Philosophical Postmodernism

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Robert Hanna et al. :

"By the early 1980s, the philosophical Great Divide between post-classical Analytic philosophy and Continental philosophy was fully in place; and Richard Rorty and others more or less systematically fused post-structuralism, deconstructionism, and what was left of Deweyan pragmatism, into philosophical post-modernism,63 aka Po-Mo, which also began to dominate in the applied and fine arts, and in Comparative Literature and Humanities Departments at colleges and universities worldwide, by vigorously rejecting and replacing modernism in all its forms, but especially high modernism. Po-Mo also gradually fused with what was left of 1970s New Left and emerging identity politics in the USA, creating, inside the American professional academy, the social-institutional powerhouse of multiculturalism by the mid-90s,64 then becoming a juggernaut by the turn of the millennium, and finally a hegemonic ideology in the Marxian sense by the end of first two decades of the 21st century.


In 1996, all these bandwagons ran headlong into The Sokal Hoax. Alan Sokal, a physics professor at NYU, submitted a deliberately nonsensical article to the cultural studies journal Social Text, which was then accepted and duly published. The article “argued” that quantum gravity was a linguistic and social construct. Three weeks later, Sokal revealed that the article was a hoax, and that the entire setup was to test the intellectual integrity and rigor of the emerging postmodernist elite.68Professional academic Continental philosophers were, thereby, publicly shamed and scandalized by The Hoax. An anticipation of this public shaming and scandalizing had already been delivered in the 1970s and 80s by the post-classical Analytic philosopher John Searle, via his extended vituperative debate with Jacques Derrida in the pages of various journals and books. Leaving aside its, at times, risibly impenetrable jargon and rhetoric, however, in a deeper sense and indeed fundamentally, Po-Mo is alienating, anti-rationalistic, and culturally nihilistic. Its program can best be described as “diversified modernism,”70 or alternatively as “a philosophy of suspicion.” Just as humanity was not the center of the universe after Galileo’s discovery, and just as Darwin had dethroned the human species from the top of the animal hierarchy, so too Freud had argued that hidden, unconscious drives steer and direct the supposedly rational human being, and so too Nietzsche had declared a war on a universal, God-guaranteed morality. Po-Mo’s final steps in dismantling the modernist world-picture were intended to stress that all grand societal visions are nothing more than grand narratives or grand récits (Lyotard), that meaning is endlessly postponed in the play of signs (Derrida), or that reality is inaccessible and merely a hyperreality (Baudrillard). Or, alternatively, by demonstrating that every social institution is nothing but an instrument for coercively forming individuals according to covert, oppressive, preconceived ideals (Foucault). As a consequence of The Sokal Hoax together with the fundamental alienation/anti-rationalism/cultural nihilism of Po-Mo itself, from the turn of the new millennium forwards, in another twist of “internalizing the oppressor,” leading Continental philosophers began to compete with, and mirror, Analytic metaphysics and scientific naturalism."