18 February 2010

The utility of postmodernism

There is a marked tendency to dismiss postmodernism as being useless – a sort of empty set of theories disguised with opaque jargon. But postmodernism is at its heart a theory based around the essential subjectivity of our words and the rules we construct to govern our knowledge. And a serious investigation into the nature of postmodernism reveals that this theory has very much to offer us, with its fruits being greater than the nihilistic negation which is often ascribed.

In some respects, the blithe contempt of critics is justified. When some try to use postmodern tools to evaluate the objective sciences, such as physics and biology, they seldom find much worth the reading. While these disciplines are bound by some arbitrary rules and closeted by language in some ways, the problems of these strictures are seldom overlooked by scientists. Taxonomy, for instance, is an entire system of partially arbitrary classifications, but taxonomists are keenly aware of this and constantly propose changes to compensate. Postmodernism critiques subjective aspects of our knowledge, and incidents like the Sokal affair illustrate how little useful material there is to be found in the subjective investigation of objective science.

In the humanities and social sciences, however, postmodernism can prove a highly effective and insightful theory. The perception that it clears the theoretical table with a sweep of the arm and says, “Well, this was all really nothing,” is not accurate. Rather, it specializes in looking at the way in which we arrive at conclusions, and how these conclusions are built from materials that are ultimately shaky.

The study of Arthurian literature is an excellent example. For many years, literary theorists had examined the various Arthurian works by Mallory, Cretien de Troyes, and others, looking for the ur-text.

The idea was that there was a single Arthurian source, which gave the essentials of some of the stories or of the hero himself. Many people had taken one side or another of the years, arguing for the predominance of one idea of Arthur or the fact that a particular folk-tale preceded another in history. But the postmodernist Jean Baudrillard pointed out that this was a search based on the false premise that there had to be an ur-text. It was the postmodern approach that suggested this to him.

Postmodernism suggests that any given word or set of meanings derives from an imprecise definition in terms of other meanings, which are themselves imprecise. 

This endless circle of houses-upon-sand was called différance by Jacques Derrida, the founder of postmodernism. And this approach led Baudrillard to realize that the Arthurian stories might have evolved in a similar way, absent any single dominant source.

Postmodernism is very useful. Detractors who dismiss it without understanding it are robbing themselves of tools.

39 comments:

  1. You confusion the dismission of postmodernism with the misunderstanding that its detractors are unaware of its virtues. But postmodernism asserts the extremely obvious in vague, pompous language which often serves to feed the ego of the proponent than further the analysis of the scholar. If you ever actually find time to do some scholarly work of your own (Such as thoroughly analysing various classical documents, composing an historical monograph or even conducting a field economic survey, you'll understand why postmodernism belongs to that most lazy of breeds - philosophers)

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  2. I gave a specific example - différance - and related how this postmodern concept was specifically and practically used by Baudrillard to yield a valuable new theory.

    Your criticism, MC, consists of an unsupported and unexampled opinion about how pomo just rephrases the obvious (shucks what a novel sentiment) as well as a personal aspersion ("Well when you get out into the HARD-HITTING and REAL WORLD of gritty serious MONOGRAPH COMPOSITION..."). It is unconvincing, but boy howdy you used the word "detractors" so I am won over.

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  3. I am only concerned with how postmodernism relates to the historical profession. I have spent many hours deep in the archives pulling out obscure documents which examine how fascism operated in 1930s Ireland. I have discovered several completely new pieces of material which my PHD will make sense of and introduce to the world.

    I know first hand that the underlying tenet of postmodernism - ie, that we cannot know anything - is an absurd sophistry which is demonstrably false. G.R. Elton couldn't stand these guys primarily because they never spent time in an archive. I agree with him. Its very easy to have an 'opinion' on something essentially invented out of the air, but to conduct empirical research is in itself a self assuring process. Some people like the image of being a postmodernist (Despite the fact the theory was debunked as vacuous a generation ago) but most have grown out of it and are in the post-postmodernist age.

    Postmodernism got to the heart of some useful issues and perhaps interrupted the quiet solicitude of aloof professional historians and forced them to defend their occupation. And perhaps that is all it will ever be known for. It states the obvious in a cushy style in a manner which does nothing to increase the sum total of human knowledge. It is a junk philosophy, created by people too lazy to investigate empirical evidence for themselves, and followed by college kids too lazy to even read the alternative books on their course - much easier to read the Marxist interpretation of something and make everything theoretical. Just like a postmodernist.

    Anyway, I enjoyed this crazy rant. Most attention your blog has had in years.

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  4. "I know first hand that the underlying tenet of postmodernism - ie, that we cannot know anything - is an absurd sophistry which is demonstrably false."

    I know firsthand that the underlying tenet of constructionism - i.e., that all elephants are made of cheese - is an absurd sophistry which is demonstrably false.

    Oh, wait. Neither of our statements reflected reality.

    You speak of the "theory" of postmodernism as having been "debunked." That, combined with your summary of the movement, makes it seem like you really don't know much about it. Indeed, it seems more like you skimmed a bit about some pomo theories and then agreed with your professor that it wasn't worthwhile.

    I would be very curious to hear about the "theory of postmodernism." I mean, maybe you're talking about Derrida's deconstruction. Maybe you're talking about Baudrillard 's poststructuralism. I mean, short of some kind of specifics, it seems almost as though you don't know what the hell you're talking about. Imagine that.

