Monday, 10 October 2011

Postmodernism - Lecture 3 Notes and Main Points

Jean-François Lyotard argues that the postmodern age is characterised by an ‘incredulity towards meta-narratives’

Meta-narratives are large-scale theories and philosophies of the world.

Examples of meta-narratives include religion, science, history & art

Teleology supposes that there is inherent purpose or a directive principle at work in nature; put simply, it describes the inevitable ‘coming-to-be’ of something - the guarantee of progression towards a higher, greater level of development or definitive form. Religion is teleological because of its emphasis on transcendence.
Art is teleological because of its perceived evolution from art movement to art movement and associated notion of the ‘avantgarde’. Science is teleological because scientific discoveries are seen as unlocking the secrets of existence and revealing it finally. History is teleological because of the perceived progression from epoch to epoch, with each age more advanced than its predecessor.

Meta-narratives are utopian
Utopia = An ideally perfect place, especially in its social, political, and moral aspects

Meta-narratives are essentialist

Essentialism = the practice of regarding something as having innate existence or universal validity

Meta-narratives are Modern

“Modernism is a trend of thought that affirms the power of human beings to create, improve, and reshape their environment, with the aid of scientific knowledge, technology and practical experimentation, and is thus in its essence both progressive and optimistic.

“Simply put, the overarching goal of Modernismhas been the creation of a better society.”

All the planets and other objects in the universe move according to gravity; this mutual attraction explains the orderly and mechanistic motions of the universe.
The universe can be explained completely through the use of mathematics; mathematical models of the universe are accurate physical descriptions of the universe.

The universe operates in a rational and predictable way following the mathematics used to describe the universe; the universe is mechanistic. One need not appeal to religion or theology to explain any aspect of the physical phenomena of the universe.

“If the universe was a vast machine of interacting objects that meant that it could be understood as a machine. Human reason and the simple observation of phenomena were sufficient to explain the universe; If physical phenomena were mechanistic, that means that physical phenomena can be manipulated, that is, engineered.
If the universe was a machine and could be understood rationally, then so perhaps could economics, history, politics, and ethics. It also followed that if economics, history, politics, and ethics were mechanical, they could be explained without recourse to religion or God and they could be manipulated as if they were machines, that is, they could be improved, engineered, and made to run better.

‘The Enlightenment Project’ - 1668 1789

“Eighteenth century science saw an explosion of empirical knowledge about the physical world. A virtual flood of empirical observations and calculations inspired not only an increase in knowledge, but a massive effort to systematize that knowledge as Newton had done. The scientific revolution of the eighteenth century is, above everything else, characterized by fanatical conversion of knowledge into rational systems.

Eugenics = The study of attempting to improve the human race by selective breeding; its rationale is to remove bad or deleterious genes from the population.

“Simply put, the overarching goal of Modernismhas been the creation of a better society.”

Hitler’s ‘Final Solution’

Hitler’s ideal world involved the slaughter of all those who he didn’t see in his master race.

Estimated number of Jews murdered - 5,709,329.

“The postmodern is deliberately elusive as a concept, avoiding as much as possible the modernist desire to classify and thereby delimit, bound, and confine.
Postmodernism partakes of uncertainty, insecurity, doubt, and accepts ambiguity. Whereas Modernism seeks closure in form and is concerned with conclusions, postmodernism is open, unbounded, and concerned with process and "becoming.

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