Shakeshaft: postmodernism doesn’t make any sense- and that’s the point
Lepore: strongly disagree with you my friend. postmodern philosophy is a useful tool for thinking critically and remaining skeptical.
Shakeshaftthat: sounds more like modernism, enlighten me…
Tierney: Oh the ethics of postmodern thinking… If it wasn’t damn near midnight, I’d throw my hat into this one (against postmodernism, FWIW)
Lepore: the constant (and hopeless, i suppose) search for ‘meaning’ facilitates a constant reshaping and sharpening of one’s values. the postmodern man can never be satisfied, and that’s a good thing. he never settles.
Shakeshaft: Right. Here are my problems with this. 1. The presupposition that the search for meaning is constant and hopeless goes against itself, for, it is in itself a fact statement and is therefore neither ongoing nor hopeless; it is static.
2.Reshaping and sharpening of values is allright. My small scope of history informs me that this process exists in every age. Even religious fundamentalists undergoe great changes (i.e. Protestant Reformation). Aristotle, certainly not a postmodernist, taught his pupils that the mark of an education is to entertain a thought without accepting it. So I don’t think this ^ is really getting at postmodernism yet….
3.He never settles- now there’s the rub! And I think this captures postmodernism pretty well. It is the result (as far as I can tell) of two things. One, the rejection of cause-and-effect logic and two, two devestating world wars. Without beating to death the tautology again (how can you “settle” on “not settling”?) I reiterate my critique of postmodernism’s abandonment of cause and effect thinking. I’m not as learned in philosophy as you, but an abandonment of this logical tool seems unrealistic, and unscientific.
Lepore: to clarify: 1. the search for absolute and eternal meaning is hopeless. this does not mean that we cannot interpret and understand language description of phenomena. By describing postmodernism the way I did, I formally indicated a description on which we can now effectively discourse. This is a way of entering into the world, and i must say, it is a requirement for us if we are to live in the world ‘properly’. It is possible for us to discourse because our existences’ are more or less equiprimordial with eachothers’ (we grew up speaking english, learning a similar mythology etc.) through this discourse, we can communicate in a meaningful, albeit unstable way. ex. if i say “miles davis is a cool cat”, there are multiple ways you can interpret that sentence; know what i’m sayin’?
2. The differences between Martin Heidegger and Martin Luther are vast, and though Iam unable to speak much about this, my money is definitely on this position. further, by arguing that part of our western intellectual history is comparable to postmodernism, you do not prove that postmodernism ‘makes no sense’. you actually strengthen the position of postmodernism with your quote from old reliable aristotle.
3. I refuse to accept that postmodernism is merely a response to two world wars. If anything the two world wars are a response to postmodern thinking gone horribly wrong. the position is not one of relativism, as you suggest. It is one of temporary satisfaction and uncontrollable abandonment . A mediated skepticism about cause and effect is enough to see you can proceed through the world, endowed as we are with the power of freewill- which as perhaps someone else can show, is compatible with postmodernism.
“I knew a Buddhist once, and I’ve hated myself ever since. The whole thing was a failure. He was a priest of some kind, and he was also extremely rich. They called him a monk and he wore the saffron robes and I hated him because of his arrogance. He thought he knew everything.
One day I was trying to rent a large downtown property from him, and he mocked me. ‘You are dumb’ he said. ‘You are doomed if you stay in this business. The stupid are gobbled up quickly.’ ‘I understand’ I said. ‘I am stupid. I am doomed but I think I know something you don’t.’ He laughed. ‘Nonsense’ he said. ‘You are a fool. You know nothing.’ I nodded respectfully and leaned closer to him, as if to whisper a secret. ‘I know the answer to the greatest riddle of all,’ I said. He chuckled. ‘And what is that?’ he said. ‘And you’d better be right, or I’ll kill you.’
‘I know the sound of one hand clapping,’ I said. ‘I have finally discovered the answer.’ Several other Buddhists in the room laughed out loud, at this point. I know they wanted to humiliate me, and now they had me trapped – because there is no answer to that question. These saffron bastards have been teasing us with it forever. They are amused at our failure to grasp it.
Ho ho, I went into a drastic crouch and hung my left hand low, behind my knee. ‘Lean closer,’ I said to him. ‘I want to answer your high and unanswerable question.’ As he leaned his bright bald head a little closer into my orbit, I suddenly leaped up and bashed him flat on the ear with the palm of my left hand. It was slightly cupped, so as to deliver maximum energy on impact. An isolated package of air is suddenly driven through the Eustachian tube and into the middle brain at quantum speed, causing pain, fear and extreme insult to the tissue.
The monk staggered sideways and screamed, grasping his head in agony. Then he fell to the floor and cursed me. ‘You swine!’ he croaked. ‘Why did you hit me and burst my eardrum?’ ‘Because that,’ I said, ‘is the sound of one hand clapping. That is the answer to your question. I have the answer now, and you are deaf.’ ’Indeed’ he said. ‘I am deaf, but I am smarter. I am wise in a different way.’ He grinned vacantly and reached out to shake my hand. ‘You are welcome,’ I said. ‘I am after all a doctor.’ “
I think there are four great motives for writing, at any rate for writing prose. They exist in different degrees in every writer, and in any one writer the proportions will vary from time to time, according to the atmosphere in which he is living. They are:
(i) Sheer egoism. Desire to seem clever, to be talked about, to be remembered after death, to get your own back on the grown-ups who snubbed you in childhood, etc., etc. It is humbug to pretend this is not a motive, and a strong one. Writers share this characteristic with scientists, artists, politicians, lawyers, soldiers, successful businessmen — in short, with the whole top crust of humanity. The great mass of human beings are not acutely selfish. After the age of about thirty they almost abandon the sense of being individuals at all — and live chiefly for others, or are simply smothered under drudgery. But there is also the minority of gifted, willful people who are determined to live their own lives to the end, and writers belong in this class. Serious writers, I should say, are on the whole more vain and self-centered than journalists, though less interested in money.
(ii) Aesthetic enthusiasm. Perception of beauty in the external world, or, on the other hand, in words and their right arrangement. Pleasure in the impact of one sound on another, in the firmness of good prose or the rhythm of a good story. Desire to share an experience which one feels is valuable and ought not to be missed. The aesthetic motive is very feeble in a lot of writers, but even a pamphleteer or writer of textbooks will have pet words and phrases which appeal to him for non-utilitarian reasons; or he may feel strongly about typography, width of margins, etc. Above the level of a railway guide, no book is quite free from aesthetic considerations.
(iii) Historical impulse. Desire to see things as they are, to find out true facts and store them up for the use of posterity.
(iv) Political purpose. — Using the word ‘political’ in the widest possible sense. Desire to push the world in a certain direction, to alter other peoples’ idea of the kind of society that they should strive after. Once again, no book is genuinely free from political bias. The opinion that art should have nothing to do with politics is itself a political attitude.