, short, fat, stupid, ill. All illnesses are curable. Cancer is "bad luck". Ugliness is a choice. You choose to call yourself ugly. Bullying is a crime. Nobody, and I mean nobody, must ever, and I mean ever, become oppressed. The poorest, sickest, worst human is equal, and I mean equal, with the best.

The miserable are one with the excellent.


Globalism is spreading Western culture and ideals throughout the world, and slowly penetrating even China with its isolationist mentality and introverted oriental personality. Eventually, someday, even the Chinese will succumb and submit before world culture. It's only a matter of time before the orientals are penetrated by western memes. Then, after this occurs, the whole planet is on board.

All are rendered "Human, all too human".

Postmodernity is the reference to this age, perhaps we are not there yet, where the whole world is "globalized" in such a humanistic way. But western countries and nations already experience the decadence and hedonism of humanism. If all are human, then what is gender, except a choice? What is beauty, except a choice? What is race, except a choice? Because gender, beauty, race, everything except humanity, is a "social construct". Everything is a social construct. What does this mean? It doesn't matter. All that matters is choice, liberalism.

You choose to be what you are, don't you?
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PostSubject: Re: Postmodernity Thu Apr 10, 2014 1:21 pm

How does globalism spread?

A world culture is developing through the cross, battle, and exchange of ideals. A common language is required to communicate. This urge to connect with other people, through technology, phone, and internet, is crossing borders once impossible. Now people can communicate across the world in seconds. This is unprecedented in human history.

Before electricity and cars, a horse carried messages from place to place.

The spread of information becomes instantaneous. English is dominating the western world, demonstrating superiority of Anglo colonialism in the new world, and the height of the British Empire during its primacy. No other language is set to invade all nations before English does. Chinese is not a thread, since China has an introverted, isolated culture, that outsiders and foreigners are unwelcome to integrate into or learn about. China is the last vestige of homogeneity and monolithic culture. But even now, much of the chinese elite are learning English for the sake of increased business and economic relations with european countries and u.s.a.


Memes are spreading through language, television, movies, and media. Hollywood is unmatched throughout the world. No nation excels as u.s. does in terms of propaganda and spreading memes. The old world produces old culture, old ideas regurgitated. The new world produces new culture, new ideas. New technologies. Transhumanism. Posthumanism. New ideals and philosophies.

The new, eventually, supplants and replaces the old. Western culture, the western hemisphere, is poised to replace the old world.


What is the strongest ideal of humanism? You accept the premise, and then what? Salvation.

Immediately, you are made "equal" with the highest human. Immediately, you are noble, great, good, and excellent, because you chose to be. No work required. No work required. All you have to do is believe in the premise. Now, tell me, which countries on earth, can resist such a globalist cultural ideal? Which group of humans would want to resist humanity?

Will the ugly resist this idea?
Will the stupid resist this idea?
Will the poor resist this idea?
Will the meek resist this idea?

No, because the meek flock to salvation. No, work, required. That is the best part. No work to change yourself. All you need, fundamentally, is belief. Believe that you are human, and all the hard work is done. Don't worry about superior/inferior, ubermenschen/untermenschen, eugenics. Don't worry about abortion. Don't worry about the future. All that hard work is taken care of by....somebody. Who cares who? All that matters is that you lucked out or sold out. You bought into, the ideal.

You are human! Are you not?

Why are you human? Because you want to be "equal" with the best, without having to sacrifice or work or risk for it.
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PostSubject: Re: Postmodernity Thu Aug 07, 2014 6:33 pm


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"TRANSUMERS are Consumers driven by experiences instead of the ‘fixed’, by entertainment, by discovery, by fighting boredom, who increasingly live a transient lifestyle, freeing themselves from the hassles of permanent ownership and possessions. The fixed is replaced by an obsession with the here and now, an ever-shorter satisfaction span, and a lust to collect as many experiences and stories as possible.* Hey, the past is, well, over, and the future is uncertain, so all that remains is the present, living for the 'now'."

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"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

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PostSubject: Postmodern Indoctrination Sat Dec 26, 2015 6:00 pm

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PostSubject: Re: Postmodernity Wed Dec 30, 2015 9:58 am

I am wary of using the term 'post'-modernism with dealing with current history, because I don't see that the essence of modernity has in any way ended. It seems to me now that modern ideals and institutions have become thoroughly entrenched and are spreading faster than before. I see the process of industrialization as being nearer to the heart of modernity than something like a difference between analogue and digital and so on. I have heard the term high modernity used and I think it gets at the issue a little deeper than post-modernism does, which I could see as referring rather to the desire of certain scholars and philosophers to be rid of what they understand to be modernism.

As Æon pointed out, that consideration of the times leads to a study of how "Memes are spreading through language, television, movies, and media", and the relation of the modern to these influences. The process of language begins in the home, partly, but the intellectual life is developed from a young age in school. In our schools we are made to sit, watch and listen to a stream of information which we remember so that we can repeat as we have heard it. This process inculcates a habit in the individual which is easily transferable to television, films and computers. Contrast this with the ancient concept of paideia, and the influence that such practices would have had on the habits and the spirits of the Greeks.

Modernity is plagued by a desire to institutionalize human organization through technology down to minutiae. Herd or crowd theory are for this reason useful and the eventual categorization of difference through mass.

I don't see a total leveling in modernity but instead a proliferations of social definitions which are indistinguishable from justification due to assistance of communications technologies (which includes vehicles and surveillance in aiding in speedier communication) to the right of the state to sanction violence. In this sense all judgement becomes lodged in the institutional process (in theory or practice, depending how loop holes are interpreted). Individuals are selected in modern society due to a certain talent desired within a context or else wealth opening possibilities and I don't think this is disguised. It is true that money as an intermediary is blind and levels, but I do not think that money is simply "open" to everyone in such a way which justifies calling a society levelled.

I do not even consider western society "open" in the ideal sense it is often considered to be. I feel the freedom of western democracy to be entirely a myth. The problem with people is less that they live in the moment than that they do not recognize the past and future in the present (nor the pesent in the former), and besides that they are sheltered and protected by the state in return for adhering to the obligations of western capitalist society, which is the (in theory) legal acquisition of wealth. The democracy aspect of our society is so flimsy unless we consider it in such a sense as though all people by adhering to the customs of society have accepted the social contract, as well as those who work within government bureaucracy as being volitional supporters of current state head.

From the point of view of those excluded from power in a modern democracy, one's life force has become fragmented. The modern masses do not consider where they are putting their effort, except as mediated by the relationship of state sanctioned money, but they might be working at a factory which pollutes the water they drink.

This unconsciousness is propagated by modern states where power is often distant from individuals and increasingly private as it is ceded to corporations or there becomes an intertwining between commerce and government.
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PostSubject: Re: Postmodernity Wed Dec 30, 2015 3:58 pm

Ethos wrote:
I am wary of using the term 'post'-modernism with dealing with current history, because I don't see that the essence of modernity has in any way ended. It seems to me now that modern ideals and institutions have become thoroughly entrenched and are spreading faster than before. I see the process of industrialization as being nearer to the heart of modernity than something like a difference between analogue and digital and so on. I have heard the term high modernity used and I think it gets at the issue a little deeper than post-modernism does, which I could see as referring rather to the desire of certain scholars and philosophers to be rid of what they understand to be modernism.

