Explaining Postmodernism by Stephen Hicks

luc

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(Note: just saw your post Windmill knight - funny, I just wanted to post the same quote from Wikipedia, here it is anyway:)

Here is Wikipedia's (favorable, I might add) description of Deconstruction à la Derrida:

Wikipedia said:
Jacques Derrida's 1967 work Of Grammatology introduced the majority of ideas influential within deconstruction.[13] According to Derrida and taking inspiration from the work of Ferdinand de Saussure,[14] language as a system of signs and words only has meaning because of the contrast between these signs.[15][16][17] As Rorty contends, "words have meaning only because of contrast-effects with other words...no word can acquire meaning in the way in which philosophers from Aristotle to Bertrand Russell have hoped it might—by being the unmediated expression of something non-linguistic (e.g., an emotion, a sense-datum, a physical object, an idea, a Platonic Form)".[18] As a consequence meaning is never present, but rather is deferred to other signs. Derrida refers to the — in this view, mistaken — belief that there is a self-sufficient, non-deferred meaning as metaphysics of presence. A concept then must be understood in the context of its opposite, such as being/nothingness, normal/abnormal, speech/writing, etc.[19][20]

Further, Derrida contends that "in a classical philosophical opposition we are not dealing with the peaceful coexistence of a vis-a-vis, but rather with a violent hierarchy. One of the two terms governs the other (axiologically, logically, etc.), or has the upper hand": signified over signifier; intelligible over sensible; speech over writing; activity over passivity, etc. The first task of deconstruction would be to find and overturn these oppositions inside a text or a corpus of texts. But the final objective of deconstruction is not to surpass all oppositions, because it is assumed they are structurally necessary to produce sense. They simply cannot be suspended once and for all. The hierarchy of dual oppositions always reestablishes itself. Deconstruction only points to the necessity of an unending analysis that can make explicit the decisions and arbitrary violence intrinsic to all texts.[21]

Finally, Derrida argues that it is not enough to expose and deconstruct the way oppositions work and then stop there in a nihilistic or cynical position, "thereby preventing any means of intervening in the field effectively".[21] To be effective, deconstruction needs to create new terms, not to synthesize the concepts in opposition, but to mark their difference and eternal interplay. This explains why Derrida always proposes new terms in his deconstruction, not as a free play but as a pure necessity of analysis, to better mark the intervals. Derrida called undecidables, that is, unities of simulacrum, "false" verbal properties (nominal or semantic) that can no longer be included within philosophical (binary) opposition: but which, however, inhabit philosophical oppositions, resisting and organizing it, without ever constituting a third term, without ever leaving room for a solution in the form of Hegelian dialectics (e.g. différance, archi-writing, pharmakon, supplement, hymen, gram, spacing).[22]
I think here we can already see the many problems with this: this theory is really a dream for pathologicals to introduce their Newspeak and do away with tradition and common sense. This kind of theory produces confusion on a massive scale and as the name 'deconstruction' already implies, it is a destructive force rather than a creative one.

This becomes apparent in the endless confusion about terms that seems to charecterize postmodern discourse - everyone seems to misrepresent everyone, endless pointless discussions about who said what, words etc., culminating in the horrible word salad that Derrida-inspired disciplines like Gender studies produce.

At the end of the day, this theory seems deeply disturbing to me and the craziness we're seeing today seems directly related to this philosophical 'line of force': the destruction of the fabric of our thought, our tradition, our society. Someone posted this on facebook, which seems like the logical end result of such 'deconstruction':
 

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Mikey

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Windmill knight said:
I think Derrida was just making fun of people. And that's being kind to him, cause he could have also just found a clever way to make himself a name as a philosopher by duping people, i.e. he was a philosophical conman.
Here is the opinion of 18 professors at Cambridge about Derrida, discouraging his promotion to Dr. h. c. in no uncertain words:

https://courses.nus.edu.sg/course/elljwp/againstdsdegree.htm said:
Sir, The University of Cambridge is to ballot on May 16 on whether M. Jacques Derrida should be allowed to go forward to receive an honorary degree. As philosophers and others who have taken a scholarly and professional interest in M. Derrida's remarkable career over the years, we believe the following might throw some needed light on the public debate that has arisen over this issue.