    But it was great of you to assert some more things without examples again, like how it states the obvious and whatnot.

    Let's just cut this short: you and I both know that you don't really know much of anything about postmodern thought or its important theorists. You don't need to spend the time going to Wikipedia or a 101 book so that you can quote something out-of-context to try to prove yourself. You can also skip the next tactic, which is pretending that you weren't attempting intellectually sound criticism but were just playing with me like a puppet. When you spend so much time here, you can't get away with the Puppermaster schtick.

    So what say you just reply with something vulgar and snarky or (alternatively) resigned and fake-contrite, and go on your way? Your only other option is a fight that I will love and that will wind up with you humiliated. Thanks, sweetcheeks.

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  5. Just relax Tom. This isn't intended to be an intellectual struggle. I can go on around in circles like the best of them, and don't feel the need to namedrop like you are so boringly and self servingly doing. The fact that you are completely ignorant of who G.R. Elton is (AKA, 'The Practise of History) speaks volumes and displays your complete and utter double standard. I'd welcome a debate, but take your snootiness elsewhere. This isn't RW and I'm not insulting your social relationships - I am merely reflecting on your interpretation of postmodernism. Would I be correct in assuming that you've never spent any significant time in an archive?

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  6. And you assume that I find no objective use in postmodernist 'tools', as you call them. This is not the case. The historical profession has long since moved out of the purely political/economic straightjacket and has embraced most of the social sciences in its menagerie. Even mathematics (Eg., cliometrics) The postmodernist movement was at the forefront of this.

    Take for example the E.P. Thompsons of this world, a postmodernist Marxist who wrote a wonderful history of the English working class. I have no problem with these guys persé so long as they don't lose the rag altogether. But its the intellectual snootiness of people such as you (Who like to claim that their opponents simply aren't intelligent enough to understand their theories - a lá the irrelevant intellectual) that grind my gears.

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  7. "[D]on't feel the need to namedrop like you are so boringly and self servingly doing."

    Oh sorry did I namedrop while failing to know who G.R. Elton is? I must be a huge douche who tries to hold up knowledge of a historian as an acid test. Oh wait.

    "The fact that you are completely ignorant of who G.R. Elton is (AKA, 'The Practise of History) speaks volumes and displays your complete and utter double standard."

    Why the fuck would I know who a Tudor historian was? Not only is he not famous in American literary circles, that's not my field or my period. I know histories based on what I've used and what I've read. HEY THE FACT THAT YOU ARE COMPLETELY IGNORANT OF CARLOS BAKER SPEAKS VOLUMES

    "I'd welcome a debate, but take your snootiness elsewhere."

    Hahah this is my blog you fucking moron.

    "I am merely reflecting on your interpretation of postmodernism."

    And yet you don't really seem to make any kind of substantive reflection at all. You're just vaguely dismissive and contemptuous, preferring to handwave about how it sets down obvious concepts without bothering to mention one such. You're about as reflective as dung, and just as valuable.

    "Would I be correct in assuming that you've never spent any significant time in an archive?"

    Shucks boss no, I try to stay away from primary texts and just spend my days with the Marxists and postmodernists refusing to do any real work. I done saw me a preserved-books floor in my library once, and it damn near scared the dickens out of me. Slept in a pickle barrel that night for safety.

    "And you assume that I find no objective use in postmodernist 'tools', as you call them. This is not the case."

    Yeah how could I have ever thought thIt is a junk philosophy, created by people too lazy to investigate empirical evidence for themselves Oh shit how'd that get pasted in there. Ghosts in my computer!

    "The postmodernist movement was at the forefront of this."

    That's true, it would take some kind of massively ignorant prick who needed a quick online refresher about postmodernism to claim that the entire movement wapostmodernism asserts the extremely obvious in vague, pompous language Oh crap ghosts again!

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  8. "But its the intellectual snootiness of people such as you (Who like to claim that their opponents simply aren't intelligent enough to understand their theories - a lá the irrelevant intellectual) that grind my gears."

    Does it "grind your gears" there superguy? I never said you weren't intelligent enough to understand it. I just said you didn't know jack shit about it. I assumed correctly that you had only gotten a brief overview of the movement, probably in a basic class, and thereafter dismissed it. Since your criticisms weren't based in any examples or specifics - and they still aren't! - it was pretty obvious.

    You know what "grinds my gears?" Pompous twats who did their 50-pager or whatever in an archive and now think they're hot shit, happening to mention the future goals of their Ph.D. Particularly when those individuals are so contemptuously incompetent as to be unable to decide if they want to troll or be respected, and able to do neither effectively.

    You know what would have been a decent criticism (or "reflection" if you're a laughable fucking douchebag)? If you had said, "Well, I don't know too much about the specifics of po-mo. My Critical Theory in Historical Analyses professor gave me the impression that blahblahblah, and one of my favorite historians (G.R. ELTON WHO I AM GOING TO DO MY PH.D. ON) always held it in horror."

    Ideally, you would even omit the capitalized douchebaggery part, because hinting about your (future) academic accomplishments and knowledge is a surefire give-away that you actually have none to speak of.