Modernity is plagued by a desire to institutionalize human organization through technology down to minutiae. Herd or crowd theory are for this reason useful and the eventual categorization of difference through mass.


Which elicits the opposite reaction of flowing away, disconnecting from possessing or belonging to any form for too long, de-centred relativisms championing all subjectivities as equally valid no matter how life-denying or decadent, etc. See the Baudrillard thread in the Lyceum. There is also a pomo "leave-taking" or an "Exodus" aesthetic from every history, past, reality and reshaping things to one's "feel goodness" that was largely the legacy of Stirner's atomic individuality:

Quote :
"I use the term exodus above cautiously with the full intention of linking it to some of the more exciting, useful and, in the end, at times idealist & potentially reactionary thinkers today. The politics of exodus in a number of contemporary thinkers, many of whom have excellent diagnostic analyses of the current state of late capitalism. Paulo Virno has called explicitly for exodus, a leave-taking that is also a fleeing in the face of capital; Franco Berardi has stated we require a poetic insurrection, an embrace of senility, & a withdrawal from politics; Federico Campagnia recommends an explicitly Stirnerite psychic disinvestment from the religious cult of work in order to embrace a kind of adventurism; Tiqqun advocate a similar strategy of disappearance; & Simon Critchley discusses keeping to the interstitial zones; all echoes of the hippie optimism of the Hakim Bey’s Temporary Autonomous Zone strategy of withdrawing into the cracks, letting capital & the state run themselves into the group; the Baudrillardian hope that capitalism really is an entropic system."

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"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

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PostSubject: Re: Postmodernity Wed Dec 30, 2015 4:40 pm

Ethos wrote:
I am wary of using the term 'post'-modernism with dealing with current history, because I don't see that the essence of modernity has in any way ended. It seems to me now that modern ideals and institutions have become thoroughly entrenched and are spreading faster than before. I see the process of industrialization as being nearer to the heart of modernity than something like a difference between analogue and digital and so on. I have heard the term high modernity used and I think it gets at the issue a little deeper than post-modernism does, which I could see as referring rather to the desire of certain scholars and philosophers to be rid of what they understand to be modernism.
Modernity will end as soon as a new wild, a new frontier opens up, as "The West" opened up for Europeans to settle, colonize, conquer, and explore the Americas. Expansion allows for true "progress". Without expansion, within the walls of global civilization, obedience to political boundaries is the expected norm. To know the future of the newer, Western world, and countries, look to the deepest past. Look to modern day Italy, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, or China. Those are countries, societies, and religions that have adapted social behaviors for thousands of years. How they behave, is how newer countries may follow. Old countries and nations of people tend to become either very religious and monotheistic, or homogeneous. A "multi-cultured", fragmented society, will eventually break and cause civil wars and internal fighting.

In the US, capitalism and chasing dollars prevents diverse groups of people, and individuals, from fighting. Once the economy changes to something more stagnant, less risky, more secure, and nobody can lose (all given "golden parachutes") then the money ladder will fall. Once people stop chasing money, as is inevitable, then people will fight based on more pressing needs, like access to food and clean water, access to political power, access to demographics and their own kind of heritage.


Ethos wrote:
As Æon pointed out, that consideration of the times leads to a study of how "Memes are spreading through language, television, movies, and media", and the relation of the modern to these influences. The process of language begins in the home, partly, but the intellectual life is developed from a young age in school. In our schools we are made to sit, watch and listen to a stream of information which we remember so that we can repeat as we have heard it. This process inculcates a habit in the individual which is easily transferable to television, films and computers. Contrast this with the ancient concept of paideia, and the influence that such practices would have had on the habits and the spirits of the Greeks.

Modernity is plagued by a desire to institutionalize human organization through technology down to minutiae. Herd or crowd theory are for this reason useful and the eventual categorization of difference through mass.

I don't see a total leveling in modernity but instead a proliferations of social definitions which are indistinguishable from justification due to assistance of communications technologies (which includes vehicles and surveillance in aiding in speedier communication) to the right of the state to sanction violence. In this sense all judgement becomes lodged in the institutional process (in theory or practice, depending how loop holes are interpreted). Individuals are selected in modern society due to a certain talent desired within a context or else wealth opening possibilities and I don't think this is disguised. It is true that money as an intermediary is blind and levels, but I do not think that money is simply "open" to everyone in such a way which justifies calling a society levelled.

I do not even consider western society "open" in the ideal sense it is often considered to be. I feel the freedom of western democracy to be entirely a myth. The problem with people is less that they live in the moment than that they do not recognize the past and future in the present (nor the pesent in the former), and besides that they are sheltered and protected by the state in return for adhering to the obligations of western capitalist society, which is the (in theory) legal acquisition of wealth. The democracy aspect of our society is so flimsy unless we consider it in such a sense as though all people by adhering to the customs of society have accepted the social contract, as well as those who work within government bureaucracy as being volitional supporters of current state head.

From the point of view of those excluded from power in a modern democracy, one's life force has become fragmented. The modern masses do not consider where they are putting their effort, except as mediated by the relationship of state sanctioned money, but they might be working at a factory which pollutes the water they drink.

This unconsciousness is propagated by modern states where power is often distant from individuals and increasingly private as it is ceded to corporations or there becomes an intertwining between commerce and government.
Yes, the presentation of "freedom" in western countries has become a charade and simple lie. It may have been true in the 19th century and beforehand. But globalization causes the power of civilization, emasculation, and domestication to speed up. The previously unsettled, unconquered, and uncivilized west, was settled very quickly. The "freedom" of the West did not last long. Old habits of civilization and society catch up to the newly expanded spaces.

And of course, by all this, I mean the conquering of the red men, the native indians, by white men and european civilization.


Once new opportunities appear in space then exploration and colonization will begin again. For now, earth is a human zoo, a slavery, a play pen, an eternal child's sandbox, full of "man-children". There is no adult area. Even these small spaces between the cracks online, on the internet, will eventually become reoccupied. Eventually "free speech" on the internet will end. And all places online will be monitored and restricted by socializing and emasculating forces. ILP is a perfect example of this. Speech becomes more and more restricted, over time. A new forum opens up (KTS), a migration occurs, and then eventually, speech restriction occurs again.
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PostSubject: Re: Postmodernity Thu Dec 31, 2015 9:15 am

Æon, I understand what you mean about a new wilderness, but I don't share your optimism for it on a few counts. I don't believe that merely opening a wilderness, particularly not one as exclusive as outer space will be, will lead necessarily to any change for the better in the consciousnesses of explorers and settlers.

I am not sure if you intended this meaning in your post but I also do not see any growth or development in a consciousness which waits for a wild to open up. I am not waiting for modernity to end, though it gives me a great distaste to live in this age, and because I see that the gene and environment are highly entwined even genes with latent greatness will likely not reach full potential under present conditions except perhaps relative to those conditions. That being said, as an individual I live and act in my time, with what I have to work with (in myself and in the world), as a human I act as part of a historical tradition, and as a European I act as part of a European tradition (which is not to say it is impossible for me to (hypothetically) be a disgrace to that tradition).

