http://www.jcf.org/new/forum/viewtopic. ... 09&start=0
The challenge I welcome is to explain what is wrong with pomo, how it relates to belief systems, to Catholic guilt and sin, to Eastern religions, and finally to ‘the self’. It’s perfectly clear in my mind – until I try to explain it. Then it becomes a complete mess. Pomo is insidious and intentionally opaque. It must first be exposed for what it is before discussing the effect of pomo on ‘self’. It’s wrong to equate pomo with liberalism. Even liberal champions such as George Lakoff have renounced pomo. Pomo isn’t about openness and tolerance and plurality and mutual respect. That’s the major fallacy of our time. Pomo isn’t about substituting one set of values for a superior set of values. It is about the destruction of all values.Fundie Fred says, “I have a soul and so do you!”
Lefty Larry responds, “I don’t have a soul and neither do you!”
Pomo Paul says, “There really is no ‘I’ or ‘you’ or ‘him’ to have a soul or to not have a soul. The concept of ‘self’ is merely a social construction having no ground in reality. Therefore, it’s all the same. I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together”….Pomo Paul would say, “It doesn’t matter dudes. Everybody - let’s get stoned.”
There is nothing in PoMo worth integrating. It is a sickness IMHO.
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I have to say that your characterization of postmodern thinkers is offensive. Nobody called a modernist thinker a narrow-minded, bible-thumping, sexist/racist, land-stealing, genocide committing, slave-owner.
Does not postmodernist thinking encourage us to question assumptions? Does it not encourage us to seek answers for ourselves rather than relying on authorities, which may or may not be corrupt, or have motives that lie in direct contrast to our best interests?
To me, postmodernism represents a fairly simple idea. Question everything. Yes, that may lead to the endless chasing of our own tails, but it is a reaction to many years of radical identification with flawed belief systems like...the earth is the center of the universe, women are witches, the earth is flat...our god is better than your god...etc. False beliefs that were once considered to be "absolute truths" lie strewn in the wake of empiricism. It is ironic that empiricism, a modernist construct (along with rationalism) has been the ultimate destroyer of the modernist construct.
Yet, I am ok with the idea of atman, or no self, as well. I think...Therefore...So what? I feel perfectly at home being everything and nothing at the same time. Noman would say I obviously inhaled! But the truth of the matter is simply that the Catholic guilt just did not take with me.
People may, or may not, like existing in a post-modern world...but exist in it, we do!
The reason for starting this thread is that I am sincerely interested in why we "need" this self, this concrete "I". Thus, the idea of the mythology of the self. We need myths, so maybe we need selves, or at least, a myth of the self.
So when the hero returns, there are many ways to bring the message received into action. Obviously there is not necessarily a "right" or "wrong" definitive way to do this. That statement, it seems to me, is largely subjective, which fits nicely into the postmodern perspective. A more dogmatic "modern" view would say "This is the way to promote the greater good and it must be done this way..."
I think a person who only sees the negative aspects of postmodernism would be hard pressed to agree with your statement because, possibly, they would view the integration of these "foreign" ideas as an encroachment on their belief system.
This is the paper that JJ cites:
Toward a Sustainable Myth of Self, Hoffman, Stewart, Warren, and Meek, 2008
I also got my hands on this one:
Was Joseph Campbell a Postmodernist?, Joseph M. Felser, 1996
It may be anathema to pomo, but terms have to be defined in order for us to carry on an intelligible conversation.
‘Bible-thumper’ refers to the traditional or pre-modern – not modernism. In this view religion is believed to be the avenue to truth and the betterment of humankind. There is a transcendent authority sought by all and believed to be especially revealed to elites called prophets or saints. The pre-modern, traditionalist, will claim to know absolute truth. But this is deceiving. People who claim this absolute truth are forever looking for ways to reaffirm it. Nobody argues that the sun will come up tomorrow morning. But people do go to great lengths to convince other people that Jesus is the son of God and that the wicked will be punished. Then it’s called absolute truth. Traditional doesn’t necessarily mean believing in God or the Koran or any other ‘concretized’ authority. But it does necessarily mean believing in a transcendent authority or truth. This is the essence of mythology. And it is not an extremely popular notion for a person indoctrinated within our drastically secular educational system.
