Monday, 4 October 2010

Postmodernism Lecture 2 Notes...

Introducing Postmodernism or 'The Apple, Auschwitz and The Incredulous Frenchman'...

- Jean-Francois Lyotard argues that the postmodern age is characterised by an 'incredulity towards meta-narratives.' (The Postmodern Condition: A report on knowledge, 1979).
- Incredulous is to not believe in something.
- Meta-narratives are large-scale theories and philosophies of the world.
- Examples of meta-narratives include religion, science, history and art.
- Meta-narratives are Teleological.
- 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 'avant-garde'.
- 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 is an ideally perfect place, especially in its social, political, and moral apects. In other words, they all lived happily ever after.
- Meta-narratives are Essentialist.
- Essentialism is 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 Modernism... has been the creation of a better society." (Christopher L.C.E. Witcombe, Roots of Modernism,

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 the 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." (Richard Hooker, The European Enlightenment - The Scientific Revolution,
- '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." (Richard Hooker, The European Enlightenment - The Scientific Revolution,
- Johann Kaspar Lavater (1741-1801).
- Physiognomy is when you categorise people's personalities by reading their facial features. (refer to physiognomy pictures).
- Alphonse Bertillon (1853-1914).
- Categorising criminality through the human face.
- "Every measurement slowly reveals the workings of the criminal. Careful observation and patience will reveal the truth." (Alphonse Bertillon).
- "The morally best, the most beautiful. The morally worst, the most deformed." (Johann Kaspar Lavater).
- "I hence conclude that the improvement of the breed of mankind is no insuperable difficulty. If everybody were to agree on the improvement of the race of man being a matter of the very utmost importance, and if the theory of the hereditary transmission of qualities in men was as thoroughly understood as it is in the case of our domestic animals, I see no absurdity in supposing that, in some way or other, the improvement would be carried into effect." (Francis Galton, Memories of My Life, 1908).
- 'The Final Solution' (Adolf Hitler).
- Hitler was all about a better society, but only accoring to his own ideas.
- Meta-narratives are teleological?
- Largely it isn't.
- Meta-narratives are utopian?
- There aren't huge amounts of evidence that we're moving towards utopian existence.
- Meta-narratives are essentialist?
- Culturally we are at greater fragmentation right now.
- "The Enlightenment project... took it as axiomatic (self-evident) that there was only one possible answer to any question; from this it followed that the world could be controlled and rationally ordered if we could only picture and represent it rightly; this presumed there existed a single correct mode of representation which, if we could uncover it (and this is what the scientific and mathematical endeavours were all about), would provide the means to Enlightenment ends." (David Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity).
- "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'." (Christopher L.C.E. Witcombe, Roots of Modernism).

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