I do not share your admiration for modern Palestine, Saudi Arabia or China, especially not the latter. Perhaps classical China, though I am not versed enough in that tradition to give a definitive judgement, but I have heard things which have struck me as noble in China's ancient past.

Æon wrote:
Once people stop chasing money, as is inevitable, then people will fight based on more pressing needs, like access to food and clean water, access to political power, access to demographics and their own kind of heritage.

I am not sure why you think that chasing money will inevitably stop, unless perhaps it is because of pressing needs like access to water, which I could see as becoming a real issue in the future, but it is not necessarily the case that such an eventuality would be a direct factor in a return to one's roots, especially if the issue is played as an essentially modern issue, which is likely.

As for greater degrees of freedom in the past, it is possible in certain segments of the population with certain conditions, certainly not for everyone. The degree of freedom in a society can be less important than the ends to which individuals are devoted, since perfect freedom is a myth of the same order as perfect equality, since one is always bound by some order of necessity even if it is only the particularity of the human mind, body and the natural world.

It is insightful to read Tocqueville's description of 'democratic America'.

Tocqueville wrote:
The position of the Americans is therefore quite exceptional, and it may be believed that no democratic people will ever be placed in a similar one. Their strictly Puritanical origin, their exclusively commercial habits, even the country they inhabit, which seems to divert their minds from the pursuit of science, literature, and the arts, the proximity of Europe, which allows them to neglect these pursuits without relapsing into barbarism, a thousand special causes, of which I have only been able to point out the most important, have singularly concurred to fix the mind of the American upon purely practical objects. His passions, his wants, his education, and everything about him seem to unite in drawing the native of the United States earthward; his religion alone bids him turn, from time to time, a transient and distracted glance to heaven. Let us cease, then, to view all democratic nations under the example of the American people.

The idea of American exceptionalism was founded on the way Americans did not become barbaric for neglecting science, literature and the arts (as Tocqueville saw it here, where the term originated), because they remained "practical" with "exclusively commercial habits". This does not imply so much freedom as allegiance to a certain kind of praxis which within the historical context may very well have seemed natural or common sense (a sort of nationwide housekeeping). But even in that case, or perhaps especially in that case, there was a lack of insight.

Take Oxford's definition of practical:

Oxford Dictionary wrote:
Of or concerned with the actual doing or use of something rather than with theory and ideas:

Either the term practical implies forgetting, or else the modern mind has merely forgotten and it is expressed through modern use of the term practical. The definition of practical as given by Oxford dictionary and in conjunction with Tocqueville's stipulation that American's refrained from science, literature and arts by remaining practical is a contradiction and a misunderstanding of what distinguishes humans from the beasts and must either betray a missupposition by Tocqueville that human's can resign themselves entirely to the lives of herd animals while remaining human, or else an perhaps act of delicacy, writing for a post-revolutionary French society.

This is a roundabout way of saying I don't think that the reemergence of a wilds will make men out of beasts.
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PostSubject: Re: Postmodernity Tue Feb 16, 2016 4:05 am

Post-modern readings: "Interpretative Vitality and Hermeneutic Communism"
(Vattimo is a post-modern lib.)

Vattimo wrote:
Heidegger wrote:
"For, meanwhile, it has also been demanded of philosophy that it no longer be satisfied with interpreting the world and roving about in abstract speculations, but rather that what really matters is changing the world practically. But changing the world in the manner intended requires beforehand that thinking be changed, just as a change of thinking already underlies the demand we have mentioned. (Cf. [275] Karl Marx, The German Ideology: "A theses on Feuerbach as Feuerbach II": "The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.")
But in what way is thinking supposed to change if it does not take the path into that which is worthy of thought? Now, the fact that being presents itself as that which is worthy of thought is neither an optional presupposition nor an arbitrary invention. It is the verdict of a tradition that still governs us today, and this far more decisively than one might care to admit." [Kant's thesis about Being, 1944]

If Marxist philosophers until now have failed to change the world, it isn’t because their political approach was wrong but rather because it was framed within the metaphysical tradition. Contrary to other thinkers of the twentieth centuryg Heidegger did not propose a new philosophy capable of correcting metaphysics but in­ stead indicated the difiiculty of such pretentiousness. Only once we rec­ognize how metaphysics cannot be overcome in the sense of iiberwun­ den, defeating and leaving at large, but only in the sense of verwindung, that is, incorporating, twisting, or weakening, does it become possible to change the world: “Overcoming is worthy only when we think about incorporation.”

Truth for Husserl depends on the diiference between the mere “in­tention” of the phenomenological Being and the matter “itself”-in other words, between the manner in which something appears and the manner in which it is “itself”; that is, a proposition would be true only if it “re­fers” to things in a way that permits them to be seen as they are in themselves. But this “reference” is not very different from the pragmatic “imposition”, because its purpose is still to explain how something reveals itself (truth) in opposition to its concealing (false).

Against this metaphysical interpretation, Heidegger noticed how ev­ery statement, whether true or false, valid or invalid, good or evil, is al­ ways a derivative one, since the “apophantic as” is only possible within the “hermeneutic as.” In other words, there is no “presuppositionless" apprehension of something presented to us that could be “objectilied” by means of subjective predicative modalities. Prior to the predicative knowledge, which can also be expressed in Tarski sentences, humans beings already have a “preontological” or “pretheoretical” understand­ ing of the Being of things that does not require a derivative one, as pro­ posed by Husserl's or Tarski’s theories. This is why in Being and Time Heidegger explained:

Heidegger wrote:
"The statement is not the primary “locus” of truth but the other way around: the statement as a mode of appropriation of discovered­ ness and as a way of being-in-the-world is based in discovering, or in the disclosedness of Dasein. The most primordial “truth” is the “locus” of the statement and the ontological condition of the possibility that statements can be true or false (discovering or cov­ering over)." [Being and Time]

It is important to understand here how the truth of statements is not derivative because erroneous but rather because its roots refer back to the disclosedness of understanding that determines every linguistic or prelinguistic adequacy. It is a question not only of thematizing prelinguistic phenomena but of emphasiz­ing the priority of thought over knowledge, Being over beings, and the “hermeneutic as” over the “apophantic as.” While the “apophantic as” allows both truth and erron at the level of the “hermeneutic as” there is neither, since the “proposition is not the place of truth; truth is the place ofthe proposition.” As we can see, Heidegger did not expose this metaphysical understanding of truth because it is wrong; he exposed it for its superficiality, that is, against the metaphysical attempt to re­duce the philosopher’s task to attesting “how we experience truth” or that “there is actually truth” when in fact we find ourselves inevitably presupposing it. Puzzling over the correspondence between subject and object, we lose sight both of the world within which all things are given and of our own engagement as beings.

