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August 26, 2003

Postmodernism for Dummies


I've actually been reading that book, "Postmodernism for Dummies"—er, no, “Postmodernism for Beginners” by James M. Powell—that you sent me. (Thanks for the gift.) While I in no way claim to be a great or even a small expert on Postmodern thought, I have been doing a lot of reading in French history this past year. As a consequence, I followed with some interest a section of Mr. Powell’s book that attempts (rather lamely) to deal with the question of why postmodern theorists are all, or nearly all, French.

Since I didn’t find the book’s explanation—that intellectuals in France crank out heavy, dense, theoretical tomes because that’s a good way to get laid in Paris—to be very convincing, let me hazard my own crude, stupid, American explanation:

I would guess that postmodernism is so Franco-centric because the real subject of Postmodern theory is France. Perhaps a better way to put this would be to say that postmodernism is about the experience of being French in the late 20th century...after your country suffered a degrading collapse (and then collaborated with the Nazis) in World War II, after your country suffered the humiliating loss of Vietnam and Algeria (and nearly succumbed to a military coup in disengaging from the latter), after being displaced as the world center of art and culture, and after being economically colonized by American transnational business. Hey, talk about being decentered!

This may be rather glib, but I'm not done. Let’s take Lyotard's "death of meta-narratives." I’d say the biggest meta-narrative that ceased to be credible around, say, 1945, was the notion of France as the center of the world, the Grand Nation, the birthplace of the Revolution, the place where everything important happened and always would happen. (The Marxism of Sartre’s generation was a sort of rear-guard defense of this crumbling meta-narrative, because, bien sur, Marx was an intellectual offshoot of the Revolution and hence, French by association.)

Or how about Baudrillard's theories about the "death of the real" and the growth of "hyperreality"? Doesn’t that sound a lot like a description of the displacement of traditional French culture by American and international media culture? (By the way, if "Postmodernism for Beginners” is accurate, Baudrillard's discussion of the history of simulacra rather humorously skips over the iconclasm of the Reformation, which I suppose makes sense to a French intellectual because, hey, if it didn’t happen in France, it might as well have not happened at all!)

Then there are Foucault's theories about power, knowledge and resistance. I don’t know, but they sound a lot like life under the German occupation to me, as well as a discussion of the life under the continuing Vichy-like authoritarian strain in French politics and society.

But probably the best example is Derrida and his notions of how there is a sort of unstable shifting back and forth between "privileged" and "marginalized" readings of the same text. Hmmm, what could have prompted that notion? Let’s see, over the past 214 years the French have had how many constitutions? How many revolutions? How many governments? How many general strikes? How many flip-flops between "right" and "left"? How much heady rhetoric? And yet, oddly enough, it's still a Catholic country with a tradition of authoritarian central control and a strong affection for its (inefficient) agricultural sector...just like in the days of Louis XIV! Isn't there a saying about "the more things change, the more they stay the same?” (Maybe there’s even a French version of that remark.)

The Postmodernists are right; there is something "ambiguous" and "unstable" about French culture (indeed, something verging on the schizophrenic). Of course, at the same time there is something awfully fixed and unyielding about French life. I can see how, in France, a suspicion of the ambiguities of language would be appropriate, non?

I guess the real question is not why the French see something of themselves and their situation in Postmodern thought, but rather what American academics see in it? Whatever our own issues are, America clearly lacks that peculiarly French culture-schizophrenia. Is it possible that our academics miss it, or do they perhaps actually long for it? Or have they simply not read enough history--either French or American?



posted by Friedrich at August 26, 2003


I've read those, too, and loved them.

One other point that sometimes gets glossed over (and I don't know why) is that, almost to a person, all the folks (mostly men) who "created" postmodernism were gay. Take from that what you will, but I think it's significant.

Posted by: Yahmdallah on August 26, 2003 4:22 PM

"History"? What's "history"?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on August 26, 2003 4:43 PM


History, as we postmodernists know, is merely a fairy story made up to justify the current power structure. Hence, there is no reason to study it and certainly no reason to think about it.

Seriously, doesn't the impenetrable jargon of postmodernism itself suggest the building of endless iterated defenses against what might be termed a "Dear Abby" interpretation of events: (e.g., "No, my husband isn't distant because he is suffering alienation from the means of production, he's distant because he's fooling around with another woman!") It's remarkably similar to Freudianism and other cults that way; it's un-attackable on its own ground.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on August 26, 2003 5:43 PM

"Un-attackable on its own grounds" sounds about right.

