Joseph Campbell and Postmodernism

Joseph Campbell believed that "...each of us has an individual myth that's driving us, which we may or may not know." This forum is for assistance and inspiration in the quest to find your own personal mythology.

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Post by romansh » Sat Jan 09, 2010 3:55 am

Thanks Bodhi for you considered reply.

I would like to argue and debate with you but I cannot find anything of substance to disagree with or debate with you. :) By and large I agree with your stance ... what ever label you put on it.

But not to let you get away scot free a couple of hunches and observations.

Quantum mechanics ... despite being mankind's "most successful theory" I suspect it will be discarded because it is acausal ... a little bit like god. The are alternative causal theories on the horizon - time will tell.

Chaos theory - sometimes intertwined with the second law. Well the second law does not preclude order coming out of chaos. A chemist's second law to some degree is silent about order. (Newer definitions have moved away of order).

Just an idea/hypothesis about objectivity and subjectivity ... objectivity is the information that reaches us and subjectivity is the the refection of that information (possibly in a 'refiined form').
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Post by Evinnra » Sat Jan 09, 2010 4:58 am

noman wrote:
And it makes no difference where one is on a political spectrum. That’s why BodhiBliss called Evinnra and I absolutists and postmoderns (when postmodernism is often associated with relativism and pluralism.) And I think he’s right from a postmodern perspective. Postmodernism is about crossing the threshold of differentiation and sanity. I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all postmodern together. Everything is possible and nothing is possible. It is the best of times; it is the worst of times. Ahhh, but the divine wisdom it. And why not just let the nukes fly.


- NoMan
What should we call the person who makes a decision to save a child from falling into the well? I would call this person a rational and humane being.

In early February 2003 I was lucky enough to have a short stay in Paris As I was leaving the Notre Dame Cathedral , I saw a number of gippsy beggers sitting on the cold ground begging for alms. Tourists visiting the Cathedral were advised NOT to give any money to these foreigners who come to Paris only to fleece off the 'well to do' and it was plainly evident that Parisians did not like those tourists who gave anything to these beggers. Though I could easily understand the logic in asking people not to encourage the growth of this begging industry' , I could not bring my self to go past a young gippsy woman sitting in the cold - seeing her fingers blue and holding onto a small child.- without giving some money to her. Perhaps the child wasn't hers, perhaps she is in fact better off financially than I am, perhaps she is forced to give what she receives from begging to the 'boss' and remains without any comfort. Who knows? All I knew there and then that I can not walk past her without helping.

Similarly, rational thinking that relies on evidence can not go past the plainly evident that some claims are more valid than others, some things are better than others, some solutions to a problem appear better than others. When we make decisions, we are always in a particular situation in a particular time and in a particular place, not in a general situation, general time and in the general vicinity of things happening. It is not infantile escapism to return to the security of selecting what is better, it is called 'reaching out to the good' . According to Plato it is only rational to act this way.
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Post by Neoplato » Sat Jan 09, 2010 10:03 am

Evinnra Wrote:
It is not infantile escapism to return to the security of selecting what is better, it is called 'reaching out to the good' . According to Plato it is only rational to act this way.
:D

And I'd like to point out the reverse aspect as well. That willfull ignorance of the good is not rational (and by rational I mean pristine cognition). :wink:
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Post by jonsjourney » Sat Jan 09, 2010 1:04 pm

When we make decisions, we are always in a particular situation in a particular time and in a particular place, not in a general situation, general time and in the general vicinity of things happening. It is not infantile escapism to return to the security of selecting what is better, it is called 'reaching out to the good'. -Evinnra
And when we do so, we are in the moment. We are basing such a decision on the moments subjective reflection on this particular situation. One's decision in a situation is then based not only on one's previous social conditioning, but also the situational factors involved, all of which are relative to one's own experiences. These experiences can exist outside of previously conditioned dogmas and belief systems. Welcome to the postmodern world. :wink:

So...

If I walk by the same gypsy and make the same humane gesture, but I am a "postmodernist", what was it that directed my action? Since I have been described as "Evil", or at best indifferent, what is it that guides my humaneness? Am I incapable of acting humanely or in an altruistic way without having a previously designed system of morality to guide me? And finally, if I have no previously designed system to provide a moral ground on which to stand, will I inevitably fall into actions of "evil" and destruction of all that is good in the world?