    Jesus fucking Christ, you would be annoying if you weren't so transparent and sad. It's really obvious, like your backpedaling "Just relax time", attempting to imply that I am becoming over-involved emotionally and that you are thus in control of the conversation because of your detached superiority. It's like you sprang full-formed from the skull of a 1999 AOL chatroom (HINT: holy shit note my erudition and I didn't even have to explicate a guy whose books I've read, instead I just alluded to Greek mythology, that's how it's DONE BOY YEAH). You seem like you're bright enough, so quit trying to fucking impress. You stupid asshole.

    Ahahha that was fun.

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  9. Tom, this was very poor. Your original blog post does nothing to back up the philosophical foundation of postmodernism other than assert than some french guy with a cool french guy name used a word which was frenchified to make it sound cool and french. In other words, he re-evaluated the premise of the issue in question. This has been happening for over a hundred years in scholarship. You are going to have to try harder, or read more, if you intend to defend postmodernism in any kind of viable way. Because right now you're only embaressing yourself.

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  10. Also, yes, knowledge of G.R. Elton is fundamental to a proper discussion of postmodernism with relation to its impact on the historical profession. This is basic stuff. 'The Practise of History' was the traditionalists fightback against the advent of sophistry. I recommend you read it. For a more balanced view, read 'In defence of history'. Either way, don't try to ressurect the fallen beast which is the self obsessed 'philosophy' of postmodernism if you are completely unaware of its most eloquent critics. 'understanding' my ass.

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  11. Also, where did you get the idea that I've backtracked here? My very first line stated that even its detractors are aware of its virtues. Perhaps you should read a little closer Tom. An invented reality as a result of your insufficient cognitive ability does not imply an assumed reality. Mull over that one for a while.

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  12. "Your original blog post does nothing to back up the philosophical foundation of postmodernism other than assert than some french guy with a cool french guy name used a word which was frenchified to make it sound cool and french."

    It's hard to argue with someone this wrong. It's like you're accusing me of avoiding all vowels - the mind staggers with the magnitude of your wrongness.

    In deconstruction, one of the most important concepts is différance, that darn frenchy word. It's also extremely important to any study of postmodernism. And it's not elitist for me to say that when we are discussing postmodernism, it would be swell if you knew some iota of information about it. I don't come onto your blog and criticize your attempts at Tudor history without knowing who G.R. ELTON, LORD OF THE RINGS is, do I?

    So I'll agree that maybe I don't back up the "philosophical" ideas behind pomo, because that would be an asinine task. It's pretty hard to prove an esoteric viewpoint. If you'd spent any serious time in archives doing serious work seriously, like me, then you would know the proof is in the pudding. Thus I gave a specific and verifiable example of pomo ideas and a specific technique leading to a specific and new result.

    "In other words, he re-evaluated the premise of the issue in question. This has been happening for over a hundred years in scholarship."

    Oh so you just came up with a new hypothesis, Mr. Patent Clerk? That has been happening for over a hundred years in science.

    BEST SENTENCE EVER: "Because right now you're only embaressing yourself."

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  13. "Also, yes, knowledge of G.R. Elton is fundamental to a proper discussion of postmodernism with relation to its impact on the historical profession. This is basic stuff."

    And why the fuck would I have read in-depth on the impact of pomo on historians? Great, one guy really disliked it. You're still floundering around trying to give me an example of a prominent pomo idea that's just a "restatement of the obvious," so his criticisms can't have been too good or you can't have paid much attention. Either he was an idiot or you are - I suspect the latter, since you don't know a goddamn thing about what we're discussing. HEY DID YOU READ G.R. ELTON OH NO THEN HAHA I WIN

    "Either way, don't try to ressurect the fallen beast which is the self obsessed 'philosophy' of postmodernism if you are completely unaware of its most eloquent critics."

    I haven't heard any criticism so far, just a twat with vague notions and shitty spelling.

    "Because right now you're only embaressing yourself."

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  14. "An invented reality as a result of your insufficient cognitive ability does not imply an assumed reality. Mull over that one for a while."

    Let's get serious here for a minute. I've mulled this over for a few minutes now. And now, my eyes welling with barely-suppressed tears brought on by your keen criticism which also incorporated the word "cognitive," I am going to admit defeat. When you roundly declared po-mo useless and a substitute for real thought, following on its heels with a vague handwave that cut to the core of every important concept you named (which I can't find now BUT I'M SURE WERE THERE) it broke me down. Bravo, sir. Bravo.

    "Because right now you're only embaressing yourself."

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  15. Tom,

    Please do not mock my spelling. I've struggled with dyslexia all of my life and quite frankly I've achieved a lot in spite of my handicap. And contrary to popular belief, dyslexia is not a learning disability, its a reading disability. 95% of it can be overcome with treatment and determination, but it is exceedingly difficult to narrow it down. For college related work I get my written material proofread numerous times. Frankly, you're been a dick. This is the internet and I don't get my writing proofread because it is somewhere where I have a laugh and like to take the piss. But to mock someones spelling is well below the belt.

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  16. And might I also add, you haven't actually said anything in your rebuttal. Are you just going to remain obnoxious or will you at least attempt to get to the core of this issue? I've already said that I'm only interested with how it relates to the historical profession, and your answers only imply that you like the sound of saying that 'Derrida was very intelligent' at tea party's.

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  17. "95% of it can be overcome with treatment and determination"

    You're somewhere around 65% right now. Keep at it, lazy.

    "But to mock someones spelling is well below the belt."

