Postmodern philosophy is a philosophical movement that arose in the second half of the 20th century as a critical response to assumptions allegedly present in modernist philosophical ideas regarding culture, identity, history, or language that were developed during the 18th-century Enlightenment. Postmodernist thinkers developed concepts like difference, repetition, trace, and hyperreality to subvert “grand narratives,” univocity of being, and epistemic certainty. Postmodern philosophy questions the importance of power relationships, personalization, and discourse in the “construction” of truth and world views. Many postmodernists appear to deny that an objective reality exists, and appear to deny that there are objective moral values.
Jean-François Lyotard defined philosophical postmodernism in The Postmodern Condition, writing “Simplifying to the extreme, I define postmodern as incredulity towards metanarratives,” where what he means by metanarrative is something like a unified, complete, universal, and epistemically certain story about everything that is. Postmodernists reject metanarratives because they reject the concept of truth that metanarratives presuppose. Postmodernist philosophers in general argue that truth is always contingent on historical and social context rather than being absolute and universal and that truth is always partial and “at issue” rather than being complete and certain.
Postmodern philosophy is often particularly skeptical about simple binary oppositions characteristic of structuralism, emphasizing the problem of the philosopher cleanly distinguishing knowledge from ignorance, social progress from reversion, dominance from submission, good from bad, and presence from absence. But, for the same reasons, postmodern philosophy should often be particularly skeptical about the complex spectral characteristics of things, emphasizing the problem of the philosopher again cleanly distinguishing concepts, for a concept must be understood in the context of its opposite, such as existence and nothingness, normality and abnormality, speech and writing, and the like.
Postmodern philosophy also has strong relations with the substantial literature of critical theory.
The philosopher John Deely has argued that the controversial claim of the “postmodern” label to thinkers like Derrida and others is premature insofar as the so-called postmodernists rigorously follow the modern tendency of rigorous idealism, it is more an ultramodernism than anything else. A postmodernism that lives up to its name, therefore, should not be confined more in the postmodern concern with “things” not with the modern imprisonment in the “ideas”, but should reach an agreement with the form of the signs incarnated in the semiotic doctrines of thinkers such as the Portuguese philosopher John Poinsot and the American philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce. 4Write Deely,
The age of Greek and Latin philosophy was based on a precise sense of “being”: the existence exerted by things independently of human apprehension and attitude. The much shorter period of modern philosophy was based more on the instruments of human knowledge, but in a certain way that compromised being unnecessarily. At the end of the 20th century, there is a reason to believe that a new philosophical era was emerging with the new century, promising to be the richest time for human understanding. The postmodern era has positioned itself to synthesize at a higher level – the level of experience, where the being of things and the activity of the finite acquaintance mutually interpenetrate and provide the materials from which one can derive the knowledge of nature and the knowledge of culture in its total symbiosis – the achievements of the ancients and the moderns in a way that gives full credit to the concerns of both. The postmodern era has as its distinctive task in philosophy the exploration of a new path, not the old way of things or the new way of ideas, but the path of signs, by means of which the peaks and the valleys Ancient and modern thinking can be examined and cultivated by a generation that has even more peaks to climb and valleys to find.
Many postmodern claims are a deliberate repudiation of certain 18th-century Enlightenment values. Such a postmodernist believes that there is no objective natural reality, and that logic and reason are mere conceptual constructs that are not universally valid. Two other characteristic postmodern practices are a denial that human nature exists, and a (sometimes moderate) skepticism toward claims that science and technology will change society for the better. Postmodernists also believe there are no objective moral values. Thus, postmodern philosophy suggests equality for all things. One’s concept of good and another’s concept of evil are to be equally correct, since good and evil are subjective. Since both good and evil are equally correct, a postmodernist then tolerates both concepts, even if he or she disagrees with them subjectively. Postmodern writings often focus on deconstructing the role that power and ideology play in shaping discourse and belief. Postmodern philosophy shares ontological similarities with classical skeptical and relativistic belief systems, and shares political similarities with modern identity politics.
The Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy states that “The assumption that there is no common denominator in ‘nature’ or ‘truth’… that guarantees the possibility of neutral or objective thought” is a key assumption of postmodernism. The National Research Council has characterized the belief that “social science research can never generate objective or trustworthy knowledge” as an example of a postmodernist belief. Jean-François Lyotard’s seminal 1979 The Postmodern Condition stated that its hypotheses “should not be accorded predictive value in relation to reality, but strategic value in relation to the questions raised”. Lyotard’s statement in 1984 that “I define postmodern as incredulity toward meta-narratives” extends to incredulity toward science. Jacques Derrida, who is generally identified as a postmodernist, stated that “every referent, all reality has the structure of a differential trace”. Paul Feyerabend, one of the most famous twentieth-century philosophers of science, is often classified as a postmodernist; Feyerabend held that modern science is no more justified than witchcraft, and has denounced the “tyranny” of “abstract concepts such as ‘truth’, ‘reality’, or ‘objectivity’, which narrow people’s vision and ways of being in the world”. Feyerabend also defended astrology, adopted alternative medicine, and sympathized with creationism. Defenders of postmodernism state that many descriptions of postmodernism exaggerate its antipathy to science; for example, Feyerabend denied that he was “anti-science”, accepted that some scientific theories are superior to other theories (even if science itself isn’t superior to other modes of inquiry), and attempted conventional medical treatments during his fight against cancer.
Philosopher John Deely has argued for the contentious claim that the label “postmodern” for thinkers such as Derrida et al. is premature. Insofar as the “so-called” postmoderns follow the thoroughly modern trend of idealism, it is more an ultramodernism than anything else. A postmodernism that lives up to its name, therefore, must no longer confine itself to the premodern preoccupation with “things” nor with the modern confinement to “ideas,” but must come to terms with the way of signs embodied in the semiotic doctrines of such thinkers as the Portuguese philosopher John Poinsot and the American philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce. Writes Deely,
The epoch of Greek and Latin philosophy was based on being in a quite precise sense: the existence exercised by things independently of human apprehension and attitude. The much briefer epoch of modern philosophy based itself rather on the instruments of human knowing, but in a way that unnecessarily compromised being. As the 20th century ends, there is reason to believe that a new philosophical epoch is dawning along with the new century, promising to be the richest epoch yet for human understanding. The postmodern era is positioned to synthesize at a higher level—the level of experience, where the being of things and the activity of the finite knower compenetrate one another and provide the materials whence can be derived knowledge of nature and knowledge of culture in their full symbiosis—the achievements of the ancients and the moderns in a way that gives full credit to the preoccupations of the two. The postmodern era has for its distinctive task in philosophy the exploration of a new path, no longer the ancient way of things nor the modern way of ideas, but the way of signs, whereby the peaks and valleys of ancient and modern thought alike can be surveyed and cultivated by a generation which has yet further peaks to climb and valleys to find.
Common characteristics and differences
Birth and growth
Postmodern philosophy refers to a set of critical studies carried out between the 1950s and the 1970s or even 1980s, which partly reject the universalist and rationalist tendencies of modern philosophy, or seek to distance themselves from them in order to better analyze them. It applies to works and movements that inherit the great thinkers of suspicion from the end of XIX th and early XX th centuries (Marx, Nietzsche, Freud and Heidegger) aspost-structuralism, deconstruction, multiculturalism, and part of the theory of literature, which are especially skeptical of the traditional deployment of discourse in philosophy, literature, politics, science, etc.
Critical attitude and concepts
Postmodern work in general breaks with the reign of subject and reason, and the European philosophical and ideological traditions inherited from the Age of Enlightenment, such as the quest for a universal rational system found in Kantism or Hegelianism. It is in this sense that Jacques Derrida has suggested to deconstruct what he calls “logocentrism”, that is to say the primacy of reason over everything “irrational”, the reason s usually arrogating the right to define “irrationality”and reject it. This logocentrism is also, according to Derrida, an ” ethnocentrism ” (primate not only of reason, but also of “western” reason). It becomes ” phallogocentrism “: the primacy of reason, of logos, is also the primacy of the masculine.
Postmodern philosophies are also wary of dichotomies (binary opposition) that dominate the metaphysics and humanism West, such as the opposition between true and false, body and spirit, society and individual freedom and determinism, presence and absence, domination and submission, male and female. These assumptions of Western thought are attacked to put into place a thought of nuance, difference or subtlety.
Moreover, postmodern philosophers (notably Foucault and Agamben) emphasize the importance of power relations in the formation of the discourse of an era, and the personalization of discourse in the construction of ” truth ” and universally accepted opinions.
The idea of a postmodern philosophy essentially took shape thanks to the United States, in particular by reading a set of French authors, whose corpus of ideas remains identified under the term ” French Theory “.
“A” philosophy of difference
The first philosophers who influenced postmodern philosophy were Jean-François Lyotard, Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze and Jacques Derrida. For although they do not claim it, even reject this trend, they would have, according to Alex Callinicos, “helped to create the intellectual atmosphere in which it could flourish”.
