Thursday, July 06, 2006

Yada, Yada, Yada... Blah, Blah, Blah

Mark Goldblatt has written an essay about the philosophical differences between rational humanism and postmodernism. To me it also explains the differences between the classical liberal and those leftists of today who call themselves liberals/progressives.

Can Humanists Talk to Postmodernists?


"They meet, for example, in faculty dining rooms and on payroll lines, and they discuss, for example, whether the cafeteria chili should be avoided or whether their health plans cover anti-depressants."

"By a "humanist," I mean a person who believes that human beings can formulate true or false opinions about a reality that exists independently of their thoughts and language--and that the truth or falsehood of such opinions is gauged by their correspondence with empirical evidence analyzed in light of fundamental rational principles. By a "postmodernist," I mean a person who believes that the perception of a reality existing independently of thought and language is illusory, that what the humanist perceives as reality is in fact a linguistic construct of the phenomena of subjective experience that is continually adjusted in response to a fluid social consensus."

"According to Foucault, it is the metaphysics of the "phantasm" behind which "it is useless to seek a more substantial truth" (ibid). Common sense is the enemy for Foucault because it carries "the tyranny of goodwill, the obligation to think 'in common' with others, the domination of a pedagogical model, and most importantly--the exclusion of stupidity" (181). Because a metaphysics based on common sense and goodwill--in other words, a humanist metaphysics--excludes stupidity, Foucault argues, "we must liberate ourselves from these constraints; and in perverting this morality, philosophy itself is disoriented" (ibid). How, then, do we get with the new metaphysical ellipse and thereby become fashionably stupid? According to Foucault, stupidity-

...requires thought without contradiction, without dialectics, without negation; thought that accepts divergence; affirmative thought whose instrument is disjunction . . . What is the answer to the question? The problem. How is the problem resolved? By displacing the question (185)."

"Still, he insists that traditional humanist logic in general, and the law of non-contradiction in particular, must be abandoned as part of a heroic intellectual movement, a counter-counterreformation, in which accusations of stupidity become badges of courage."

"Without the law of non-contradiction, no one can ever demonstrate that you're wrong."

"What Cro-Magnon Man intuited, Postmodern Man has come to disavow. The schism is not merely academic but evolutionary."

"Postmodernism, in fact, constitutes an explicit rejection of the element of sapientia in homo sapiens, as evidenced by the epistemological nihilism in the literary critic Jane Tompkins’s remark that "there really are no facts except as they are embedded in some particular way of seeing the world" (577)."

"Tompkins’s claim, from a humanist perspective, must therefore be taken as mystical--a conclusion she reached despite evidence rather than because of it. But mystics cannot be rationally engaged. Their testimonies are not subject to verification or falsification."

"What Eagleton is doing, in other words, is feigning logical analysis, utilizing sly terminological shifts to obscure a calculated series of non sequiturs, thus allowing the impression that he is still working within the standard humanist framework--a framework wherein premises must be constantly examined for hidden biases and logical rules rigorously followed to produce defensible conclusions."

""What you choose and reject theoretically," Eagleton contends, "depends on what you are practically trying to do" (211). Since, moreover, Eagleton himself happens to reject the ideology of capitalism, the notion of competing within a marketplace of ideas--a capitalist metaphor if ever there was one--is inimical to what he’s trying to do." (Emphasis mine)

Can a humanist talk to a postmodernist. No.

Can a postmodernist talk to another postmodernist? No.

Can a postmodernist talk to himself? No. He's not really saying anything.

(H.T. Doug Groothuis.)

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