FOM: wider cultural significance, part 1

Josh Kortbein kortbein at
Tue Mar 2 04:14:44 EST 1999

Stephen G Simpson writes:
>This is the first in a series of FOM postings about the wider cultural
>significance of f.o.m.
>Humanist academics of the postmodern stripe routinely cite G"odel's
>incompleteness theorem in order to buttress their neo-Marxist points.
>It appears that almost all of the big names in postmodernism have
>indulged in this.  They are all charlatans.  We f.o.m. professionals
>ought to find ways to combat this kind of abuse.

While I am by no means an expert in "postmodernism", it seems clear
to me from my readings, in class and out, that "postmodernists"
are certainly not "neo-Marxists."

Also, might I suggest (a) a more charitable reading of postmodernist
thought, and (b) a slightly less invective form of attack?

I don't deny that the major authors of postmodern thought are, at
best, convoluted, and at worst, convulted and simply poor writers.
There is, however, a certain jargon, and a certain style
in which it's popular for a "postmodernist" to write -- just as
there is an accepted style, and an accepted jargon, in which it's
popular to write proofs. As with all philosophers, postmodernists
argue some things which seem believeable[1], and some which don't,
depending on what one believes. The popular, convoluted style
doesn't lend itself toward being deciphered, but there is some
useful content there to be deciphered.

As to your form of attack -- there are certainly critics and
philosophers out there who may fit your stereotypical views of
them, but there are also plenty of people engaging in respectable,
critical thought in this area, and if you want to be considered
seriously by them it only seems fair that you treat them with
the respect you would wish for your own position.

Josh Kortbein
Mathematics and Philosophy undergraduate
Iowa State University

[1] For example, Jaques Derrida argues, basically, that the meanings
of symbols are not fixed (associated with some stable, perfect
form of that meaning, etc.), and that the meanings of symbols depend
on the meanings of other symbols, always. He goes on from there,
but this seems to be a thesis not unfamiliar to a FOM researcher.

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