Modernism refers to Enlightenment thinkers, rationalists and atheists such as Voltaire and Diderot, their Enlightenment buddies, and the founding fathers of the United States. Their avenue to truth and the betterment of humankind is human reason and what would eventually be called the scientific method.
A common metaphor for science that says that we are an island of knowledge in an ocean of mystery. As the island grows so grows the shoreline of that mystery. For example, knowledge of the mass and distance of the sun and moon were at one time in history not part of our island of knowledge but are now thought to be definitely on dry land. String theory is definitely somewhere off shore at present. There have been many scientific theories that were once on dry land and later engulfed by water. Scientific epistemology is a fascinating subject. There is no consensus on just how a scientific theory becomes knowledge. It is admittedly fuzzy. But to take this fuzziness as proof that science doesn’t provide us with knowledge is utterly absurd. And to go to the other extreme and say that scientists believe in a knowable absolute truth is equally absurd. Science operates through a balance of belief and skepticism.
The epistemology of Pomo goes beyond the denial of the traditional belief in transcendent truth. It also denies the modernist’s belief in science, empiricism, and reason. Instead they offer ‘social constructs’. But what is a social construct? It is a collection of subjective views – or more typically the views of a select few within a larger group.
I try to be respectful of scholars JJ. But this is so delusional I wonder what planet the authors hail from. There is nothing more sacred in the scientific methodology than a tacit agreement that any scientific claim to truth can be challenged with a competing theory that makes rational sense and that is supported by empirical data. Where do the authors get the idea that scientists believe in some absolute knowledge? Scientists provide the best rational explanation. That is what they are trained to do. That is what they are paid to do.Anderson states that the transition from modernism to postmodernism “has to do with a change not so much in what we believe as in how we believe”. It is the nature of knowledge and truth that is changing. Modernism believes there is a knowable absolute truth that can be known through science and reason. Postmodernists disagree about whether some forms of ultimate truth may exist but agree that this truth cannot be definitively known. This reflects a radical and important shift. Throughout the premodern and modern periods there was agreement by the majority of authorities that truth, even ultimate truth, existed and could be definitively known. The postmodern shift represents the first major change in the history of Western thought which called the assumption of knowable truth into question on a large scale.
Toward a Sustainable Myth of Self, Hoffman, Stewart, Warren, and Meek, 2008
No one doubts that some of our knowledge is socially constructed. We socially construct borders between countries. We don’t ‘discover’ them. But we do not ‘socially construct’ the shoreline that distinguishes the continents from the ocean. Yet pomo doesn’t mention different spheres of knowledge. Therein lays the diabolical plot to destroy our humanity. Pomo claims that all knowledge is socially constructed via language.
A moderately educated person might mistake this quote by Huston Smith for Socratic wisdom. Nothing could be further from the truth. Socrates found that no one he interviewed could define ‘virtue’ and ‘justice’ to his satisfaction. He told Meno there are no teachers of ethics in Athens. But Socrates never said that this knowledge doesn’t exist – or that divine revelation and reason are not legitimate avenues to truth. (Faith and reason were not separated in Socrates time) In fact, pomos are very much like the Sophists who Socrates tore to ribbons with his arguments.“Whereas the Modern Mind assumed that it knew more than its predecessors because the natural and historical sciences were flooding it with new knowledge about nature and history, the Postmodern Mind argues (paradoxically) that it knows more than others did because it has discovered how little the human mind can know.” – Huston Smith
Was Joseph Campbell a Postmodernist?, Joseph M. Felser, 1996
Socrates ask them in the terms of his time, that if knowledge is merely a social construct, how can anyone or group claim to have truer knowledge over any one else? The ship builder could not claim any truer knowledge of ship building, the navigator any truer knowledge of night sky, nor the winemaker any truer knowledge of growing and harvesting grapes.
I never cease to be emotionally moved by Socrates’ arguments, probably because they are so relavent today. The sophists taught rhetoric. One sophist was famous for arguing a case in one way, winning the case, and then arguing the same case in the opposite way and winning again. Here is the modern version of sophistry.Protagoras: Man is the measure of all things, of those things that are that they are, of those things that are not, that they are not.