    Yeah I made fun of your spelling. Contact the UN, because right now you're only embaressing yourself as you come here to annoy me and fail like a walrus in flight.

    "And might I also add, you haven't actually said anything in your rebuttal."

    What's to rebut? I made an assertion about postmodernism with evidence and an example, and your response was to declare roundly that postmodernism was just obvious statements and -blah blah insert generalism here-. It's like you come in here screaming "MUSTARD HAS TWELVE EYES AND LOOKS AT ME!" and demand to know why I won't answer such a cutting criticism.

    "I'm only interested with how it relates to the historical profession"

    Then I guess it was a mistake to come here and comment about it to someone who isn't a historian, didn't you, you goddamn moron?

    Do you show up to physics conferences with a paper on the Black Death, and then declare how everyone is being "obnoxious" when they proceed to laugh at your ignorance of physics?

    If you want to seriously engage, say something worth taking seriously. If you think HIS MAJESTY G.R. ELTON THE FLATULENT was on to something, make a substantive critique of an accepted postmodern technique. Broad statements aren't worth much. Maybe you haven't taken the class on historical analysis yet. Do you often stand up in class and shout about how Richard the Lion-Hearted was homosexual, and then sit down without providing any reasoning or evidence. Hint: that's not how it's done. You idiot.

    Frankly, and I mean this in the kindest way and with absolute love: right now you're only embaressing yourself.

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  18. This is an obnoxious circle we're on. I've already said that the example you provided is bollox, as you assume that premises have never been challenged before. If this is your grand example of the virtues of postmodernism - then its pretty poor. Wow! A premise been overturned! OMG!

    This is not even approaching the fundamentals of the philosophy you ascribe to. Please say something worthwhile. If you actually knew of G.R. Elton we might be able to discuss. Since your knowledge of this issue is so elementary, unfortunately we can't take it very far.

    You're saying absolutely nothing, Tom.

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  19. "A premise been overturned! OMG!"

    Exactly what Baudrillard been said. He been looked at the book of Arthurian myths, and been wondered about them. Then a theory been helped him make an insight. And that still been had one more exampled than you haved.

    "Since your knowledge of this issue is so elementary"

    Yes, since many people sit down and study Tudor historians when they are learning about postmodern approaches to literature. It is very common. I was just paging through Grammatology and at least the first eighteen chapters are about G.R. ELTON, GOD-KING OF NARNIA.

    It's hard to make this easier for you, you cringing whelp of an undergrad history major. See, I make a studied defense of the postmodernist movement, then provide a clear example of a significant advance in an established field of literary analysis. Your responses have been one of three things:

    "Hey you're wrong because po-mo is dumb and obvious, no I won't give you an example LAH LAH LAH NOW YOU'RE REPEATING YOURSELF!"

    or

    "I cannot really elocute this pusillanimous verisimilitude with yourself because thou doth not know this one historian whose book I read, even though you weren't talking about history and it's not your field and blah blah clumsily-inserted-ten-cent-word."

    or

    "[Incomprehensible, ungrammatical, misspelled nonsense that still manages to be wrong.]"

    But goddamn this is fun. You've always been a child playing tether-ball with giants on RW... but when you come over to my house, stand outside the window, and beg me to slap you around for a while... ah, things are good.

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  20. And you have the cheek to question my conduct. You should be ashamed of yourself. I have a disability and you're mocking it. And you still haven't said something of substance.

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  21. Also, give me your address. I'll mail my PHD to your mother's basement when I get finished, punk.

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  22. I like to imagine the sound of you crying. I bet it sounds like this: habloobloobloo... bluuuuhbloobloo....

    No one made you come here with ephemeral arguments and nonsense. You saw my post, said to yourself, "Hey, I read a book that time that dismissed postmodernism. I should make a half-assed hand-wave about how terrible it is." And now you reap the reward: being humiliated and laughed at. And it seems almost like you're ready to pop out with a, "Well, if you cannot make any substantive arguments, then I guess we're done."

    But I knew it was coming! ALAS!

    So now do you try to bow out gracefully, even though I've predicted it and called you out, or do you try to soldier on? Will it be avoidance and escape or some hilarious new attempt to attack me by repeating someone else?

    So to recap: you're dumb.

    But anywho: it's hard to say anything of substance to refute nonsense. I made an argument and gave an example. You critiqued with a banal generalism. I mocked you and asked for specifics. You couldn't provide any. And so it goes, round-and-round.

    If you want to discuss, then making vague attacks isn't going to cut it. What is a specific accepted postmodern technique, tool, or approach that you think is terrible, and that GRELTON, PHALLUS OF CTHULLHU hated?

    Also don't try to compare lives because I will totally win - I am awesome and you are clearly terrible.

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  23. Please stop being such a moron. Your example as provided is weak and you still haven't overed an explanation for why postmodernism in the field of literary criticism has in way been useful. All you state is that it has helped overturn a premise. THIS IS NOT A BIG DEAL. Please get that into your pretensious and pompous skull.

    As for how it has played out in the historical profession, I'll give you a quick overview. Because you essentially don't know what you're talking about. By the 1960s most historical monographs looked no further than an interpretation of society via political and economic conditions. All history derived principally from government sources and the diaries and letters of 'great men'. History truly was written by the victors and interpreted by their ancestors.

