September 23, 2010
Dr. Paul Hillmer
This Paper Has No Purpose: Postmodernism and the Point of the Seemingly Pointless
If a person read the sentence, "This sentence serves no logical purpose," they would normally not think about it much afterwards. If the sentence is purposeless, then they assume there is nothing to be gained from it. When viewed from a different perspective, however, this sentence is very useful in assisting to explain the complexity that is postmodernism.
When analyzing a word it is useful to break it down into its different parts. When broken down, postmodernism becomes post and modernism. Postmodernism, therefore means after modernism. At this point, it would be very difficult to proceed without first giving a brief definition of modernism. Modernism is a way of thinking and acting in which reason is greatly valued. Truth is thought to be all that is good, and is found through science. Science is supposed to lead to progress and, ultimately, a perfect world. The main components of modernism are science, reason, and order.
Postmodernism is something that is very difficult to explain. It is, in almost every way, in stark contrast to modernism. It questions the existence of "truth", and disregards order. Postmodernism places particular importance on the people that are often over looked by the rest of the world. Postmodernism first came in the form of art and architecture. In postmodern art or architecture, not everything has to be logical or serve a purpose. Buildings don't have to be built in the most practical form, where only as much space as is necessary is used. Postmodern art doesn't have to express the same truth to every person. Postmodernism then proceeded into a way of thinking. One aspect of postmodernism is as follows:
One central theme of postmodernism is suspicion of what French sociologist Jean-Francois Lyotard calls grand narratives, the predominating epistemological and theoretical frameworks used to make both knowledge and truth claims. Theories or ideologies that claim to have universal application are perceived under postmodernism as reflecting the arrogance of a hegemonic and totalizing world-view. Postmodernists interpret these grand narratives as merely stories and suggest that truth claims cannot be universalized and are more appropriately understood and developed within a local context (Postmodernism).
Postmodern thought argues that there is not one correct meaning to anything, but many different meanings, which are relative to the individual person and situation. In postmodernism, it's not so much that "anything goes", as much as everything goes. A current example of postmodern thought is the idea that, in religion, it does not matter what a person believes as long as he or she believes it, because everyone will go to heaven anyways. This idea emphasizes the notion that truth is relative, and what's true for one person isn't necessarily true for another person.
The sentence "This sentence serves no logical purpose." is a very postmodern sentence. This sentence could be interpreted different ways. Some people, when viewing this sentence, would assume that it has no purpose whatsoever. Others would argue that, although it has no logical purpose, it can still have other purposes. When viewed in a postmodern light, this sentence can be very purposeful, despite what seems to be implied from the sentence itself. It does not serve a logical purpose, but it still serves many relative purposes. In postmodernism, logic is no longer necessary for something to be valuable. Some possible ways that this sentence could be valuable include to a person who uses it to describe postmodernism. It could also be found very useful to someone who wants to declare the purposelessness of an adjacent sentence. This sentence could inspire a person who identifies their life with it. These are just a few of the many possible uses of this sentence. This sentence also, from a postmodern point of view, shows one of the shortcomings of modernism. A person thinking in modern thought can find no reason in this sentence, and applying science to it does not improve the sentence in any way. Experimenting cannot give this sentence more purpose. Modernism has no place for this sentence. Postmodernism, on the other hand, is all about the things that modernism rejects. This sentence would be defended along with the marginalized of society. Another aspect of postmodernism, the belief that what one experiences becomes one's reality, is portrayed in this sentence. Because all that one knows about this sentence is that it says it serves no logical purpose, that can become reality to the reader, and, whether or not the sentence had a purpose originally, it no longer does to that person. For the postmodernist, it is indeed quite okay if for the sentence to serve no logical purpose. Whether or not the purpose is logical has no effect on validity or the sentence itself. It can still be functional with logic, for reason, order, and science are not what is important. To the postmodernist, value lies in how an individual interprets things, and not majority rule. The purpose of the sentence, then, is up to the reader's interpretation.
Postmodernism is a subject that is often viewed with disdain. It is a concept that is difficult to explain, and is therefore challenging to understand. The sentence "This sentence serves no logical purpose," however, is very useful for attempting to describe postmodernism. It is limited, and cannot explain everything, but it is still very useful.
"Postmodernism." World of Sociology, Gale. Farmington: Gale, 2001. Credo Reference. Web. 24 September 2010.