Sunday, February 17, 2008

Tapping Topic: Postmodernism

"I believe the emergence of postmodernism is closely related to the emergence of this new movement of late consumer or multinational capitalism. I believe also that it's formal features in many ways express the deeper logic of this particular social system. I will only be able, however, to show this for one major theme: namely the disappearance of a sense of history, the way in whihc our entire contemporary social system has little by little begun to lose its capacity to retain its own past, has begun to live in a perpetual present and in a perpetual change that obliterates traditions of the kind which all earlier social information have had, in one way or another, to preserve. think only of the media exhaustion of news: of how Nixon, and more so, Kennedy, are figures from a now distant past. One is tempted to say that the very function of the news media is to relegate such recent historical experiences as rapidly as possible into the past. The informational function of the media would thus be to help us forget, to serve as the very agents and mechanisms for our historical amnesia."
-Fredric Jameson, The Cultural Turn: Selected Writings on Postmodernism.

"Science has always been in conflict with narratives. Judged by the yardstick of science, the majority of them prove to be fables. But to the extent that science does not restrict itself to stating useful regularities and seeks the truth, it is obligated to legitmate the rules of its own game. It then produces a discourse of legitimation with respect to its own status a discourse called philosophy. I will use the term modern to designate any science that legitimates itself with reference to a meta discourse of this kind making an explicit appeal to some grand narrative, such as the dialectics of spirit, the hermeneutics of meaning, the emancipation of rational or working subjects, or the creation of wealth...
Simplifying this to the extreme, I define postmodern as incredulity towards meta narratives. This incredulity is undoubtedly a product of progress in the sciences: but that progress in turn presupposes it... The narrative function is losing its functors, its great hero, its great dangers, its great voyages, its great goal. It is also being dispersed in clouds of narrative language elements, narrative, but also denotative, prescriptive, descriptive, and so on... Each of us lives at the intersection of many of these."
-Jean-Francois Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge

"Postmodernism is among other things a sick joke at the expense of revolutionary avant-gardism. "
-Terry Eagleton

Rob: "What's this week's topic?"
Me: "Postmodernism."
Rob: "Boring."

And so the dreaded Postmodernism revealed its ugly head at Tapping Philosophy, where groans ensued, and the eyes of back into their respective heads, where they would lay for some time. So what is Postmodernism? Jameson seems to assert that it is the cultural superstructure of late capitalism, where Lyotard situates the postmodern in the epistemological encounter of the language game of scientific legitmation against narratives. The word tends to get thrown around in a derogatory manner in some circles, while in others it is exalted. Does postmodernism completely trash modernism, or simply reveal content that was already latent within modern thought? If the first is the case, what is good about postmodernism, and why would it be a helpful critical framework? We should question the historical nearness of postmodernism. Hasn't the age of modernity resulted in untold progress across civilizational boundaries? If it reveals already latent content, why even use the distinction in the first place? What events in history have occurred that might precipitate such a disjunction between science and narrative, and is it possible to repair this disjunction within the postmodern epistemological framework? Would such a repair even be desirable as the possible return to a modern epistemology? What are the consequences of postmodernism, and does postmodernism call for anything, or is it simply critical or descriptive?

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