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  1. #1
    Senior Member velocity's Avatar
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    Default continental philosophy nothing more than poetics?

    The tradition of continental philosophy informs much, if not all, of this "theory" movement in literature, visual arts, cultural studies as taught in universities. are the "philosophies" of derrida, lyotard, foucault, and other relativists merely speculative poetry, not Philosophy?

  2. #2
    Senior Member velocity's Avatar
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    does no one comprehend the scope of philosophy at which my question is directed? most of the content in this subforum consist of folk-philosophizing, but i expected a handful of the more knowledgeable to thoughtfully respond.

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    Senior Member Survive & Stay Free's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by velocity View Post
    does no one comprehend the scope of philosophy at which my question is directed? most of the content in this subforum consist of folk-philosophizing, but i expected a handful of the more knowledgeable to thoughtfully respond.
    So?

    And you just confirmed a lot of what I think about people who post topics like this, infact about the whole so called "continential philosophy" for that matter.

  4. #4
    Ginkgo
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    Quote Originally Posted by velocity View Post
    The tradition of continental philosophy informs much, if not all, of this "theory" movement in literature, visual arts, cultural studies as taught in universities. are the "philosophies" of derrida, lyotard, foucault, and other relativists merely speculative poetry, not Philosophy?
    They're still Philosophy, but they're just as non-linear and non-analytical as Marxism. For instance, Lyotard's insistence that all meta-narratives were obsolete ignored the fact that his idea is a meta-narrative. He ignored his own reasoning, but he did raise interesting and valid points about the natures of language and culture as many continental philosophers do.

  5. #5

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    As MT above said, the relativist philosophers you refer to aim to destabilize the grand narrative. But rather than just meandering musings, I think the value that these philosophies bring is that they allow for a multiplicity of voices that were not valued before in scholarship. It was the deconstructive philosophies that gave agency to non-traditional (non-white, non-male, non-Western) voices. I find it interesting that you refer to Foucault and company as philosophy, not Philosophy, which is exactly the kind of thinking that they try to deconstruct.

    What boggles us now, though, is that there has not yet been any constructive movement in postmodern theory to rebuild from all the deconstructive work that has happened. We need a post-postmodernism. :-)

    btw I think Marx was quite linear and analytical. His whole spiel was about the inevitable proletariat revolution--which smacks of History with a capital H.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Onceajoan's Avatar
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    Default The French are Dead!

    Quote Originally Posted by velocity View Post
    The tradition of continental philosophy informs much, if not all, of this "theory" movement in literature, visual arts, cultural studies as taught in universities. are the "philosophies" of derrida, lyotard, foucault, and other relativists merely speculative poetry, not Philosophy?
    The postmodernists you name are legitimate philosophers. To call them mere poets is an insult to French philosophy. The French may seem poetic to you because of their writing style, insistance of word play and deconstruction of the text in a literary way, but this is all means to an end. Being American or British, it may be difficult for you to understand this orientation.

    Although they did not 'construct' or create a philosophy per se, they did open up a 'space' for philosophical debate by deconstructing previous philosophical texts such as those by Heidegger, Hegel, Kant, the Greeks. (I said DID because all three Derrida, Lyotard, Foucault are all dead - BTW: some would argue that Foucault was a historian, NOT a philosopher). To understand in what way postmodernism can be understood as philosophy, you really need to understand the French philisophical tradition and mentality. It's quite different than the traditions of American pragmatism or British empiricism. There are some good primers of the subject of French philosophy - forgot titles - but I'm sure you could find the same books.

    Postmodernists influenced various academic disciplines and aspects of our culture (in addition to those you mentioned) because they weren't mere poets, they were philisophical in orientation and outlook. They posed important questions, provocative questions which others from other discipline noticed and picked up on (called the cross fertilization of academia). The 80's was an especially exicting time academically as political scientists, educational theorists, sociologists, business/marketing, historians (and a host of other discplines) started reading the workds of postmodern thinkers and incorporating postmodern interpretation into their own academic work. Now it was possible to offer other interpretations of political events, political rhetoric, the media, capitalism, educational institutions, consumerism (as examples).

    Derrida and Lyotard challenged the status quo through their deconstruction of meaning and our taken for granted understanding of text and rhetoric not only in a literary sense but through the media and political arena. A central theme of postmodernism is that there is no reality - there is no 'there' 'there' - there are only language games. So if you want to understand literature (or political rhetoric or advertising or the way capitalism works) you need to understand how the message is being communicated - through language what games are being played. That's really important because prior to this time it was always assumed that there was a 'grounding' a 'reality' that could always be referenced. The postmodernists shook things up. That's why they're called the postmodernists because they moved beyond the modern paradigm which assumed (some would say naively) that there actually is a fundamental reality underlying everything. THIS IS PHILOSOPHICAL. The interesting things is now that they're dead, there has been no new philisophical orientation to fill the void. People are still talking about postmodernism but no one is constructing a new philisophical paradigm to take its place. It appears that philosophers are not born every day.

    ** Disclaimer: I believe that most of what I've said is accurate - but it's been a long time since I've thought about postmodernism.
    Last edited by Onceajoan; 10-31-2010 at 07:17 AM. Reason: typo

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    Senior Member Survive & Stay Free's Avatar
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    I dont rate continential philosophy AT ALL most of the books can be reduced to single sentences or paragraphs, a lot of it appears to be about creating work and status for philosophers rather than adding anything to knowledge or human understanding, a lot of them attack theories and premises they have only half understood or only read about second hand or so it seems from reading their material.

    Its bogus because they've given analysis, critique, even intellectual rigour a bad name in the process.

  8. #8
    Ginkgo
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    Their philosophies could be summed up by saying "Language and thought are essentially metaphorical, therefore they do not depict the essence of reality", or, from a different angle, "It requires an infinite number of proofs to prove matters of fact".

  9. #9

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    That's exactly what they are trying to disprove! That there is no "essence" of reality. That reality has many essences.

    But you're right, a lot of their work is often dense and unpleasant to read, especially when you get into the Frankfurt School intellectuals (the Germans, oy vey). However, Foucault is quite the writer... just check out the first few pages of Discipline and Punish, if that doesn't grab you I don't know what does.

  10. #10
    Ginkgo
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ingenue View Post
    That's exactly what they are trying to disprove! That there is no "essence" of reality. That reality has many essences.
    Your second sentence contradicts the third. What you mean is: There is no absolute truth, and what is perceived as the truth is relative. Not to nit-pick.

    The postmodernist insists that because language is essentially metaphorical, it has a mere relationship to reality. Furthermore, the metaphorical nature of language undermines language statements through internal contradiction. Some of these "contradictions" that postmodernists attempt to point out aren't actually logical contradictions, but are only contradictory in the context of social ideology.

    I would venture to say that scientific research and analytical philosophies are immune to these "internal contradictions" because they aren't meant to be understood in the context of social ideology, though they still are essentially metaphorical.

    I would also say that purely abstract concepts that aren't meant to relate to concrete reality are more immune to this conundrum of metaphors.

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