My theory about the French continues to be that they're so stuffy, rigid and bourgeois that radical posturing serves a purpose -- it adds a little spice to their lives, a bit of piquancy. My theory goes on to argue that Americans (as we often do) take French radical posturing way, way too seriously, and far more seriously than the French themselves intend it. And that, because our culture's so much more open than theirs, we don't have much need of froggie radicalism anyway, though professors seem to like it. Why? I'm guessing because it makes them feel important and chic and hot. What your guess about this?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on August 27, 2003 12:16 AM

Hey! what's wrong with bourgeois? Some of my best friends are bourgeois.

Posted by: David Sucher on August 27, 2003 12:32 AM

I'm not very familiar with french continental philosophy but I think I know enough to recognize that your post is an ad hominem caricature. If French academics are guilty of postmodern historicism you're equally guilty of a shallow determinism.

Posted by: Shai on August 27, 2003 12:57 AM

First, an apology: I confused Michael for Friedrich in the comments, hence the harsh tone. But the last point stands, I think.

I won't guess why French Intellectuals write "heavy, dense, theoretical tomes"; My observation is that modern anglo-american analytic philosophy is only slightly less incomprehensible.

Via Karim Lakhani I have learned about Pierre Bourdieu, a French sociologist and philosopher who has written on a related topic, what he labels "the scholastic point of view". Bourdieu laments a disconnect that affects many intellectuals, not only the French. It appeared in a 1990 issue of the journal Cultural Anthropology, but I'll email it if anyone without journal access is interested.

Just to be clear: I really like this site!

Posted by: Shai on August 27, 2003 1:30 AM

Clive James' take in Even as We Speak:

"In France the apparently confident onward march of post-war literary theory was readily identifiable even at the time as the tactical retreat of 'gauchiste' political beliefs to an impregnable redoubt from which they could be defended for ever, whatever happened in the real world. The identifying didn't have to be done by foreigners: Jean-Francois Revel was merely the most articulate (and philosophically best equipped) among the local commentators who spotted what was going on right from the start. Slower to emerge was the root cause of the whole aberration. When, at long last, after more than forty years of elegant coyness, books about what happened to French intellectual and creative life under the Occupation began to come out - one of the earliest remains the best, "Des Ecrivains sous l'Occupation", by Gilles Ragache and Jean-Robert Ragache, 1988- it gradually became clear that the Nazi Propagandastaffel, under the agile leadership of Otto Abetz, had worked a trick of corruption in Paris whose long-term results ran too deep for tears. Effectively, any literary figure in whatever field who had been allowed to continue publishing during the Occupation was a collaborator, right up to and including Jean-Paul Sartre himself. Sartre never said anything in support of the Nazis or the Vichy regime, but he wasn't asked to. Abetz was too smart for that: he wasn't buying approval, he was buying silence. He got it. The deportation trains left from Drancy without a hitch.

The collective bad conscience generated by this inadmissible memory gave a powerful impulse to the idea that literature might have principles of organization more interesting than its ostensible meaning. That same brainwave, nudged only a little further in the direction of absurdity, yielded the desirable bonus of removing the author from personal responsibility for anything he might have said or (even better) failed to say. From the political viewpoint, the notion of a 'text' was the self-serving product of an intellectual tradition that had been poisonously compromised, first by its passive acceptance of one totalitarian nightmare, second by its enthusiastic advocacy of another. It was an irresistibly seductive all-purpose formula: what hadn't been said about Hitler could be quietly forgotten, along with everything that had been said about Stalin. In France, the proliferating varieties of post-modern theoretical hocus-pocus thus added up to a get-out clause from the contract of history, which could itself - the penultimate breakthrough- be regarded as a text, a set of arbitrary interpretations imposed on reality. The ultimate breakthrough was the discovery that reality didn't even exist."

Posted by: C.Bloggerfeller on August 27, 2003 4:40 AM

"...Recent political history was enough to explain why the heirs of the Enlightenment should abdicate from experience and fall prey to a galloping case of folie raisonnante. But for the fashionable success of literary theory on a world scale the same explanation will hardly do. Few American-born academics had any real idea what unlimited state power looks like close up. The younger among them thought they were seeing it in General Westmoreland's face on the cover of Time magazine. For most of the Western world, totalitarianism was something you could safely accuse your government of allowing to happen elsewhere: you never had to accuse yourself of allowing it to happen here. It was generally true that the young academics who opted for literary theory and its related forms of scientism had been on the Left and were looking for a comfortable bolt-hole where they could either cherish their principles or quietly give them up, but a bad conscience was not the problem. On the contrary, many of them thought they were Noam Chomsky: an illusion on their part which depended on the mistaken idea that his structural linguistics was a form of literary theory too. But linguistics depends on scientific method, which can go wrong, as it did even for Einstein. Literary theorists are always right, like Cagliostro.

