Monday, 25 July 2016

The "cultural heritage" group neurosis 4: the modern barbarism (i)

Michel Foucault portrait by Paul Loboda, 2015

It was Michel Foucault who first took an archaeological seriation perspective, not to material objects but to scientific thought and its social constructs. His criticisms of Modernism revealed the forces which postmodernism tries to avoid. But postmodernist expressions are not all genuine and most often it is the fake expressions that are used to define the whole. I gave Paul Loboda's graphic a dominant place in this episode because it brilliantly expresses what Foucault did: he showed how thought can be constrained by its time-dependent social frameworks; he epitomized "thinking outside of the box"

When most people think about postmodernism, what comes to mind is unintelligible writing. This started, I think, because its concepts are not only complex but require the sort of thinking we are unaccustomed to do: we have to be outside of the box before we can even see it is box. This takes considerable mental dexterity. The instructions for doing so are going to be very specific. The genuine, though, is defined by the fact that every single sentence of these directions means something. Within an academic environment, complex philosophies can have a difficult time because, unlike mathematics, philosophy is for old men. In fact, there is a Jungian archetype commonly called "The wise old man".

After the hero returns from his quest he imparts to his people what he has learned, but forming the most populous part of the academic world are people who have yet to even embark upon their hero-quest and are still struggling with their initiation into society; their "rite of passage", a process, in tribal societies, most and best conducted by the elder who has returned form their own hero quest. However, what mostly seems to happen within academia is that the elder is one who has undergone the initiation and is instantly moved to the other side of the desk. the initiation is consciously mistaken for the hero-quest by everyone there, but the objective unconscious is not so easily fooled and in order to satiate its needs goes to adventure movies where the good guys kill the bad guys and get the girl in the end. The movies are all more toward "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" than an adaptation of the transcendent The Razor's Edge. The false hero on the other side of the desk can often become psychologically inflated and this is further reinforced by the boot-licking attention of the youth who really just wants to take his place.

The classic example of the fake in postmodernism is the Sokal affair and this inspired the "pomo-generator" where every time to refresh the page it spews out yet another fake and meaningless paper.
Basarab Nicolescu explains what really was happening with the Sokal affair:

"The Sokal affair started with a hoax. In 1994, a mathematical physicist from the New York University who was unknown outside a closed circle of physicists sent an article to the journal Social Text entitled “Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity.” [note: Alan D. Sokal, “Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity,” Social Text 46/ 47 (1996): 336– 61.]. The text was peppered with accurate quotations by physicists such as Bohr and Heisenberg and by philosophers, sociologists, historians of science, and psychoanalysts such as Kuhn, Feyerabend, Latour, Lacan, Deleuze, Guattari, Derrida, Lyotard, Serres, and Virilio. The bibliography also listed authors such as Lupasco, the included middle being given in the text as an example of “feminist logic” … However, Sokal’s commentary made a number of absurd assertions, creating the impression that he was perfectly attuned to postmodernism and in particular to the Cultural Studies current of thinking. The journal’s editors were delighted with the apparent adhesion of a physicist to their cause and published Sokal’s text without hesitation, without even the slightest verification. Almost as soon as the article appeared in print, Sokal himself revealed the hoax in a further article published in Lingua Franca [Alan D. Sokal, “A Physicist Experiments with Cultural Studies,” Lingua Franca 6, no. 4 (1996): 62– 64.], and, from that moment on, buoyed by the effect of the Internet, his fame was guaranteed. On a political level, Sokal wanted to show his friends in the American left wing that a revolution or social transformation could not be carried out based on the notion of reality as presented by philosophical relativism. Only physics (according to Sokal’s view of what physics is) could play such a role. ...
"Paradoxically, however, the Sokal Affair served to reveal the extent of another form of extremism: namely, scientist extremism, the mirror image of religious extremism. Indeed, Sokal’s position was supported by some notable heavyweights, including the Nobel Prize winner Steven Weinberg, who wrote a long article about it in the New York Review of Books. [note: Steven Weinberg, “Sokal’s Hoax,” New York Review of Books 43, no. 13 (August 8, 1996)].
"For Weinberg, “The gulf of misunderstanding between scientists and other intellectuals seems to be at least as wide as when C. P. Snow worried about it three decades ago.” But what is the cause of this “gulf of misunderstanding”? According to Weinberg, one of the essential conditions for the birth of modern science was the separation of the world of physics from the world of culture. Consequently, from that moment on, any interaction between science and culture could only be seen as detrimental. In one fell swoop, with this he dismissed the philosophical considerations of the founding fathers of quantum mechanics as irrelevant."
Basarab Nicolescu, From Modernity to Cosmodernity: Science, Culture, and Spirituality (SUNY series in Western Esoteric Traditions) in Chapter 16: Can Science be a Religion? (The Sokal Affair: Beyond Three Extremisms -- pp. 193-194). State University of New York Press. Kindle Edition.
More of part 4 tomorrow.

John's Coydog Community page

No comments:

Post a Comment