    As a result of this, the postmodernism movement (A club of philosophers, I hasten to add) attacked history on its most fundamental grounds - that all historical knowledge is derived from flawed resources and that ERGO, it is fundamentally flawed. Value judgements in history and the very nature of historical facts were questioned at their very basis. Many historians cowered from the assualt, which came mainly from scruffy men who used French far too plentifully at dinner parties. The kind of men who never spent any time in an archive. For some reason or other, historians lost their way and panicked. They feared that their livelihoods were called into question.

    G.R. Elton led the intellectual fightback with his seminal 'The Practise of History'. If you do not know the basics of this controversy, then it beggars belief that you can have such arrogance as you are displaying in this discussion. I am a reasonable man, but whenever someone tries to claim their intellectual superiority IN THE FACE OF NO ARGUMENT WHATSOEVER it becomes a little dull. By all means, mock my spelling and grammar. Whatever makes a little pretensious philistine like yourself feel better. But have the balls to have a little intellectual bravery and argue like a man. I repeat - you're saying absolutely nothing.

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  24. "All you state is that it has helped overturn a premise. THIS IS NOT A BIG DEAL."

    If this were anyone else (i.e. anyone who had completed postgraduate studies of some kind) I would think this was a hilarious joke, and laugh appropriately. Instead, I just think YOU are a hilarious joke and laugh appropriately.

    Your claim is, paraphrased, that the insight of the substantial lack of an Arthurian ur-text and fundamental source for his figure is not a big deal in Arthurian studies. That's like saying the discovery of the ruins of probable Troy (HINT: A CITY THAT WAS IN AN OLD GREEK BOOK) was not a big deal to classical studies.

    "As for how it has played out in the historical profession, I'll give you a quick overview. Because you essentially don't know what you're talking about."

    Why the fuck would I have detailed knowledge of postmodernism in history? I didn't and haven't discussed it, because I'm not a historian, you moron. Do you stride into tire factories and announce that they're fools for not knowing who Herodotus was? (HINT: HE WROTE SOME HISTORY BOOKS).

    "Blah blah blah generalized 'history' of postmodernism in historical studies."

    Wow, that's great... HEY! WAIT A SECOND! You can't fool me! See, while I asked for a specific example, you have slyly done the exact opposite and repeated a number of broad assertions! You clever dog, you! You thought to yourself, "Well, shit, I don't actually KNOW any specific postmodern analytical techniques... hey, maybe if I pretend I can lecture about the topic in general for the umpteenth time, he won't notice!"

    But I did. And you fail. Again. How embaressing.

    "If you do not know the basics of this controversy, then it beggars belief that you can have such arrogance as you are displaying in this discussion."

    And yet out of the two of us, I'm the only one capable of discussing postmodernism in any detail or with any reference to major figures and practices in the movement. All you can do is continually reference one of postmodernism's detractors within the study of history. It's like you're declaring what a big Knicks fan you are because you can name all of the Lakers.

    "I am a reasonable man, but whenever someone tries to claim their intellectual superiority IN THE FACE OF NO ARGUMENT WHATSOEVER it becomes a little dull."

    Not for me! I'd compare you to a dog who likes to be kicked, but I'd feel sympathy for a dog. You're a small-minded and self-admitted troll, who's too pathetic to be respected in that pursuit because you also kind of want to be a part of the community - and in this particular situation, be respected to some degree. But I don't respect you, because you're wondrously incompetent.

    "By all means, mock my spelling and grammar."

    Deal!

    "I repeat - you're saying absolutely nothing."

    There is no Magical Repetition Fairy that makes your bald assertions into fact. I gave an example of a major revelatory change to an entire field of study, you bizarrely think it's inadequate, but are unable to produce any counter-examples.

    What... do you think I'm suddenly going to forget that I've been asking you from the first for specific examples of accepted po-mo techniques that are specious? Like maybe if you say it often enough, I'll believe you've done anything more than make broad and general statements?

    You are a person who is stupid. There, yet ANOTHER specific statement from me. You're welcome!

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  25. What a twat. Do you really think that premises don't get overturned all the time in scholarship? Are you really so sheltered? I can't comment on the specifics of the Arthurian legend - because I don't know - but I can tell you that premises get overturned all of the time. If you actually did any scholarly work, rather than reading about people who have, you would understand this. Its elementary.

    And no, the postmodernists attacks on history are a valid exploration of the vacuousness of the doctrine. It has been exposed as a junk philosophy and barely anyone continues to abide by it. If you weren't so bloody stubborn you would recognise this.

    You haven't discussed postmodernism or any of its thinkers. In fact all you have done is:

    A) Announced that Derrida is class, and that when words have a French accent they suddenly become groundbreaking, revolutionary and iconoclastic in the world of scholarship.

    B) Mocked someone's disability.

    You're only fooling yourself.

    As for me 'wanting to be part of a community'. What? Why? Who? Uh? You fucking moron. I mock rationalwiki because all of you freaks are typical American twats with online friendships. I enjoy mocking it for the sake of mocking it. I don't care if you respect me or not, because I certainly have none for a plumped up little twat who did a year in college doing the 'introduction to philosophy' class and who thinks he is fucking Michel Focoult. Go fuck yourself.

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  26. "Do you really think that premises don't get overturned all the time in scholarship?"

    HAhahhaha! Yeah no big deal! Hey I hear the creator of the Bacon theory and anti-Stratfordianism wasn't important to Shakespearean studies, either - he just overturned a premise! Happens all the time! Hhahaha!

