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Postmodernism and all that
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The Sokal Affair, by J. Walsh
"Early in the Spring of 1996, Social Text published an essay suggesting a link in quantum mechanics and post-modernism by Professor Alan Sokal, a physicist at New York University. On the day of publication Sokal announced in Lingua Franca that the article had in fact been a hoax. In "Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity," Spring/Summer 1996 issue of Social Text, we find one of the first direct attacks in a major journal against the institution of cultural studies. This page is a brief summary of that issue."
National Association of Scholars
The National Association of Scholars (NAS) is the only academic organization dedicated to the restoration of intellectual substance, individual merit, and academic freedom in the university.
Butterflies and Wheels
Website with lots of good stuff on it. "Butterflies and Wheels has been established in order to oppose a number of related phenomena. These include: 1. "Pseudoscience that is ideologically and politically motivated. 2. Epistemic relativism in the humanities (for example, the idea that statements are only true or false relative to particular cultures, discourses or language-games). 3. Those disciplines or schools of thought whose truth claims are prompted by the political, ideological and moral commitments of their adherents, and the general tendency to judge the veracity of claims about the world in terms of such commitments." [16 Mar 03]
Words as postmodernists use them; e.g., "Bacon: Horrible man, obsessed with raping Nature. Control freak." [16 Mar 03]
Postmodernism and truth by Daniel Dennett
Amongst some dross of interest only to philosophers, there is here an elegant summary of why truth matters and of the development of science as our technology for truth-generation. Also lands a few powerful punches on postmodernists: "Many people, including both onlookers and participants, don't see this gulf [between appearance and reality], or actively deny its existence, and therein lies the problem. The sad fact is that in some intellectual circles, inhabited by some of our more advanced thinkers in the arts and humanities, this attitude passes as a sophisticated appreciation of the futility of proof and the relativity of all knowledge claims. In fact this opinion, far from being sophisticated, is the height of sheltered naiveté, made possible only by flatfooted ignorance of the proven methods of scientific truth-seeking and their power. Like many another naif, these thinkers, reflecting on the manifest inability of their methods of truth-seeking to achieve stable and valuable results, innocently generalize from their own cases and conclude that nobody else knows how to discover the truth either." [10 Mar 03]
Relatively Speaking By Simon Blackburn
Suggests that relativism is not just philosophically muddled, it can be positively dangerous and immoral. "If relativism, then, is just a distraction, is it a valuable one or a dangerous one? ... sometimes we need reminding that there is time to draw a line and take a stand, and that alternative ways of looking at things can be corrupt, ignorant, superstitious, wishful, out of touch, or plain evil." [5 Feb 03]
Two Cheers for Colonialism by Dinesh D'Souza
Demolishes the rotten intellectual superstructure of much of postcolonial studies. "The assault against colonialism and its legacy has many dimensions, but at its core it is a theory of oppression that relies on three premises: First, colonialism and imperialism are distinctively Western evils that were inflicted on the non-Western world. Second, as a consequence of colonialism, the West became rich and the colonies became impoverished; in short, the West succeeded at the expense of the colonies. Third, the descendants of colonialism are worse off than they would be had colonialism never occurred...Those notions are pervasive and emotionally appealing... The only problem is that they are not true." [9 May 02]
The New Anti-Americanism review of Empire (Hardt & Negri) by Roger Kimball
"Structuralism was not an important intellectual development. Neither was deconstruction, or post-colonialism, or new historicism, the other academic fads to which Eakin genuflects. One and all they were—they continue to be—intellectual con-games, utterly void of merit except as tools of obfuscation and intellectual corruption. (They can also help in the campaign to obtain tenure, but that is a separate matter.)... Unfortunately, preposterousness has never been a barrier to effectiveness. There are plenty of ideas that are fatuous, wrongheaded, or simply ridiculous that nevertheless have a great and baneful influence on the world. Books like Empire are a veritable repository of such ideas."