The reasons for literary theory's world-wide hit-parade status were sociological. The sociology of academia remains a largely unexplored subject which it would take a reborn Max Weber to sort out, but as a rule of thumb it can be said that in any soft option an expanding faculty, when it uses up the pool of talent, will modify the curriculum to make jobs safe for the untalented. In all its traditional formd, with the possible exception of bibliography - and even there you have to know why some books are more important than others - the study of literature requires sensitivity to literature. Literary theory requires no sensitivity to literature whatsoever. Nobody who teaches it can fail. In a country like Australia, which has a powerful egalitarian tradition, this consideration was bound to make literary theory popular, and it got a long way before the sense of the ridiculous set in. One of the nice things about Australia is that it always does, eventually: mainly because a great deal of reading gets done by ordinary citizens, who have keen antennae for the self-intoxicated flimfam of a cultural salariat."

Posted by: C.Bloggerfeller on August 27, 2003 5:08 AM

My take on the American love for post-modernism is that, (1) it's still the easiest way for academics to pass off lazy scholarship as something profound, (2) it fills a spititual void for these self-loathing bourgeois, and (3)it's a perfect way for them to act out their petty resentments. In other words, for basically the same reasons academics used to be into Marxism. The difference is that at least the Marxists had ideals (granted, dangerously naive ideals), but the post-modernists cynically embrace nihilism for the purposes of posturing.

On a tangent, I'm not sure if this quote is apocryphal; regardless, it's the best thing I've ever heard attributal to Foucault: "Derrida is the kind of philosopher who gives bullshit a bad name."

Posted by: J.W. on August 27, 2003 7:33 AM


Sorry to jump in here so late, but my Internet connection was down at home. However, I just want to say that when you accuse me of being guilty of "a shallow determinism" I'm actually quite happy--you got the point of the posting. I read a lot of history, and even spend some time thinking about it, and I find over and over that the essential skill to "thinking your way into other people's heads" in other times and places is to cling fast to the largest, most "basic" feelings you can spot in a situation. In other words, I believe people do what they do because of significant (and usually easily graspable) emotional motivations, and those are usually understandable from their circumstances (although you must understand those in some detail.) But if you can't summarize the emotional basics of a historical situation--including intellectual movements like Postmodernism--in a few sentences at most you can't really be said to "get it." In a comment above, I refer to what I term "Dear Abby" analyses of human behavior; I believe, at the end of the day, that until you can describe situations in "Dear Abby" terms you're missing the point somehow. And Americans who don't know enough French history to spot ways in which it is really, fundamentally different from American history--which I'm guessing may be the "default" situation, even on most campuses, should be a good deal more careful before latching onto French cultural products that they don't understand.

Anyway, that's where I come down--thanks for dropping by.


I have always suspected that professors, particularly in the humanities, will grasp greedily at any intellectual structure that allows them to publish voluminously without having much in the way of independent thought. (That sounds more dismissive than I mean: actually, humanities professors are only looking for the type of intellectual substructure that, say, an engineering professor can take for granted--their real sin is not caring whether that intellectual substructure actually has the "load bearing power" of science.) And Postmodernism, with its substitution of dense thickets of jargon for ideas is tailor-made for the publish or perish nature of the academic world. And, frankly, academics aren't very well historically educated...I would be interested to know how many English department devotees of Theory know even as much French history as I've learned in the past 8 or so months. I'm guessing fairly few, based on my memories of our bad old Ivy League alma mater.

Mr. Bloggerfeller: Thanks for the intellectual backup. My point exactly.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on August 27, 2003 11:03 AM

I can see I've been away far too long. That 'Francocentric' word should read 'Gallicentric' as in Gallic as in Gaul. That Franco hombre once upon a time ran that Hispanic country to the south of Caeser's divided Gaul. I only mention this in order to add to the odour of confusion the Frebch like pumping into an otherwise Anglophonic world. The last philosopher the Gauls produced was Décartes. And I guess when he stopped thinking upon his demise French philosophy passed on - so to speak, to the Germans, otherwise known as the Franks - if you get my drift. If you don't - then you've been reading far too much Derridda et fils.