Socrates: Aren’t you surprised Theaetetus, that you should turn out to be as wise as any man – or any god. Might we not suppose, that Protagoras speaks in this way to flatter the ears of the public...Protagoras, admitting that he does, that everyone’s opinion is true, must acknowledge his opponent’s belief, about his own belief, where they think he is wrong. … If no one is entitled to say what another believes is true or false, where is the wisdom of Protagoras, to justify setting up to teach others, and to be handsomely paid for it – and where is our need, Theaetetus, to go and sit at his feet, when each of us is himself the measure of his own wisdom.
- Plato: Knowledge Products (Giants of Philosophy)
‘Clarify?’ - In what language and by what standard? You see – pomo is self-contradictory and proud of it. Dictionaries are written by finding examples of how words are being used. Would not the ‘clarity’ postmoderns propose, composed of language, be subject to the same critique – and would not that critique also be subject to a critique – and so on?
P136 Modern paradigms assume that language is describing something real with an absolute meaning. In this paradigm, accurate definitions of words are essential. Postmodern linguistic theory views language as expressive or related to internal perceptions and feelings. Language is socially constructive and therefore not used in a consistent manner over time or across people. In this paradigm, it makes little sense to debate definitional issues; however, it remains important to clarify how terms are being used.
-Toward a Sustainable Myth of Self, Hoffman, Stewart, Warren, and Meek, 2008
When accused of complete relativism pomos will step back and say that ‘social constructs’ are in some instances based on a certain core realities. But if this is the case, then pomo’s critiques are no different then what modernism has been doing all along. That was Noam Chomsky’s conclusion.
Furthermore, the so-called ‘postmodern condition’ is the worst possible human condition, because if all knowledge, including ethics, is a social construction, then the only thing that matters is who has the power to socially construct that knowledge. Foucault declared in so many words that ‘power is knowledge’. That is not a place we want to be – not if we are interested in living in a civilized society. It promotes the primal state of nature Thomas Hobbes described as ‘all against all’.
Suppose you have a society where 80 percent of the people are slave owners and 20 percent are slaves. If the truth of the human condition is that all truth, including ethics, is socially constructed, then there is nothing wrong with slavery. There is nothing right about it either. It just is. Power becomes the only truth. But if justice is a transcendent truth, a platonic form, apart from whatever the majority or those in power happen to believe, ethical judgments can be made.
At the Nuremburg trials the Allies had a legal problem. They couldn’t legally justify trying the former Nazis for alleged crimes that were committed outside of the Allies jurisdiction. If justice were only a social construction then there is no way to accuse these former Nazis of anything. Of course, in a strict Pomo sense there also wouldn’t be anything wrong with hanging them on the spot without a trial. The civilized approach calls for a higher authority, a platonic form of justice, not merely the belief of the majority or whoever happens to be in power.
Pomo promotes what Huston Smith calls ‘judgmentaphobia.’
This nihilistic crusade of pomo has real consequences for society. In our affluent, protected, and easy-going society, the effects of pomo show itself in various ways, as described in books such as Why Johnny Can’t Tell Right from Wrong, William Kilpatrick, 1992
These quotes show the effects of the pomo fallacy on various aspects of society, from law, to education, to journalism, to politics, and the arts.
JJ - I don’t know if you can grasp the continuity of the pomo effect over the last forty years? As I recall you were floating around there somewhere near Jupiter when this all started. People on both sides of the culture wars can only take so much of this Hippie-critical game of pretentiousness before bombs start going off. Pomo isn’t about plurality and openness. It’s about wringing every last ounce of humanity out of society until the only thing that is left is the will to power. This is what I see in Boomers but not in liberals that came before Boomers. And I hope not to see it in liberals that came after Boomers. (Such as Obama.)P55 Justice has been reconceived as a kind of sporting contest. As Justice Stephen Briyer quipped, “May the best lawyer win.”
P34 Like savages, rather than citizens of a great civilization, we pounce when there’s an opening and cower in our caves the rest of the time.