    "I can't comment on the specifics of the Arthurian legend - because I don't know"

    That's amazing! You have no notion of Arthurian studies, but you're willing to dismiss an idea because people have ideas all the time, so it's fairly commonplace. You're a precious flower of stupid, unique in all the lands.

    "And no, the postmodernists attacks on history are a valid exploration of the vacuousness of the doctrine."

    You must be a delight in class. "It is obvious to me that the real figure of the female Pope doesn't exist and the notion is vacuous. No, I won't tell you why or any specifics. It's obvious. OBVIOUS! GRELTON GRELTON GRELTON!"

    "Announced that Derrida is class, and that when words have a French accent they suddenly become groundbreaking, revolutionary and iconoclastic in the world of scholarship."

    This implies that différance is an obvious idea or a restatement. That would be easy to show. Give an example. OH SHIT sorry I forgot you don't actually know anything about postmodernism's thinkers or techniques. You don't have to play with everyone else, you can do play with this safe circle of paper. Don't cut yourself.

    "B) Mocked someone's disability."

    I made fun of your spelling, you douche. Try not to fall all over yourself with drama. Woe, woe is ye! How embaressing.

    "As for me 'wanting to be part of a community'."

    Uh oh, someone's bitter! The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

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  27. Idiot. And the worst thing is you'll come out of this thinking you've 'won', but in reality said absolutely nothing other than an ad hominum. You wonder why people think you're a pompous twat?

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  28. Well, you lasted longer than I thought you would before fleeing. Come back when you have better than baseless generalisms to spin ("Postmodernism is just obvious restatements GRELTON GRELTON GRELTON")

    Generally you're about as subtle as mud, but in this case I'm curious if you've actually felt persecuted enough to honestly think you're right on this one. Are you really stupid enough to be able to delude yourself into thinking that spinning unexampled and unsubstantiated criticisms somehow requires me to produce additional evidence to join my first example? Why? Is it some kind of magic? Do you think baseless assertions become true if you spell them badly enough?

    OH WAIT SORRY did I interrupt the pity party that you threw for yourself as you stormed out? GRELTON GRELTON GRELTON

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  29. Believe it or not, the more you assert your supposed intellectual superiority the more you come off as a pompous twat who doesn't know what he's talking about. I have already explained to you that an overturned premise is hardly revolutionary in scholarship. Its the very fundamental in fact - as new evidence emerges, interpretations will change. If the premise of a problem can be re-evaluated - for example, that Adolf Hitler's rise to power can be explained by an increase in the price of bread as opposed to the fall out of the Treaty of Versailles - it boils down to a re-evaluation of existing evidence. Either way, it is not unusual in itself, and you still haven't explained how the word difference, once it achieves the mystical french áccent, makes postmodernism revolutionary, iconoclastic, and groundbreaking.

    You have not won Tom. You have simply not said anything.

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  30. "Believe it or not,"

    Not!

    "the more you assert your supposed intellectual superiority the more you come off as a pompous twat who doesn't know what he's talking about."

    Yes it seems very likely, looking back over this whupping I gave you, that I am the one who doesn't know anything about postmodernism. Not only do I not know who any of the specific people in the postmodernist movement are or any specifics about any postmodernist beliefs or thoughts beyond a vague notion, my only real knowledge is about a determined detractor of the movement.

    Wait a second. That's not me!

    "I have already explained to you that an overturned premise is hardly revolutionary in scholarship."

    No, you stated that. It remains untrue. The change in an essential concept at the heart of an entire field of study - the idea that there was no ur-Arthur - was one of the most important shifts in Arthurian studies.

    It will be interesting to see you try to contradict that, since you JUST ADMITTED you don't know anything about Arthurian studies.

    "If the premise of a problem can be re-evaluated - for example, that Adolf Hitler's rise to power can be explained by an increase in the price of bread as opposed to the fall out of the Treaty of Versailles - it boils down to a re-evaluation of existing evidence."

    Except, you fucking moron, if no one ever thought about the price-of-bread theory. If no one had thought of that, then such a notion would be groundbreaking and important. We're not talking Peter Longerich's notion about how the Wannsee Conference was intended to implicate all bureaus of the Nazi regime in the Final Solution so they would be committed in truth to Eichmann's scheme (OH SHIT HE HAS READ SOME STUFF), we're talking like a radical reinterpretation of the whole of the second world war, in scope.

    "Either way, it is not unusual in itself,"

    Yes, fields of study often undergo dramatic changes. I hear that Tolkien guy was absolutely useless to Anglo-Saxon studies.

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  31. "and you still haven't explained how the word difference, once it achieves the mystical french áccent, makes postmodernism revolutionary, iconoclastic, and groundbreaking."

    UH OH! Someone made the mistake of taking the bait and trying to actually engage on the facts, and betrayed he doesn't fucking know what he's talking about! HAhahah!