Posted by: André on August 27, 2003 1:56 PM

FvB wrote "Baudrillard... skips over the iconclasm of the Reformation... because, hey, if it didn’t happen in France, it might as well have not happened at all!"

Yabbut the Huguenots were quite fond of pistol practice on icons and statues. They weren't as successful as, say, Cromwell's Puritan followers, and they never got to Paris... but overlooking this is definitely a flaw.

Posted by: Rich Rostrom on August 27, 2003 2:31 PM

I'm not invested in continental philosophy, but I'll speak to what you wrote about history:

By determinism I simply meant the reduction of history to a few tendentious entitities to the exclusion of others: e.g. "german occupation". Here's a fundamental tension:

"... to go on reading until you hear the people speaking. The essential matter of history is not what happened, but what people thought and said about it ..." -- G.M. Young

"A good causal analysis of a past event should consider not only what the contemporaries thought was causally relevant but also causes which contemporaries knew nothing of but which are suggested by the modern body of knowledge of human affairs" -- Harry Elmer

As a student in an intro Canadian history class my professor pointed out the influence of marxism and egalitarianism on my first essays.

My analysis of the "seigneurial system" in New France was unconsciously reduced to the standard marxist entities: the proletariat and bourgeoisie, ownership of the means of labor, etc. I hadn't read marx but it's everywhere in books, in movies, in politics. Was I guilty of reading into the past what wasn't there? Likewise, but relevant to the first quote, was my analysis of the "Family Compact" in 19th century upper canada. The influence of marxist narratives led me to take for granted what William Lyon Mackenzie wrote about them because it conformed to the marxist interpretation. He was a character for sure, which was also an influence but the intellectual blinders were on long before that. According to my prof. the villainousness and power of the Family Compact was greatly exaggerated.

Here's a tension I think you will enjoy, Friedrich:

"the great historian will try to penetrate beyond the descriptive fact to the causes, the material conditions, the mood, the human motives and ambitions of a particular epoch"

"... when the demand for explanation and analysis is insistent and pervasive, this reduction of complexity to simplicity is perhaps the chief danger to the historical sense ... an intuitive understanding of how things do not happen" -- Nannier

To conclude, some links:

(1) some quotes from The Whig Interpretation of History

(2) Poe, Marshall. "Butterfield’s Sociology of Whig History: A
Contribution to the Study of Anachronism in
Modern Historical Thought
Note: especially relevant to my understanding of "determinism"

(3) Megill, Alan. Philosophy of History Annotated Bibliography (to ca. 1990)
note: a historian typically thinks about the philosophy of history as much as a scientist thinks about the philosophy of science.

Yes, I am a student, not even a history student, so take that into account.

Posted by: Shai on August 27, 2003 8:11 PM


I could underline my points with an exhaustive description of French politics since 1789, but the blog format is not well suited to such an account. I think, however, that a genuine peculiarity of French politics (and culture) is indicated by how regularly we see almost total political "inversions" in French history within very short periods. A few scattered examples:

The Jacobin Terror (during which everyone was in terror of Robespierre) was followed immediately by the Thermidorian reaction (and the execution of Robespierre.)

The Revolution of 1789 overthrew an absolutist monarch who was replaced, within roughly a decade, with an absolutist emperor, who was replaced first with one monarch, then another, then by a short-lived republic, and then the nephew of the absolutist emperor. He was in turn replaced by a long-lived republic only because the pro-monarchist politicians who were in power were more afraid of the establishment of yet another empire by the grand-nephew of the original emperor than they were of republican politicians. (The general population supported all of these governments--go figure).

The left-wing/Communist Popular Front of the mid-to-late 1930s was replaced within a few years with the essentially fascist Vichy regime.

In May 1968 ten million French workers went on strike and the Communist Party (which controlled most unions) appeared to hold decisive political power; in June 1968 an election was held which resulted in a landslide--for the right.