- The Lost Art of Drawing the Line Philip K. Howard 2001
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P96 Harvard today tiptoes away from moral education, little interested in providing it and embarrassed to admit it does not wish to do so. Its general report on the ongoing curricular review grandly stated that “we remain cognizant of our responsibility to educate morally responsible citizens and leaders.” Yet most of the rules of moral behavior that colleges used to teach have gone by the boards. More generally, there is no consensus on what counts as good character, so colleges are reluctant to help students become better people.
Excellence Without a Soul: How a Great University Forgot Education, Harry R. Lewis, 2006
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P40 Relativism is just a cover term for nihilism, the anarchy of terminal narcissism that rejects external objective reality, shared learning and cognitive development, at taxpayer expense.
Public schools are secular and should be secular. The government, and public schools are government, has no role in adopting or preaching any religion, secular or sacred, in particular not to captive audiences whose attendance is compulsory. That means resisting efforts to teach cosmology, evolution, anthropology in literal Biblical terms. But it emphatically does not mean insistent and persistent attacks or religion, in particular the religions of the vast majority of Americans. Yet this is exactly what a small minority of government employees and some employees of government-subsidized private universities do – as self-appointed guardians of true belief who see it as their missionary task.
The Decline of Learning in America, Charles T. Stewart Jr., 2008
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P310 Finally, the academic spread of relativism from the 1960s on and its impact on the nation’s historic values has turned the moral climate on campus upside down. Relativism is a suitcase word that carries many connotations and implications. Basically it means that there aren’t any universal truths. This is not a new idea. The fifth-century Greek sophist Protagoras, who knew Socrates, talked about it and coined the expression “Man is the measure of all things,” by which he meant that truth is relative to the individual who perceives it and that it has no meaning beyond the perceiver. Because of his agnosticism, he had to run away to escape retribution from his fellow Greeks. This was in contrast to Socrates who, being unreasonably accused of corrupting the youth by citizens of Athens who were afraid of his probing questions, stayed where he was, refused to plea-bargain and went to his death by drinking hemlock.
The problem of the moral climate on campuses boils down to two parts. The first is a de-emphasis of the responsibility of the individual to herself or himself. It is coupled with added emphasis upon the role of the group as contrasted to the individual. The second is a denial that moral principles in fact transcend cultural boundaries. [Amen! – NoMan] In the first instance there is an unwillingness to acknowledge that the character of individual persons transcends group identity. In the second, hierarchies of cultural value are represented as existing only within separate cultural groups – not also between groups themselves.
Downstairs, Upstairs: The Changed Spirit and Face of College Life in America, John A. Flowers, 2003
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Money no longer serves and supports art, art serves and supports money. When money showers its blessings on art, the way Jupiter showered money on Danae, art spreads its legs in gratitude. The days when Mark Rothko said that "the artist can abandon his plastic bank-book" (1947) are over. So are the days when art seemed "timeless" and "transcendental," to use his words.
…one must recall Andy Warhol's prescient idea of business art, that is, his recognition that art has become a business and making money in business is an art, implying that the making of money and the making of art involve the same motivation. A new hierarchy of value has in fact been established: money has come to have a higher value than art.
http://www.artnet.com/magazineus/featur ... 3-6-07.asp
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Campbell: For instance, in the colleges the liberal arts are – sinking, and everyone’s going in for the professional specialization which does not tell you how to be a human being. Does not give you the rich information that comes from reading the classics; Plato, Goethe, Shakespeare, oh, what do we want with that? What’s the relevance? You know the term – and uh –all of this came in in the sixties – as far as my experience goes.
MT: Well at the same time there was a re-emergence of the liberal arts in the sixties – but it kind of went by the boards in the last few years.
Campbell: Well – I – umm - don’t know what to say about the sixties. It was very politically oriented. There were two things that were going on there. One was blowing up the buildings on the campus. The other was blowing up your own psyche with LSD. And there was a failure to experience the richness of things as they are and also the privilege of living in this society – knowing what it has given you – you know – in contrast to others. If you’d travelled around a little bit you’d know what we’ve got. And this is something that could be lost. And they seem not to have realized that.
I was terribly disgusted with the sixties. I was glad to get out. I never thought I’d be happy to retire from teaching but I didn’t like what was going on.
