Thursday, February 16, 2006

I Still Claim to be Postmodern

bkmarcus at lowercase liberty takes issue with my characterization of postmodernism from the other day. He was fairly gentle in his rebuke and seems to acknowledge that, with additional reading, I might come to see where I have erred. He also honored me by naming a new fallacy of which my argument is said to be illustrative: the Tinman Fallacy. One commits that fallacy by falsely claiming that another’s argument is against a straw man.

I still claim to be a postmodernist and feel that postmodernism has a lot to offer even if some people take it to silly extremes. Some of these people are tenured academics who get to misguide undergraduates, and some are former misguided undergraduates who espouse a kind of hyper-relativism. Most people, however, are not too damaged by this mischief making in the academy. I think that the meaning of the term postmodern is still negotiable, and I am unwilling to surrender it to those who would render it meaningless.

I have graduate training in anthropology, a field that has been infected by some of the worst excesses in postmodernist scholarship, and I know what bk is talking about when he argues against these excesses. I also know what it means to have to pander to academics who affect a kind of mystical post-modernity that masks what appears to be intellectual sloth or inadequacy. In my view, these people are creating a niche of utter irrelevancy for themselves. Many of their colleagues regard them as charlatans and parasites, and their extreme position makes it impossible for them to do any work of significance.

I see problematizing postmodernism on the basis of what the most idiotic postmodernists do and say as akin to criticizing libertarianism on the basis of what the so-called “regime libertarians” might write. I want to reclaim the label or rehabilitate it, if need be. The more important argument is not with the postmodern extremists, although they should be called to task and exposed for the emptiness of their work; rather, I find more problematic those who refuse to acknowledge limitations on human reason and knowledge and how they are informed by unexamined assumptions.

1 comment:

Adem D. Kupi said...

It reminds me of people who criticize "economics" because of what most academic economists write (which is mostly tripe).