Tuesday, June 01, 2010
Report from culture wars in Oz.
The question "What is postmodernism?" is akin to "What is literature?" or "What is philosophy?"

If Heidegger can be trusted (hold that thought), such a question can't be answered in any rewarding manner without delving into philosophy, in which case philosophy then speaks for itself.

The danger of articles such as last week's from de la Fuente is that they are neither philosophy nor criticism; they cannot serve to answer, defend, attack or criticise philosophy in any kind of meaningful way.

They are a long-winded echo of a trend that began and ended five years ago, and in de la Fuente's case, a spiralling justification for the use of the term "vampire discipline".
At least with vampires, you're safe during the day. Zombies are the undead you really need to worry about.
Postmodernist types still assume that students should just start their studies with, say, "Of Grammatology", when that murky text (whatever one thinks of it) depends on the writings of many other thinkers--not just the usual philosophical suspects (such as Guru Hei., and Peirce, as the mormon dude pointed out a few weeks ago), but structural anthropology...and marxism for that matter.

There's a need for a Prolegomena to PoMo, really. Without some knowledge of the tradition of german idealism, and really what Kant and Hegel were responding to (ie, those perfidious brit. empiricists, and one might say reductionist science as a whole, AND rationalism ala Descartes..and ancients, Plato etc), the young PoMo-to-be will be lost at sea...she's probably better off with her engineering or nursey courses, and then "Hegel for Techies" or something....
This is another consequence of philosophy departments becoming analytically specialized and abandoning the traditional concerns of philosophy. Consequently it falls on the literature and other departments to teach traditional philosophy, and they approach via literary criticism instead of first principles and so "Of Grammatology" becomes the first text where students encounter philosophy. It's not the fault of literature teachers, who have to cope with this responsibility. It's the fault of the philosophy departments that neglect to teach philosophy, having absconded into their private analytical language games.
The problem is that reading On Grammatology without a background in philosophy (esp. Husserl) is pretty problematic. Deconstruction really shouldn't be taught unless there's at least a basic grounding in a lot of the concerns of 19th century German philosophy and then the earlier Rationalism of Descartes, Spinoza and Leibniz.
Yes, I agree. But I don't let the belle-lettrists off the hook, as do you--most in the Lit. biz were indoctrinated with freudian or multicultural soundbites back in college town. While they might approve of a Derrida (the few parts they get), or maybe a Zizek, they're not really interested in promoting philosophical debate or disputation--even of some basic sort, like the mind-body problem, or ethics--, but in... advancing ideology, or at least they call it that.

The LitBiz thus depends on a romantic-gangster leftism (zizek-lite)--which I contend even Marx would protest (Marx hisself usually pulling for german and english skilled workers...even...caucasian ones. He's for electricians, not epistemologists) . And their enemies analytical types, Quineans etc. pulling for Corporate...or AIPACism.

Political reality's still Orwellian, but worse.
I'm not going to defend what is taught by literature departments. I'm just pointing out they're filling the vacuum left when philosophy departments stopped teaching general philosophy. Also, I think the problem is limited to specific -- unfortunately the elite trend setting -- institutions. For example, Catholic universities' philosophy departments seem (I haven't done a comprehensive survey) to still teach general philosophy classes.
Some lit departments do a good job. My point wasn't to criticize teaching On Grammatology but just suggest some background is necessary. But I think even a text like Moran's Introduction to Phenomenology would give enough grounding to at least get what is going on - even though you'd still miss the allusions to German idealism and the criticism of the same.

Since I *like* analytic philosophy I don't have too much trouble with some of the changes although I think especially in philosophy of mind and philosophy of language that teachers ought make the fundamental assumptions explicit. I also think any philosophy department ought have some grounding in historic philosophy (Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Spinoza, Kant, etc.) But I'm not sure despite all the hue and cry about analytic philosophy that this has been neglected. Further, at a certain point, students are required to read on their own. Especially in a philosophy major.
Catholic universities' philosophy departments seem (I haven't done a comprehensive survey) to still teach general philosophy classes.

I sort of agree with that--or at least they get Aristotle and his descendants, even Descartes (the upstart!). The usual public school/college starts with like Freudian errors, and some marxist-lite indoctrination. It's quite funny to hear orthodox catholics speak on someone like Hume --sort of el diablo himself (and anathema according to the church of Rome, like most modern philosophers...germans included (tho' I think a few cat.s finally claimed Kant might not be in hell)

Most American students in public schools were fed bullshit from elementary school on. They're lucky to even understand Euclid, that is, if they survive the baptist-zionist program (or the urban jungle program)
Concerning Catholics and German philosophers, Heidegger's way of ontology pops up in Vatican II documents ("God is not a thing.") and Benedict XVI encyclical's discuss Nietzsche, Freud, and Marx.

I ran across a blog post earlier this week (in Spanish) complaining that Catholic philosophy teaching in Spain following WWII was dominated by Heideggerians. There's no pleasing some people.
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