Heidegger named the difference between our relation to beings (truth) and our understanding of Being (disclo­sure) the “ontological difference,” which allows us to recognize how within our metaphysical tradition “Being and truth 'are' equiprimordi­ally”. As we can see, Heidegger’s analysis of truth (like Popper’s, Ar­endt’s, and Adomo’s alarms against scientific objective realism) was meant to emphasize its violence, because truth is nothing other than the justification of Being, which has always been understood as objective presence. It is also for this reason that Heidegger later declared that “to raise the question of aletheia, of unconcealment as such, is not the same as raising the question of truth,” where distinctions can be imposed (presence of Being) and justified (truth as correspondence). This is why Emst Tugendhat (and other distinguished interpreters of Heidegger such as Habermas and Apel) pointed out that Heidegger’s conception of truth as aletheia, that is, the “event of unconcealment," renounces the distinction not only between true and false assertions “but also between good and evil actions.” What they pointed out is correct and also a confirmation of Heidegger's opposition to truth as violent imposition, which, as we said, justifies its descriptions.

In sum, just as Being was discarded in favor of beings, so are the weak oppressed in favor of the winners, that is, in favor of those who dominate within framed democracy’s conservative moralized order." [Hermeneutic communism from Heidegger to Marx]


Vattimo wrote:
"Hermes (whose name points back to his winged feet), the messenger of the gods renowned for his speed, athleticism, and swiftness and who exercised the practical activity of delivering the announcements, wam­ ings, and prophecies of the gods of Olympus. This is why in Plato’s Ion (534e) and Symposium hermeneutics is presented both as a the­ory of reception and “as a practice for transmission and mediation”:‘ Hermes must transmit what is beyond human understanding in a form that human intelligence can grasp. But in this transmission, Hermes was often accused of thievery treachery and even anarchy because the mes­ sages were never accurate; in other words, his interpretations always altered the original meanings. More than an error, this alteration is the real contribution of interpretation; unlike descriptions (which pursue the ideal of total explanation), interpretation adds new vitality to the meaning. For this reason, Dilthey (who was the first to trace systemati­cally the history of hermeneutics) saw in the vitalist essence of herme­neutics the priority of interpretation over scientific inquiry theoretical criticism, and literary construction.

While examples of hermeneutic alterations can be found through­ out the historical record of hermeneutics (in Origen, Augustine, and Schleiermacher), there are three thinkers from different centuries whom we want to emphasize because in them the anarchic vein of the political project of interpretation is particularly evident: Martin Luther for 'fifteenth-century religion, Sigmund Freud for nineteenth-century psychology and Thomas Kuhn for twentieth-century science.

Luther's hermeneutic operation was directed against the hegemony ofthe Catholic Church’s magisterial establishment, which pretended to be the only valid interpreter of the biblical text. His Ninety-Five 'Theses (1517) and translation ofthe Bible into German (1534) provoked a gen­eral revolt against the papacy because until then the ecclesiastical hier­archy had forced every believer to turn to its oiiicials for readings, inter­pretations, and elucidations ofthe text. Against such spiritual, cultural, and political dominion Luther instead believed that the literal meaning of the Bible contained its own proper spiritual significance, which should be interpreted by each believer: the Bible is per se certissi ma, ap­ertissima, sui ipsius interpres, omnium omnia probans, indicans et illumi­nans; that is, “it interprets itself". In asserting this, Luther was valorizing both the linguistic text and one’s own linguistic act, the interpreters ca­pacity to judge for himself Ii, as Luther said, “Scripture is not under­stood, unless it is brought home, that is, experienced,” then interpreta­tion cannot be dictated from above and must be experienced from within. Interpretation, as especially in Heidegger, is part of existence, because by bringing new vitality to the text (as with Hermes’ alteration of original meaning), it also reinforces the interpreter’s own faith.

For these reasons, Luther decided to translate the Bible, a translation that brought about a revolutionary political operation through herme­neutics, that is, from the vital nature of interpretation. He transformed it from a foreign book in a foreign tongue accessible only through an establishment imposed from above into a document open for all literate people’s interpretation from within. After his translation (followed by other Protestant versions in French, Dutch, and English), the Bible could be read without the permission or intervention of the Catholic Church. With Luther’s impact in Germany comparable to if not greater than that of Dante in Italy or Rousseau in France, Hegel could affirm that if Luther had done nothing besides this translation, he would still be one of the greatest benefactors of the German-speaking race. Al­though the traditions ofthe Church should not be put aside, since they are also an eEect of the Bible’s history; Luther should be recognized for his political action, that is, for depriving for the irst time the Roman pontifex of his absolute authority over the Bible. By recognizing every­ one’s right and contribution to interpret for himself Luther not only defended the weak but also exercised the latent anarchic nature of interpretation.

Just as Luther’s hermeneutic operation began as a rejection of eccle­siastical imposition, so Freud's psychological revolution was set in motion in order to overcome the imposed facts of the positivist scientific culture of the early twentieth century One of his chief targets was the empiricist theory of modern science, which conceived the human mind as a tabula rasa, a blank surface upon which impressions could be in­ scribed and from which descriptions could be made. This scientific understanding of the mind, common also to Descartes, presupposed cer­tain moral values that were supposed to find a correlative in the social world the mind inhabited; in other words, objectivity prevailed over the subject, which was considered merely a mirror of nature. Against these common beliefs of modern science, Freud suggested that our actions are motivated not by pure, rational, and logical mechanisms but rather by many different unknown forces, motives, and impulses constantly clashing within and between our conscious and unconscious minds. For these reasons, familiar forms of irrationality such as self-deception, depression, ambivalence, or even weakness ofthe will, all of which were problematic in the Cartesian model of invisible unitary consciousness, became in Freud part of the normal manner of human beings. Freud anarchically transgressed the accepted line of demarcation between the “rational / normal” and the “irrational / abnormal” human being.

But Freud did not limit his discoveries to explaining the normality of the “abnormal,” which by itself produced great progress for civilization. He also emphasized how the dynamically interchangeable relation be­ tween the two is the same as that of the human being and his society. In this structure, problems might emerge from oppressed instincts (im­ posed from above by society), from unconscious determinations (death or sexual drives upwelling from within), or from their objective inter­ pretations, in other words, from the positivist psychologies of the time. These psychologies believed that a patient’s suiferings came only from objective ignorance, in other words, from a lack of infomation about his or her own life. If this were actually true, then a better description of the patient’s dreams would be enough to cure him. But the mind im­plies unconscious factors that not only determine the conscious ones but also reject the expression of certain ones. In this condition, inter­pretation is required to inform the patient of those memories he has repressed. Therefore, interpretation is the only available approach to the human mind and to those non-objective, unconscious factors that demonstrate that the mind cannot be considered a tabula rasa. Against the traditional “dream book” mode of interpretation in terms of fixed symbols, Freud applied “free association,” which obliged the patient (not the interpreter) to report hidden or forgotten thoughts. The eman­cipation that Freud brought about by stressing unconscious mental pro­cesses and the analysis of the human psyche through the vital exercise of interpretation spread irreversible doubts upon the objective forma­tion of human rationality.

