I do like postmodernism. It was the staple of late twentieth-century intellectualism and thought. I don’t particularly think it was saying anything new. Others have noticed what postmodernism was saying. But it said it differently, and in a more appealing less confrontational way.
When postmodernism says nothing is truly sacred, it means everything operates from the standpoint of its difference to all other things. Sometimes Man stands in contrast to animal. Man with a big ‘M’ may even stand uppercase man. And man often stands against woman. But really there is only these series of differences. Nothing has meaning in itself.
Science, religion, and philosophy are ordinary activities, and not beyond analysis. One can think of the idea of paradigm put forward by Thomas S Kuhn as an example of science. Atheism and agnosticism as examples of religious analysis. And Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations as a meta-philosophical analysis.
For philosophy to be reflexive is important. Any ideas to truth-claims are dangerous and need to be carefully analysed and understood in order not to fall into complacency. One’s own self-righteousness leads to not only metaphorical blindness but generally ends in conflict. The only shared world there is the physical one. Mental ones rely on it, not the other way around.
It would be very wrong to think we are objective beings able to be absolutely impartial. No amount of trying will we ever reach complete objectivity. We view everything from the very bodies we inhabit never being able to leave it as much as we believe we can. Imagining that we do is of course possible but in reality that imagined objectivity is coloured by the entire experience of being who I am. To exactly know who or what I am is an impossible project. We must not exactly give up on this but to let the mystery be just that, an eternal mystery. Only then we will be content and be able to move on. To accept that we contain and never cease to perform value-judgements is the first step to move on to understanding ourselves, others and other things. We must always ask what are our values and how did we arrive at them. Only then can some of the problems of the world can be, like a band-aid to temporarily cover a wound, imperfectly solved. We can only hope for band-aids. We should celebrate the band-aids.
I love looking at the moon. I love watching it slowly change from a full moon to a new moon. I love half and crescent moons also. But they are all the same moon in different light.
By observing the moon and watching it change I can confirm that it is indeed a sphere. By looking at the shadows I can point to the direction of the sun, and infer its location relative to us.
But why should the moon be spherical? The more we look out there the more we realise that the other planets are spherical as well. So maybe the planet we live on is as well.
That thought probably prompted man to sail away from the coasts and literally venture out into open waters. The evidence increasingly pointed to the world as being round, or at least not being flat.
This also prompted us to think about how and why things do not fall off a round-edged world into whatever is beyond the horizon. Perhaps everything is falling into the centre – gravity. Eureka! All problems solved.
The fact is we have observed, with our own eyes, the planets and planetary satellites out there, and they are not flat but round. Things don’t fall off the planets because they are round. And the Earth is not special. It is not flat. And we, human beings, are not special. The world neither figuratively nor literally revolve around us, just as the Sun does not revolve around the Earth. It is only ignorance and arrogance that makes us think the planet and us are special. And sometimes people are kept ignorant for reasons of maintaining this power and control over them. This is not unlike the flat-earthers’ narrative that the Sun revolves around the flat Earth, all the while telling you that you are their Sun.
Modernist movements believed their own movement could replace all others, that there was no question of their perfection, and no question of their progress.
Postmodernism, on the other hand, believed they owed their existence to Modernism, that perfection was impossible, and they were no better than or worse than the Modernism that came before them.
While Modernism believed it was internally consistent and readily self-definable, Postmodernism saw itself as play and a system of difference.
Not many people know it but Michel Foucault had (at least) a public and private face. I will not elaborate. But perhaps it is only important to remember that we are protean in nature. Everyday we play many roles. Most are chosen. Some are not. Many, you may see. Others are unnoticed, camouflaged or outright hidden from you.
The Image is so ubiquitous today that it has numbed us, that is, until we see the unfamiliar image which we usually call Art. In this sense, it is unnecessary to worry about The Image’s overusage since this actually gives all the more Art its strength.
We are memories. Some memories stay with you more than others. That is just how life works.
I had read Terry Eagleton’s book Literary Theory during my postgraduate years. The one takeaway message from it I got was that nothing is value-judgement free. Not only did Eagleton explain this clearly but he also showed what his position was without hiding it as some others often do. Postmodernism is about being transparent about your values, and about being honest to yourself about these values. For Eagleton, his position is a socialist one, that we should be doing things for the greater good of all. But he is honest about the fact that it is a position and it has flaws like anything else.
Unlike Eagleton, Francis Fukuyama held that Communism was wrong and that the collapse of the Soviet Union is proof of this. For Fukuyama, capitalism must be right because of its continuation. From Eagleton’s standpoint neither are correct. Both are a flawed as each other. But nonetheless we must take a position because that is all we can do.
Not too long ago at the start of the Twentieth-century we still believed that it is possible to be objective. And still today some (not not many) continue to believe so. The difference is that now people are unashamedly taking subjective positions which are clearly flawed and selfish and that is all “thanks” to Postmodernism. For better or worse everything can be taken out of context and appropriated for its own end. And it is still the duty of Postmodernism to point this out.