M. Derrida describes himself as a philosopher, and his writings do indeed bear some of the marks of writings in that discipline. Their influence, however, has been to a striking degree almost entirely in fields outside philosophy -- in departments of film studies, for example, or of French and English literature.

In the eyes of philosophers, and certainly among those working in leading departments of philosophy throughout the world, M. Derrida's work does not meet accepted standards of clarity and rigour.

We submit that, if the works of a physicist (say) were similarly taken to be of merit primarily by those working in other disciplines, this would in itself be sufficient grounds for casting doubt upon the idea that the physicist in question was a suitable candidate for an honorary degree.

M. Derrida's career had its roots in the heady days of the 1960s and his writings continue to reveal their origins in that period. Many of them seem to consist in no small part of elaborate jokes and the puns "logical phallusies" and the like, and M. Derrida seems to us to have come close to making a career out of what we regard as translating into the academic sphere tricks and gimmicks similar to those of the Dadaists or of the concrete poets.

Certainly he has shown considerable originality in this respect. But again, we submit, such originality does not lend credence to the idea that he is a suitable candidate for an honorary degree.

Many French philosophers see in M. Derrida only cause for silent embarrassment, his antics having contributed significantly to the widespread impression that contemporary French philosophy is little more than an object of ridicule.

M. Derrida's voluminous writings in our view stretch the normal forms of academic scholarship beyond recognition. Above all -- as every reader can very easily establish for himself (and for this purpose any page will do) -- his works employ a written style that defies comprehension.

Many have been willing to give M. Derrida the benefit of the doubt, insisting that language of such depth and difficulty of interpretation must hide deep and subtle thoughts indeed.

When the effort is made to penetrate it, however, it becomes clear, to us at least, that, where coherent assertions are being made at all, these are either false or trivial.

Academic status based on what seems to us to be little more than semi-intelligible attacks upon the values of reason, truth, and scholarship is not, we submit, sufficient grounds for the awarding of an honorary degree in a distinguished university.

Yours sincerely,

Barry Smith
(Editor, The Monist)

Hans Albert (University of Mannheim), David Armstrong (Sydney), Ruth Barcan Marcus (Yale), Keith Campbell (Sydney), Richard Glauser (Neuchâtel), Rudolf Haller (Graz), Massimo Mugnai (Florence), Kevin Mulligan (Geneva), Lorenzo Peña (Madrid), Willard van Orman Quine (Harvard), Wolfgang Röd (Innsbruck), Karl Schuhmann (Utrecht), Daniel Schulthess (Neuchâtel), Peter Simons (Salzburg), René Thom (Burs-sur-Yvette), Dallas Willard (Los Angeles), Jan Wolenski (Cracow)
Internationale Akademie für Philosophie, Obergass 75, 9494S Schaan, Liechtenstein.
 

luc

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Data said:
Here is the opinion of 18 professors at Cambridge about Derrida, discouraging his promotion to Dr. h. c. in no uncertain words:
Thanks for sharing this, Data. In my experience, the view expressed by these philosophers is very widespread in philosophy departments - Derrida, Foucault, Sartres etc. are neither studied nor taught at universities except perhaps in niches. In fact, they aren't regarded as philosophers at all and are even ridiculed by some - same goes for Judith Butler and her ilk. Mainstream philosophy is usually about the classics as well as analytical philosophy, which emphasizes pure logic and linguistic analysis (the latter having influenced the postmodernists as well). That's probably why there is a notable exception when it comes to postmodernists: Richard Rorty, who is often described as a postmodernist philosopher (by Hicks as well), is discussed in academic philosophy.

In sociology, there seem to be two camps as far as I can see: one, in the tradition of Hans Albert (one of those who signed the letter quoted by Data), Popper etc., completely rejects and is even hostile towards postmodernism. The other camp preaches postmodernist ideas.

