We get the term “postmodern,” at least in its current, philosophical sense, from the title of Jean-François Lyotard’s 1979 book, “The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge.” It described the state of our era by building out Lyotard’s observations that society was becoming a “consumer society,” a “media society” and a “postindustrial society,” as postmodern theorist Fredric Jameson points out in his foreword to Lyotard’s book. Lyotard saw these large-scale shifts as game-changers for art, science and the broader question of how we know what we know. This was a diagnosis, not a political outcome that he and other postmodernist theorists agitated to bring about.Another thinker, Jean Baudrillard, developed the concept of the “simulacrum,” a copy without an original, that leads to the “hyperreal,” a collection of signs or images purporting to represent something that actually exists (such as photos of wartime combat) but ultimately portraying a wild distortion not drawn from reality... By the 1980s, conservative scholars like Allan Bloom — author of the influential “The Closing of the American Mind” — challenged postmodern theorists, not necessarily for their diagnosis of the postmodern condition but for accepting that condition as inevitable... Unlike so many of today’s critics, Bloom understood that postmodernism didn’t emerge simply from the pet theories of wayward English professors. Instead, he saw it as a cultural moment brought on by forces greater than the university... Bloom was particularly worried about students — as reflections of society at large — pursuing commercial interests above truth or wisdom. Describing what he saw as the insidious influence of pop music, Bloom lamented “parents’ loss of control over their children’s moral education at a time when no one else is seriously concerned with it.” He called the rock music industry “perfect capitalism, supplying to demand and helping create it,” with “all the moral dignity of drug trafficking.”.. Kimball called “Tenured Radicals,” in his 1990 polemic against the academic left. At the heart of this accusation is the tendency to treat postmodernism as a form of left-wing politics — with its own set of tenets — rather than as a broader cultural moment that left-wing academics diagnosed... it treats Lyotard and his fellows as proponents of a world where objective truth loses all value, rather than analysts who wanted to explain why this had already happened... If you’re going to claim that Trumpism and alt-right relativism are consequences of the academic left’s supposition about what was happening, you must demonstrate a causal link. But commentators looking to trace these roots play so fast and loose with causality that they could easily be called postmodernist themselves... It is certainly correct that today’s populist right employs relativistic arguments: For example, “identity politics” is bad when embraced by people of color, but “identitarianism” — white-nationalist identity politics — is good and necessary for white “survival.” But simply because this happens after postmodernism doesn’t mean it happens because of postmodernism.. figures such as “intelligent design” theorist Phillip Johnson and conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich cite the influence of postmodernist theory on their projects. Yet, as McIntyre acknowledges — and documents extensively in his book — right-wing think tanks and corporate-backed fronts — like tobacco industry “research” — had already established an “alternative facts” program for the right, long before creative misinformation entrepreneurs came around... because reading postmodern theory is so notoriously difficult — partly because of how philosophical jargon gets translated, and partly because so much of the writing is abstruse and occasionally unclarifiable — an undergraduate (as in Cernovich’s case) or a layperson will almost inevitably come away with misreadings... Hannah Arendt’s 1951 “The Origins of Totalitarianism”: “The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction . . . and the distinction between true and false . . . no longer exist.”.. “The deliberate falsehood and the outright lie used as legitimate means to achieve political ends,” writes Arendt in her 1971 essay “Lying in Politics ,” “have been with us since the beginning of recorded history.”.. Fredric Jameson’s reflections on conspiracy theory (“the poor person’s cognitive mapping in the postmodern age”) aren’t what’s convincing people to believe that climate change is a hoax or that the Democratic Party has been running a pedophilia ring out of a Washington pizza parlor.
.. Likewise, the claim that the Trump-Russia investigation is — as Trump said on national television — a “made-up story,” an “excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election,” is not a postmodernist critique of the evidence the Mueller investigation has gathered. So it’s a massive category error to call Trump’s post-truth politics “postmodernist.” It’s just the say-anything chicanery of the old-fashioned sales pitch... it’s clear that the real enemy of truth is not postmodernism but propaganda, the active distortion of truth for political purposes.Trumpism practices this form of distortion on a daily basis. The postmodernist theorists we vilify did not cause this; they’ve actually given us a framework to understand precisely how falsehood can masquerade as truth.
Postmodernism presents a threat not only to liberal democracy but to modernity itself. That may sound like a bold or even hyperbolic claim, but the reality is that the cluster of ideas and values at the root of postmodernism have broken the bounds of academia and gained great cultural power in western society. The irrational and identitarian “symptoms” of postmodernism are easily recognizable and much criticized, but the ethos underlying them is not well understood. This is partly because postmodernists rarely explain themselves clearly and partly because of the inherent contradictions and inconsistencies of a way of thought which denies a stable reality or reliable knowledge to exist.
