Monday, March 12, 2007

Post 700: Postmodernism vs. Modernism. Which Philosophical Fashion Is Right For Me?

There’s nothing I can intelligently add to a discussion of postmodernism. Fortunately, in my role as Assistant Village Idiot, I do have an important perspective often missing from the debate: blinking in astonishment at the obvious being overlooked.

Whenever anyone says anything in favor of postmodernism, opponents will claim they are not talking about real postmodernism and are hiding what they really mean to make it look innocuous.

Whenever anyone says anything against postmodernism, pomos will claim that their opponents are not talking about real postmodernism and are confusing it with something else to make it look evil.


AVI observations: So, whatever you say about postmodernism, you’re wrong. How convenient for everyone. But what an advantage for me! If whatever I say, I’m going to be wrong, that’s my natural habitat.


Modernists believe in objectivity, absolute truth, and absolute stuff in general, according to the postmodernists. Postmodernists believe everything is entirely subjective, that truth is entirely local and relative, and relativity in general, according to the modernists. Lots of both dislike religion: the modernists because of its uncertainty, the postmodernists because of its certainty.

AVI observations: I think I’m seeing a pattern here. But back in the village, I hear modernist hard-science engineering types freely acknowledge, with no pressure from pomos whatsoever, that sometimes perspective matters and situations change. Yet the people who make the most frequent absolutist statements are the pomos, who are humanities and soft-science fuzzy types.

Modernists don’t like to examine their assumptions, their perspective, their meta-narratives. However, they can do it if they have to. They do like to examine everything else. Postmodernists love to examine their assumptions, perspectives and meta-narratives. They just never get around to examining their social, sexual, political, and religious assumptions. They do get around to examining yours.


AVI observations: So postmodernism is mostly just an attitude of condescension about what everyone else believes, plus a very serious look on your face that shows you are thinking very hard. Your aim is to seem deep.

Modernism, on the other hand, is mostly just an attitude of skepticism about what everyone else believes, plus a very serious look on your face that shows you are thinking very hard. Your aim is to seem precise.

Both get to keep the default beliefs of their class, generation, and training without having to examine them in the slightest. So long as a few of you do the examination honestly, the rest you can merely appear to.

In conclusion, both modernism and postmodernism make great fashion accessories for your personality. Choosing between them will depend on the look you are going for.

7 comments:

Dr. Jim Jones said...

"Postmodernists love to examine their assumptions, perspectives and meta-narratives. They just never get around to examining their social, sexual, political, and religious assumptions. They do get around to examining yours."

This is a great post. I have a question however. Since "pomo's" question everything (and you are correct in that regard) isn't it impossible for them to have a meta-narrative?

Actually make that two questions. And, based on the assumption it is impossible to have a meta-narrative if everything is in doubt, doesn't that explain the chaos most on the left call thought?

Just askin'

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Answer: "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain."

Steve said...

Great topic.

I think that in practical usage most practitioners mix and match these two philosophies pragmatically. A postmodernist will use facts, data, and 'truth' when he feels the need. A modernist will make the irrational jump to values and judgments when he feels them necessary.

These are not opposites, but family members with the same genetic defect.

As Dr. Jones says, 'chaos called thought.'

Bugs said...

The "fashion accessory" comment was precisely on target. There is a tendency for people to ornament themselves with things that they believe make them superior to others. Clothing, hair, and jewelry are some of the external ornaments. Taste in music or art and political beliefs are some of the internal ones. This is not to say that everyone's political beliefs are mere fashion statements - but many peoples' are precisely that. They would be embarrassed to be seen in public wearing anything other than their Republican or Democrat duds.

Jerub-Baal said...

Hmmm....

...this is precisely why I prefer to think of myself as a Classicist (or Classical Liberal).


Then again, you might be of the opinion that what I think I am and what I am may not be in alignment.

Having a clear self-view is rather like trying to have an accurate idea of the shape of your nose. You can never be sure if you are right until you have some kind of mirror to provide an external viewpoint.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Well, we're all in agreement here, anyway. Which is either a very good sign or a very bad one.

Bugs said...

Well, Johah Goldberg says if we're really democratic we should be going at each other like poo-flinging monkeys.

Anybody want to go first?