Interestingly, there have been attacks on academic philosophy by more postmodern-minded people, who for example want to abolish the obligatory courses in logic you have to take as a philosophy student and promote the discussion of postmodern thinkers.

Of course, the rejection of Derrida and other postmodernists by academic philosophy is seen as proof to the postmodernists that there is a power structure that fights these 'revolutionary' ideas :rolleyes:
 

obyvatel

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Mr. Premise said:
Interesting you mention that, because it seems like what's being done there is classic deconstruction, which was developed by Derrida a father of "postmodernism." From Wikipedia:

Jacques Derrida's 1967 work Of Grammatology introduced the majority of ideas influential within deconstruction.[13] According to Derrida and taking inspiration from the work of Ferdinand de Saussure,[14] language as a system of signs and words only has meaning because of the contrast between these signs.[15][16][17] As Rorty contends, "words have meaning only because of contrast-effects with other words...no word can acquire meaning in the way in which philosophers from Aristotle to Bertrand Russell have hoped it might—by being the unmediated expression of something non-linguistic (e.g., an emotion, a sense-datum, a physical object, an idea, a Platonic Form)".[18] As a consequence meaning is never present, but rather is deferred to other signs. Derrida refers to the — in this view, mistaken — belief that there is a self-sufficient, non-deferred meaning as metaphysics of presence. A concept then must be understood in the context of its opposite, such as being/nothingness, normal/abnormal, speech/writing, etc.[19][20]

Further, Derrida contends that "in a classical philosophical opposition we are not dealing with the peaceful coexistence of a vis-a-vis, but rather with a violent hierarchy. One of the two terms governs the other (axiologically, logically, etc.), or has the upper hand": signified over signifier; intelligible over sensible; speech over writing; activity over passivity, etc. The first task of deconstruction would be to find and overturn these oppositions inside a text or a corpus of texts. But the final objective of deconstruction is not to surpass all oppositions, because it is assumed they are structurally necessary to produce sense. They simply cannot be suspended once and for all. The hierarchy of dual oppositions always reestablishes itself. Deconstruction only points to the necessity of an unending analysis that can make explicit the decisions and arbitrary violence intrinsic to all texts.[21]

Finally, Derrida argues that it is not enough to expose and deconstruct the way oppositions work and then stop there in a nihilistic or cynical position, "thereby preventing any means of intervening in the field effectively".[21] To be effective, deconstruction needs to create new terms, not to synthesize the concepts in opposition, but to mark their difference and eternal interplay. This explains why Derrida always proposes new terms in his deconstruction, not as a free play but as a pure necessity of analysis, to better mark the intervals. Derrida called undecidables, that is, unities of simulacrum, "false" verbal properties (nominal or semantic) that can no longer be included within philosophical (binary) opposition: but which, however, inhabit philosophical oppositions, resisting and organizing it, without ever constituting a third term, without ever leaving room for a solution in the form of Hegelian dialectics (e.g. différance, archi-writing, pharmakon, supplement, hymen, gram, spacing).[22]
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Yes, but I think a true deconstructionist would be prepared to accept that their discourse would be subject to the same things.
From the above quote about deconstruction, I can surmise that such a deconstructionist world view (if it can be so-called) is in opposition to Gurdjieff's 4th Way world view. Without going into a discussion of which view is "the correct view", my question would be how can both be believed or even admitted as working hypothesis at the same time? Maybe that is a practical question to address at this stage?

[quote author=Mr Premise]
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That's true, and I think something changed between the first and second generations, whether ponerization or the law of octaves or it's embeddedness in academic politics and overall politics in the culture wars. To be clear, I don't consider myself a postmodernist I just think there are some good tools to be found in Derrida for thinking with a hammer. I think overall the influence of Foucault has been greater and may have more potential for ponerization.
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[/quote]

Maybe you can clearly state what tools you picked up from Derrida specifically that were helpful? Then it will be possible to examine if these tools were particular to Derrida's thinking/world view. Or it may be these tools are somewhat universal or common sense in nature and you first encountered them through Derrida which leads you to hold the view you have of him.
 

