General Question

weeveeship's avatar

What is postmodernism?

Asked by weeveeship (4622points) October 18th, 2010

It pops up every now and then in philosophy. What is it?

In addition, what is deconstruction? It is a related idea.

(Please explain in layman terms. Thanks.)

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13 Answers

wenn's avatar

Postmodernism means ‘after modernism’, and is a reaction to/against modernism.

I don’t have a thorough enough knowledge of modernism and postmodernism to explain it in layman’s terms. So, enjoy this link!

There is also a Deconstruction section in there.

iamthemob's avatar

Postmodernism and deconstruction can be summed up, generally, as arguments that there are no concrete concepts. When we find meaning in a thing, that doesn’t mean it has a meaning, as language, concepts, etc. is constantly reinterpreted. Cultural norms of meaning are always the production of and producing themselves, and can’t be traced to a true ideal. Therefore, we understand the world as static when it is the constant interplay of meaning and power.

Carly's avatar

I thought I knew. Then I looked at the wiki article for postmodern art and modernism, and half of the examples of art are the same on both pages. :/

Nullo's avatar

In short, it’s the notion that everything that you know is wrong.

hobbitsubculture's avatar

Modernism says that meaning can be found if you look somewhere other than the traditional places, twist things around, and peer at the world through different angles.

Postmodernism says that there is no meaning, no matter where or how you look. Keep twisting around, though.

Deconstruction is what it sounds like. Taking things apart. Ideas, literature, art, culture. Breaking it all up into its base components.

weeveeship's avatar

So what are some angles that modernists use to look for meaning?

For postmodernism, what is the point of twisting around and deconstructing if there is no meaning. Wouldn’t we just be wasting time?

(BTW, I think your statements were correct. I’m just asking about the logic of the philosophies themselves.)

iamthemob's avatar

It’s not a tool to find meaning, per se, but to reveal intentions, development of assumptions, etc. It can be frustrating as theorists appear contrarian – and they are (well, we are). It’s usefulness is in its ability to demonstrate that power structures, accepted meanings, societal norms, etc., are dependent upon the constant and continuous “performance” of the participants to retain meaning, and that the oppressed and the oppressor invest in the system in many ways, are both damaged by it, and accept the inevitability of their positions because of the illusion that there is meaning to it.

Nullo's avatar

@weeveeship Deconstruction is an excellent way to get people to agree with you, provided that they take the bait.

submariner's avatar

@iamthemob How can you label anybody “oppressor” or “oppressed”, rather than simply saying that one is more powerful than the other, if there is no standard of justice to appeal to? How can you say anybody is “damaged”, rather than simply changed? Are all terms that involve moral judgment (such as “oppressor”) simply rhetorical ploys to gain power? If so, why should I care about the “oppressed”, or change my behavior if someone says that I am an “oppressing” them?

And how can anything be “demonstrated” if there are no standards of logic and proof?

iamthemob's avatar

@submariner – As I said, it’s not a tool to find meaning – it’s about questioning meaning. Postmodernism becomes frustrating in practice because it denies true meaning.

However, the best practical application is an understanding that it says the meanings shift. Moral judgment should always be questioned as a product of rhetoric, but there are real-life clear moments where we can all agree that something must be stopped. It’s like any other critique – its usefulness springs from its application at the time.

submariner's avatar

So postmodernism is useful only if it isn’t taken seriously. I’ll buy that.

iamthemob's avatar

@submariner – not at all. Or, it is useful only if it isn’t taken seriously inasmuch as any theoretical tool (economic, social, literary or scientific) shouldn’t be taken seriously if applied either to the exclusion of all others or in situations it is clearly not practically suited for, indeed.

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