Against the rationalist psychologies of the time, in 1900 Freud pub­lished The Interpretation of Dreams, which recognized, among other things, how conscious, reflective meditation cannot be imposed on dreams because they are “the royal road to a knowledge of the uncon­scious.”’ This is a road that descriptive psychologies are incapable of traveling, because they limit themselves to present, consciously recalled expressions ofthe dream. Although Freud has not received enough rec­ognition in the histories of hermeneutics, his project was really a devel­opment and radicalization of the previous psychological hermeneutics of Schleiermacher and Dilthey who doubted that the author of a work would be able to reconstruct its meaning if informed of all the tech­niques used to produce it.” Just as a complete reconstruction of a pa­tient’s life would not necessarily solve his problems, nor would the his­tory of the production of a work of art explain the meaning of the work to the author. As Habermas rightly noted, Freud goes beyond the art of interpretation insofar as his system of analysis must grasp “not only the meaning of a possible distorted text, but the meaning of the text­ distortion itself”.

Another author who used the anarchic vein of interpretation to free his Held of research from objectivism is Thomas Kuhn. But unlike Lu­ther and Freud, neither of whom defined their own work as “hermeneu­tical,” Kuhn explicitly recognized in various autobiographical passages the fundamental effects that the philosophy of interpretation exercised over his innovative view of scientific revolutions. For this reason, Rich­ard ]. Bemstein saw in Kuhn one of the first examples of “the recovery of the hermeneutical dimension of science,” that is, its interpretative nature.

When the American scientist published The Structure of Scientific Revolutions in 1962, logical empiricism’s dominion over the philosophy of science was unquestionable. Scientific innovation could come only from an accumulation of knowledge, that is, as a closer approximation to the truth than any earlier theory achieved. But this normative orien­tation, by presupposing truth as the only common measure of scien­ tific development, not only discredited the history of science but also considered it useless, because it just indicated past errors. For logical empiricism, these historical changes were nothing more than the ac­ count of uniform progress toward better science, but for Kuhn they were a confirmation that science is not uniform but shifts through different phases. But in these shifts, the sciences are not so much mak­ ing “progress toward truth” as “changing paradigms", in other words, older theories become different rather than incorrect. Kuhn explained this relation to previous scientific theories with his idea of “incom­mensurability” which he shared with Peyerabend: sciences driven by different paradigms do not share any common measures, because the standards of evaluation are themselves subjected to change. Incom­mensurability then, is interpretation. If this were not the case, then an­cient, medieval, and contemporary scientists would all have deduced the same results when looking at the moon. Instead, every epoch has brought about its own scientific progress through different, incom­ mensurable paradigms.

Scientific progress for Kuhn is really an altemation between what he called “normal,” “revolutionary” and “extraordinary” phases of science. While “normal science” is very much like puzzle solving, where success depends on whether the rules are strictly followed, “revolutionary science” instead involves the revision of these beliefs and methods, and this inevitably detaches it from normal science and shifts science into its “extraordinary” phase. This detachment (or revolution) takes place when a dominant paradigm is left behind and when universally recognized scientific achievements that for a long period of time provided the model of problems, methods, and solutions for a community of scientists reach a crisis. Such crises become evident when anomalies and discrepancies resist the expected solutions of normal scientihc ex­ periments, making progress impossible. in this condition, the very para­ digm that has guided normal science until then is questioned, and when a rival paradigm emerges, “extraordinary science" is the result. But Kuhn does not consider this rival paradigm a mere substitution for the previous one, because at first it will only allow a certain amount of prog­ ress, which must still be accepted by the community of scientists. Kuhn calls this phase a “pre-paradigm,” that is, a paradigm lacking the consen­sus the previously normal science could depend upon. But once a larger number of scientific communities begins to accept the new paradigm, collective progress will again be possible, making science ready for new puzzle solutions.

The conclusion that derives from Kuhn’s hermeneutic intuitions is twofold: truth is not the main concern that drives scientific progress, and scientific knowledge does not change through confrontation with hard facts but through a social struggle between contending interpreta­tions of scientific communities. Luther’s revolt against the Roman pon­ tihcal authority and Freud’s dismantling of traditional psychology’s ra­tional constitution of the mind are not very different from Kuhn’s transgression against the dominion of logical empiricism over science’s unilinear development. All are not only anarchic for resisting conven­tions, structures, and principles but also hermeneutic, because they presuppose the possibility of, project of, and right to interpret differ­ently. It is just in this right to interpret differently that the weak emerge politically as bearers of new vitality." [Hermeneutic communism from Heidegger to Marx]

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PostSubject: Re: Postmodernity Sat Feb 27, 2016 3:03 pm

A humourous critique of Postmodern Relativism:

Ernest Gellner wrote:
"The influence of the movement can be discerned in anthropology, literary studies, philosophy. It tends to bring these fields far closer to each other than they had been previously. The notions that everything is a ‘text’, that the basic material of texts, societies and almost anything is meaning, that meanings are there to be decoded or ‘deconstructed’, that the notion of objective reality is suspect—all this seems to be part of the atmosphere, or mist, in which postmodernism flourishes, or which postmodernism helps to spread.

The pursuit of generalization, in the image of science, is excoriated as ‘positivism’, so ‘theory’ tends to become a set of pessimistic and obscure musings on the Inaccessibility of the Other and its Meanings. At other times, the gimmick seems to be to exile the author from the text and to proceed to decode, or deconstruct, or de-something, the meanings which spoke through the author, had he but known it.  Perhaps the acute awareness of the movement that all meanings are to be deconstructed in a way which also brings in their opposites, and highlights the contradictions contained in them, or something like that, actually precludes a crisp and unambiguous formulation of the position.

Postmodernism would seem to be rather clearly in favour of relativism, in as far as it is capable of clarity, and hostile to the idea of unique, exclusive, objective, external or transcendent truth. Truth is elusive, polymorphous, inward, subjective... and perhaps a few further things as well. Straightforward it is not.

Wittgenstein once said (in the course of formulating his initial, subsequently repudiated, philosophy) that the world is not the totality of things, but of facts. In the current intellectual atmosphere, one senses a feeling that the world is not the totality of things, but of meanings. Everything is meaning, and meaning is everything, and hermeneutics is its prophet. Whatever is, is made by the meaning conferred on it. It is the meaning with which it is endowed which has singled it out from the primal flow of uncategorized existence, and thereby turned it into an identifiable object. (But the meaning which confers existence also assigns status, and so is a tool of domination.) It is perhaps this fusion of subjectivity and hermeneutics with a self-righteous promise—and monopoly?— of liberation which endows this outlook with its distinctive character. The subject had once been a kind of refuge, a redoubt: even if we could not be sure of the outside world, we could at least be certain of our own feelings, thoughts and sensations. But no: if these are engendered by meanings imposed on inchoate unidentifiable raw material, and meanings come in self-contradictory cultural packages, then no such certainty and resting point is to be found inside ourselves! The Cartesian redoubt has been taken! We must distrust our subjectivity as much as our erstwhile claims to know the Other. Modernists in literature had turned to the subject, to the privacy of the stream of consciousness: postmodernists unmask the mechanisms and functions of subjectivity, locate the rules of objectivity within it, and destabilize everything.

So the movement locates itself all at once both in the context of world politics and in the context of the history of world thought. The two prises de position are related to each other.

