Directed Writing #2
Many people find grasping postmodernism difficult because of its defiance of definition and demand for subjectivity. In this way, the sentence "This sentence serves no logical purpose" may illustrate postmodernism purely because it is difficult to understand; attempting to make sense of this sentence sends the mind in circles. To clarify, postmodernism formed as a response to modernism. Modernism centered on scientific knowledge, stability, progress, and functionality. In response, postmodernism looks past the façade of progress and sense that modernism built up, attempting to question whether or not things need to make sense at all. Postmodern ideas thus take modern ideas and turn them upside-down. The sentence "This sentence serves no logical purpose" demonstrates several of those postmodern ideas including personal reflection, deconstruction of modern rationality and functionality, and subjective truth.
Postmodernism thrives on exploring the unknown and the undefined. Often, the unknown in question is the personal identity, and those who embrace a postmodern worldview constantly reflect on themselves. The sentence illustrates this postmodern characteristic of personal reflection. It refers to itself, giving it a sense of self-awareness; it knows that it is a sentence. Knowing itself allows it to make judgments about its identity, and it does so. At the same time, when it refers to itself as a sentence, it connects itself to the typical idea of what a sentence should be. However, what it does about that definition illustrates another characteristic of postmodernism.
The sentence takes that definition and deconstructs it, which shows the postmodern rejection of modern functionality and rationality. A sentence is typically thought of as a grouping of words that makes sense and altogether has some purpose or meaning. In modern thought, the functionality and rationality of language was an especially important idea. Logically speaking, if a group of words was a sentence, then it had a purpose. To start, this sentence defines itself as a sentence, and one can see that it is in fact a grouping of words that make sense when read. However, the sentence then uses its self-awareness and consequent power to make judgments about itself and declares that it has no purpose. This is a contradiction of the modern definition of functional, rational language. That contradiction leads to two different postmodern branches of thought. First of all, one might say that because it is a sentence yet does not match the typical definition of a sentence, then the typical definition is not absolutely true; postmodernism always questions absolute truth and works to find exceptions to rules. On the other hand, one could say that because the sentence does not fit the typical definition of a sentence, then it is actually not a sentence at all. A branch of thought like this follows the postmodern love of the undefined. It leaves one needing to explore to find a possible definition. Furthermore, if it is not actually a sentence, then that means the sentence told a lie.
Exploring whether or not the sentence is deceitful or truthful leads to the postmodern idea of subjective truth. As mentioned previously, one can doubt whether or not the sentence actually is a sentence. In addition, one can question the truth of its content--whether or not the sentence has no logical purpose as it says. The sentence itself says that it has no logical purpose, and that may be true. It stands alone, and therefore it lacks a context that would give it a clear purpose. Overall, its only purpose is for some to examine it, so for those who are not examining it, the sentence serves no logical purpose and has no reason to exist. However, for those reading and thinking about it, the sentence is the center of thought and therefore does have a purpose. This creates a subjective truth: what it says is true for some but not true for others. Because the sentence creates a relative truth, it undermines the possibility of absolute truth, which is precisely what postmodernism attempts to do. Lastly, the truth of the sentence cannot be tested scientifically. No experiment could show that the sentence's content is true, since its truth is subjective. Therefore, the sentence does not conform to modernism's scientific method of determining truth.
Overall, the sentence "This sentence serves no logical purpose" demonstrates several key ideas of postmodernism. Most importantly, it takes something that should be straightforward, the idea of a sentence, and makes it unclear and unresolved. In doing so, it opens up several new avenues of thought and alternative ways of viewing something that formerly did not even require a second glance. Postmodernism leads to new ways of thinking, which can be quite exciting. Still, the exhaustive array of thoughts it produces may leave one mildly nostalgic for the relatively clear thinking of modernity.