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Philosophy: Postmodernism (PoMo) continued

Philosophy: Postmodernism (PoMo) continued November 12, 2005

I’m starting a new post for Zen Unbound’s questions. I’m hoping my somewhat arbitrary new posting and parsing of previous posts is helpful, especially for readers who are not heavily schooled in all of this stuff.

From the comments of Postmodernism and Buddhism, some new questions arise.

The discussion so far. Questions:

Is postmodernism foundational? Is Buddhism foundational? And if so, what is the nature of this “something extra?” and how do you “get at it?”

Are transgressional novels representative of postmodernity? Putting aside, for now, whether on not it is a fair/complete/out of context respresentation, are the attributes of being superficial, rejecting the division of authentic/inauthentic and the flattening of emotion what postmoderity would/does look like “as lived?”

Q1: Foundationalism – My guess is that no, PoMo itself is not foundational. Buddhism, I would argue, is. But I think Buddhism posits an anti-foundational ‘moment’ that is very much in line with PoMo (see below).

Q2: I know little of such works – thanks for the link. I’ll be interested to hear Nacho’s and others’ thoughts.

My own thoughts: I can’t really address the second part of Q2, but I think Nacho’s earlier comment comparing Zen and PoMo helps here,

Zen for me centers on a constant undercutting of that which we may deem “knowable” including notions of authenticity of the self, it tells us the world is but illusion or construction of our egos, and postulates a moment in which a break might reveal a more essential understanding of reality, yet one that has always been present, and is not otherworldly.

and later in that post:

I find nihilism a necessary “moment” in removing the veil of metaphysical realism from our eyes.

To refer again to my increasingly insufficient chart, I would place PoMo firmly in the grey area of Philosophical discourse, looking back at and criticizing the naiveté of the lower level. I agree with Nacho that this is a ‘necessary “moment”…’ One of the professors here at UM espouses a Postmodern Realism which is

“an orientation that accepts the lessons of the postmodernist critique and resolves the ambiguities of the postmodern condition in an attitude of patient vigor for a common order centered on communal celebrations” (Borgmann 1992, Crossing the Postmodern Divide, 116). [discussed in the Mullins article here]

This expresses the position possible above the grey area of Philosophical discourse. Borgmann is a Christian, and that certainly colors his expression of what constitutes this area (and may in fact keep him wrenched in the grey – I’m not one to judge), but I think he has a point. That point is similar to the one of the Saṃyutta Nikāya I mentioned before, namely that there is a truth or law beyond the words we feebly use to describe it.

From my chart again, the epistemological commitments of the three levels might go as follows:

1. (confused words) takes the words to represent Reality
2. (Philosophical discourse) uncovers the many flaws of the first level. Employs poetry, art, and argumentation to deconstruct the ‘illusions of knowledge’.
3. (…no words…) realizes that reality can only be gestured at. Embraces the first two levels and asks quite seriously ‘where do we go from here?’

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