In the history of the social sciences, the movement considers itself part and parcel of a switch from what it likes to call ‘positivism’ to hermeneutics. As Fardon puts it:

"The precise date of a current revolution is contentious, but witnesses from the 1970s onwards began to detect... that the grounds of knowledge were moving. The earth tremblings... came to be named postmodernism... and... recognised as more general doubts about... scientific... models of human behaviour.... Preoccupation with text, and with a vocabulary of narrativity, empletment, ultra- commentary... is symptomatic."

Positivism would appear to mean a belief in the existence and availability of objective facts, and above all in the possibility of explaining the said facts by means of an objective and testable theory, not itself essentially linked to any one culture, observer or mood. What seems to be the very devil is the supposition that a theory could be articulated, understood, assessed, without any reference to its author and his social identity.

Positivism in this sense is challenged all along this line: facts are inseparable from the observer who claims to discern them, and the culture which supplied the categories in terms of which they are described. This being so, he had better tell us about himself. He had better confess his culture. Real, self or culture-independent facts in any case being neither available nor accessible, there is not much else he can tell us. Even what he tells us about himself is suspect and tortuous. So he does tell us about himself with relish, and seldom gets much further; and, given the premisses of the movement, it would be quite wrong of him if he did get much further. It would show that he failed to learn the deep doubts which are the movement’s speciality.

There are, strictly speaking, two distinct points, though they tend to interact and feed into each other. There is the point that characterization of human conduct is meaning-pervaded, and that in the study of members of one culture by those of another, two sets of meanings, and the problem of their mutual intelligibility and translatability, are involved. We are not dealing with hard unambiguous facts, whose conceptual packaging is translucent and uncontentious. (Are we ever?) Secondly, there is the fact that the observer is a being of flesh and blood, with expectations, interests, prejudices, blind spots, and this raises a problem even if he happened to be of the same culture as those whom he is studying, drawing on pretty much the same set of concepts. In practice, these two considerations tend to reinforce each other in making for a double, not really separated, shift from thing to meaning, and from object to subject, to a kind of narcissism-hermeneuticism.

Colonialism went with positivism, decolonization with hermeneutics, and it eventually culminates in postmodernism. Positivism is a form of imperialism, or perhaps the other way round, or both. Lucidly presented and (putatively) independent facts were the tool and expression of colonial domination; by contrast, subjectivism signifies intercultural equality and respect. The world as it truly is (if indeed it may ever truly be said to be anything) is made up of tremulous subjectivities; objective facts and generalizations are the expressions and tools of domination!

In a way, the whole confrontation might be seen as a kind of replay of the battle between classicism and romanticism, the former associated with the domination of Europe by a French court and its manners and standards, and the latter with the eventual reaction by other nations, affirming the values of their own folk cultures. In our time, moreover, it was not only the ex-colonial nations who attained liberation; it was also the period of the feminist movement, and of various other self-affirmation movements by minority or oppressed groups. Women constitute one such group, and a specially vocal one, and so gender as well as meaning become prominent. But the romantics wrote poetry; the postmodernists also indulge their subjectivism, but their repudiation of formal discipline, their expression of deep inner turbulence, is performed in academese prose, intended for publication in learned journals, a means of securing promotion by impressing the appropriate committees. Sturm und Drang und Tenure might well be their slogan.

So one pervasive and oft-recurring theme within the movement insists on the connection between the two sets of events, between political liberation and cognitive subjectivity. Clarity and the insistence on—or, rather, the imposition of—an allegedly unique and objective reality is simply a tool, or perhaps, in some versions, the preferred tool, of domination.

It all seems to lead to something called ‘dialogic’ and ‘heteroglossic’ styles of presentation, which avoids presenting unique facts, and replaces them by multiple voices. James Clifford, one of the editors of the text I am using as a specimen of this style, is also quoted within the volume itself, as follows:

"Dialogic and constructivist paradigms tend to disperse or share out ethnographic authority.... Paradigms of experience and interpretation are yielding to paradigms of discourse, or dialogue and polyphony."

The definition which would have had it consist of representing dialogues is at first offered, with the suggestion that it is at least an approximation, but then abandoned as too simple.

But there is the further revelation, ‘heteroglossia’. Clifford is quoted again:

"Ethnography is invaded by heteroglossia... indigenous statements make sense on terms different from those of the arranging ethnographer.... This suggests an alternate [sic] textual strategy, a Utopia of plural authorship that accords to collaborators, not merely the status of independent enunciators, but of writers."

It all seems to amount to a kind of collage—a few pages later we are indeed referred to pastiche and hotchpotch—with a vacillation between the hope that this multiplicity of voices somehow excludes the bias of the external researcher, and a pleasurable return to a guilty recognition that the subject, the author, is still there. What these authors seem to be after is to eliminate all clarity, all objectivity, but in the end not to deprive themselves of the pleasure of still feeling guilty about a residue of observer’s intrusion. In the end, they are still there, however hard they strove to escape through ‘dialogue’, ‘heteroglossia’, or whatever. All those stylistic innovations are meant to bring the informant right into the book, undistorted by interpretation: but this is followed by the agreeably sinful realization that, after all, the author(s) had brought him there, in a context which also constitutes interpretation. There is no escape and the authors wouldn’t really wish to escape their sin. The guilt seems to be far too pleasurable.

‘What is post-modernism?’ All one can say is that it is a kind of hysteria of subjectivity which goes beyond ‘Joyce, Hemingway, Woolf, et al.’, who evidently did not go far enough…

In the end, the operational meaning of postmodernism in anthropology seems to be something like this: a refusal (in practice, rather selective) to countenance any objective facts, any independent social structures, and their replacement by a pursuit of ‘meanings’, both those of the objects of inquiry and of the inquirer. There is thus a double stress on subjectivity: the world-creation by the person studied, and the text-creation by the investigator. ‘Meaning’ is less a tool of analysis than a conceptual intoxicant, an instrument of self-titillation. The investigator demonstrates both his initiation into the mysteries of hermeneutics, and the difficulty of the enterprise, by com¬ plex and convoluted prose, peppered with allusions to a high proportion of the authors of the World’s 100 Great Books, and also to the latest fashionable scribes of the Left Bank. The names used in the references generally read as if they had been copied from the Paris Metro map, minor stops on the route to the Porte d’Orléans. The jerky fragmentariness also practised is one of the ways of conveying that postmodernism is well beyond the relatively tidy stream-of-consciousness subjectivism, practised as part of the mere old-fashioned modernisms of a Joyce or Proust or Woolf.

The link between political and hermeneutic egalitarianism is heavily stressed, and indeed seems self-evident to the participants in the movement. In the days of imperial and/or patriarchal power, the rulers (colonialists or partriarchs or indeed colonialist patriarchs) used their power to impose their vision on their victims; or, rather, used their vision and its authority to attain their power or to make it secure, and impose the illusion of its legitimacy on their victims. Presumably they did not merely want slaves, but slaves who internalized their subjection in the name of objectivity. One could sum it all up by saying that the whole idea of objectivity and clarity is simply a cunning trick of dominators. Descartes had simply prepared the ground for Kipling. Descartes, ergo Kipling. No Kipling, so no Descartes. Liberty makes its reappearance in the form of a logically permissive and pluralist obscurity. The negation of Kipling also requires the repudiation of Descartes. In fact Descartes, who initiated the determined pursuit of an objective truth untainted by cultural blinkers, a Reason untainted by ‘custom and example’ (his own term for culture), had forged the tools and weapons which were required for a colonialist- patriarchal domination of the earth. Descartes had claimed to use the cogito as a premiss so as to escape cultural blinkers.

