The Origins of Postmodernity

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In this way, they are able to distinguish their projects from Heidegger's thinking and to critically account for his involvement with National Socialism and his silence about the Holocaust, albeit in terms that do not address these as personal failings. They will, however, find many departures from Heidegger on Nietzsche's philosophical significance see Derrida [] , and many instances where Nietzsche's ideas are critically activated against Heidegger and his self-presentation.

Here, being is the underlying ground of the being of beings, the subiectum that is enacted in modern philosophy as the subject of consciousness.

Literature and the Condition of Postmodernity: Lyotard, Fredric Jameson (ENG)

But in Being and Time Heidegger conceives the human being as Dasein , which is not simply a present consciousness, but an event of ecstatic temporality that is open to a past Gewesensein that was never present its already being-there and a future Zu-kunft that is always yet to come the possibility of death.

The finitude of Dasein therefore cannot be contained within the limits of consciousness, nor within the limits of the subject, whether it is conceived substantively or formally. In addition to the critiques of the subject offered by Nietzsche and Heidegger, many postmodernists also borrow heavily from the psycho-analytic theories of Jacques Lacan.

Lacan's distinctive gesture is his insistence that the Freudian unconscious is a function, or set of functions, belonging to language and particularly to the verbal exchanges between the analyst and analysand during the analytic session see Lacan — For Lacan, the subject is always the subject of speech, and that means speech directed toward an other in relation to whom the subject differentiates and identifies itself.

Insofar as the phallus is nothing but the signifying function as such , it does not exist. It is not an object to be possessed, but is that through which the subject and the other are brought into relation to begin with, and it thus imposes itself upon the subject as a fundamental absence or lack that is at once necessary and irremediable Lacan , Hence the subject is forever divided from itself and unable to achieve final unity or identity. He describes his text as a combination of two very different language games, that of the philosopher and that of the expert.

Where the expert knows what he knows and what he doesn't know, the philosopher knows neither, but poses questions. On Lyotard's account, the computer age has transformed knowledge into information, that is, coded messages within a system of transmission and communication. Analysis of this knowledge calls for a pragmatics of communication insofar as the phrasing of messages, their transmission and reception, must follow rules in order to be accepted by those who judge them. However, as Lyotard points out, the position of judge or legislator is also a position within a language game, and this raises the question of legitimation.

Science is therefore tightly interwoven with government and administration, especially in the information age, where enormous amounts of capital and large installations are needed for research. Science, however, plays the language game of denotation to the exclusion of all others, and in this respect it displaces narrative knowledge, including the meta-narratives of philosophy.

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This is due, in part, to what Lyotard characterizes as the rapid growth of technologies and techniques in the second half of the twentieth century, where the emphasis of knowledge has shifted from the ends of human action to its means Lyotard [], This has eroded the speculative game of philosophy and set each science free to develop independently of philosophical grounding or systematic organization. As a result, new, hybrid disciplines develop without connection to old epistemic traditions, especially philosophy, and this means science only plays its own game and cannot legitimate others, such as moral prescription.

The compartmentalization of knowledge and the dissolution of epistemic coherence is a concern for researchers and philosophers alike. Furthermore, within each game the subject moves from position to position, now as sender, now as addressee, now as referent, and so on. The loss of a continuous meta-narrative therefore breaks the subject into heterogeneous moments of subjectivity that do not cohere into an identity.

Postmodernism

But as Lyotard points out, while the combinations we experience are not necessarily stable or communicable, we learn to move with a certain nimbleness among them. Postmodern sensibility does not lament the loss of narrative coherence any more than the loss of being. However, the dissolution of narrative leaves the field of legitimation to a new unifying criterion: the performativity of the knowledge-producing system whose form of capital is information.

Performative legitimation means maximizing the flow of information and minimizing static non-functional moves in the system, so whatever cannot be communicated as information must be eliminated. The performativity criterion threatens anything not meeting its requirements, such as speculative narratives, with de-legitimation and exclusion. In this regard, the modern paradigm of progress as new moves under established rules gives way to the postmodern paradigm of inventing new rules and changing the game. Inventing new codes and reshaping information is a large part of the production of knowledge, and in its inventive moment science does not adhere to performative efficiency.

The Origins of Postmodernity - Perry Anderson - Google книги

By the same token, the meta-prescriptives of science, its rules, are themselves objects of invention and experimentation for the sake of producing new statements. In this respect, says Lyotard, the model of knowledge as the progressive development of consensus is outmoded. In fact, attempts to retrieve the model of consensus can only repeat the standard of coherence demanded for functional efficiency, and they will thus lend themselves to the domination of capital.

On the other hand, the paralogical inventiveness of science raises the possibility of a new sense of justice, as well as knowledge, as we move among the language games now entangling us.

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Lyotard takes up the question of justice in Just Gaming see Lyotard [] and The Differend: Phrases in Dispute see Lyotard [] , where he combines the model of language games with Kant's division of the faculties understanding, imagination, reason and types of judgment theoretical, practical, aesthetic in order to explore the problem of justice set out in The Postmodern Condition. Without the formal unity of the subject, the faculties are set free to operate on their own.