MT: It seems we lost our understanding of integrity and ethics and values in many respects...
Campbell: Yes, but just primary human decency. Something happened just after the Second World War. It really did. And out of my own experience which is simply that of the academic world – we –couldn’t – keep – books - in the library. In a small college, students are plundering the library. Taking the books out. So now they’ve had to establish traps… …the books I used in my course for comparative mythology were very hard to get. The librarian would get copies in finally and the next year we’d have to get new ones. The New York public library are putting cards in now for books - and oh no - can’t be found on the shelf. Or if I do find them the chapter I want has been ripped out by somebody. That never happened before. That never - happened - before. And this indicates a basic loss of a sense of the individual as a member of a community – it’s a – what have you done for me lately?
MT: A disrespect for institutions…
Campbell: And for themselves, I would say. And for the person sitting beside them in the library. No, it’s a very funny strange thing and it was in one generation that it happened.
- Myth as Metaphor, Lost Teachings, with Michael Toms
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P401 While the total number of bachelor’s degrees rose by almost 40 percent between 1970 and 1994, the number of degrees in English declined by 40 percent. It may get worse: only 9 percent of high school students today indicate an interest in majoring in the humanities.
- The Blank Slate, Stephen Pinker, 2001
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P46 Some journalists over the years have suggested substitutes for truthfulness. Probably the two most common are fairness and balance. Yet both, under scrutiny, become in inadequate. Fairness is too abstract and, in the end, more subjective then truth. Fair to whom? How do you test fairness? Truthfulness, for all its difficulties, at least can be tested. Balance, also, is too subjective. Balancing a story by being fair to both sides may not be fair to the truth, if both sides do not in fact have equal weight.
P56 Even some journalists had become concerned that too many of their colleagues had crossed a line from skepticism to cynicism, or even a kind of journalistic nihilism, the philosophy of believing in nothing. Phil Trounstein, then political editor of the San Jose Mercury News, was moved to write and essay on the subject for the Committee for Concerned Journalists. “It seems the worst thing a reporter of commentator can be accused of in certain circles is not inaccuracy or unfairness but credulousness.”
- Elements of Journalism, Kovach & Rosenstiel, 2001
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In 2005 Lakoff was cast as the savior of the Democratic Party in the wake of its shocking defeat in the previous year’s presidential election. He conferred with party leaders and strategists, addressed caucuses, and saw his book Don’t Think of an Elephant become a bestseller and a liberal talisman.
P246 Lakoff’s theory of conceptual metaphor is a lollapalooza. If he is right, conceptual metaphor can do everything from overturning twenty-five hundred years of misguided reliance on truth and objectivity in Western thought to putting a Democrat in the White House.
P247 Though I believe that conceptual metaphor really does have profound implications for the understanding of language and thought; I think Lakoff takes the idea a wee bit too far.
P276 The messiah has not come. Thought metaphors are omnipresent in language, many of them are effectively dead in the minds of today’s speakers, and the living ones could never be learned, understood, or used as a reasoning tool unless they were built out of more abstract concepts that capture the similarities and differences between the symbol and the symbolized. For this reason, conceptual metaphors do not render truth and objectivity obsolete, nor do they reduce philosophical, legal, and political discourse to a beauty contest between rival frames.
- The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature, Stephen Pinker, 2007
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P17 In education, postmodernism rejects the notion that the purpose of education is primarily to train a child’s cognitive capacity for reason in order to produce an adult capable of functioning independently in the world. That view of education is replaced with the view that education is to take an essentially indeterminate being and give it a social identity. Education’s method of molding is linguistic, and so the language to be used is that which will create a human being sensitive to its racial, sexual, and class identity. Our current social contest, however, is characterized by oppression that benefits whites, males, and the rich at the expense of everyone else. That oppression in turn leads to an educational system that reflects only or primarily the interests of those in positions of power. To counteract that bias, educational practice must be recast totally. Postmodern education should emphasize works not in the canon; it should focus on the achievements of non-whites, females, and the poor; it should highlight the historical crimes of whites, males, and the rich; and it should teach students that science’s method has no better claim to yielding truth than any other method and, accordingly, that students should be equally receptive to alternative ways of knowing.