Class Dismissed by Mark Crispin Miller, in Context
Interesting reflection on the nature of, and some sources of, the "theory" rot afflicting so much of academia. "What academic theory analyzes--or, rather, demonizes--now is merely "power"; and its collective hero is the (putatively) "powerless."...the theorists wax "political" as if to reassure themselves that they are where it's happening, and that they do make a difference--but their peculiar view of "power" prevents them from connecting, ever, with reality as most people inhabit it. Indeed, that view induces them to see that very failure as itself politically progressive. Since "power" so values clarity and logic, good grammar and a solid argument, it must be really right-on to do sloppy work."
Derrida, Derrida, Etc. By Mark Goldblatt. Review of the documentary Derrida.
Mostly a compact and witty summary of orthodox views regarding what is wrong with Derrida, and by extension much of French "philosophy"; some original flourishes add extra value. Includes a brief introduction to deconstruction. Concludes strangely, in seeming mid-stride, with "et cetera". Derrida is "an intellectual con artist, a polysyllabic grifter who has duped roughly half the humanities professors in the United States... As a documentary, Derrida tells us little worth knowing about a silly Frenchman named Jacques Derrida. The fact that such a film exists, however, tells us much worth knowing about ourselves." [20 Jan 03]
Grad Student Deconstructs Take-out Menu from The Onion
"CAMBRIDGE, MA—Jon Rosenblatt, 27, a Harvard University English graduate student specializing in modern and postmodern critical theory, deconstructed the take-out menu of a local Mexican restaurant "out of sheer force of habit" Monday." [27 Aug 02]
The Postmodernism Generator
"The essay you have probably just seen is completely meaningless and was randomly generated by the Postmodernism Generator. To generate another essay, follow
Good things, no longer easily available:
The Meaning of Objectivity Part 1 and Part 2, by Mark Halpern
Quality philosophical discussion of the dangers of postmodernism, if at times a little melodramatic: "PM, problematic and potentially dangerous even in normal times, is for a civilization under deadly attack a corrosive acid that weakens us where we are most vulnerable: not in our airports or office buildings or shopping malls, but in our will and our spirit. It is bitter beyond irony to observe that what began as an attempt to prevent us from being tyrannical and intolerant to others has become a weapon in the hands of those who would be so to us." NOTE: to read this you will need to subscribe to TVR (well worth it). [16 Dec 02]
The Professor of Parody by Martha Nussbaum, in The New Republic
Almost a classic. One globetrotting celebrity philosopher dresses down another, showing that the postmodernist emperor really has no clothes. "When Butler's notions are stated clearly and succinctly, one sees that, without a lot more distinctions and arguments, they don't go far, and they are not especially new. Thus obscurity fills the void left by an absence of a real complexity of thought and argument... Judith Butler's hip quietism is a comprehensible response to the difficulty of realizing justice in America. But it is a bad response. It collaborates with evil. Feminism demands more and women deserve better."
The Professor of Complacence by Simon Blackburn.
One for the philosophically serious. Simon Blackburn defends the critical spirit against one of the subtlest and most slippery of contemporary threats - the philosophy of Richard Rorty.
See also Blackburn's
Richard Rorty, which explains how to keep your head while all about you are losing theirs. "Piece by piece, then, it looks as if the traditional building blocks of western thought - representation, truth, objectivity, knowledge - can and must survive Rorty's battering...Meanwhile, there are morals to be drawn. One moral is that we should beware of the level of abstraction at which many postmodernists, including Rorty, tend to operate. We have to drag them back to the everyday."
Postmodern Nursing by Sarah Glazer in The Public Interest
Truly horrifying. "Nurses searching for professional distinctiveness have plugged into a philosophical tradition that declares there is no absolute truth—one that they frequently dub the "post-positivist" position. Nurses who have adopted the relativist view in its most simplistic form have simply taken it to its natural conclusion: If science does not represent truth, then anything goes. Anything can include therapeutic touch, the Science of Unitary Human Beings, or communicating with the dead." See also Touching a Nerve, Glazer's rejoinder to a postmodernist's critique of her article.
22 Jun 2007