Where Kant insists that reason must assign domains and limits to the other faculties, its dependence upon the unity of the subject for the identity of concepts as laws or rules de-legitimizes its juridical authority in the postmodern age. Kant's third Critique therefore provides the conceptual materials for Lyotard's analysis, especially the analytic of aesthetic judgment see Kant As Lyotard argues, aesthetic judgment is the appropriate model for the problem of justice in postmodern experience because we are confronted with a plurality of games and rules without a concept under which to unify them.

Judgment must therefore be reflective rather than determining. Furthermore, judgment must be aesthetic insofar as it does not produce denotative knowledge about a determinable state of affairs, but refers to the way our faculties interact with each other as we move from one mode of phrasing to another, i. In Kantian terms, this interaction registers as an aesthetic feeling.


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Where Kant emphasizes the feeling of the beautiful as a harmonious interaction between imagination and understanding, Lyotard stresses the mode in which faculties imagination and reason, are in disharmony, i. For Kant, the sublime occurs when our faculties of sensible presentation are overwhelmed by impressions of absolute power and magnitude, and reason is thrown back upon its own power to conceive Ideas such as the moral law which surpass the sensible world.

For Lyotard, however, the postmodern sublime occurs when we are affected by a multitude of unpresentables without reference to reason as their unifying origin. Justice, then, would not be a definable rule, but an ability to move and judge among rules in their heterogeneity and multiplicity. In this respect, it would be more akin to the production of art than a moral judgment in Kant's sense. Modern art, he says, is emblematic of a sublime sensibility, that is, a sensibility that there is something non-presentable demanding to be put into sensible form and yet overwhelms all attempts to do so.

But where modern art presents the unpresentable as a missing content within a beautiful form, as in Marcel Proust, postmodern art, exemplified by James Joyce, puts forward the unpresentable by forgoing beautiful form itself, thus denying what Kant would call the consensus of taste. The Nietzschean method of genealogy, in its application to modern subjectivity, is another facet of philosophical postmodernism. Michel Foucault's application of genealogy to formative moments in modernity's history and his exhortations to experiment with subjectivity place him within the scope of postmodern discourse.

That is, genealogy studies the accidents and contingencies that converge at crucial moments, giving rise to new epochs, concepts, and institutions.


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  7. In Nietzschean fashion, Foucault exposes history conceived as the origin and development of an identical subject, e. Underlying the fiction of modernity is a sense of temporality that excludes the elements of chance and contingency in play at every moment. In short, linear, progressive history covers up the discontinuities and interruptions that mark points of succession in historical time. This entails dissolving identity for the subject in history by using the materials and techniques of modern historical research.

    Just as Nietzsche postulates that the religious will to truth in Christianity results in the destruction of Christianity by science see Nietzsche [], —83 , Foucault postulates that genealogical research will result in the disintegration of the epistemic subject, as the continuity of the subject is broken up by the gaps and accidents that historical research uncovers. Here, Foucault gives an account of the historical beginnings of modern reason as it comes to define itself against madness in the seventeenth century.

    His thesis is that the practice of confining the mad is a transformation of the medieval practice of confining lepers in lazar houses. These institutions managed to survive long after the lepers disappeared, and thus an institutional structure of confinement was already in place when the modern concept of madness as a disease took shape. However, while institutions of confinement are held over from a previous time, the practice of confining the mad constitutes a break with the past. Foucault focuses upon the moment of transition, as modern reason begins to take shape in a confluence of concepts, institutions, and practices, or, as he would say, of knowledge and power.

    In its nascency, reason is a power that defines itself against an other, an other whose truth and identity is also assigned by reason, thus giving reason the sense of originating from itself. For Foucault, the issue is that madness is not allowed to speak for itself and is at the disposal of a power that dictates the terms of their relationship. The truth of reason is found when madness comes to stand in the place of non-reason, when the difference between them is inscribed in their opposition, but is not identical to its dominant side.

    In other words, the reason that stands in opposition to madness is not identical to the reason that inscribes their difference. The latter would be reason without an opposite, a free-floating power without definite shape. As Foucault suggests, this free-floating mystery might be represented in the ship of fools motif, which, in medieval times, represented madness.

    Such is the paradoxical structure of historical transformation. In his later writings, most notably in The Use of Pleasure Foucault [] , Foucault employs historical research to open possibilities for experimenting with subjectivity, by showing that subjectivation is a formative power of the self, surpassing the structures of knowledge and power from out of which it emerges.

    This is a power of thought, which Foucault says is the ability of human beings to problematize the conditions under which they live. He thus joins Lyotard in promoting creative experimentation as a leading power of thought, a power that surpasses reason, narrowly defined, and without which thought would be inert. In this regard, Foucault stands in league with others who profess a postmodern sensibility in regard to contemporary science, art, and society.

    We should note, as well, that Foucault's writings are a hybrid of philosophy and historical research, just as Lyotard combines the language games of the expert and the philosopher in The Postmodern Condition.

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    This mixing of philosophy with concepts and methods from other disciplines is characteristic of postmodernism in its broadest sense. The concept of difference as a productive mechanism, rather than a negation of identity, is also a hallmark of postmodernism in philosophy. Gilles Deleuze deploys this concept throughout his work, beginning with Nietzsche and Philosophy , in English , where he sets Nietzsche against the models of thinking at work in Kant and Hegel.