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Thanks for posting this video, T.C. It sums up very well my misgivings about Peterson's rants against postmodernism.

"postmoderism" is such a vague term as to render it meaningless. Which is appropriate I suppose given that what is termed "postmodernism" boils down to a rejection of any idea of overarching or objective meaning or truth, justified (by some) on the basis of the excesses and abuses that have been perpetrated and justified by those in positions of power (knowledge) with the claim that a certain thing or ideology or way of being and doing was the 'truth'.
 

Joe

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luc said:
Here is Wikipedia's (favorable, I might add) description of Deconstruction à la Derrida:

Wikipedia said:
Jacques Derrida's 1967 work Of Grammatology introduced the majority of ideas influential within deconstruction.[13] According to Derrida and taking inspiration from the work of Ferdinand de Saussure,[14] language as a system of signs and words only has meaning because of the contrast between these signs.[15][16][17] As Rorty contends, "words have meaning only because of contrast-effects with other words...no word can acquire meaning in the way in which philosophers from Aristotle to Bertrand Russell have hoped it might—by being the unmediated expression of something non-linguistic (e.g., an emotion, a sense-datum, a physical object, an idea, a Platonic Form)".[18] As a consequence meaning is never present, but rather is deferred to other signs. Derrida refers to the — in this view, mistaken — belief that there is a self-sufficient, non-deferred meaning as metaphysics of presence. A concept then must be understood in the context of its opposite, such as being/nothingness, normal/abnormal, speech/writing, etc.[19][20]

Further, Derrida contends that "in a classical philosophical opposition we are not dealing with the peaceful coexistence of a vis-a-vis, but rather with a violent hierarchy. One of the two terms governs the other (axiologically, logically, etc.), or has the upper hand": signified over signifier; intelligible over sensible; speech over writing; activity over passivity, etc. The first task of deconstruction would be to find and overturn these oppositions inside a text or a corpus of texts. But the final objective of deconstruction is not to surpass all oppositions, because it is assumed they are structurally necessary to produce sense. They simply cannot be suspended once and for all. The hierarchy of dual oppositions always reestablishes itself. Deconstruction only points to the necessity of an unending analysis that can make explicit the decisions and arbitrary violence intrinsic to all texts.[21]

Finally, Derrida argues that it is not enough to expose and deconstruct the way oppositions work and then stop there in a nihilistic or cynical position, "thereby preventing any means of intervening in the field effectively".[21] To be effective, deconstruction needs to create new terms, not to synthesize the concepts in opposition, but to mark their difference and eternal interplay. This explains why Derrida always proposes new terms in his deconstruction, not as a free play but as a pure necessity of analysis, to better mark the intervals. Derrida called undecidables, that is, unities of simulacrum, "false" verbal properties (nominal or semantic) that can no longer be included within philosophical (binary) opposition: but which, however, inhabit philosophical oppositions, resisting and organizing it, without ever constituting a third term, without ever leaving room for a solution in the form of Hegelian dialectics (e.g. différance, archi-writing, pharmakon, supplement, hymen, gram, spacing).[22]
Derrida sounds like a complete BS artist, a promoter of the subjective over the objective, the ramblings of the relativist mind over an interest in understanding the human condition and the truth that what affects one affects all, and therefore philosophy should be focused on improving the lot of ALL humans as a group, first by understanding the self, then human beings in general, and paying close attention to the direction in which human society is developing and whether or not it is a good direction.
 

Joe

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Approaching Infinity said:
Derrida should win a prize for wiseacring, because this is pure mental masturbation. Unending analysis, after which nothing is clearer and we are no closer to the truth.
No doubt, but I don't even think these people had any interest in finding the truth. As you said, pure mental masturbation for its own sake.

Derrida: "words only have meaning in the context of their opposites. No happy without sad." Wow! Thanks Derrida! :rolleyes:

Foucault: "Knowledge is intrinsically tied to power. When you know stuff that someone else doesn't know, you have power over them. Some people use this to their advantage and to the disadvantage of others." Wow! Thanks Foucault! :rolleyes: Can you both go away now?
 