If we note that these philosophers are placed in very different perspectives, they share a fundamental concept: the differences (Foucault, Deleuze), the difference (Derrida), the dispute (Lyotard). The concept of difference, thought differently by these authors and therefore not calling into question their specific differences, nevertheless has the common core of avoiding all objectivation, of placing oneself in the horizon of life and meaning themselves.
Gilles Deleuze: the differences
The difference Deleuze was mainly due to a reflection from the eternal return Nietzsche and multiplicity Bergson. According to Philippe Sergeant, “Deleuze thought an” irreducible difference in dialectical opposition “». In his Nietzsche and Philosophy (1962), Deleuze attempts to play Nietzsche against the Hegelian dialectic, that is to say, to think of a difference that never resolves itself in the logos, the rationality, the concept; a difference that escapes the “work of the negative”, which is pure positivity and plurality.
Jacques Derrida: the Differ has nce
The Differ has nce Derrida draws on two major sources, which are not the same as Deleuze and are even those which Deleuze opposes most: the text Identity and Difference of Heidegger (in Questions I and II, gallimard, 1990), and the dialectic opposite in Hegel and Schelling. Indeed, Derrida’s attempt to think the process of Differ has nce, that is to say both the differentiation that creates the differences, and differin the temporal sense, is in line with the attempts of Schelling, Heidegger, then Battle (concept of sovereignty), to think this difference, this absolute negativity that would exceed the Hegelian system, not outside or against it system (outside), but inside, inside itself. Hegel remains nevertheless, according to Derrida, the model of this attempt and temptation to think the difference within the philosophical logos itself:
” it is perhaps necessary that philosophy assume this equivocity, think it and think of itself in it, that it welcomes duplicity and difference in speculation, in the very purity of the philosophical sense. No one more deeply than Hegel has, it seems to us, tried. ”
Derrida, Writing and Difference, “Violence and Metaphysics”, Seuil, 1967, p.166
Philippe Sergeant asserts that “Derrida suspected” the dialectical opposition “as the” irreducible difference of thought “, in a formula which opposes the spirit of deleuzism, but which makes it equivalent to it, which corresponds to it. the other side of the difference: Deleuze and Derrida’s actions would complement each other as well as they oppose, they would have a common “goal”, similar objectives, starting from different premises. Any real difference, refers to the true difference: there would finally be a contradiction only between philosophies that affirm the same, that claim to reach the truth;identical, in the manner of Hegel), the “difference”, would come together.
Derrida is also the inventor of deconstruction: he practices philosophy as a form of textual criticism. He criticizes the fact that Western philosophy privileges the concept of presence and the logos, which manifest the speech, rather than the absence and the trace, that the writing expresses. Thus, Derrida claims to deconstruct logocentrism, arguing, for example, that the Western ideal of present logos is undermined by the expression of this ideal in the form of marking by an absent author. Thus, to emphasize this paradox, Derrida reformalised human culture as a disjointed network of markings and proliferating writings of which the author is absent.
The main purpose of deconstruction is to reveal (and thus also to hide, to hide from objectivizing reason that which can not be objectified) the difference that opens the space of meaning (and nonsense) in any text that claims to coherence and reduction in the same – dialectical reduction – differences, conceptual oppositions.
Jean-François Lyotard: the dispute
Lyotard’s writings are largely concerned with the role of storytelling in human culture, and particularly with the way this role has changed when we left modernity to enter a “post-industrial” or post-modern condition. Lyotard argues that modern philosophies legitimize their claim to truth not on logical or empirical bases (as they themselves claimed), but rather on accepted histories (or “metanarratives”) about knowledge and the world – what Wittgenstein called ” language games ” “. Lyotard also argues that, in our postmodern state, these metanarratives no longer make it possible to legitimize these “pretensions to the truth”. The question that arises is how to make judgments when there is no rule of judgment that can be appealed. This is the obvious inability of victims to be heard. He suggests that, as a result of the collapse of modern metanarrations, men develop a new language game, a game that does not claim the absolute truth but rather glorifies a world of ever-changing relationships (relationships between people, between people and the world).
Michel Foucault: the singularity of the episteme
Foucault approaches postmodern philosophy in a historical perspective, based on structuralism, but at the same time rejects the latter by reshaping history and destabilizing the philosophical structures of Western thought. It also examines the processes by which knowledge is determined and modified through the exercise of power.
Though Derrida and Foucault are cited as postmodern philosophers, each has rejected many of the opinions of the other. Like Lyotard, both are skeptical about absolute truth or claims to universal truths. Unlike Lyotard, however, they are (or seem) rather pessimistic about the liberating claims of any new language game. This is why some Would call them post-structuralist rather than postmodernist.
Postmodern philosophy originated primarily in France during the mid-20th century. However, several philosophical antecedents inform many of postmodern philosophy’s concerns.