This vision has a number of possible intellectual ancestors. One of them, strangely enough, is Marxism.

The absolutist-exclusive quality of the Marxist revelation, and the manner in which it was presented and perpetuated, meant that Marxists always found it difficult to credit those who did not accept their vision with good faith. Moreover, their own theory required them to explain those dissidents sociologically. Error was not random, but socially functional: the specification of its function not merely identified and unmasked the heretic, but also illuminated the social scene. The enemy’s erroneous views highlighted his position, the social ills he was concerned to defend, and the means available to him for this nefarious purpose. The denunciation and unmasking was an education as well as a pleasure.

The Marxist rapidly acquired a strong taste for, and skill at, such reductive explanation, and the explaining-away of critical opinion in terms of the class experience and interest of the critic became a well-established literary style, with its canons, its classics, its habitual procedures. With the passage of time, and especially after the establishment of the Soviet Union, the amount of hostile criticism which needed to be explained away grew at an ever increasing pace, and the proportion of Marxism consisting of denunciatory explanations of the denials of Marxism augmented correspondingly. Marxism became almost a kind of special subject, whose province was the collective cultural delusions, the world-constructions, of others.

This differed from the movement which concerned us now in two respects: the attitude to the world-creations investigated was somewhat negative rather than deferential, and there still remained a residual unique and objective truth which was to be affirmed—though the amount of attention this residue received was rapidly diminishing. But the strange result of all this was that Marxism tended to approximate, not a historical materialism, but rather a historical subjectivism, its practitioners becoming enormously adept at invoking the philosophical ploys which deny objectivity. Sometimes this habit simply took over completely.

This entire tendency was developed further by an influential movement which was no longer linked to international Communism and thus was free from any obligation to defend the record of applied Marxism—the philosophical movement known as the Frankfurt School, and its so-called ‘Critical Theory’. This itself was fairly typical of the liberation of international left-wing intelligentsia from Communist Party authority and discipline, which followed Khrushchev’s revelations to the XXth Congress of the CPSU(B). It provided much of the ideology for student protest of the 1960s, which was critical of both the then dominant world camps.

The Frankfurt School resembled the party-bound Marxists in being much given to explaining-away of the views of its opponents; but there was an interesting difference. The old-fashioned Marxists did not oppose the very notion of objectivity, as such, they merely maintained that their opponents had failed to be genuinely objective, and merely pretended to observe the norms of scientific objectivity, whilst in reality serving, and being misled by, their own class interests. But real science still remained, and was contrasted with class-interest-inspired false consciousness. There was, however, in the attitude of the old-fashioned, so to speak square, Marxists, a foretaste of what was to come, in as far as they would stress that the observance of merely ‘formal’ procedural scientific propriety was not sufficient, and was indeed a camouflage: real objectivity required, above all, a sound class and political position. It was fairly easy to slide from this to the view that a sound position was sufficient on its own, and, finally, the view that there are no ‘sound’, objective positions at all. The real delusion was the belief in the possibility of objective, unique truth. Thought lives on meanings, meanings are culture-bound. Ergo, life is subjectivity.

So the difference was that the old Marxists respected objectivity as such, and merely charged their opponents with failing to practise it properly, and with violating it whilst pretending to serve it. What was distinctive about the Frankfurters was a tendency to decry the cult of objective fact as such, and not merely its alleged misapplications. An excessively fastidious, methodologically punctilious preoccupation with what is, was, under the guise of disinterested inquiry, an attempt to legitimate that which was, by somehow insinuating that nothing else could be. A real, enlightened, critical thinker (a la Frankfurt) did not waste too much time, or probably did not waste any time at all, on finding out precisely what was; he went straight to the hidden substance under the surface, the deep features which explained just why that which was, was, and also to the equally deep illumination concerning what should be. Unenslaved to the positivist cult of what was, the investigation of which was but a camouflaged ratification of the status quo, a genuinely critical free spirit found himself in a good position to determine just what it was that should be, in dialectical opposition to that which merely was. Those were the days when a ‘positivist’ was a man invoking facts against Marxism; nowadays, he is anyone who makes use of facts at all, or allows their existence, whatever his aim.

After all, there is a countless number of possible deep explanations of the surface (and the number of possible explanations presumably becomes even greater if, imbued with contempt for the surface facts, you do not even know just what those facts are); and, similarly, there is a countless number of possible contrasts to or negations of the present situation, all of which some of us might prefer to the current reality. How is one to choose the right one? Answer came there none. In practice, the Frankfurters and their followers, freed by their elevated depth (Karl Popper’s apt phrase) from any tedious superficial positivist fact-grubbing, gave themselves licence to disclose their own private revelations or intuitions concerning both the deep and the ideal. No ‘critical method’ really existed, but the pretence that it did exist was a compliment which subjectivism payed to objectivity.

The postmodernists have gone one step further. Like the Frankfurters they repudiate the cult and pursuit of extraneous facts, which are mistakenly held to provide the path to perception of social reality, but they no longer replace it by an (obscurely specified) alternative path, but by the affirmation that no such path is either possible or necessary or desirable. It isn’t superficial objectivity which is repudiated, but objectivity as such.

Objective truth is to be replaced by hermeneutic truth. Hermeneutic truth respects the subjectivity both of the object of the inquiry and of the inquirer, and even of the reader or listener.

Perhaps some real genius of postmodernism will one day persuade us to admire his uniquely deep silence, rather like the avant-garde painter who secures admiration for a canvas which he simply covers with uniform black paint.

So the path leads from Marxist elimination of opponents for alleged pseudo-objectivity, to Frankfurt castigation of superficial positivism equated with the amassing of surface facts, to postmodernist repudiation of the very aspiration to objectivity, and its replacement by hermeneutics.

There is also an alternative and also rather interesting path, leading from the alleged overcoming of the theory of knowledge, of ‘epistemology’, an overcoming which is acclaimed as the great achievement of twentieth-century philosophy. It is associated with names such as Wittgenstein, Heidegger, Rorty, and others.

The great epistemological tradition in Western philosophy (now claimed to be overcome), stretching from Descartes to Hume and Kant and beyond, formulated the problem of knowledge, not in terms of a kind of egalitarian hermeneuticism, or of hermeneutic egalitarianism, but, rather, in terms of a discriminating cognitive Elitism. It did indeed hold all men and minds, but not all cultures and systems of meaning, to be equal. All minds were endowed with the potential of attaining a unique objective truth, but only on condition of employing the correct method and forswearing the seduction of cultural indoctrination.

The terms of reference of the central, classical theory of knowledge included the assumption that there was a right and wrong way of going about the acquisition of knowledge: the problem was to find the difference, and, when it was located, to justify it. The contemporary idea is that there is no difference, that to set up ranking between kinds of knowledge is morally and politically wicked, rather like setting up one skin colour above another (with more than a hint that perhaps the two discriminations were linked to each other).

Rabinow comments on the work of James Clifford.

