Friday, May 19, 2006

Postmodernism

I have a question for my small audience. Is there anyone who truly understands the meaning of postmodernism? I know no other term that within the definition it says that this is a hard word to define. But there it is hovering over all of us as a defining point of our way of thinking. More of a defining point of our generation. It seems impossible to get rid of because of it having no real position. And why do I feel there is a need of getting rid of it? That is simple, there is nothing positive about it. It shifts with all positions, because its position is that there is no "right" and "wrong"; there is only the moment, or only an opinion. At least that is what I understand of it. Knowing that it is hard to define, I will give in to the possibility that I might be mistaken. All I know is that it is something the sucks beauty from art and meaning from philosophy. What I find sacred, with postmodernism turns simply into a cultural querk or a "point of view". It really gives a hollowness to everything, because there can only be what you are thinking now. There is nothing else.

If I am going about this in the right way I will go further with my questioning. How can people stand for this? How can people fall into this trap? To me it seems that the political correctness of today is greatly related to postmodernism. No one can say to a group, "what you are doing is wrong." Political correctness has the stance that morals are relative and that we have no place to judge. Where else could this have come from other than postmodernism? There are so many people that simply go along with this. I have to admit that I am silent on issues most of the time simply from fear of being berated. I have also always wanted to see myself as "openminded". One thing I always have to keep in mind is that it is one thing to be openminded, but something entirely different to be moral relativist. You can hear all views, but what means do you have to judge by if you lack the belief in "right" and "wrong"?

But it is wrong to think that there is this objective morality to postmodernism. I would think that belief in objective morality, more of a belief in God could do away with this... this... philosophy. But maybe not. Would you consider this continuing division of faith and personalizing of faith to be part of postmodernism? There is the belief in God, but it is more of a belief of God "on my terms". I can't tell how many times I have heard someone say that they believe in God, but they do not believe in any organized religion. I know many Catholics that pick and choose at what beliefs they wish to go by. Maybe I'm not too far off from them myself since I did not get married in the Catholic church. But then, how far off is Catholicism from postmodernism since it has accepted marriages of other faiths as valid?

I feel myself writing into a disorienting series of of facts and questions. All I've been thinking of is how to define and categorize postmodernism. It seems like that is critical in moving past it. But then again, maybe postmodernism is simply a product of globalization that cannot be moved past until we continue on to the next stage of human development. It survives on the fact that all cultures believe that they are right, and that there is none superior over another. But maybe in the last sentence is the answer to the end of postmodernism. The idea that there is one group out there that has it right. There is a possibility that there are cultures inferior to others. Why is that so wrong?

God help me I'd continue on this if I weren't so tired and disoriented right now. This emerged from a conversation in the car. Now I need sleep and peace of mind.... Well, at least sleep. I am sorry for the spelling, grammer and other nonsense that might appear in the post. As I said, I need sleep. Good night, or good morning:)

3 comments:

Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

El, I first encountered the concept of “post modern” when I was in seminary, probably around the time you were born. To me, it primarily refers to a distinction and statement that the “modern” era —a terminology developed in the late 19th Century to distinguish those times beginning in the mid-18th Century from “Antiquity” (pre-Enlightenment) are over. I understand the “modern era” as having begun with the European Enlightenment and ended about the time of the Second World War ended.

The Enlightenment—and thus Modernity—centered on humanism. People could control their own fate and were not dependent upon the capacious nature of gods. Science and rational thinking replaced mythos with logos. The modern paradigm was used to justify and explain virtually all of our social structures and institutions, including democracy, law, science, ethics, and aesthetics and was essentially about order about creating order out of chaos

Following the chaos of the second great militaristic catastrophe of the 20th Century—World War II and the development and use of nuclear weapons that seemed destined to destroy all humankind and the earth itself—philosophers began to question that Modern paradigm. Modernity had not created order out of chaos, but rather a chaos more destructive and malevolence than the world had ever known before. For all of the great benefits of science, it had also created “weapons of mass destruction” that could lead to the end of human civilization. Democracy—"Libert√©, Egalit√©, Fraternit√©"—had degraded itself into Facism.

For the paradigm of Modernity to work, there always had to be disorder/chaos to be transposed into order. In Western societies, this disorder was generally described as anything that was non-white, non-male, non-heterosexual, non-hygienic, non-rational, etc. Thus, to again use the example of the Fascist movements, they were male, heterosexual, extremely hygienic, and very rational.

The stance of post-modernity has been that the elements of modernity have to be tempered by the elements of antiquity. This, the male must be tempered by the female, law must be tempered by justice, science must be tempered by story, etc. Primarily, post-modernity calls for mythos to balance logos. Scientific knowledge is not enough; we must also have narrative and story. So Jean-Francis Lyotard can argue that science/knowledge cannot be an end to itself; the must be mythos—the grand narrative—to guide the use of knowledge. Likewise, Fredric Jameson writes that "history is only accessible to us in narrative form.”

This means to me that where the Nazis used bad “science” to partly justify the extermination of Jews, Gypsies, and other “inferior” peoples, and we Americans used “science” (the superiority of Western culture) to justify the genocide of Native Americans, if that science had been tempered by an understanding of the story/mythos of these peoples, the malevolence would not have happened.

That’s enough! I have already written much more than I had intended. Still, I have enjoyed the process! Thanks for the opportunity to engage my brain!

Jay said...

I think the problem with labels like that is that they try to generalize too much and just end up confusing people as to their exact meaning. The truth is, they're pretty worthless as an effort to categorize.

Anastasia said...

it is fairly typical that people gravely misunderstand the meaning of subjectivity. To say something is subjective is not to dismiss is as unimportant. It's descriptive. Everything is located and every point of view has a historical trajectory. That's as opposed to it being "natural" or self-evidently "true." I don't think acknowledging subjectivity means doing away with truth. It simply means reconcpetualizing what constitutes truth and how truth becomes truth. That sort of thing.

but calling something subjective in this sense is not the same as saying "that's just an opinion."