In postmodern discourse, truth is rejected explicitly and consistency can be a rare phenomenon. Consider the following pairs of claims.
• On the one hand, all truth is relative; on the other had, postmodernism tells it like it really is.
• On the one hand, all cultures are equally deserving of respect; on the other, Western culture is uniquely destructive and bad.
• Values are subjective – but sexism and racism are really evil.
• Technology is bad and destructive – and it is unfair that some people have more technology than others.
• Tolerance is good and dominance is bad – but when postmodernists come to power, political correctness follows.
There is a common pattern here: Subjectivism and relativism in one breath, dogmatic absolutism in the next. Postmodernists are well aware of the contradictions – especially since their opponents relish pointing them out at every opportunity. And of course a post-modernist can respond dismissingly by citing Hegel – “Those are merely Aristotelian logical contradictions”
Explaining Post modernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault, Stephen R. C. Hicks, 2004
In my arrogant opinion, there are good liberals and bad liberals. Noam Chomsky is a good and trustworthy liberal. George Lakoff is more of a pomo infected hack.
When a liberal, MIT linguist, a giant in his field, calls pomo ‘gibberish’, that should send a message to us mere mortals. Chomsky is obligated to be respectful to his colleagues. But let’s get real. When asked to show their wares, pomos have nothing to show. When stripped of their titles and prestige, pomos are revealed to be nothing but bunch of rhetorical charlatans, beggars, and thieves.As for the "deconstruction" that is carried out (also mentioned in the debate), I can't comment, because most of it seems to me gibberish. But if this is just another sign of my incapacity to recognize profundities, the course to follow is clear: just restate the results to me in plain words that I can understand, and show why they are different from, or better than, what others had been doing long before and have continued to do since without three-syllable words, incoherent sentences, inflated rhetoric that (to me, at least) is largely meaningless, etc.
- Noam Chomsky
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Noam Chomsky is a world-renowned scholar, political analyst, and Professor Emeritus of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In a 1995 essay titled, Rationality/Science, Chomsky disparages the postmodernist critique of Western science, logic and rationality as being nothing more than "self-destructive tendencies". But Chomsky’s article is also an all encompassing critical assessment of postmodernism and its influence upon literature, music, and the visual arts.
"I have spent a lot of my life working on questions such as these, using the only methods I know of; those condemned here as 'science,' 'rationality,' 'logic' and so on. I therefore read the papers with some hope that they would help me 'transcend' these limitations, or perhaps suggest an entirely different course. I'm afraid I was disappointed. Admittedly, that may be my own limitation. Quite regularly, 'my eyes glaze over' when I read polysyllabic discourse on the themes of poststructuralism and postmodernism; what I understand is largely truism or error, but that is only a fraction of the total word count.
True, there are lots of other things I don't understand: the articles in the current issues of math and physics journals, for example. But there is a difference. In the latter case, I know how to get to understand them, and have done so, in cases of particular interest to me; and I also know that people in these fields can explain the contents to me at my level, so that I can gain what (partial) understanding I may want. In contrast, no one seems to be able to explain to me why the latest post-this-and-that is (for the most part) other than truism, error, or gibberish, and I do not know how to proceed."
http://www.la-stuckism.com/blog/2006/08 ... rnism.html
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P80 We (Chomsky and Foucault) were in apparent disagreement, because where I was speaking of justice, he was speaking of power. At least, that is how the difference between our points of view appeared to me.
- On Language , Noam Chomsky, 1998
Professor John Searle is another good and trustworthy liberal. He was instrumental in the student movements of the sixties that began at Berkeley where he taught. He explains how he got involved in that turmoil in this 1999 interview and then describes some of the lasting consequences of that period.
The point of edifying [i.e., postmodern] philosophy is to keep the conversation going rather than to find objective truth. - Richard Rorty, 1979
Was Joseph Campbell a Postmodernist?, Joseph M. Felser, 1996
[start film at the 44:45 minute mark to hear this next quote]
Evil? Did he actually use the word ‘evil’? That’s a pomo no no.
