Evolving Thoughts

Evolution, culture, philosophy and chocolate! John Wilkins' continuing struggle to come to terms with impermanence... "Humanus sum, nihil humanum a me alienum puto" - Terence

Thursday, November 03, 2005

On postmodernism

As I am wont to say, I don't know what postmodernism is post to, but whatever it is, I'm in favor of it - I'm a prepostmodernist (modernism, an architectural movement, can't possibly be what it is I'm opposing to postmodernism, so I have to name it somehow).

Courtesy of Leiter's blog, here is a nice essay by Keith de Rose on why analytic philosophers find postmodernism to be, well, unphilosophical:
My duties on humanities divisional committees have involved me in reading quite a bit of material by (what I at least take to be) postmodern writers. I would have to classify a lot of the material I’ve had to read as philosophy, but it is written by people who teach in various different humanities departments other than philosophy departments at various schools. And I generally find it to be dreadful.

Only having "certain doubts" is a very mild reaction, as far as I am concerned. So why is PoMo so popular among otherwise quite sensible intellectuals? I know intelligent folk who love this stuff. I suspect it is because the game they play, as opposed to the game analytic philosopher play, is of a totally different, almost aesthetic, order. For an analytic philosopher, "critique" means to discuss the actual ideas formally, clearly and logically. For the PoMo thinker, it is more like allusion, playing with intuitions, feelings, values and so on in the mode of a poet. Which is fine, if you want poetry.

PoMo writings suggest all kinds of things, but as the organiser (and therefore chair) of our philosophy seminar series this year, I got to hear a number of these lectures, and I was struck at how little criticism actually goes into a PoMo talk - a "critique" tends to be restricted to assertions of the "problematic nature" (or worse, "problematicity") of some other writer.

Colour me skeptical of radical skepticism, I guess. To each their own, takes all kinds, and a funny old world, innit?