|Preceded by Modernism|
|Criticism of postmodernism|
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 meta narratives...."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.
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. A postmodernist then tolerates multiple conceptions of morality, 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.
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 is not 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.
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.
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.
Criticisms of postmodernism, while intellectually diverse, share the opinion that it lacks coherence and is hostile to notions such as truth, logic, and objectivity. Specifically, it is held that postmodernism can be meaningless, promotes obscurantism and uses relativism (in culture, morality, knowledge) to the extent that it cripples most judgement calls.
In its poststructuralist aspects it includes a denial of... any fixed reality or truth or fact to be the object of enquiry.
This article asks whether the philosophy of Paul K. Feyerabend can be reasonably classified as postmodernist, a label applied to him by friends and foes alike.
Deconstruction is an approach to understanding the relationship between text and meaning. It was originated by the philosopher Jacques Derrida (1930–2004), who defined the term variously throughout his career. In its simplest form it can be regarded as a criticism of Platonism and the idea of true forms, or essences, which take precedence over appearances. Deconstruction instead places the emphasis on appearance, or suggests, at least, that essence is to be found in appearance. Derrida would say that the difference is "undecidable", in that it cannot be discerned in everyday experiences.
Foundationalism concerns philosophical theories of knowledge resting upon justified belief, or some secure foundation of certainty such as a conclusion inferred from a basis of sound premises. The main rival of the foundationalist theory of justification is the coherence theory of justification, whereby a body of knowledge, not requiring a secure foundation, can be established by the interlocking strength of its components, like a puzzle solved without prior certainty that each small region was solved correctly.
Postmodernism is a broad movement that developed in the mid- to late 20th century across philosophy, the arts, architecture, and criticism, marking a departure from modernism. The term has been more generally applied to describe a historical era said to follow after modernity and the tendencies of this era.
Philosophy of science is a sub-field of philosophy concerned with the foundations, methods, and implications of science. The central questions of this study concern what qualifies as science, the reliability of scientific theories, and the ultimate purpose of science. This discipline overlaps with metaphysics, ontology, and epistemology, for example, when it explores the relationship between science and truth. Philosophy of science focuses on metaphysical, epistemic and semantic aspects of science. Ethical issues such as bioethics and scientific misconduct are often considered ethics or science studies rather than philosophy of science.
Relativism is the idea that views are relative to differences in perception and consideration. There are a variety of different interpretations of the concept. The major categories of relativism vary in their degree of scope and controversy. Moral relativism encompasses the differences in moral judgments among people and cultures. Truth relativism is the doctrine that there are no absolute truths, i.e., that truth is always relative to some particular frame of reference, such as a language or a culture. Skeptical relativism is that because our perceptions are always relative to some frame of reference, absolute truths are not accessiable to us. Descriptive relativism seeks to describe the differences among cultures and people without evaluation, while normative relativism evaluates the morality or truthfulness of views within a given framework.
Pragmatism is a philosophical tradition that began in the United States around 1870. Its origins are often attributed to the philosophers Charles Sanders Peirce, William James, and John Dewey. Peirce later described it in his pragmatic maxim: "Consider the practical effects of the objects of your conception. Then, your conception of those effects is the whole of your conception of the object."
Scientism is the promotion of science as the best or only objective means by which society should determine normative and epistemological values. The term scientism is generally used critically, implying a cosmetic application of science in unwarranted situations considered not amenable to application of the scientific method or similar scientific standards.
Postmodernity is the economic or cultural state or condition of society which is said to exist after modernity. Some schools of thought hold that modernity ended in the late 20th century – in the 1980s or early 1990s – and that it was replaced by postmodernity, and still others would extend modernity to cover the developments denoted by postmodernity, while some believe that modernity ended after World War II. The idea of the post-modern condition is sometimes characterized as a culture stripped of its capacity to function in any linear or autonomous state like regressive isolationism, as opposed to the progressive mind state of modernism.
Richard McKay Rorty was an American philosopher.