Joe

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T.C. said:
A critique of the way Hicks' wrote the book and Jordan Peterson's blanket arguments against postmodernism:



I just think it serves as a nice reminder that the devil is always in the details and unless you have the ability to immerse yourself in a particular subject for a substantial length of time, leaving your biases at the door and thinking with a hammer, you can't really get to the bottom of it. And it's seductive when someone like Peterson - intelligent and with a talent for summing up complex ideas into painless, bitesized chunks - says, "Derrida believed x. Foucault said y. Postmodernism is z," and so on.
I watched this and the guy says pretty much nothing. It's like someone trying to nitpick someone else's argument that unicorns don't exist, while admitting that, "yeah, they don't exist, but ya know, the people you criticize for saying unicorns exist didn't actually say they exist, they just said that that if you deconstruct the word unicorn you realize that it can only exist in the context of an anti-unicorn."
 

mkrnhr

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Joe said:
T.C. said:
A critique of the way Hicks' wrote the book and Jordan Peterson's blanket arguments against postmodernism:



I just think it serves as a nice reminder that the devil is always in the details and unless you have the ability to immerse yourself in a particular subject for a substantial length of time, leaving your biases at the door and thinking with a hammer, you can't really get to the bottom of it. And it's seductive when someone like Peterson - intelligent and with a talent for summing up complex ideas into painless, bitesized chunks - says, "Derrida believed x. Foucault said y. Postmodernism is z," and so on.
I watched this and the guy says pretty much nothing. It's like someone trying to nitpick someone else's argument that unicorns don't exist, while admitting that, "yeah, they don't exist, but ya know, the people you criticize for saying unicorns exist didn't actually say they exist, they just said that that if you deconstruct the word unicorn you realize that it can only exist in the context of an anti-unicorn."
Exactly that. I searched through the text for the killer argument in favour of Postmodernism and there's simply none to be found. The whole thing is about whether Foucault or Derrida were Marxists or not, which is beside the point. It's just a peripherical detour that doesn't deal with the subject straight on. We have Postmodernism, what it stands for, and what effects and consequences it may have on people. The rest is useless technicalities nobody really cares about.
 

CdeSouza

The Force is Strong With This One
luc said:
The criticism I have is related to this 'compelling argument': the author basically sees the philosophical development of the West as a fight between English and German Enlightenment philosophy - the Germans being the bad guys of course :) He makes it look as if Kant's epistemology 'poisoned' the pure Anglo philosophers with a skeptical view of our ability to experience truth via our senses - Kant said we are restricted by our a priori make-up of our minds. The author then draws a line from Kant to the post-modernists who preach nihilism, relativism etc.
It's the French who are to blame! :lol:

Actually, it kind of is.

How French Intellectuals Ruined the West:

https://areomagazine.com/2017/03/27/how-french-intellectuals-ruined-the-west-postmodernism-and-its-impact-explained/
 

luc

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CdeSouza said:
It's the French who are to blame! :lol:

Actually, it kind of is.

How French Intellectuals Ruined the West:

https://areomagazine.com/2017/03/27/how-french-intellectuals-ruined-the-west-postmodernism-and-its-impact-explained/
That's an excellent article, thanks for the link CdeSouza!

Quotes:

The Encyclopaedia Britannica says postmodernism “is largely a reaction against the philosophical assumptions and values of the modern period of Western (specifically European) history” whilst the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy denies this and says “Rather, its differences lie within modernity itself, and postmodernism is a continuation of modern thinking in another mode.” I’d suggest the difference lies in whether we see modernity in terms of what was produced or what was destroyed. If we see the essence of modernity as the development of science and reason as well as humanism and universal liberalism, postmodernists are opposed to it. If we see modernity as the tearing down of structures of power including feudalism, the Church, patriarchy, and Empire, postmodernists are attempting to continue it, but their targets are now science, reason, humanism and liberalism. Consequently, the roots of postmodernism are inherently political and revolutionary, albeit in a destructive or, as they would term it, deconstructive way.
Indeed - postmodernism is a purely destructive force, and the more I read and think about it, the more apparent it becomes how incredibly pathological and dumb these ideas are.