"Clifford is no longer interested in ‘the Other’ (i.e. the ethnographic object, other societies, cultures): the ‘Other’ for Clifford is the anthropological representation of the Other. Rabinow deconstructs Clifford’s deconstruction of anthropologists’ deconstruction of... Where will it all end? Clifford is not interested in the Navajo or Nuer or the Trobrianders, he is interested in what anthropologists say about them... How about someone only being interested in what Clifford says about what others say…?"

You may think that this was anticipation, with incredulity, hinting at a kind of reductio ad absurdum... Not a bit of it. It has already happened. Later on, Rabinow both reports and reformulates, and I think endorses, this further step in the regress. Apparently, even the ultimate postmodernist does not allow sufficiently for his/her subjectivity. In his/her very awareness of relativity, not merely between culture (old hat), people (likewise), but between successive moments or moods, lies his/ her awareness:

"The post-modernist is blind to her own situation and situatedness because, qua post-modernist, she is so committed to a doctrine of partiality and flux for which even such things as one’s own situation are so unstable, so without identity, that they cannot serve as objects of sustained reflection."

Two distinct arguments which are intertwined, but aren’t really compatible. One of them is that the pursuit of objectivity is really spurious, and a form of domination: the observer insulates the objects and sits in judgement on it.
But there is also the argument that the world has become more complex, and that the separation of roles is no longer possible (but was once practicable).

The regress into subjectivity and navel-gazing, whatever its rationale, is also described in fine academic prose:

"The metareflections on the crisis of representations... indicate a shift away... to... concern with... metatraditions of metarepresentations…"

Was it Tom Lehrer who commented in one of his splendid monologues on the kind of young American woman who talks endlessly about how impossible she finds it to communicate (which, significantly, has become an intransitive verb)?

if moral relativism is valid, it isn’t valid as a corollary of the establishment of cognitive relativism, of the cognitive equality of all thought styles. Such an equality does not obtain. What is true is that nihilism does follow from such a relativism, and it could be inferred from it, were such a relativism firmly established.

But everything about the condition of mankind in our age makes it utterly plain that cognitive relativism is false. It is false because an enormous mass of social facts establishes this, and not because it would have disastrous consequences if true (though in fact it does have those corollaries). They might be true, but that cannot be established from the premiss of hermeneutic egalitarianism of all thought-systems, for such a premiss is not available to us. It is false.

So there are powerful arguments against cognitive relativism of a totally different order. One of them, perhaps the most important, is that relativism is not so much a misguided solution, as a dreadfully inadequate formulation of our problem. It simply and totally misdescribes our collective situation. As a characterization of the predicament and difficulties and anxiety faced by the modern mind, it is a total travesty, so strange and extreme as to make any handling of our problem impossible.

The problem situation faced by modern thought in general, and anthropology in particular, is deeply unsymmetrical and un-relativistic. Relativism assumes or postulates a symmetrical world. Culture A has its own vision of itself and of culture B, and, likewise, B has its own vision of itself and of A. The same goes for the entire range of cultures. A must not sit in judgement on B nor vice versa, nor must B see A in terms of itself. Each must learn to see the other in terms of the other’s own notions (if at all), and this is, presumably, the task and achievement of the hermeneutic anthropologist, as he himself envisages it. He is to be a neutral translator, at most. That is the picture presented by relativism.

Often members of both A and B are liable to be somewhat ethnocentric, given to thinking that their own concepts capture the world as it really is, and that the Other should see himself and everything else in their own terms, and is being silly if he fails to do so. In view of all this, the hermeneutic anthropologist’s first task is to cure his audience of its ethnocentric (‘provincial’) leanings, and to upbraid it in no uncertain terms for those leanings. This he evidently does with enormous gusto and enjoyment. He gives his audience to understand that comprehending an alien culture is dreadfully difficult, and takes a special kind of insight and sophistication, which most emphatically is not granted to everyone. This is one of the temptations to which the hermeneutic school is prone, and to which practitioners of postmodernism succumb with ecstasy, and in dreadful literary style: they become so enthusiastic and inebriated with the difficulty of explicating the Other that in the end they don’t even try to reach it, but content themselves with elaborating the theme of its inaccessibility, offering a kind of initiation into a Cloud of Unknowing, a Privileged Non-Access... The Inaccessibility of the Other becomes a science and a mystery on its own.

The important thing is, indeed, that there must be no privileged vantage point. That was the ideology of colonialism. The truth is that all cultures are equal, and no single one of them has the right to judge and interpret the others in its own terms, and, above all (the ultimate horror), it must not claim that the world is correctly described in its own terms. It is this fearful symmetry which is a total and disastrous travesty of the world we live in. Anyone who endorses it cannot even begin to understand the present human condition.

Postmodernism is a movement which, in addition to contingent flaws—obscurity, pretentiousness, faddiness, showmanship, cultural name-dropping—commits major errors in the method it recommends: its penchant for relativism and preferential attention to semantic idiosyncrasy blind it to the non-semantic aspect of society, and to the immensely important, absolutely pervasive asymmetry in cognitive and economic power in the world situation.

The relativism to which it aspires does not have, and cannot have, any kind of programme, either in politics or even in inquiry. For one thing, it is an affectation: those who propound it, or defend it against its critics, continue, whenever facing any serious issue in which their real interests are engaged, to act on the non-relativistic assumption that one particular vision is cognitively much more effective than others. Though admittedly practitioners of ‘postmodernism’ go very far in the direction of abandoning inquiry and theory and replacing them with an attempt actually to bring in the object itself, the Meaning of the Other, by making the object speak for himself, in the end cannot but revert to an inquiry which sets the object in the context of a world as conceived by the one dominant, ‘scientific’ culture.

Relativism isn’t objectionable because it entails moral nihilism (which it does); moral nihilism may be hard to escape in any case. It is objectionable because it leads to cognitive nihilism, which is simply false, and also because it possibly misrepresents the way in which we actually understand societies and cultures. It denies or obscures tremendous differences in cognition and technical power, differences which are crucial for the understanding of current developments of human society. A vision which obscures that which matters most cannot be sound.

One objection to the relativists, and in particular to the hermeneutic variety of that position which we have briefly explored, is that it is deeply incoherent and, no doubt unconsciously, hypocritical. The hermeneutic relativists do not really treat all cultural visions as equally valid. Their accounts of alien systems of meanings as they present them are still, deeply and inevitably, located within a natural milieu conceived in terms of current Western science. Even a postmodernist anthropologist does not give an account of, for example, magical practices in a given society by saying simply, well, yes, in that culture, magic does work. He merely describes how ‘it works’, i.e. how that system of ideas fits into the wider web of notions and practices, seen as functioning within a Nature which itself works in the same way everywhere." [Postmodernism, Reason and Religion]

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"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

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PostSubject: Re: Postmodernity Fri Nov 25, 2016 5:27 pm

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"ἐδιζησάμην ἐμεωυτόν." [Heraclitus]

"All that exists is just and unjust and equally justified in both." [Aeschylus, Prometheus]

"The history of everyday is constituted by our habits. ... How have you lived today?" [N.]

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PostSubject: Re: Postmodernity Today at 10:05 pm

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