In short, I ain't makin' this up. This fundamental instability, this "split personality" of modern France, is no illusion. Likewise, it is very foreign to American and Canadian political and cultural traditions. I believe that this "split personality" has had an obvious and profund impact on the intellectual products of modern France, especially its Postmodern theories. Do you seriously disagree? Moreover, I think it is fair to say that North American academics who embrace French postmodern theories without considering the political and cultural environment that gave rise to them are not showing a very profound commitment to serious thought.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on August 28, 2003 1:44 AM

As I said in my first comment, I'm not in any position to comment on the social, political, or intellectual history of France. If you read what Herbert Butterfield has to say about abridgement in the Whig Interpretation of History, I think you'll understand what I meant. I am skeptical of the work macro historical events are doing in your argument, but don't doubt the effect of political, social, and cultural setting on the geneaology of ideas, and in particular postmodernism.

I do know a bit about Habermas, and I do know the influence the experience of being a Hitler SS, the Nurenburg trials, postwar order and international law have had on his philosophy, but I don't think they do a very good job of explaining why he developed his theory of "communicative action", nor why he was influenced by John Dewey and Kant, in particular.

And if I recall correctly I see some of the themes in Baudrillard's Simulacrum in Adorno and Horkheimers /Culture Industry/. Further -- and this is just speculation -- what about Heidegger's influence on Foucault? Heidegger wrote three books on Nietzsche, iirc, and power is a major theme in Nietzsche. That doesn't directly contradict what you've said but I think it shows your analysis is too vague. The macro historical events you cite vastly underdetermine what you're trying to establish.

My intuition is that this is bad history. But then you've read "Postmodernism for Beginners" and I haven't.

Posted by: Shai on August 28, 2003 4:32 AM

First... the link on my name is to the site where my friend and coauthor cited this article. It's on damn blogger so I think permalinks are goofy, but it should be findable there. I think his comments are worth reading.

Second: "The more things change, the more they stay the same..." in French is, "Plus ca change, plus le meme chose." (Missing some accents and a cedilla but what can you ask for, I am posting from a PC-Room in Korea and they ain't got French installed.) I suspect it is originally a French expression and came to English from French.

Third, and here's a nasty suggestion but I think no more or less ad hominem than your own: perhaps "read-blooded Americans" in large part don't "get" postmodernism and find all kinds of ways of dismissing it out of hand for the same kind of reasons you think the French produce it? I see here two figures; an old man who is cynical about the prospects of true love, and a a young man who thinks he's in love when he's not got the experience to know it's just an infatuation. Why wouldn't the trauma of its Grand Nation status grant France not just the mere neurosis you suggest, but rather a canniness and wisdom about its past errors, errors typical of Grand Nations?

Fourthly: it seems to me somewhat provincial to dismiss a whole culture's philosophical ouput on the grounds you seem to use. Won't people someday be able to dismiss the notions you hold dear on the very same grounds? And when Americans themselves turn back and question those notions, will it necessarily be a symptom of the pained neurosis of failure, or might it not be something else?

Just some thoughts.

Posted by: gord on August 28, 2003 6:50 AM

Which, by the way, isn't to defend a lot of postmodernists all over, it strikes me as I reread my comments. I despise so many of them. But not all, and not the worthwhile questions that sometimes emerge, and certainly not the questioning that emerges.

There is however an element of industry in the whole enterprise in North America... funding, lecture tours, privileged publication, which poisons it all. I once saw a moron lecture for an hour about something that would have taken 5 minutes to explain in plain English (and which was explicable in plain English). However, if the fellow'd done that, he (a) wouldn't have needed to tour because it was plainly obvious what he was saying (b) people would have disagreed with him (that Alfred Hitchcock's _The Birds_ is maybe not all about gay sexuality), (c) he wouldn't have had a chance to feel special using big words nobody else understood.

Sometimes the ideas demand special words, but usually it's bloody posturing and hiding from the question of, what is this person actually saying to me... or crafting "performances" which gain one academic prestige (as one of my fellow students said justifying this ridiculous lecture which by the way was full of bird puns). The Emperor and his new clothes, rather.

But dismissing idiots and dismissing a philosophical movement in toto - especially one that does, in Foucault and a few others, raise some questions likely to be somewhat uncomfortable to Americans (and Canadians too, my own background is not above the same criticism) - makes me think the motivation to dismiss cannot be less neurotic than the supposedly neurotic motivation to produce this body of theory...

Posted by: gord on August 28, 2003 7:01 AM


I do not see how using a historical context to critique intellectual theory is in any way intellectually illegitimate. Accepting an intellectual theory without much, if any, idea of the historical and cultural context in which it developed, on the other hand, seems highly questionable to me. Do you disagree?