Michel Foucault’s work is also centered on language and relativism although he applied this to history and culture. He called this approach “archeology” because he saw himself as “uncovering” aspects of historical culture through recorded discourses (speech which promotes or assumes a particular view). For Foucault, discourses control what can be “known” and in different periods and places, different systems of institutional power control discourses. Therefore, knowledge is a direct product of power. “In any given culture and at any given moment, there is always only one ‘episteme’ that defines the conditions of possibility of all knowledge, whether expressed in theory or silently invested in a practice.”[1]
So: Power structures influence the accumulation and spread of knowledge (duh!). Therefore: truth doesn't exist. Jesus!

Furthermore, people themselves were culturally constructed. “The individual, with his identity and characteristics, is the product of a relation of power exercised over bodies, multiplicities, movements, desires, forces.”[2] He leaves almost no room for individual agency or autonomy. As Christopher Butler says, Foucault “relies on beliefs about the inherent evil of the individual’s class position, or professional position, seen as ‘discourse’, regardless of the morality of his or her individual conduct.”[3] He presents medieval feudalism and modern liberal democracy as equally oppressive, and advocates criticizing and attacking institutions to unmask the “political violence that has always exercised itself obscurely through them.”
:(

We see in Foucault the most extreme expression of cultural relativity read through structures of power in which shared humanity and individuality are almost entirely absent. Instead, people are constructed by their position in relation to dominant cultural ideas either as oppressors or oppressed. Judith Butler drew on Foucault for her foundational role in queer theory focusing on the culturally constructed nature of gender, as did Edward Said in his similar role in post-colonialism and “Orientalism” and Kimberlé Crenshaw in her development of “intersectionality” and advocacy of identity politics. We see too the equation of language with violence and coercion and the equation of reason and universal liberalism with oppression.
There ya go!

“When I had occasion to ask her whether or not it was a fact that giraffes are taller than ants, she replied that it was not a fact, but rather an article of religious faith in our culture.”
Deterioration anyone?

The dangers of postmodernism are not limited to pockets of society which center around academia and Social Justice, however. Relativist ideas, sensitivity to language and focus on identity over humanity or individuality have gained dominance in wider society. It is much easier to say what you feel than rigorously examine the evidence. The freedom to “interpret” reality according to one’s own values feeds into the very human tendency towards confirmation bias and motivated reasoning.
Oh indeed! And I have witnessed these kinds of arguments again and again since I was a child in the 80's. These ideas have strangled humanity.

Our current crisis is not one of Left versus Right but of consistency, reason, humility and universal liberalism versus inconsistency, irrationalism, zealous certainty and tribal authoritarianism. The future of freedom, equality and justice looks equally bleak whether the postmodern Left or the post-truth Right wins this current war. Those of us who value liberal democracy and the fruits of the Enlightenment and Scientific Revolution and modernity itself must provide a better option.
Yep.
 

Pashalis

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Joe said:
As you said, pure mental masturbation for its own sake.
That's actually the thought that came to my mind on quite a number of occasions when I was reading Hicks book, in regards to quite a number of those "philosophers" and what they had to say. It reminds me strongly about what Gurdjieff has said about people who engage purely in mental "titillation" and wiseacring, and even worse, then try to influence others on that purely intellectual basis that lacks so much other information:

Gurdjieff in "Beelzebub's Tales to his Grandson" said:
Professional writers usually begin such introductions with an address to the reader full of all kinds of bombastic, magniloquent, and so to say "honeyed" and inflated phrases. In this alone I shall follow their example and also begin with an "address to the reader," but I shall try not to make it as sugary as they usually do with their evil wiseacring, by which they titillate the sensibilities of the more or less normal reader.
If I'm not mistaken, Gurdjieff also generally warned rather explicitly that there are people out there who are really good in such mental titillations and are so convinced about their own illusions there, that their influence on human beings in general can be pretty disastrous and lead to evils, like the distruction of the seeds for growth in human beings, wars and genocide and worse.
 

