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A Postmodern Villain


"Also, wasn't Western Civilization already destroyed by Elvis Presley's gyrating hips?"

A lot of right wing people have this strange idea that "postmodernism" is destroying, or possible has already destroyed, Western Civilization™. They seem to define postmodernism as a kind of relativity where "everything is as true as everything else", and has infected every school and institution. This is quite clearly divorced from reality in several important ways:
1. postmodernism has a minor influence on American intellectual and cultural institution, at best.
2. no one in history, postmodern theorists included, has believed that "everything is as true as everything else".
3. perhaps most importantly, postmodern theorists thought "postmodernism" was bad. They weren't advocating for it!

Jean François Lyotard, who coined the term, saw a broad movement in the culture where the majority of the intellectuals and the population at large no longer believed in "grand metanarratives". That is to say, people no longer believed that history was moving towards one great goal for all of humanity, whether that was a sort of scientific and philosophical enlightenment offered up by Hegel, or something like communism. Instead, the goals of society were becoming increasingly fractured, and even the production of knowledge itself was becoming fractured. Many scientific theories were becoming increasingly specialized and focused on industry, and becoming incommensurable with other theories (that is to say scientists in one specialty couldn't even communicate or translate their theories into a language that could be understood by other specialists).

If you are interested in understand what Lyotard actually believed, rather than what right wing conspiracy theorists claim, you can read The Postmodern Condition. Nah, I'm just kidding, don't read it. He is a terrible writer and it's extremely difficult to read. The best way to understand it is to have an extremely french woman read it for you and explain it to you.

A lot of right wing people have this strange idea that "postmodernism" is destroying, or possible has already destroyed, Western Civilization™. They seem to define postmodernism as a kind of relativity where "everything is as true as everything else", and has infected every school and institution. This is quite clearly divorced from reality in several important ways:
1. postmodernism has a minor influence on American intellectual and cultural institution, at best.
2. no one in history, postmodern theorists included, has believed that "everything is as true as everything else".
3. perhaps most importantly, postmodern theorists thought "postmodernism" was bad. They weren't advocating for it!

Jean François Lyotard, who coined the term, saw a broad movement in the culture where the majority of the intellectuals and the population at large no longer believed in "grand metanarratives". That is to say, people no longer believed that history was moving towards one great goal for all of humanity, whether that was a sort of scientific and philosophical enlightenment offered up by Hegel, or something like communism. Instead, the goals of society were becoming increasingly fractured, and even the production of knowledge itself was becoming fractured. Many scientific theories were becoming increasingly specialized and focused on industry, and becoming incommensurable with other theories (that is to say scientists in one specialty couldn't even communicate or translate their theories into a language that could be understood by other specialists).

If you are interested in understand what Lyotard actually believed, rather than what right wing conspiracy theorists claim, you can read The Postmodern Condition. Nah, I'm just kidding, don't read it. He is a terrible writer and it's extremely difficult to read. The best way to understand it is to have an extremely french woman read it for you and explain it to you.

Philosophers in this comic: Jean-Francois Lyotard
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