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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. 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. 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. 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. 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.

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.

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. 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.

Postmodernism

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.

The Problem with the Postmodern - Rebecca Goldstein

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.

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. Here, he proposes to think against reason in resistance to Kant's assertion of the self-justifying authority of reason alone Deleuze [], Philosophical critique, he declares, is an encounter between thought and what forces it into action: it is a matter of sensibility rather than a tribunal where reason judges itself by its own laws see Kant , 9.

Since thought cannot activate itself as thinking , Deleuze says it must suffer violence if it is to awaken and move. Art, science, and philosophy deploy such violence insofar as they are transformative and experimental. Opposition occurs on the same logical plane, but difference moves across planes and levels, and not only in one direction.

Furthermore, where Hegel takes the work of the negative to be dialectic's driving power, Deleuze declares that difference is thinkable only as repetition repeating itself as in Nietzsche's eternal return , where difference affirms itself in eternally differing from itself. Its movement is productive, but without logical opposition, negation, or necessity. Instead, chance and multiplicity are repeated, just as a dice-throw repeats the randomness of the throw along with every number.

On the other hand, dialectic cancels out chance and affirms the movement of the negative as a working out of identity, as in the Science of Logic where being in its immediacy is posited as equal only to itself Hegel , For Deleuze, however, sensibility introduces an aleatory moment into thought's development, making accidentality and contingency conditions for thinking. These conditions upset logical identity and opposition, and place the limit of thinking beyond any dialectical system.

In Difference and Repetition , in English , Deleuze develops his project in multiple directions. His work, he says, stems from the convergence of two lines of research: the concept of difference without negation, and the concept of repetition, in which physical and mechanical repetitions are masks for a hidden differential that is disguised and displaced.

His major focus is a thoroughgoing critique of representational thinking, including identity, opposition, analogy, and resemblance Deleuze [], Furthermore, any move against representational thinking impinges upon the identity of the subject. Where Kant founds the representational unity of space and time upon the formal unity of consciousness Kant , , difference re-distributes intuitions of past, present, and future, fracturing consciousness into multiple states not predicable of a single subject.

Intensive qualities are individuating by themselves, says Deleuze, and individuality is not characteristic of a self or an ego, but of a differential forever dividing itself and changing its configuration Deleuze [], , , This leads Deleuze to postulate multiple faculties for subjectivity, which are correlates of the sensible insofar as it gives rise to feeling, thought, and action. Subjectively, the paradox of the differential breaks up the faculties' common function and places them before their own limits: thought before the unthinkable, memory before the immemorial, sensibility before the imperceptible, etc.

Deleuze , The book, in large part, is written against an established intellectual orthodoxy of the political Left in France during the s and s, an orthodoxy consisting of Marx, Freud, and structuralist concepts applied to them by Louis Althusser and Jacques Lacan. Deleuze and Guattari argue that this mixture is still limited by representational thinking, including concepts of production based upon lack, and concepts of alienation based upon identity and negation. Furthermore, the Oedipus concept in psychoanalysis, they say, institutes a theater of desire in which the psyche is embedded in a family drama closed off from the extra-familial and extra-psychic forces at work in society.

The first inscriptions are relations of kinship and filiation structuring primitive societies, often involving the marking and scarring of human bodies.

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The full body of society is the sacred earth, which appropriates to itself all social products as their natural or divine precondition, and to whom all members of society are bound by direct filiation Deleuze [], Finally, capitalism de-territorializes the inscriptions of the despotic machine and re-codes all relations of alliance and filiation into flows of money Deleuze [], The organs of society and the state are appropriated into the functioning of capital, and humans become secondary to the filiation of money with itself. However, because capital also re-territorializes all flows into money, schizophrenia remains capitalism's external limit.

Nevertheless, it is precisely that limit against which thinking can subject capitalism to philosophical critique. However, the Oedipal triangle is merely a representational simulacrum of kinship and filiation, re-coded within a system of debt and payment. In this system, they insist, flows of desire have become mere representations of desire, cut off from the body without organs and the extra-familial mechanisms of society.

In this revolutionary aspect, Anti-Oedipus reads as a statement of the desire that took to the streets of Paris in May of , and which continues, even now, to make itself felt in intellectual life. However, in philosophy, it signifies certain strategies for reading and writing texts. The term was introduced into philosophical literature in , with the publication of three texts by Jacques Derrida: Of Grammatology in English , Writing and Difference in English , and Speech and Phenomena in English Of the three books from , Of Grammatology is the more comprehensive in laying out the background for deconstruction as a way of reading modern theories of language, especially structuralism, and Heidegger's meditations on the non-presence of being.

It also sets out Derrida's difference with Heidegger over Nietzsche. This closure has emerged, says Derrida, with the latest developments in linguistics, the human sciences, mathematics, and cybernetics, where the written mark or signifier is purely technical, that is, a matter of function rather than meaning. Precisely the liberation of function over meaning indicates that the epoch of what Heidegger calls the metaphysics of presence has come to closure, although this closure does not mean its termination.