    "Différance" is a pun on "différer" (to move back) and "différence" (to differ). It is a foundational concept in Derrida's deconstruction, a postmodernist approach. As I said in my post, it suggests that "any given word or set of meanings derives from an imprecise definition in terms of other meanings, which are themselves imprecise." The signifier and signified maintain an eternal distance, with each new iteration of explanation or description only deferring the degree of error to the new signifier's imprecision. In pedestrian application, it merely indicates the uselessness of searching for a single precise meaning for many (or to some, ALL) expressions. The dog saw the tree may seem a precise and specific statement on the surface, but in fact the signifier "dog" can only express a small amount of the intended meaning of the concept. This is neither a reference to a Platonic ideal nor to the inability to describe objects, but rather to what Derrida called the "privileged pair" of writing/speaking, where the universality of writing tended to move the signifier further and further from the signified. But beyond the pedestrian application, it suggested to Baudrillard that the Arthur-texts operated in the same way, with no original and true ur-text but rather a continually deferred cycle that built upon each other.

    Sorry, that's a pretty rough lesson. But note it contained many specifics and ideas, unlike anything you have said. Also unlike your statements, it does not reveal enormous ignorance about the topic at hand.

    "You have not won Tom. You have simply not said anything."

    ALAS SO TRUE I WISH I KNEW SOMETHING ABOUT POSTMODERNISM AND ITS APPLICATIONS. HOW EMBARESSING.

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  32. Twat, twat, twat. All you did was come out with a load of pretensious nonsense that didn't actually say anything. Try again, but try harder. How pathetic.

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  33. If you'd like me to be more specific, I'll restate: finding out 'new stuff' is not revolutionary. It is what scholars live for. Postmodernism cannot claim to have discovered anything revolutionary in Arthurian studies because even to assert that there is no foundational 'ur-text' is a value statement. A value statement which must be grounded on evidence. If there is no evidence to support that statement then it is fundamentally worthless. You can attach a philosophical importance to a new scholarly discovery, but it is still essentially a discovery based on evidence. I know empiricism is harder work than chilling out with the delinquints behind the bike shed, but at least its honest.

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  34. '"Différance" is a pun on "différer" (to move back) and "différence" (to differ). It is a foundational concept in Derrida's deconstruction, a postmodernist approach. As I said in my post, it suggests that "any given word or set of meanings derives from an imprecise definition in terms of other meanings, which are themselves imprecise." The signifier and signified maintain an eternal distance, with each new iteration of explanation or description only deferring the degree of error to the new signifier's imprecision. In pedestrian application, it merely indicates the uselessness of searching for a single precise meaning for many (or to some, ALL) expressions. The dog saw the tree may seem a precise and specific statement on the surface, but in fact the signifier "dog" can only express a small amount of the intended meaning of the concept. This is neither a reference to a Platonic ideal nor to the inability to describe objects, but rather to what Derrida called the "privileged pair" of writing/speaking, where the universality of writing tended to move the signifier further and further from the signified. But beyond the pedestrian application, it suggested to Baudrillard that the Arthur-texts operated in the same way, with no original and true ur-text but rather a continually deferred cycle that built upon each other.'

    Thanks for a pretty elementary summary of difference with an áccent. It displayed your ignorance if nothing else.

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  35. "A value statement which must be grounded on evidence. If there is no evidence to support that statement then it is fundamentally worthless."

    ABSOLUTELY so you're right, thank you for your correction on the topic about which you admitted you knew nothing previously in this conversation, Arthurian studies. You are quite right that this breakthrough means nothing until they can find the text-that-does-not-exist. Until they can prove the negative: MEANINGLESS!

    "You can attach a philosophical importance to a new scholarly discovery, but it is still essentially a discovery based on evidence."

    Sometimes there are discoveries based on interpretation in literature! Look at all of these exclamation points!!!! They express your stupidity as a factorial!!!!! Because to suggest that evidential discovery is the only way to arrive at a brilliant new idea is absolutely retarded!!!!!!!

    "I know empiricism is harder work than chilling out with the delinquints behind the bike shed, but at least its honest."

    I was a completely embaressing delinquint.

    "Thanks for a pretty elementary summary of difference with an áccent."

    You saw through my elaborate plot. I took the dictionary definition of the English word "difference," and then dressed it up with a bunch of fancy ideas that are meaningless. For example, I used it specifically to refer to the space between signifier and signified, and followed through to the conclusion of an eternal gap between the two in which further attempt to close it only compounded it and deferred the gap to the descriptors. Then I realized that this was actually a pretty amazing insight into the patterns of meaning in language, and went back in time to call myself Jacques and publish On Grammatology. I went on to an illustrious career but now I am VICTIM TO PARADOX! ROLL 3D10 FOR BACKLASH!

    You're the worst fucking bluffer I ever saw. You have to at least make some kind of -attempt- to sound like you believe what you're saying, and choose something that approaches believable.

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  36. I hate to adopt this approach, but its the only way to deal with pedants:

    "ABSOLUTELY so you're right, thank you for your correction on the topic about which you admitted you knew nothing previously in this conversation, Arthurian studies. You are quite right that this breakthrough means nothing until they can find the text-that-does-not-exist. Until they can prove the negative: MEANINGLESS!"

    Read what I said again.

    "Sometimes there are discoveries based on interpretation in literature! Look at all of these exclamation points!!!! They express your stupidity as a factorial!!!!! Because to suggest that evidential discovery is the only way to arrive at a brilliant new idea is absolutely retarded!!!!!!!"

    There are two key things to remember here - A) evidence based research which arrives at a conclusion following a lengthy period of investigation. B) Scholarly analysis which arrives at a conclusion by a wide comparative study with alternative documents. The analysis is shaped by differing interpretations.

    The example you offer is the latter.

