Tag Archives: postmodernism

Is realism colorless reductionism?

Realism that has been described as colorless reductionism I call your colourful additionalism*. My move is a kind of Ockham’s Razor and partly Zen Buddhism. I was taught that some things are unnecessary.

*Mix of American and British spelling fully intended.

Of the mind

Once and for all I shall rid myself of absolutes. Not in the real sense for absolutes firstly do not exist other than in the mind. To say in mind is to give it substance for which is has not. Such is the power of language. Of the mind is better but still not adequate.

Without the process of thought there is no idea or concept of absolute. For it to be conceived is for it to be thought. In this sense Descartes is right – I think therefore I am. And for Berkeley to be is to be perceived is a leap of faith too far in my opinion.

The notions of rationality and idealism are in the end notions of process not notions of corporeal things. As much as ideas are in language countable they are nowhere to be found. Neither are their minds independent of the very metaphorical machines that produce them.

The unexperienced reality is no different from the experienced one. I can say then that the mind produced by the body is as much part of the reality that it inhibits. But I cannot say that it exists outside of the process that produces it. The Rylean categorical mistake is thus to believe something exists because it is named.

The objectification of non-things

Unless a concept is turned into an object – a noun – we cannot talk about it. We cannot escape the the idea of it being an “it”. Notice the countability of “it”. This move or ability to convert a concept into a countable, tangible thing is one of the most powerful and useful tools to us – the human being. It defines us and at times separates us from other beings. So much so, that it may elevate us about gods or even God. This is not a new idea. Nietzsche had said so much with the phrase “God is dead”. But let us go further and talk about what it is like where God may be talked about in the past tense, to be able to talk about a time when God was alive. The fact that God was, is and will be yet is only ever discussed in terms of the present or presence (as it were) should set off critical and philosophical alarm bells.  Fundamentally, we must see through the power (and weakness) of language which had once moved us forward but is now holding us back.

No direct access to anything, inside or out

Following partially Berkeley’s conclusion, Hume also concluded that we have no access to the thing-in-itself. It is always indirect knowledge. It is always the representation. Schopenhauer concluded that we have access to one special thing – the self. It being so, this being the will, as opposed to representation. But I will contend that the will is also secondhand access.

Like the things “outside” we can know it only through sense perception. The self “inside” is also known only through sense and perception. The feelings and emotions are only ever representations themselves.

Two things, then. There is no direct access to anything, including to the self. And secondly, there is strictly nothing to be inside or outside.

Stop the modern loop with postmodernism

Year after year I end up defending postmodernism first from hostility and second from misunderstanding. It isn’t really my job, nor am I the most qualified (far from it) to be doing this. But I agree with a lot with what postmodernism has to offer.

Last year, I had to defend against truth. Truth it was claimed to be out there, pure and obvious. Universal Grammar, modules and Language Acquisition Devices are like this kind of truth. That there is a brain, and that many creatures have it, I will not argue with. I will even agree with there being part of the brain that is especially good at language. But that anything outside of that – for example, language – is universal would mean that we should have the same concepts and forms for these. The fact is we don’t.

Language is a general and ordinary physical process in the same manner as vision is a process of the body. To see does not require exact identical machinery. Just as bees have differently structured eyes, spiders with their array, or rainbow mantises with their colour range, we human beings have a system that is unique to us. It solves a common problem to all sentient things – that of knowing how to relate to things in space.

Returning to postmodernism, it attempts to describe the nature of the world, including our own nature as a human being thing. It describes how we operate, as though we are in conflict with one another. In a way we are. Survival of the fittest, perhaps. But by not fearing we may have another way (not a better way) of surviving. Postmodernism is saying that rather than sounding like broken record forever looping we should fix the scratch and get on with the rest of the song. In other words, postmodernism is a way to move forward from centuries of repetition.

But this repetition isn’t accidental. It was a consciously (or at best subconsciously) perpetuated one. The strategy is one called by Lyotard a metanarrative or grandnarrative. In order to maintain a perceived advantageous position one uses a narrative which eliminates all objection. Not only this but also does so without drawing attention to the fact that is doing so. Broadly speaking, we can term this kind of strategy modernism.