Yas

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One thing that I've been thinking is that this argument about "he really didn't mean that, he was just trying to create some controversy, etc..." is the easy argument for anyone who does not want to take responsibility for what they say. I see it a lot in people who are particularly keen on postmodernism. They throw in an idea, call you this or that for saying something (e.g. you are a racist, patriachalist, hegemonistic, etc...) and then when you point out some logical contradictions in their arguments they say that they weren't even trying to be logical and were just creating controversy against the structure so that you could deconstruct your own thinking and realize how influenced you are by the power structures and how you are sooo "obedient" and serving the system and so on so forth...

This brings me to an idea that is key to the Scientific Method that was put forward by Popper; the idea that scientific theories MUST be refutable, which means that there is the possibility that they aren't true. And basically what you do when you apply the scientific method is to try to demonstrate that a thesis is true. This is why, when we do a "scientific project" at school, we have to put the hypothesis as an affirmation (it is possible that it is true) or a negation (it is possible that it isn't true). What Popper said is that when a theory fails at this first stage, then it can't be called scientific but pseudo-scientific instead. What postmodernists do is basically to create endless arguments that can never be refuted because whatever you say is influenced by something else (e.g. the power structure) and therefore you're argument is invalid to their "logic".... but so are theirs, anyways. And that's the point, it's endless controversy that has no interest whatsoever in finding the truth or any practical solution to a problem at hand. And I think that's the key when trying to identify this way of thinking; truth is unimportant to them.

I also think that on both sides there are extremes. I mean in the modernist-positivist thought and in the postmodernist thought, and I think that some people can tend to go to black and white thinking on both sides of this particular debate. I would not defend postmodernism in any way, yet, there are some ideas that are put into that bag that can be useful. For example, Hicks said that Kant was an anti-realist because he said that we can't know the reality itself because there are preconceived "categories" that are intrinsic to our experience and therefore alter the way in which we necessarily perceive reality. True. But Kant also said that it is utterly important that there exists a reality in itself that can be intelligible somehow, by transcendental logic or metaphysics, for instance, or other mechanisms of thought that aren't directly related to our normal experience. And he was concerned about truth and a moral code based on reason that could be applied universally, I think. So I think that some of his ideas are to be taken into consideration and there is indeed some truth in them, as it is with other philosophers. The key thing is, IMHO, if we are capable of becoming close to some kind of truth or not, and that's what the postmodernist reject and that's what brings nihilism into their adherents, OSIT. Basically, nothing really matters because there's no point to anything.

Just to be sure, my point is not to discuss if Kant (or whoever) was an anti-realist or not. That's a semantic discussion and of the endless kind. :P What I want to say is that some of the "suspicion" that reason or empiricism isn't everything and that there is more than meets the eye in this reality, and even that there's a lot that is indeed subjective and influenced by culture and power structures, is all valid, IMO. The problem is that these people took it too far to the point of denying the existence of objectivity, instead of seeing it as information about our perception and cognition that can probably help us find a way to find the truth if we all try to figure our reality together, for example, considering that we have indeed a subjectivity that can alter our perception. They basically took the easy and comfortable way out of the puzzle...

luc said:
That being said, I think Peterson's perspective and message is far more interesting and important right now than the presentation in the video. Peterson presents a 'line of force' that is present in what we might call postmodernism that is deeply pathological and dangerous, the results of which we can see today. But he doesn't leave it at that; he offers a spiritual perspective that is very nuanced and effective, and he brings together science and religion, which is so desperately needed right now.

It's important to point out as well that Peterson's thought is far more advanced IMO than the arguments in Hicks' book or your run-of-the-mill 'Enlightenment fan' or 'science preacher' or 'new atheist'. His thoughts about epistemology for example are fascinating and deep and often run counter the narrative Hicks presents.
Yes, I agree. Hicks' book is very good and interesting so far, but I think that Peterson's work in this regard is better because he goes beyond the usual philosophical debate and tries to find some practical applications for these ideas and their implications. And also, what you said, he brings in a spiritual, transcendental aspect which is fascinating indeed.
 