.. They underlie the problems we see today in Social Justice Activism, undermine the credibility of the Left and threaten to return us to an irrational and tribal “pre-modern” culture.
.. It drew on avant-garde and surrealist art and earlier philosophical ideas, particularly those of Nietzsche and Heidegger
.. Above all, postmodernists attacked science and its goal of attaining objective knowledge about a reality which exists independently of human perceptions which they saw as merely another form of constructed ideology dominated by bourgeois, western assumptions
.. The modern era is the period of history which saw Renaissance Humanism, the Enlightenment, the Scientific Revolution and the development of liberal values and human rights; the period when Western societies gradually came to value reason and science over faith and superstition as routes to knowledge, and developed a concept of the person as an individual member of the human race deserving of rights and freedoms rather than as part of various collectives subject to rigid hierarchical roles in society.
.. 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
.. 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.
.. postmodernism are inherently political and revolutionary, albeit in a destructive or, as they would term it, deconstructive way.
.. He defined the postmodern condition as “an incredulity towards metanarratives.” A metanarrative is a wide-ranging and cohesive explanation for large phenomena. Religions and other totalizing ideologies are metanarratives in their attempts to explain the meaning of life or all of society’s ills.
.. For Foucault, discourses control what can be “known” and in different periods and places, different systems of institutional power control discourses.
.. “The individual, with his identity and characteristics, is the product of a relation of power exercised over bodies, multiplicities, movements, desires, forces.” He leaves almost no room for individual agency or autonomy.
.. 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.”
.. 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.
.. We see too the equation of language with violence and coercion and the equation of reason and universal liberalism with oppression.
.. Derrida’s best-known pronouncement “There is no outside-text” relates to his rejection of the idea that words refer to anything straightforwardly. Rather, “there are only contexts without any center of absolute anchoring.” 
.. Therefore the author of a text is not the authority on its meaning. The reader or listener makes their own equally valid meaning
.. Man” is positive and ‘woman’ negative. “Occident” is positive and “Orient” negative. He insisted that “We are not dealing with the peaceful co-existence of a vis-a-vis, but rather with a violent hierarchy.
.. Deconstruction, therefore, involves inverting these perceived hierarchies, making “woman” and “Orient” positive and “man” and “Occident” negative. This is to be done ironically to reveal the culturally constructed and arbitrary nature of these perceived oppositions in unequal conflict.
.. We see in Derrida further relativity, both cultural and epistemic, and further justification for identity politics.
.. There is an explicit denial that differences can be other than oppositional and therefore a rejection of Enlightenment liberalism’s values of overcoming differences and focusing on universal human rights and individual freedom and empowerment.
.. The intention of the speaker is irrelevant. What matters is the impact of speech. This, along with Foucauldian ideas, underlies the current belief in the deeply damaging nature of “microaggressions” and misuse of terminology related to gender, race or sexuality.
.. intense sensitivity to language on the level of the word and a feeling that what the speaker means is less important than how it is received, no matter how radical the interpretation.
.. Morality is culturally relative, as is reality itself.
.. Empirical evidence is suspect and so are any culturally dominant ideas including science, reason, and universal liberalism. These are Enlightenment values which are naïve, totalizing and oppressive, and there is a moral necessity to smash them. Far more important is the lived experience, narratives and beliefs of “marginalized” groups all of which are equally “true” but must now be privileged over Enlightenment values to reverse an oppressive
.. we are at a unique point in history where the status quo is fairly consistently liberal, with a liberalism that upholds the values of freedom, equal rights and opportunities for everyone regardless of gender, race and sexuality. The result is confusion in which life-long liberals wishing to conserve this kind of liberal status quo find themselves considered conservative and those wishing to avoid conservatism at all costs find themselves defending irrationalism and illiberalism.
.. Whilst the first postmodernists mostly challenged discourse with discourse, the activists motivated by their ideas are becoming more authoritarian and following those ideas to their logical conclusion. Freedom of speech is under threat because speech is now dangerous. So dangerous that people considering themselves liberal can now justify responding to it with violence. The need to argue a case persuasively using reasoned argument is now often replaced with references to identity and pure rage.
.. one wonders why Derrida bothered to explain the infinite malleability of texts at such length if I could read his entire body of work and claim it to be a story about bunny rabbits with the same degree of authority.
.. If I judge that tennis balls do not fit into wine bottles, can you show precisely how it is that my gender, historical and spatial location, class, ethnicity, etc., undermine the objectivity of this judgement?”
.. “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.”
.. There is something very odd indeed in the belief that in looking, say, for causal laws or a unified theory, or in asking whether atoms really do obey the laws of quantum mechanics, the activities of scientists are somehow inherently ‘bourgeois’ or ‘Eurocentric’ or ‘masculinist’, or even ‘militarist.’”