Instead, there is only the marking of the trace of difference, that is, deconstruction. Because at its functional level all language is a system of differences, says Derrida, all language, even when spoken, is writing, and this truth is suppressed when meaning is taken as an origin, present and complete unto itself. Texts that take meaning or being as their theme are therefore particularly susceptible to deconstruction, as are all other texts insofar as they are conjoined with these. For Derrida, written marks or signifiers do not arrange themselves within natural limits, but form chains of signification that radiate in all directions.

On the contrary, the name of the author is a signifier linked with others, and there is no master signifier such as the phallus in Lacan present or even absent in a text.

Glossary Definition: Postmodernism

Instead, it can only be marked as a wandering play of differences that is both a spacing of signifiers in relation to one another and a deferral of meaning or presence when they are read. Deconstruction, then, traces the repetitions of the supplement. While there is a certain arbitrariness in the play of differences that result, it is not the arbitrariness of a reader getting the text to mean whatever he or she wants. It is a question of function rather than meaning, if meaning is understood as a terminal presence, and the signifying connections traced in deconstruction are first offered by the text itself.

A deconstructive reading, then, does not assert or impose meaning, but marks out places where the function of the text works against its apparent meaning, or against the history of its interpretation. Hyperreality is closely related to the concept of the simulacrum: a copy or image without reference to an original. In postmodernism, hyperreality is the result of the technological mediation of experience, where what passes for reality is a network of images and signs without an external referent, such that what is represented is representation itself.

In Symbolic Exchange and Death , Jean Baudrillard uses Lacan's concepts of the symbolic, the imaginary, and the real to develop this concept while attacking orthodoxies of the political Left, beginning with the assumed reality of power, production, desire, society, and political legitimacy. Baudrillard argues that all of these realities have become simulations, that is, signs without any referent, because the real and the imaginary have been absorbed into the symbolic. The real, he says, has become an operational effect of symbolic processes, just as images are technologically generated and coded before we actually perceive them.

This means technological mediation has usurped the productive role of the Kantian subject, the locus of an original synthesis of concepts and intuitions, as well as the Marxian worker, the producer of capital though labor, and the Freudian unconscious, the mechanism of repression and desire. The hyperreal is a system of simulation simulating itself.


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Strategically, he says, capital can only be defeated by introducing something inexchangeable into the symbolic order, that is, something having the irreversible function of natural death, which the symbolic order excludes and renders invisible. Because these strategies must be carried out within the symbolic order, they are matters of rhetoric and art, or a hybrid of both. They also function as gifts or sacrifices, for which the system has no counter-move or equivalence.

Baudrillard finds a prime example of this strategy with graffiti artists who experiment with symbolic markings and codes in order to suggest communication while blocking it, and who sign their inscriptions with pseudonyms instead of recognizable names.


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Nevertheless, his concepts of simulation and hyperreality, and his call for strategic experimentation with signs and codes, bring him into close proximity with figures such as Lyotard, Foucault, and Derrida. Hermeneutics, the science of textual interpretation, also plays a role in postmodern philosophy. Unlike deconstruction, which focuses upon the functional structures of a text, hermeneutics seeks to arrive at an agreement or consensus as to what the text means, or is about.

Gianni Vattimo formulates a postmodern hermeneutics in The End of Modernity , in English [] , where he distinguishes himself from his Parisian counterparts by posing the question of post-modernity as a matter for ontological hermeneutics. Instead of calling for experimentation with counter-strategies and functional structures, he sees the heterogeneity and diversity in our experience of the world as a hermeneutical problem to be solved by developing a sense continuity between the present and the past.

This continuity is to be a unity of meaning rather than the repetition of a functional structure, and the meaning is ontological. In this respect, Vattimo's project is an extension of Heidegger's inquiries into the meaning of being. However, where Heidegger situates Nietzsche within the limits of metaphysics, Vattimo joins Heidegger's ontological hermeneutics with Nietzsche's attempt to think beyond nihilism and historicism with his concept of eternal return.

The result, says Vattimo, is a certain distortion of Heidegger's reading of Nietzsche, allowing Heidegger and Nietzsche to be interpreted through one another Vattimo [], This is a significant point of difference between Vattimo and the French postmodernists, who read Nietzsche against Heidegger, and prefer Nietzsche's textual strategies over Heidegger's pursuit of the meaning of being.

On Vattimo's account, Nietzsche and Heidegger can be brought together under the common theme of overcoming. Where Nietzsche announces the overcoming of nihilism through the active nihilism of the eternal return, Heidegger proposes to overcome metaphysics through a non-metaphysical experience of being. In essence, it stems from a recognition that reality is not simply mirrored in human understanding of it, but rather, is constructed as the mind tries to understand its own particular and personal reality.

For this reason, postmodernism is highly skeptical of explanations which claim to be valid for all groups, cultures, traditions, or races, and instead focuses on the relative truths of each person. In the postmodern understanding, interpretation is everything; reality only comes into being through our interpretations of what the world means to us individually.

Postmodernism relies on concrete experience over abstract principles, knowing always that the outcome of one's own experience will necessarily be fallible and relative, rather than certain and universal. Postmodernism is "post" because it is denies the existence of any ultimate principles, and it lacks the optimism of there being a scientific, philosophical, or religious truth which will explain everything for everybody - a characterisitic of the so-called "modern" mind.