In the words of Colonel Potter on M*A*S*H...."Horse Hockey".
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Post by bodhibliss » Sat Jan 09, 2010 8:11 pm

Romansh - your points are well taken. I tend to think for much the same reason postmodernism will naturally evolve into something else, just as romanticism and realism and modernism all morphed into the next grand movement.

I believe that's already happening - but since we're in the thick of it, so to speak, it's difficult to know what that will be.

Meanwhile, particle physics, chaos theory, and the science of complexity also provide useful metaphors (and conversely, physicists such as Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, and so many others use mythological images borrowed from Hinduism, Buddhism, & Taoism as metaphors for quantum processes).

And thanks for not letting me get away scot-free - it's not a discussion if one's just preaching to the choir (though little danger of that here!).

:wink:

Evinnra - bless you for ignoring the established order and acting from your heart. Your humane act, grounded in compassion, is a spontanous realization of Tat Tvam Asi (Thou art That), the recognition that between oneself and another there is, on the deepest level, no difference.

As Schopenhauer & Campbell point out, self-preservation is engrained in our being - yet time and again we find individuals often spontaneously and without thinking (which means without rational thought) will place themselves at risk to save another who is in danger - such as dashing into traffic to save a child, or exposing oneself flames to rescue a neighbor from a burning house. Ayn Rand points out this is most irrational on the part of the rational ego

... but Campbell speaks with awe of how the immediate recognition of our unity with all life can spontaneously overwhelm the first law of self-preservation - the power of compassion in action.

True, our head might tell us the gypsies could be running a scam (if it is an act, seems a heck of a risk to be taking just to earn a Euro or two), but you acted from the heart.

Humane indeed.

:D

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Post by Evinnra » Sun Jan 10, 2010 8:35 am

Neoplato wrote:Evinnra Wrote:
It is not infantile escapism to return to the security of selecting what is better, it is called 'reaching out to the good' . According to Plato it is only rational to act this way.
:D

And I'd like to point out the reverse aspect as well. That willfull ignorance of the good is not rational (and by rational I mean pristine cognition). :wink:
Touche ... wow Neo, this was a very helpful move - why didn't I think of THAT ? 8)


Thanks Neoplato :P
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Post by Evinnra » Sun Jan 10, 2010 9:49 am

bodhibliss wrote:
As Schopenhauer & Campbell point out, self-preservation is engrained in our being - yet time and again we find individuals often spontaneously and without thinking (which means without rational thought) will place themselves at risk to save another who is in danger - such as dashing into traffic to save a child, or exposing oneself flames to rescue a neighbor from a burning house. Ayn Rand points out this is most irrational on the part of the rational ego

... but Campbell speaks with awe of how the immediate recognition of our unity with all life can spontaneously overwhelm the first law of self-preservation - the power of compassion in action.

:D

bodhibliss
Bodhibliss,

The idea that altruism and self sacrifice is irrational does not ring true to me since I am with Joseph Campbell in seeing self sacrafice as part and parcel of our human experience.

Richard Dawkins made a rather compelling argument in The Selfish Gene that this seemingly irrational act of a person investing prescious resources in someone else's child can be explained by the clear evolutionary advantage this person receives. Therefore, even if we do not rely on the claim that an omnipresent, omnipotent God created us to be altruistic, we can always ignore Ayn Randts claim that self-sacrifice is irrational.

If we do have this experience: of " immediate recognition of our unity with all life [that]can spontaneously overwhelm the first law of self-preservation - the power of compassion in action" it would seem obvious that we don/t need a system of ethics advising us to function as a moral agent. We could just rely on our moral intuition in each moment when we make moral decisions. I for one would be happy with this - as you probably remember that I believe our moral decisions are based on our moral instinct - however, by term of definition I could not call my self a moral agent if I did not favor one system of morality over another as my dominant guide in leading my life.. Those of us who believe that we have reliable moral intuitions are in a bit of a pickle because we also know that just having a personal experience of what is right or wrong does not make us good (competently functioning ) citizens. :cry:

The trouble is, I could have offered an example of having less than compassionate intuition about what is the right thing to do at the time. But fear not! At least we know so much that we can rationally justify turning toward the good, moreover, we can not justify not turning towards the good. :P
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Post by noman » Mon Jan 11, 2010 1:56 am


There is certainly a resonance between postmodern philosophy and contemporary sciences - particularly particle physics, chaos theory, and the emerging science of complexity. There is the same sense of smokiness - vague, paradoxical, counterintuitive, difficult to pin down and contrary to traditional "objective" reality.

