Directed Writing #2
With the growing use of information technology, and the transformation in the functionality and range of knowledge, the world today is often being defined as a 'postmodern' one. But what exactly does that mean? The term 'postmodern' is a very difficult one to explain because it covers so many, but so few things all at once. Though it started mostly in art and architecture, it now ranges anywhere from there to sociology or technology. This is not to say that it covers everything within each subject, but more so that is covers a way to look at and understand these subjects.
One important factor of postmodernism is the importance of mini-narratives vs. meta-narratives. A theorist named François Lyotard defined these meta-narratives as stories which a culture tells to explain its practices and beliefs. He argues that all aspects of modern society, including science, depend on these meta-narratives for stability and happiness (Klages 3). Postmodernism, on the other hand, rejects these grand narratives and favors the more personal mini-narrative. Mini-narratives are always "situational, provisional, contingent and temporary, making no claim to universality, truth, reason or stability" (Klages 3). In doing this, they show a voice that meta-narratives leave out, the voice of the marginalized. These mini-narratives make understanding elements like art, sociology and technology much more understandable yet complicated at the same time.
In postmodernism thought, language is transparent. Words are mere representations of ideas. They serve no purpose of their own. Their only function is to represent the ideas that are being put forth. All thought and ideas are "conditioned by our 'horizons,' and these horizons are relative to our particular sociocultural histories; there can be no universal, neutral, 'objective' knowledge, but only 'stories' about the world told form within particular commitments" (Clark 73). If one were to follow this process of thinking, these words, this sentence and this essay itself all serve no logical purpose.
Stating that something has a logical purpose infers that there is a principal that is logical in every sense. What exactly gives something a logical purpose? Who decides what is logical? Authority can no longer decide what the 'true' way of thinking is. In a postmodern world, 'logic' is determined by the individual. Definitions will vary based on each person's own memories, experiences and upbringing. Therefore what is 'logical' will be different to every person. Every reader will interpret these words differently based on their own opinion. So if logic is different to every person, who decides what is the "true" logic? According to Aristotle, truth is "to say of what is that it is, and what is not that it is not" (Clark 96) This perspective assumes two things; there is a "truth bearer" and a "truth maker" (Clark 96). Now, this all seems completely logical, but in postmodernism, none of this matters. Since the mind of the truth bearer and maker are different, they will never look at any 'truth' the same way. Since all logic is based upon and very personal to each individual, no logic is above any other. In that same sense, no single person's 'truth' is more valid than any other's. If all of this is true, then there is no 'universal truth.' All logic is relative to each person, so it is leveled that way and again because every person is on the same level. The choices that we are given when determining our logic make all logic even on in the grand scheme of it all.
Since what is logical depends on the consumer, everything is logical to at least one person. If everything is 'logical' to at least one person, then there is nothing that is 'illogical' to absolutely everyone. This again puts everything on the same plane of logic. If nothing is 'illogical,' what should be used to compare these 'logical' things to? Making everything logical in a sense makes nothing logical because it can't be logical relative to anything.
This brings up the problem of the legitimatation crisis which states that "if we cannot appeal to universal rationality to justify or legitimate our account then how can there be agreement?" (Clark 74). Though postmodernism does many great things like bringing up the voices of the marginalized, and skepticism toward the truth, these things are good only in proportion. Too much of an attempt to level the voices of all people makes it so there is no longer any medium for people to agree. Too much skepticism confuses the mind about truth and life itself. While postmodernism is very helpful, one must remember that too much of anything is a bad thing. Like every other aspect of life, postmodernism must be put into effect and followed in moderation.
Clark, Kelly and Richard Links and James K.A. Smith. 10 Key Terms in Philosophy and their importance for theology. London: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004.
Klages, Mary. Postmodernism: A Guide for the Perplexed. Continuum press. January 2007. <http://www.colorado.edu/English/courses/ENGL2012Klages/pomo.html>