    "You saw through my elaborate plot. I took the dictionary definition of the English word "difference," and then dressed it up with a bunch of fancy ideas that are meaningless. For example, I used it specifically to refer to the space between signifier and signified, and followed through to the conclusion of an eternal gap between the two in which further attempt to close it only compounded it and deferred the gap to the descriptors. Then I realized that this was actually a pretty amazing insight into the patterns of meaning in language, and went back in time to call myself Jacques and publish On Grammatology. I went on to an illustrious career but now I am VICTIM TO PARADOX! ROLL 3D10 FOR BACKLASH!"

    To paraphrase - The French philosopher guy worked out that instead of their being one, single foundational text there were many different ones, which alternated through the generations. You still haven't explained how that is revolutionary. Once you take out all the self important waffle you arrive at a conclusion - a conclusion that still requires evidence in order for it to be valid. This goes to the heart of why I dislike postmodernism - its most ardent adherents have a natural skepticism of evidence. I doubt they think there is a such a thing as evidence. Since everything is a social construction, and also everything permeates with the bias of its authors, then surely there is no such thing as an 'objective' evidence? In this free world of archival equality, surely each source is as valid as the next? People who have actually spent time doing genuine research (And not making hand waving dismissals of entire disciplines) realise this and also realise its a pathetic sophistry which assumes that historians have always considered objectivity to be an absolute. historians have always considered objectivity to be only an 'approximate'. Much like how a surgeon can never make an operating theatre 100% sterile, an historian can never be 100% objective and neither can his sources. This is where reason comes in. This is where historiography comes in. This is where philosophy comes in. But when philosophy kicks its lazy, dirty boot at the door of the profession, it only deserves ridicule.

    "You're the worst fucking bluffer I ever saw. You have to at least make some kind of -attempt- to sound like you believe what you're saying, and choose something that approaches believable."

    Funny, I was just going to say the same thing. Except I would have premised it with a pompous, philistine, pretensious motif. You fucking imbecile.

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  37. "Read what I said again."

    Read what I said again. Hey, you're right, that's way easier than thinking of an intelligent response.

    "Scholarly analysis which arrives at a conclusion by a wide comparative study with alternative documents. The analysis is shaped by differing interpretations."

    Nope! Not what he did! He just looked at the same documents as everyone else did - the Troy, the Mallory, and so on - and thought of a new theory thanks to a postmodernist approach. He did not find any new alternative documents. You are very wrong again and I am very right, which is developing into a serious tradition.

    "You still haven't explained how that is revolutionary."

    Because no one had seriously considered that before. Much like Stanley Fish's reassessment of Paradise Lost, it took what was previously known and presented it in an entirely new and astounding way that changed the field of Arthurian studies forever the same way Fish changed Milton studies.

    "a conclusion that still requires evidence in order for it to be valid."

    It can still be valid without evidence, it's just not proven. Words have meanings. It would be great to prove somehow that such an ur-text did not exist. But it's extraordinarily difficult to prove something does NOT exist. Years spent searching for it have not turned up many direct references and only some speculations. So how exactly would one prove that the text did not exist? Please tell me, because boy shucks I am wholly skeptical of evidence and don't understand it.

    Are you seriously and earnestly suggesting that nothing new can be thought of or theorized without a new piece of evidence? That people can't sometimes just think of a new approach? If so, you're a goddamn moron and I refer you to the Fish example above.

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  38. "Since everything is a social construction, and also everything permeates with the bias of its authors, then surely there is no such thing as an 'objective' evidence?"

    FOR EXAMPLE when you strategically mention your future Ph.D. you are providing evidence to me that you will someday be very accomplished and smart and perhaps even know what the fuck you're talking about, unlike now. But because you're really desperate to weigh your words with unwarranted authority and make me respect you, we have to examine the objectivity of the textual evidence in question. You have carefully divorced it from context, for one thing, while also being somewhat vague. This makes me strongly suspect that you are deliberately framing your course of study as broadly and hopefully as possible. So while I could conclude you're a Ph.D. candidate, it's way less likely than the alternatives. VOILA! NOT OBJECTIVE EVIDENCE but just the sleaze of a smarmy idiot.

    So I agree, no one thinks objectivity is complete. Including postmodernists.

    "pompous, philistine, pretensious motif. "

    It's amazing how you can simultaneously call me "pompous" AND call me "philistine." It's like you're determined to refute yourself. You're a beautiful shining star of asshattery.

    So to sum up: postmodernism led to an important insight in Arthurian studies. You don't know anything about that field, but still feel confident declaring how unimportant that insight was. You also don't know anything about postmodernism as a whole, aside from knowing about one of its detractors and a variety of empty generalities ("they think evidence is meaningless" and "it's all obvious").

    So in a discussion about postmodernism supported with a specific point in Arthurian studies, you know little about either. Now, before starting an argument intended to impress me about those two topics, don't you think you should have learned about one of them at least?

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  39. I haven't read anything about postmodern(ism/ stuff), except a glancing mention in a science fiction critique. And, I haven't finished your back and forth. But, it seems to me (correct me if so inclined) that postmodern(ism/ stuff) is a favorite target because there is ambiguity in the word. Does it mean the things criticized, or does it mean the philosophy of criticizing those things? For example, we all know that market fundamentalism is a derangement. But, is market fundamentalism postmodernist, or is criticism of market fundamentalism postmodernist?

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