How can order spontaneously emerge out of chaos (though that's where just about every creation myth begins)? How is it possible that this solid hardwood desk at which I sit is over 98% empty space, and is comprised of billions of mesons, muons, pions, and other quantum particles flashing into and out of existence billions of times every second? How can light be wave and particle - two mutually exclusive states - at once? How can there be supraluminal (faster than light) communication between two photons distant from each other in time & space?


And yet empirical science is demonstrating exactly that, unsettling though it may be.

- BodhiBliss
There is a big difference between the obscurity in the hard sciences and the obscurantism in pomo philosophy. That is exactly the source of the fallacy.

We live in a time of an information deluge. The volume of knowledge, high quality knowledge, doubles every five years I’ve read. Like our friend Noah, we must pick and choose who to let into our little ark of knowledge. But how do we decide? We could spend twenty minutes on every author and every blogger in the world. But this obviously would not be the most profitable course of action. We may acquire a wide range of knowledge, with very little depth.

So what’s a hero to do?

We do what we’ve always done: we narrow our search with trusted authorities. We look to people who are experts in their field to evaluate the best in art, science, literature, and philosophy. We don’t trust just one or two authorities. We make an assessment based on many authorities.

The Theory of Relativity, Quantum Theory, and Chaos theory have been heralded and have resulted in practical application according to the many authorities I’ve read. String theory is under attack recently for failing to add anything of substance to our pool of knowledge. I don’t read this material from the source. I read what the experts and their critics say about each other’s work. It helps that intellectuals are in perpetual competition. As Woody Allen once put it, ‘Intellectuals are like the Mafia. They only attack their own kind.'

One thing that always has to be considered when dealing with intellectual ‘whales’ so-to-say is whether there is a political angle. Could they be protecting themselves, their department, or school of thought? Could it be for the sake of money in the form of grants and endowments, or to sell books and videos to the general public - to schmucks like me?

Noam Chomsky has authored over 100 books. He’s one of the most cited scholars of our time. And he is extremely Left. He is not the type that would try to protect the Establishment, or the traditional way of thinking. I can’t imagine a more trusted voice on the issue of pomo. (Because pomo is billed as a way to shake up the Establishment.)

Perhaps my failure to recognize what is called here "science," etc., reflects personal limitations. That could well be, but I wonder. For some 40 years, I've been actively engaged in what I, and others, regard as rational inquiry (science, mathematics); for almost all of those years, I've been at the very heart of the beast, at MIT. When I attend seminars, read technical papers in my own or other fields, and work with students and colleagues, I have no problem in recognizing what is before me as rational inquiry. In contrast, the descriptions presented here scarcely resemble anything in my experience in these areas, or understanding of them.


Keeping to the personal level, 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. Perhaps the explanation lies in some personal inadequacy, like tone-deafness. Or there may be other reasons. The question is not strictly relevant here, and I won't pursue it.


http://www.chomsky.info/articles/1995----02.htm
Noam Chomsky knew the difference between real science, real intellectualism and this pomo nonsense. He and other intellectual stalwarts provide me with all the information I need to assess pomo philosophers. I don’t need to read Derrida. I don’t need to read Stanley Fish as Clemsy suggested earlier. You couldn’t pay me enough. The only way I’d read Derrida and Fish is if I had a loaded double barrel shot gun aimed at me – and even then it would have to be at point blank range.

Now I know that everything Fish and Derrida wrote is not gibberish. You don’t reach their level of academia without having good chops (to us a jazz expression). But just on principle these two and other pomo scum will not set foot on my ark. I’ll read about them from others.

You just have to appreciate Pomos game. Pomo philosophers use a sleazy underhanded technique of being selectively rational, of being selectively obscure, of condemning in other’s work what they condone in their own, and of putting power above truth, knowledge, and justice. More than anything else pomo philosophy is about power. It’s about using any means available to gain power without any concern for right or wrong whatsoever. This is all well and good for a world without values, without the quest for values; a world where power is all that matters; where power is knowledge as Foucault would claim.
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.


- Noam Chomsky, On Language, , 1998
Chomsky is too nice to his liberal colleagues. Pomo philosophy is about destruction of all that is good in humankind. It is an attack on the idea of goodness itself. It is an attempt to go back to the Garden, to a state of nature where nothing matters but power. It is the most disheartening aspect of my Boomer generation. And I hope the nightmare is over.