Modernism hasn’t disappeared. Postmodernism wasn’t meant to replace it. It was never its intention to do so. Postmodernism owes much to modernism. It is indebted to it, and for this reason postmodernism includes modernism in its term. For without pointing out the strategy and tactics employed by modernism, postmodernism would not be necessary.

Postmodernism happily operates within a system of difference, while modernism operates a system for hiding differences. Postmodernism is like the YouTuber telling you how tricks are done. Modernism is like the magician keeping up the illusion of no illusion. But just to be sure, both are making money from you.

An object is an object is an object; the world is the world is the world.

No matter what (pun intended) an object is an object. Be this a single atom, a group of atoms, a non-sentient cluster, a sentient cluster, or any other way an object can be.

I am not even talking qualities, but only existence or being. Unobserved, objects are just objects. The world (or reality) is just is, or simply, the world is.

I am not promoting anthropocentrism. But any differentiation discerned is done by a sentient (in the “sense” sense; again pun intended) object. We should neither privilege nor disparage it, because an object is an object is an object. I would be more than happy to let a rock philosophise. And I am sure a rock couldn’t care less that I can philosophise either. So let it be and let us get on with philosophy.

On Music

We are surrounded by culture, that is, we are surrounded by people. In various ways we express ourselves, and we recognise these expressions. We express ourselves because we recognise others will recognise our expression. Communication is a vicious or un-vicious circle, depending on who you ask. And music is but one of the many ways of expressing ourselves as human beings.

I wasn’t born in the eighth-century. I wasn’t even born in the 19th century. My time is the late-twentieth-century. I heard disco. I heard new wave. I heard pop. I listened to post-punk. I clubbed. I read Smash Hits and Face. I even read iD and watched a bit of Top of the Pops. I didn’t have complete control of my musical environment. I took in what was there. This was what was there.

Musical “taste” is different for everyone. No two people have the exact same music experience. Like everything else, we must necessarily see things differently. My favourite song can only come from what I have heard. We can try to have as wide a music experience as possible but we can never have the entire music experience. It isn’t even worth trying, unless you do so as a professional. I cannot imagine the knowledge of someone like Ryuichi Sakamoto or Mozart. My knowledge of music is limited to pleasure.

As I said, my Top 10 songs can only come from what I have heard, what I know. And sometimes it is not worth expanding your knowledge.

Think of your musical knowledge as objects filling a room. At some point not much more can fit into it. We loathe to throw these things out. They “do the job”. They bring joy and sometimes sadness. Anger even. They belong to the history of me, the owner of this room.

Sometimes someone asks you to listen to this or that. But I already have the love songs to remind me of long past romances and present loves (plural because love is not for one but many: wife, child, parents). The newly introduced song, without sounding cold, means nothing to me. It reminds me of no one (except for the introducer) and no time except (for the present). But that song must mean everything to that introducer. And that song is all that matters. That is his or her song.

My room is filled. That person’s room may not be. He or she may be only starting to fill theirs. And yet others like you may also have filled rooms like yours. Finding people with similar rooms is a near impossible and almost futile task.

Sometimes I would like to take out a particular song and play it. But why I chose that song to play is never clear. But once it starts it would bring back memories of the past, of people, places, and time. The associations are specific to me. It is immediately clear in the sense that I enjoy those memories, but would require much explanation to all others who do not have privileged access. That is the meaning of being me, and the meaning of others.

Temptation by New Order.

Forty years have passed. But the days I would listen to this song are vivid to me, at least the general atmosphere, light, feelings. Joy. Discovery. Freedom. It is by no means a great song, but it reminds of all those things mentioned and more. It reminds of my friend to whom I had played it and it please me that he liked it too. That feeling is all that matters and mattered. And as I listen to it now as I write this, those same feelings return.

I will stress again this point – it doesn’t matter who has heard or likes the song, only what it means to you. The link to the past is so important that everything else matters not. Perhaps if you take that link away the song will no longer have that power over me.

In some ways it would be a mental assault. Reality would be changed in a way which would hurt greater than perhaps physical pain. This point I cannot confirm but only imagine to be so. Even imagining this now is painful and it has not even happened. Such is the intensity of music, and of experience in general.