It was greatly influenced by the writings of Søren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche in the 19th century and other early-to-mid 20th-century philosophers, including phenomenologists Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger, psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, structuralist Roland Barthes, Georges Bataille, and the later work of Ludwig Wittgenstein. Postmodern philosophy also drew from the world of the arts and architecture, particularly Marcel Duchamp, John Cage and artists who practiced collage, and the architecture of Las Vegas and the Pompidou Centre.
Early postmodern philosophers
The most influential early postmodern philosophers were Jean Baudrillard, Jean-François Lyotard, and Jacques Derrida. Michel Foucault is also often cited as an early postmodernist although he personally rejected that label. Following Nietzsche, Foucault argued that knowledge is produced through the operations of power, and changes fundamentally in different historical periods.
The writings of Lyotard were largely concerned with the role of narrative in human culture, and particularly how that role has changed as we have left modernity and entered a “postindustrial” or postmodern condition. He argued that modern philosophies legitimized their truth-claims not (as they themselves claimed) on logical or empirical grounds, but rather on the grounds of accepted stories (or “metanarratives”) about knowledge and the world—comparing these with Wittgenstein’s concept of language-games. He further argued that in our postmodern condition, these metanarratives no longer work to legitimize truth-claims. He suggested that in the wake of the collapse of modern metanarratives, people are developing a new “language-game”—one that does not make claims to absolute truth but rather celebrates a world of ever-changing relationships (among people and between people and the world).
Derrida, the father of deconstruction, practiced philosophy as a form of textual criticism. He criticized Western philosophy as privileging the concept of presence and logos, as opposed to absence and markings or writings.
In the United States, the most famous pragmatist and self-proclaimed postmodernist was Richard Rorty. An analytic philosopher, Rorty believed that combining Willard Van Orman Quine’s criticism of the analytic-synthetic distinction with Wilfrid Sellars’s critique of the “Myth of the Given” allowed for an abandonment of the view of the thought or language as a mirror of a reality or external world. Further, drawing upon Donald Davidson’s criticism of the dualism between conceptual scheme and empirical content, he challenges the sense of questioning whether our particular concepts are related to the world in an appropriate way, whether we can justify our ways of describing the world as compared with other ways. He argued that truth was not about getting it right or representing reality, but was part of a social practice and language was what served our purposes in a particular time; ancient languages are sometimes untranslatable into modern ones because they possess a different vocabulary and are unuseful today. Donald Davidson is not usually considered a postmodernist, although he and Rorty have both acknowledged that there are few differences between their philosophies.
Postmodernism and post-structuralism
Postmodern philosophy is very similar to post-structuralism. Considering the two as identical or fundamentally different usually depends on personal involvement with these issues. People opposed to postmodernism or post-structuralism often bring the two together. On the other hand, proponents of these doctrines make more subtle distinctions.
Jacques Derrida, in Writing and Difference, (especially the article “Strength and meaning”), 1967, part of structuralism to better exceed it in his own theory of writing and literary invention.
The book Words and things of Michel Foucault was associated with structuralism, but the author himself has denied represent this intellectual current.
Reviews of postmodern philosophy
The method of writing used by postmodern philosophers has been virulently criticized by physicists Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont. Alan Sokal, challenging the abusive or inappropriate use of terms from the physical and mathematical sciences in a philosophical or social context, produced a false construct from quotations from books or articles considered “postmodern”. He submitted this article to Social Text magazine, which accepted it. He revealed the trickery in a second article. This publication triggered a controversy known as the ” Sokal Affair “. The two authors of Intellectual Impostures(1997) were supported in their approach by other intellectuals and especially by the linguist Noam Chomsky and the philosopher Jacques Bouveresse. The philosophers questioned the method and argued that Alan Sokal’s physicist’s condition did not allow him to grasp the symbolic or metaphorical significance of the use of physical or mathematical terms.
Bruno Latour publishes in 1991 We have never been modern: Symmetrical anthropology essay by inscribing himself in a philosophical tradition that he describes as ” non-modern “, as opposed to modern and postmodern.
Physicists Also criticized Sokal and Bricmont by reminding them that it was from the very field of physics that some of the most relativistic or paradoxical conceptions of the world were born, which were later relayed by postmodernism. Thus, a collection of quotes from the founders of modern physics, including Niels Bohr with his principle of complementarity and other members of the Copenhagen School, showed that the crisis of world interpretation expressed in postmodernism was not the creation of some non-specialists but the reflection of a real disarray as to the interpretation of reality.
Critics claim that postmodernism is nonsensical or self-contradictory.
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