Back to point 1 then, the word postmodernism is too vague to mean anything.
In 1784 Immanuel Kant wrote the famous essay "What is [the] Enlightenment?" Text here. Wherein Kant states: Nothing is required for this enlightenment, however, except freedom; and the freedom in question is the least harmful of all, namely, the freedom to use reason publicly in all matters.
Kant is reckoned by many (myself included) as a genius of the modern era. This era was, for all the manifold and wonderful divisions and differences within, marked by
--1. An idea in progress. Auguste de Comte (the movement from adolescent to adulthood paralleled by movement from myth to reason). Hegel, Marx, 19th century capitalist utopias.
--2. Progress achieved through the public deployment of reason. (Kant).
In 1789 when the French Revolution was igniting, the icon of Mary in Notre Dame Cathedral was thrown down and replaced with an image of Goddess Reason. It was the perfect image to express what was taking place. Humans moving to a worship (that is de facto assumption) of Reason.
Postmodernism as a distinct philosophical movement (as opposed to postmodernity which is more of a cultural mood) arose in light especially of the horrors of WWII, rising understanding of human destruction of planet earth, de-colonialization, etc. was that within reason lied at its heart (elements of) irrationality. Depicted by the Icon of Goddess Reason.
I would argue this is the key central insight of postmodernity. [Others would disagree, those self-described as postmodernists, those not].
--Lyotard: end of meta-narratives
--Derrida: division at heart of being; diference
--Foucault: knowledge gained through reason as infused with power schemes
--Heidegger: being-in-the-world, time, historicity over Eternal Being; techne
--Marcusse: one-dimensional capitalist and communist man.
--Nietzsche: existenz over essence; genealogy of ethics.
In other words it questions Kant's dictum that the public use of reason is the least harmful of all. Given the history of factory worker children (see Dickens), urban crime and suicide-sense of meaninglessness, genocides, is the public use of reason the least harmful of all?
Postmodernity only exists in a culture that has experienced modernity. Hence its rise in post war Europe. For the moment recognize such a narrative does not inherently imply better than or a developmental scheme. I would add that these follow in line from Freud, an otherwise characteristically bourgeoisie man. Freud noted the ego-I exists amidst the battle between a superego and the irrational impulsive id/it. As well as of course Hegel who noted the embodiment in time of all ideas and Marx who pointed out the social-technical-economic history of all ideas.
I stress strongly the modern/postmodern tie. Before the modern world (17-18th century roughly) many deep thinkers, visionaries, artists pondered ideas like truth, liberty, freedom, meaning. The modern world is characterized by a sharp sense of progress. The ancient Greek view was cyclical. The medieval Western view was the universe was a graded chain of being static reflected in the hierarchies of social existence on earth. It is an entirely different feel. An entirely different way to organize life, society, meaning around individuals growing up to reason than adhering to myths-dogmas from the top-down. Reason certainly existed prior to thinkers like Descartes, but society was never on the whole organized according to Reason. One could argue that certain of the Greek polis and Roman urbs were pointing in that direction, not to mention The idea that history is moving through stages to a pinnacle is of course found from the Gospel of Luke/The Book of Acts, The Revelation, and the writings of St. Augustine (City of God). It is the apocalyptic view of Judaism and Christianity. In other words it is a myth and therefore not rationally proven. Postmodernism makes no sense without that foundation. If postmodernism makes no sense, then so I would argue does modernism. Yet we talk of modernist art, architecture, the modern novel, I took a courses in early and late modern philosophy. I see no real difference with postmodernism.
As a contrast, there are many movements in the world today that are anti-modern while not being what I consider postmodern. e.g. Islamic sharia which is anti-modern in many ways but appeals to a revealed scripture/tradition to base all of society upon. Sharia advocates can (and do) co-opt postmodernist critiques of modernity but not for postmodern ends. For dogmatic, call them pre-modern, ends.
Postmodernity is characterized by a feeling of loss, of living in exhaustion after the program for progress was shown to have failed and led to incredible violence.These are not too vague to have meaning. These are specific statements, though for sure broad in nature. There are two ways to go once irrationality is accepted within (western) reason.
1. Reason is irrational to the core. --This is the deconstructive, nihilistic train of postmodernism. It ends up in self-contradiction all over the place.
2. Elements of modern reason are irrational. --These elements then must be fought. Postmodern in this context is only criticizing the way in which Reason operated during the 17-20th centuries in the West. Namely that this reason was built upon the observer model. The non-dialogical nature of the discourse. If a person prefers late modern over postmodern that could work as well. Two then is reason criticizing itself. Which is why #1 is such a failure. It is highly reasoned thinking that does not admit reason, which is why it ends up in whirls of madness (e.g. Deleuze, Bataille). I'm in the latter camp. I defend and still promote the idea of reason and progress, but it must be dialogical (not monological) reason and a dialectic of progress. It for me must exist in an evolutionary context. These both from Habermas. For example, modern technology and weaponry can be used for less than rational ends. [If the reader does not like premodern]. That helps explain in part, though not all, the horrors of the 20th century. posted by CJ Smith @ 3:42 PM <<> Name: Chris Dierkes View my complete profile