- NoMan
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Post by Clemsy » Mon Jan 11, 2010 3:33 am

Okay, let me sum this up: Noman really, really hates, I mean despises to the depth of his being postmodern philosophy and all that and who go with it. (You know, I could easily argue, quote by quote, that noman's post is a specifically pointed poke at Bodhibliss... But I'll let him decide whether or not to take issue.)

We get it.

Now, how about lightening up and changing the subject. Start a new thread on something... fine... positive... cheerful even. Balance the books, as it were.

Unless everyone wants to keep repeating themselves here and wasting more bytes on the server. Then go ahead! Just make sure everyone knows that the only thing that's changing here is the level of rhetoric, not the content.

But right now, I'm very concerned about the Higher in the order of this conversation. Very, very much so.

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Post by S_Watson » Thu Jan 14, 2010 10:23 am

But right now, I'm very concerned about the Higher in the order of this conversation. Very, very much so.
A HIGHER order? Okay, how about this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O21St4SMs68
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Post by richard silliker » Thu Jan 14, 2010 10:04 pm

bodhibliss
As Joseph Campbell says, every act has light and dark consequences. Eating a steak may be experienced as good by me, but I doubt the cow concurs. The best we can do, in Joe's words, is lean towards the light ...
Be ambivalent.

RS
"We sacrifice the whole truth of any given experience for the value to which we are constrained".
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Post by jonsjourney » Fri Jan 15, 2010 1:07 pm

Be ambivalent. -RS
At first, I did not particularly like this term...so in keeping with the idea of clear definitions for the sake of progressive discussion...
1. uncertainty or fluctuation, esp. when caused by inability to make a choice or by a simultaneous desire to say or do two opposite or conflicting things.
2. Psychology. the coexistence within an individual of positive and negative feelings toward the same person, object, or action, simultaneously drawing him or her in opposite directions.
I find the psychological definition to be more "appropriate" in this context.

Subjectivity?

Since the central pole of the universe moves with us, we may indeed be talking about ambivalence. As a word, it just seems to bring forth a negative image, rather than a positive one. I wonder why. For some reason, the idea of indifference comes to mind when I hear ambivalence.

Anybody else have this same impression?
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Post by richard silliker » Fri Jan 15, 2010 7:32 pm

jonsjourney
Since the central pole of the universe moves with us, we may indeed be talking about ambivalence. As a word, it just seems to bring forth a negative image, rather than a positive one. I wonder why. For some reason, the idea of indifference comes to mind when I hear ambivalence.

Anybody else have this same impression?
As defined by RMCM - Ambivalence: the experience of concurrent like and dislike.

Ambivalence certainly can bring forth a negative image in as much that others may see an ambivalent person as weak and indecisive. To be ambivalent is not the same as being indifferent.

RS
"We sacrifice the whole truth of any given experience for the value to which we are constrained".
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Post by adirondack » Wed May 05, 2010 3:02 pm

Evinnra wrote:Indeed, it seems that experiencing periodical doubt is what makes the mind evolve. However, there is a big difference between appealing for re-consideration of our assumptions regarding what is the case and stating that nothing can give us reliable guidelines regarding the evaluation of what is the case. The appeal for questioning our assumptions is justifiable but the statement that any possible answer we get is useless since it is still questionalbe is a criminal act against our sanity.
This looks just like Humean academic philosophy. Hume tried to philosophically attacked what was considered self-evident stated from Aristotle for centuries. Hume attacked common sense. Yet he never philosophically accomplished this task and it is considered to be only a psychological attack by Hume in which he cast doubt on knowledge and first principles as to whether they are actually true or not. Hume himself stated in his work An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding :
Hume wrote:Nor need we fear that this philosophy, while it endeavors to limit our enquiries to common life, should ever undermine the reasonings of common life, and carry its doubts so far as to destroy all action, as well as speculation. Nature will always maintain her rights, and prevail in the end over any abstract reasoning whatsoever. Though we should conclude, for instance, as in the foregoing section, that, in all reasonings from experience, there is a step taken by the mind which is not supported by any argument or process of the understanding [i.e. from cause to effect]; there is no danger that these reasonings, on which almost all knowledge depends, will ever be affected by such a discovery.
{More here: http://www.friesian.com/Kant.htm}

