The Pitfalls of Postmodernism

Tony Debono, a Camels With Hammers reader who I enjoyed getting to know after he friended me on Facebook today, wrote and sent me this, which made me smile:

For some intricate analysis of ways to interpret Hitler and evil (since some in the comments section are not happy with this being just a subtly funny dig at postmodernism but want to take it seriously) check out my post: Does Calling Someone Evil Explain Anything About Them?

Your Thoughts?

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • John Morales

    I don’t get it — is it a visual joke, what with the Stalinesque moustaches?

  • Physicalist

    Godwin.

  • James M

    @John Morales

    It’s an exploitable meme comic. Jokesplanation.

    • John Morales

      Ah.

      Thanks!

  • Timberwoof

    No, not Godwin. Nobody called anyone a Nazi or said that anyone was like Hitler.

    It’s more of a hysterical reductio ad absurdum.

    I think the Sokal Affair did more to discredit postmodernist thinking than this cartoon could hope do to.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Dude, it’s a cartoon. That’s it. It’s just meant to be funny, not deep.

    • http://physicalism.wordpress.com/ Physicalist

      Poe.

  • http://www.freethoughtblogs.com/nataliereed Natalie Reed

    Every movement has its whipping boy…

    • http://www.freethoughtblogs.com/nataliereed Natalie Reed

      P.S. There IS more than one way to interpret evil.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      But anyway, the joke is about whether there’s more than one way to interpret Hitler, and more specifically a way to interpret him that makes him not evil, not whether there is more than one way to interpret evil.

      But, yes, in either case, I know full well that there is more than one way to interpret evil, thanks.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      It’s. A. Joke.

    • Lancer

      Interpretation of Hitler where he isn’t evil:

      Prophet/Time Traveler/Psychic/Political forecast salvant who saw a future where a fascist rose to power and ended up destroying the world completely. Hitler rises to power and builds an army strong enough to commit multiple horrible atrocities (that are nevertheless less deadly than the end of the entire world)while at the same time mismanaged enough to ultimately be defeated, resulting fascism being discredited and apocalypse avoided.

    • Lancer

      Or Jewish sympathizer who thought he was an instrument of God to regain Israel for the Jewish people and make sure it sticks. By sacrificing part for the good of the whole, if necessary.

  • ‘Tis Himself, OM

    The Pitfalls of Postmodernism

    Isn’t displaying its own pitfalls the purpose of postmodernism?

    I’m particularly unimpressed by postmoderns like Martin Heidegger (not just because he was a Nazi), Jacques Derrida (I agree with John Searle that Derrida indulges in dadaist sophistry) and Richard Rorty (whose disdain for social justice and dislike of science annoy the fuck out of me).

    Postmodernism is intellectually diverse, yet it promotes a quite reactionary obscurantism. I really dislike its anti-rationalist “critiques” (aka attacks) on science. It also has a fascination with authoritarianism, particularly fascism. Sokal’s Hoax showed postmodernism is more involved in sophistry and anti-rationalism than trying to advance social organization and understanding.

  • Stacy

    The dominant historico-cultural paradigm has privileged a narrative which features his mass-murderer persona, but that’s no reason to overlook the misunderstood painter with daddy issues.

  • Neon Sequitur

    This cartoon (and I realize it’s just a cartoon, folks) could also be taken as an observation on postmodern parenting; not something I’ve seen a lot of discussion about.

  • John Morales

    [semi-OT]

    I am a bit confused about the distinction between post-modernism and post-structuralism.

    (Yes, I have done some reading on it, but even so)

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      I just think of poststructuralism as a major paradigm that falls under the larger umbrella of postmodernism.

  • Pen

    What’s with that common assumption as exhibited by the kid that putting something in contact with your neurons by reading it equals accepting or agreeing with it?

  • Brian Wood

    Had Germany won WWI, Hitler, a war hero who volunteered for dangerous duty at Ypres, would probably have retired to a quiet life as a painter.

    Germany did not, and Hitler engineered the greatest economic turnaround in world history.

    Now, was this war hero and great (economic) leader evil? I find the label constraining and not particularly useful. Boy, he did some of the evilest things ever, but….

    • Enkidum

      But what? Yes, he was evil. Thanks for playing!

    • ‘Tis Himself, OM

      Actually the economic turnaround was engineered by an economist named Hjalmar Horace Greeley Schacht.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Daniel Fincke

      Had Germany won WWI, Hitler, a war hero who volunteered for dangerous duty at Ypres, would probably have retired to a quiet life as a painter.

      Germany did not, and Hitler engineered the greatest economic turnaround in world history.

      Now, was this war hero and great (economic) leader evil? I find the label constraining and not particularly useful. Boy, he did some of the evilest things ever, but….

      Whether or not the label is “constraining” or “not particularly useful” you’ve hardly shown that here. All you have speculated is that had things gone differently Hitler may not have developed as evil as he did. That has nothing to do with whether he was evil as he turned out. Counterfactual Hitler is less evil than actual Hitler. So what? Actual Hitler was as evil as anyone who ever lived. This does not change because of the virtues of Counterfactual Hitler.

  • Brian Wood

    Or, George W. Bush invaded Iraq with as little justification as had Hitler for invading Poland. Is George W. Bush “evil”?

  • http://outarts.webs.com Valdemar Cher

    Hitler was a common homo sapiens ad absurdum, neather evil nor good, just as the evolution ment him to be.


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