.. Despite this, science as a methodology is not going anywhere. It cannot be “adapted” to include epistemic relativity and “alternative ways of knowing.”
.. The social sciences and humanities, however, are in danger of changing out of all recognition.
.. Empirical historians are often criticized by the postmodernists among us for claiming to know what really happened in the past
.. Christopher Butler recalls Diane Purkiss’ accusation that Keith Thomas was enabling a myth that grounded men’s historical identity in “the powerlessness and speechlessness of women” when he provided evidence that accused witches were usually powerless beggar women. Presumably, he should have claimed, against the evidence, that they were wealthy women or better still, men.
.. Shakespeare’s audience’s would not have found Desdemona’s attraction to Black Othello, who was Christian and a soldier for Venice, so difficult to understand because prejudice against skin color did not become prevalent until a little later in the seventeenth century when the Atlantic Slave Trade gained steam
.. Postmodernist thought sees the culture as containing a number of perpetually competing stories, whose effectiveness depends not so much on an appeal to an independent standard of judgement, as upon their appeal to the communities in which they circulate.”
.. the far-Right is now using identity politics and epistemic relativism in a very similar way to the postmodern-Left.
.. sections of academia and of the left have in recent decades helped create a culture in which relativized views of facts and knowledge seem untroubling, and hence made it easier for the reactionary right not just to re-appropriate but also to promote reactionary ideas.”
.. making itself harder for reasonable people to support.
.. we need to out-discourse the postmodern-Left. We need to meet their oppositions, divisions and hierarchies with universal principles of freedom, equality and justice.
.. We must address concerns about immigration, globalism and authoritarian identity politics currently empowering the far- Right rather than calling people who express them “racist,” “sexist” or “homophobic” and accusing them of wanting to commit verbal violence. We can do this whilst continuing to oppose authoritarian factions of the Right who genuinely are racist, sexist and homophobic,
Come on, as technologists, hn readers cant seriously favor structuralism over post modern thinking.
To put it in CS terms: structuralists would think that general AI would be obtained by coding expert systems. Structuralists were the ones who believed the semantic web would work. That as engineers, we could write a structure, a schema, a program, that would underlie all things and ideas in the universe.
This of course has been quite a failure. The bottom up approach to AI, which appeared with neural networks, is deeply postmodern. It assumes that all experience is relative and that human intelligence grasps with reality in a reflexive way. reacting to stimuli rather than building a unique model of the world that would fit all situations.
You may say that post modern philosophy is written in a hard way, but it cant be denied that there are a lot of people here who are postmodern without knowing it!
.. You realize that most academic philosophers in the US and other English-speaking countries share your attitude toward post-modernism, right? TFA even points out the divide. You must have gone to a program with a “traditional” philosophy department, perhaps in Europe?Most university philosophy departments in the US focus on logic, analytic philosophy, philosophy of science, cognitive science, etc, etc. I can’t even think of a single philosopher at my university’s department who would have done anything but chuckle at post-modernism. In fact, it was a philosophy prof who told me about the book “Fashionable Nonsense”.
From the article:
“Outside France, the dominant philosophical school was analytic philosophy. A broad church, its foundations had initially been articulated by, among others, Bertrand Russell, GE Moore and the early works of Wittgenstein. Founded on the notion of conceptual clarity, analytic philosophy (in its crudest form) regards philosophy as a branch of the sciences, often subservient to the natural sciences, or at best continuous with them. It proposes that through the logical analysis of philosophical propositions, the basic questions of existence can be clarified, and possibly solved.”
So why would you generalize all philosophers into the bucket of post-modernism? Many of the founders of modern analytic philosophy were mathematicians: Russell, Frege, Whitehead, Peirce, etc.
.. The rationalists say that a major purpose of language is to communicate facts about the world.The postmodernists say: “What are ‘facts’? What is ‘world’?”
So with facts gone and the real world gone, that leaves only one purpose for language, for saying anything at all: to get others to do what you want them to do. (This is a simplification of Wittgenstein’s “language-games” of the form of e.g., the Builders’ Game.)
I’ve always maintained that Derridean postmodernism is, in actuality, a form of long-form trolling whose main purpose was to provoke traditional philosophers by baffling them or getting them to fruitlessly debate the propositions. In this it’s sort of a language-game: Derrida produced words, and the philosophers reacted in just the way he intended them to when he wrote the words. Whether it was for his own amusement, to show those stiff-necked rationalists that they’re not immune to cognitive or deductive traps, or whatever — who knows? But the interesting bit is that trolling survives as a valid intention for Derrida to produce the philosophy he did, whether or not he took his own propositions seriously (though if he did, he would have to consider whether the academics he was trolling existed just in his own head).
.. Postmodernists deny the reality of shared, objective truths, then try to begin a dialogue requiring what’s just been denied.