Laura

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It's interesting that, while all this postmodernism philosophy was taking over so many academic fields, the "You create your own reality" meme was spreading like wildfire in New Age land. The ideas appear to be rather equivalent. If they can't get you one way, they get you another.
 

Mikey

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Regarding postmodernism and science: Witness the Sokal affair, today more pertinent than ever:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sokal_affair

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sokal_affair said:
The Sokal affair, also called the Sokal hoax, was a scholarly publishing hoax perpetrated by Alan Sokal, a physics professor at New York University and University College London. In 1996, Sokal submitted an article to Social Text, an academic journal of postmodern cultural studies. The submission was an experiment to test the journal's intellectual rigor and, specifically, to investigate whether "a leading North American journal of cultural studies – whose editorial collective includes such luminaries as Fredric Jameson and Andrew Ross – [would] publish an article liberally salted with nonsense if (a) it sounded good and (b) it flattered the editors' ideological preconceptions".

The article, "Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity", was published in the Social Text spring/summer 1996 "Science Wars" issue. It proposed that quantum gravity is a social and linguistic construct. At that time, the journal did not practice academic peer review and it did not submit the article for outside expert review by a physicist. On the day of its publication in May 1996, Sokal revealed in Lingua Franca that the article was a hoax.

The hoax sparked a debate about the scholarly merit of humanistic commentary about the physical sciences; the influence of postmodern philosophy on social disciplines in general;

Background

In an interview on the U.S. radio program All Things Considered, Sokal said he was inspired to submit the bogus article after reading Higher Superstition (1994), in which authors Paul R. Gross and Norman Levitt claim that some humanities journals would publish anything as long as it had "the proper leftist thought" and quoted (or was written by) well-known leftist thinkers.

Gross and Levitt had been vocal defenders of the scientific realist camp of the "science wars", opposing postmodernist academics who questioned scientific objectivity. They asserted that anti-intellectual sentiment in liberal arts departments (and especially in English departments) caused the rise of deconstructionist thought, which eventually led to a deconstructionist critique of science. They saw the critique as a "repertoire of rationalizations" for avoiding the study of science.

Article

Sokal reasoned that, if the presumption of editorial laziness was correct, the nonsensical content of his article would be irrelevant to whether the editors would publish it. What would matter would be ideologic obsequiousness, fawning references to deconstructionist writers, and sufficient quantities of the appropriate jargon. Writing after the article was published and the hoax revealed, he stated:

The results of my little experiment demonstrate, at the very least, that some fashionable sectors of the American academic Left have been getting intellectually lazy. The editors of Social Text liked my article because they liked its conclusion: that "the content and methodology of postmodern science provide powerful intellectual support for the progressive political project" [sec. 6]. They apparently felt no need to analyze the quality of the evidence, the cogency of the arguments, or even the relevance of the arguments to the purported conclusion.
"Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity" proposed that quantum gravity has progressive political implications, and that the "morphogenetic field" could be a cutting-edge theory of quantum gravity (a morphogenetic field is a concept adapted by Rupert Sheldrake in a way that Sokal characterized in the affair's aftermath as "a bizarre New Age idea"). Sokal wrote that the concept of "an external world whose properties are independent of any individual human being" was "dogma imposed by the long post-Enlightenment hegemony over the Western intellectual outlook".

After referring skeptically to the "so-called scientific method", the article declared that "it is becoming increasingly apparent that physical 'reality'" is fundamentally "a social and linguistic construct".

Media coverage and Jacques Derrida

As Sokal revealed the hoax, the French philosopher Jacques Derrida was initially one of the targets of discredit in the United States, particularly in newspaper coverage.

Sociological follow-up study

In 2009, Cornell sociologist Robb Willer performed an experiment in which undergraduate students read Sokal's paper and were told either that it was written by another student or that it was by a famous academic. He found that students who believed the paper's author was a high-status intellectual rated it higher in quality and intelligibility.
 
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