However, there were forces at work in the larger society that combined with the radicalism of the sixties that had serious long term damage to the university. [And to society in general – NoMan] The university became less self-confident in its elitism. By definition, a university has to strive for the best. But the best means that some things are better than others – some professors are better than others. Some books are better than other books. Some ideas are intelligent other ideas are stupid. [Can you believe a Professor has to say this? – NoMan] And a university has to be committed to quality…. Well, we’re still committed to that but we’re more bashful about saying it in public and there is sort of an undercurrent that maybe that’s all a disguised power structure – all sort of a disguised oppression and colonialism and we’ve got to get out of this idea that some books are superior to others, and some students are better than others, and some professors are better than others. And that’s bad. … I don’t want to overstate it – that we’ve abandoned our elitism but we don’t have the same confidence we once had.
The worst single manifestation of this is that we have abandoned the idea that the university invites the student to become part of a universal community of scholars, part of a universal community of human civilization where you achieve individual self-definition through participating in a universal human civilization. Now what we tell you is What’s your ethnicity? What’s your race? What’s your gender? That’s who you are. You don’t define yourself. You are defined by race, gender, class, ethnicity, and cultural background. And that isn’t just stupid – that’s evil.
Having been educated in the 50s, Professor Searle wasn’t indoctrinated by pomo, he doesn’t suffer from ‘judgmentaphobia’, so he is able to use the word ‘evil’. What is it about pomo that would make liberal professors, such as Searle, Chomsky, Huston, and I believe Campbell condemn it so, or fail to pay it any dues?
Now I am aware JJ, that you and Clemsy and many others have this – sort of – romantic notion that even if pomo is evil - it is, or was, a necessary evil to bring about the social changes you see as desirable. And since pomo is hated by fundies, so much the better – as an enemy of your enemy is your friend by default. But this thinking is in error. Pomo doesn’t counter fundamental extremism – it exacerbates it. Nor was pomo required for the positive social changes of the sixties.
There is nothing more sacred in the ‘new age’ mythology than respect for the environment. A great transition was made between 1955 and 1975 in how we view the global environment. It is as striking as night and day. But this dramatic transformation of consciousness didn’t require any radical shift in our epistemology. It took solid scientific research, and an appeal to reason, and an appeal to the emotional concerns for everyone and for what it best for all. The time was ripe for environmentalism. And the time was ripe for some of the social changes we saw. No society had ever experienced the post-WWII affluence. But to claim that transcendent truth, scientific truth, and quality, had to be sacrificed to achieve these gains is ridiculous. They didn’t have to be sacrificed in the 19th century to end slavery. And Boomers who applaud themselves for these achievements fail to recognize what could have been accomplished with a solid core of values, without the burden of pomo, without the burden of nihilism, and especially without the burden of the culture wars. I see the devastation that pomo has had on my generation, all the lies and lawsuits, the senseless hostility on both sides, the parade of self-serving gurus that milk the effect of pomo for thier own benifit, the complacency of educators and lawmakers to allow this to happen; and I am sickened to see a paper written in 2008 that is still encouraging the pomo fallacy.
I found this in an intro to a history of England. It was written in 1972:
This is from Campbell’s Indian diaries:
Now I object strongly to this drift away from English history, which is part of a wider movement away from European and North Atlantic history. Virtually all the ideas, knowledge, techniques and institutions around which the world revolves came from the European theatre and its ocean offshoots; many of them came quite explicitly from England, which was the principle matrix of modern society. Moreover, the West is still the chief repository of free institutions; and these alone, in the long run, guarantee further progress in ideas and inventions. Powerful societies are rising elsewhere not by virtue of their rejection of western world habits but by their success in imitating them, What ideas has Soviet Russia produced? Or communist China? Or Post -war Japan? Where is the surge of discovery from the Arab world? Or liberated Africa? Or for that matter, from Latin America, independent now for more than 150 years? It is a thin harvest indeed, distinguished chiefly by infinite variations on the ancient themes of violence, cruelty, suppression of freedom and the destruction of the individual spirit. The sober and unpopular truth is that whatever hope there is for mankind - at least for the foreseeable future - lies in the ingenuity and the civilized standards of the West, above all in those Western elements permeated by English ideas and traditions. To deny this is to surrender to fashionable cant and humbug. When we are taught by the Russians and Chinese how to improve the human condition, when the Japanese give us science, and the Africans a great literature, when the Arabs show us the road to prosperity and the Latin Americans to freedom, then will be the time to change the axis of our history.