I am not applying a different standard to French and non-French intellectual theorists. I would strongly suggest that studying Nietzsche's philosophy (or Wittgenstein's, or Hegel's, or Dewey's, or Locke's) without a pretty damn good knowledge of the social and political context is equally idiotic--not that this stops most university professors from doing exactly that.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on August 28, 2003 11:01 AM

P.S. Moreover, I believe that many aspects of Postmodernist thought--especially its baffling jargon--are a clear outgrowth of a desire to de-historicize itself, to hide or obfuscate its historical context. While French Postmodern theory is not, of course, the first or only philosophical movement to suffer from this tendency towards obfuscation ("If I just came out and said what I meant plainly, everyone would know where I was coming from and dismiss me; I've got to make this seem to be about more than just me"), I think it is hard to argue that this is anything but a fault and a sign of a bad conscience.

Posted by: Friedrich von Blowhard on August 28, 2003 11:08 AM

Well I did enjoy this thread even if we're still talking past each other. I think Marshall Poe's article illustrates what I was trying, but apparently failed to get across, and he's more eloquent, precise and even handed than I am on a good day.


Posted by: Shai on August 28, 2003 6:23 PM

The various points here are addressed to various people, but I used "you" indiscriminately.

1) Baudrillard does mention the Reformation Iconoclasts. He rather elegantly fits them into his theory by arguing that the Iconoclasts were the only ones who actually understood the power of images and respected them, while the Idolaters by arguing that the images were essentially harmless, devalued the images.
2) Your contention that postmodernism is unattackable on its own-grounds is terribly wrong. The most consistent critics of various postmodern thinkers are other postmodern thinkers (if we take the set of postmodern thinkers to be reasonable probably isn't, but lets pretend).
3) C'mon guys...for all that you tout history, its shameful to hear quotes like "But if you can't summarize the emotional basics of a historical situation--including intellectual movements like Postmodernism--in a few sentences at most you can't really be said to "get it." " Is that really what historians do? And I'm not talking about pop-history like you might see on the history channel. I'm talking about what serious typically, but not always, academic historians do, and it has nothing to do with summing up complex historical events in terms of Dear Abby like responses.
4) Many postmodern intellectuals are very engaged with history. In fact, one of the recurrent complaints about postmodern literary theory is that it involves too much history, and that "literature has nothing to do with history." As for reading history, pick up any chapter of Madness and Civilization, The Order of Things, Discipline and Punish, etc by Foucault, and you are inundated with history.
5) Of course many adherents of postmodernism, even in academe, lack novel ideas, so they attach themselves to the reigning theoretical constructs. But thats always going to happen. To put it bluntly, we've got more professors than there are original ideas out there. Even in the Ivys. And this is true in socio-biological psychology, literary theory, physics, and even Dear Abby opinions.
6) As my mainstream American (read: not Freudian), psychology texts have said, a number of key Freudian claims (transference, for example) have been scientifically tested and verified. Many other concepts have proven untestable, and others have been tested, with either clear evidence against them, or no evidence in support. Don't forget that Freud was one of the first major figures in psychology. Villifying him for not being completely up to date is like insulting the inventor of the wheel for not making a Porsche.
7) About one thing, you are definitely right: French politics SUCK.
8) Later in his life, Foucault admitted/claimed that Heidegger was perhaps his largest influence. Given their respective philosophies, the claim is very plausible. (Since someone asked)
9) Just remember, before the postmoderns came around, you never would've thought to critique a theory based on its historical origins. See, one of the key ideas of the postmoderns was that the power structures and political conditions that give birth to a theory influence its future development and make it rather less than objective. Thats exactly the argument you deploy against the postmodernists.

Posted by: Justin Blank on September 3, 2003 10:52 AM

Great site!
Just a couple of points: I seem to recall seeing the quotation saying that Derrida gives shit a bad name attributed to Jonathan Culler. Maybe someone can confirm this.
Being a Schopenhauerian, I loved the exchange regarding Schopenhauer of a year ago. Schopenhauer's influence through writers and thinkers has been immense (e.g., Tolstoy, Thomas Hardy, Beckett, Chekhov, Turgenev, Conrad, Huysmans, Melville, Borges, Creslaw Milosz, Wittgenstein, Iris Murdoch, Freud, Jung, Mahler, Wagner, Nietzsche, Thomas Mann, Erwin Schrodinger, Einstein, George Santayana, and so on, all read and admired Schopenhauer very much). Sadly, his contribution has gone largely neglected.

Posted by: William Potter on September 15, 2003 1:35 PM

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