Hume here saw what he concluded, but his conclusion was only psychological and not philosophically concluded. He injected psychological doubt into academia from then on because supposedly he falsified natural law theory, but even Hume who rejected "oughts" being correlated with "is's" or I call label as an imaginary construct and what it has traditionally been called the is/ought gap, Hume later in his life found the need to write about Justice in a natural law way contradicting his earlier claims. Here is Professor Hesselberg quoted by Murry Rothbard, a natural law theorist of the Aristotle-Thomist tradition, pointing this out concerning Hume:
Rothbard wrote:Professor Hesselberg has shown, however, that Hume, in the course of his own discussions, was compelled to reintroduce a natural law conception into his social philosophy and particularly into his theory of justice, thus illustrating the gibe of Etienne Gilson: "The natural law always buries its undertakers." For Hume, in Hesselberg's words, "recognized and accepted that the social . . . order is an indispensable prerequisite to man's well-being and happiness: and that this is a statement of fact." The social order, therefore, must be maintained by man.
{source: Rothbard, Murray, Ethics of Liberty; http://mises.org/rothbard/ethics.pdf}

One can see where Humean philosophy leads to if Hume's psychology in these regards, not saying all of his works were psychological in nature, but to (1) confuse his psychological assertion for philosophical is what had lead Kant to debate him but on this issue Kant didn't fully disagree. Then others such as Husserl who founded phenomenology and Reinach opposed Humean philosophy stemming their tradition from Franz Branteno (who was Husserl's teacher). Husserl would only later reject his initial philosophy all the way to nihilism and atheism with his later works. A concept of realism that links itself into differing philosophies such as phenomenology, natural law theorizing, and maybe some others, such a realist tradition points at Aristotle and some other ancient Greek philosophers as their founding. What it does is, realism acknowledges first principles.

It was Karl Popper that shut Humean philosophy out of the natural sciences with his falsification criteria as Popper left this problematic nature of philosophy that didn't disappear within philosophy and he barricaded it out of the natural sciences. Not that Karl Popper's philosophy has no problems. It does.

Here is what an extant realist philosopher Barry Smith says about this:
Barry Smith wrote:Indeed, great difficulties may be set in the way of our attaining knowledge of essential structures of certain sorts, and of our transforming such knowledge into the organized form of a strict theory. Above all we may (as Hume showed) mistakenly suppose that we have grasped a law or structure for psychological reasons of habit. Our knowledge of structures or laws can nevertheless be exact. For the quality of exactness or strict universality is skew to that of infallibility. Episteme may be ruled out in certain circumstances, but true doxa (which is to say, `orthodoxy') may be nonetheless available.
{source: Smith, Barry; Aristotle, Menger, Mises: On the Metaphysics of Economics; http://ontology.buffalo.edu/smith/articles/menger.html}

It is this confusion of logic for psychology that currently is debated upon a range of greater or lesser degree. It's not that one is worse than the othe; it's a matter of delineating categorical fields to keep their proper undertaking essentially intact.

There is a term called polylogic. And it is what Marx and others espoused, not necessarily using that term, but advocated. Class consciousness (Marx) or gender consciousness or race consciousness (basically the whole sociology department today) in which a person in certain conditions of environment or biological happenstance have different logical capabilities. 'Oh, you'll never understand what it feels like to be black, or white trash, or a women.' And completely digresses the argument into ad hominems instead of rational discourse that logically can be reasoned. How does one make an argument and converse with flesh? Talking to skin isn't going to get an answer back. But A is A for everybody and there begins intellectual discourse.
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Post by Evinnra » Thu May 06, 2010 6:06 am

adirondack wrote:
There is a term called polylogic. And it is what Marx and others espoused, not necessarily using that term, but advocated. Class consciousness (Marx) or gender consciousness or race consciousness (basically the whole sociology department today) in which a person in certain conditions of environment or biological happenstance have different logical capabilities. 'Oh, you'll never understand what it feels like to be black, or white trash, or a women.' And completely digresses the argument into ad hominems instead of rational discourse that logically can be reasoned. How does one make an argument and converse with flesh? Talking to skin isn't going to get an answer back. But A is A for everybody and there begins intellectual discourse.
Have to agree with you on this Adirondack, for this entire thread was dedicated to expose this logical fallacy that relative perspectives have nothing substantial to offer to each other. When in doubt, when facing those who go so far as to say ‘you have no idea what it is like …’ I just ask; how the hack would you know? If what you say is true, then you can not possibly have any idea what ideas I have. :roll: :lol:

Welcome to the forum adirondack!
:)
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