- Iver Buckinghamshire 1972
- History of the English People, Paul Johnson, 1972
The truth about ‘the self’.
December 5, 1954
P145 The hope, the immediate future, and the teacher of the modern world is the West. The main problems of the modern world are functions of the Western style of life and thought. The most significant approach to the modern problems, therefore, must be via the modern Western psyche – and most emphatically, via the modern American psyche, since America, at the present moment, is the ideal-giver even to Europe.
December 10, 1955
P 156 The whole Afro-Asian movement now for freedom and equal rights finds support not in native ideologies but in the European-American doctrine of rights. And the remarkable (spiritual) fact is, that the claims are being recognized by the West; just as, in the U.S.A., the claims of the Negro slaves were recognized in the 1860s. A theme for my Bartholome de las Casas’s work, the “new world” is that of recognized and conceded rights.
Baksheesh and Brahman, Indian Journal 1954-1955, Published 1995
The ‘self’ is the one truth that we experience immediately. It is the truth that gives us our humanity and dignity. Pomo tries to take that human dignity away by convincing us that there is no truth outside of social constructs. Yes, the ‘self’ can change. But if we are sane we still maintain a sense of continuity with our former self. If a person is completely convinced by social psychologists that their self, their core self, is ‘socially constructed’, if a person believes that there is no such thing as transcendent knowledge, if a person believes there is no such thing as scientific knowledge, and if a person believes that all values are social constructions, then there are but two responses for the individual: anxiety (over-caring) and depression (under-caring). By reaffirming the fallacious assertions of pomo, these so-called ‘humanistic psychologists’ promote the illness they seek to cure - much to the delight of the eight billion dollar a year self-help industry.
The spiritual quest in the West, Campbell says, is best described in Wolfram Von Eschenbach’s Parzival. It can be seen as a three stage journey. First, the young Parzival is completely clueless as to how to conduct himself. No rules to follow. Then, he is instructed in the art of knighthood with all of its codes of conduct. But then he finds out that no matter how dedicated he is to following these rules, he is not yet able to behold the Holy Grail. The third stage is when he is able to abandon the rules, act out of his own center, from his own natural compassion.
The pomo myth as asserted by the paper you cite, effectively eliminates the second stage of this quest. That’s why we have people come to this forum and ask questions such as, ‘Was Hitler following his bliss?’ No, Hitler was not following his bliss and neither was Pomo Paul. The Eastern Way is pure enchantment with or without hallucinogenic drugs. It’s about transcending the rules, and the distinctions of good an evil, and the concept of self, and seeing the beauty in all things. However, it was conceived as the end of a rigorous and excruciatingly painful path. ‘Unless you are like a man with his hair on fire looking for a pool of water in which to dive into, do not start on this journey.’ It is too long, too difficult, too blissfully painful. Without a hierarchy of values, without guilt, or shame, or pride, there can be no rules to transcend. There can be no journey. This is why Campbell complained about so many students in the sixties who would tell him their generation, (we Boomers), go directly from infancy to wisdom.
I hope that explains my characterization of 'Pomo Paul'.
The answer to pomo is to recognize that there is no such thing as pomo. Objective truth exists and it can be known, through science and through experience. “I don’t have to have faith”, Joseph Campbell tells Bill Moyers in POM. “I have experience.”
I’ll close with a quote from the end of the only paper I know of that speaks of Campbell and postmodernism.
- NoMan…Campbell must be accounted a major mystic – one whose conscious iconoclasm enabled him to see the divine in everything, including and especially the much benighted human ego. By so doing, he provided us with a vision of a possible future for religion; a future beyond the spiritually impoverishing dogmas of both secular materialism and reactionary religious traditionalism.
No, I’m afraid that Joseph Campbell was no postmodernist. He was far too ahead of his time for that.
Was Joseph Campbell a Postmodernist?, Joseph M. Felser, 1996