Jean-François Lyotard was a French philosopher, sociologist, and literary theorist. His interdisciplinary discourse spans such topics as epistemology and communication, the human body, modern art and postmodern art, literature and critical theory, music, film, time and memory, space, the city and landscape, the sublime, and the relation between aesthetics and politics. He is best known for his articulation of postmodernism after the late 1970s and the analysis of the impact of postmodernity on the human condition. Lyotard was a key personality in contemporary Continental philosophy and author of 26 books and many articles. He was a director of the International College of Philosophy which was founded by Jacques Derrida, François Châtelet, Jean-Pierre Faye and Dominique Lecourt.
Social theories are analytical frameworks, or paradigms, that are used to study and interpret social phenomena. A tool used by social scientists, social theories relate to historical debates over the validity and reliability of different methodologies, the primacy of either structure or agency, as well as the relationship between contingency and necessity. Social theory in an informal nature, or authorship based outside of academic social and political science, may be referred to as "social criticism" or "social commentary", or "cultural criticism" and may be associated both with formal cultural and literary scholarship, as well as other non-academic or journalistic forms of writing.
A metanarrative in critical theory and particularly in postmodernism is a narrative about narratives of historical meaning, experience, or knowledge, which offers a society legitimation through the anticipated completion of a master idea.
Modern philosophy is philosophy developed in the modern era and associated with modernity. It is not a specific doctrine or school, although there are certain assumptions common to much of it, which helps to distinguish it from earlier philosophy.
Obscurantism is the practice of deliberately presenting information in an imprecise and abstruse manner, often designed to forestall further inquiry and understanding. There are two historical and intellectual denotations of Obscurantism: (1) the deliberate restriction of knowledge—opposition to disseminating knowledge; and (2) deliberate obscurity—a recondite literary or artistic style, characterized by deliberate vagueness.
The science wars were a series of intellectual exchanges, between scientific realists and postmodernist critics, about the nature of scientific theory and intellectual inquiry. They took place principally in the United States in the 1990s in the academic and mainstream press. Scientific realists argued that scientific knowledge is real, and accused the postmodernists of having effectively rejected scientific objectivity, the scientific method, empiricism, and scientific knowledge. Postmodernists interpreted Thomas Kuhn's ideas about scientific paradigms to mean that scientific theories are social constructs, and philosophers like Paul Feyerabend argued that other, non-realist forms of knowledge production were better suited to serve people's personal and spiritual needs.
Neopragmatism, sometimes called post-Deweyan pragmatism, linguistic pragmatism, or analytic pragmatism, is the philosophical tradition that infers that the meaning of words is a function of how they are used, rather than the meaning of what people intend for them to describe.
French philosophy, here taken to mean philosophy in the French language, has been extremely diverse and has influenced Western philosophy as a whole for centuries, from the medieval scholasticism of Peter Abelard, through the founding of modern philosophy by René Descartes, to 20th century philosophy of science, existentialism, phenomenology, structuralism, and postmodernism.
The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge is a 1979 book by the philosopher Jean-François Lyotard, in which the author analyzes the notion of knowledge in postmodern society as the end of 'grand narratives' or metanarratives, which he considers a quintessential feature of modernity. Lyotard introduced the term 'postmodernism', which was previously only used by art critics, into philosophy and social sciences, with the following observation: "Simplifying to the extreme, I define postmodern as incredulity towards metanarratives". Originally written as a report on the influence of technology in exact sciences, commissioned by the Conseil des universités du Québec, the book was influential. Lyotard later admitted that he had a "less than limited" knowledge of the science he was to write about, deeming The Postmodern Condition his worst book.
Criticisms of postmodernism, while intellectually diverse, share the opinion that it lacks coherence and is hostile to the notion of absolutes, such as truth. Specifically it is held that postmodernism can be meaningless, promotes obscurantism and uses relativism to the extent that it cripples most judgement calls.
Critical theory is the reflective assessment and critique of society and culture to reveal and challenge power structures. It argues that social problems are influenced and created more by societal structures and cultural assumptions than by individual and psychological factors. Critical theory has origins in sociology and also in literary criticism. The sociologist Max Horkheimer described a theory as critical insofar as it seeks "to liberate human beings from the circumstances that enslave them".