Modernism vs Post-Modernism

 

From: raymon_ford
Date: Fri Apr 2, 2004 6:04 am
Subject: Modernism vs Post-Modernism

Gidday Peter,

It was recently suggested here an argument in support of the notion that some cultures are more `advanced' than others (`…If several cultures exist and only one of them has discovered the wheel then are they all at the same level…). It needs to be said that peoples such as the Aussie Aborigines, who did not have the wheel, take a dim view of such an outlook. A loss of dignity is experienced by those subject to such judgments, and their self-esteem has taken rather a beating as a result. (I do not mean to say that people making such statements intend this – in my experience they invariably do not - nevertheless it does have such an effect.)

You retorted that this merely shows advancement in wheel-making prowess, and by implication you suggest this (or any combination of such) does not justify a blanket judgment as to the superiority of the culture concerned. Your perspective, decried by some as merely `politically correct', does however allow those on the receiving end some honor, and to retain a feeling of inner worth.

This seems to me to show an example of the contrast between the modernist outlook – relevant here because it was this within which terms Steiner had necessarily to express himself - and today's post- modernist outlook. Would you agree that there was a certain paradigm shift in Western thought in the 90's, resulting from the influences of post-modernist philosophy, and that some of the differences in view between yourself and others here result from this shift?

See ya, Raymon

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From: Peter Staudenmaier
Date: Fri Apr 2, 2004 11:00 am
Subject: Re: [anthroposophy_tomorrow] Modernism vs Post-Modernism

Hi again Raymon, you wrote:

You retorted that this merely shows advancement in wheel-making prowess, and by implication you suggest this (or any combination of such) does not justify a blanket judgment as to the superiority of the culture concerned.

Yes, that is more or less my position. I think it makes little sense to say that entire cultures are somehow superior to others. All cultures have good and bad aspects.

This seems to me to show an example of the contrast between the modernist outlook – relevant here because it was this within which terms Steiner had necessarily to express himself - and today's post- modernist outlook. Would you agree that there was a certain paradigm shift in Western thought in the 90's, resulting from the influences of post-modernist philosophy, and that some of the differences in view between yourself and others here result from this shift?

I doubt it, but that's an interesting angle. Perhaps others could weigh in to clarify the various stances. My own stance is very strongly opposed to postmodernism (which is why I find your hypothesis doubtful); I am very much a modernist myself, and the modernist elements in Steiner's worldview are part of what I admire about him. Postmodernists often preach a thoroughgoing relativism; not only do they deny that any culture as a whole is superior to any other, they frequently deny that any aspect of any culture is better or worse than any other. I consider this second view deeply wrongheaded, indeed incoherent.

Peter

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From: raymon_ford
Date: Sat Apr 3, 2004 7:39 am
Subject: Re: Modernism vs Post-Modernism

Gidday Peter,

You said

…I am very much a modernist myself, and the modernist elements in Steiner's worldview are part of what I admire about him...

R:

Can you run one or more such elements by me, contrasting with the `Post-Modernist' outlook? While I would not know my Focault from my Derrida, I am interested in what those who do – in this case you - have to say on these matters.

You class yourself as a modernist, but your attitude re cultures per se not being subject to classification as to superiority etc was brought into mainstream academic thought under the umbrella of post-modernism, was it not?

P:

Postmodernists often preach a thoroughgoing relativism; not only do they deny that any culture as a whole is superior to any other, they frequently deny that any aspect of any culture is better or worse than any other. I consider this second view deeply wrongheaded, indeed incoherent.

R:

Yes. I was careful to word my statement re Western thought as `… resulting from the influences of post-modernist philosophy…'. The second view you mentioned has not yet made it to any prevailing currents of thought save perhaps the New Age movement, but the first has - and so we must properly deal with it.

See ya, Raymon

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From: Peter Staudenmaier
Date: Sat Apr 3, 2004 9:41 am
Subject: Re: [anthroposophy_tomorrow] Re: Modernism vs Post-Modernism

Hi again Raymon, you wrote:

Can you run one or more such elements by me, contrasting with the `Post-Modernist' outlook? While I would not know my Focault from my Derrida, I am interested in what those who do – in this case you - have to say on these matters.

That's a big topic. For now suffice it to say that I think Derrida's deconstruction is largely an evasion of critical responsibility; witness his miserable apologias for De Man and Heidegger, for example. Foucault is a different story; his work mixes good empirical work with bad theory, in my view, and ends up distracting his acolytes from many of the important issues at stake in history and in social critique.

You class yourself as a modernist, but your attitude re cultures per se not being subject to classification as to superiority etc was brought into mainstream academic thought under the umbrella of post-modernism, was it not?

No. Franz Boas introduced these arguments nearly a hundred years ago. The belief that particular "cultures per se" are superior or inferior to others certainly has its defenders within the modernist tradition, but it has many critics within that tradition as well. One way to put it is that postmodernists (a lot of them, anyway) move from the entirely legitimate skepticism toward this sort of superiority talk to an illegitimate form of relativism in which no component of any culture can be considered preferable to any other. I completely reject that kind of relativism.

Peter

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From: at
Date: Tue Apr 6, 2004 4:47 pm
Subject: Re: [anthroposophy_tomorrow] Modernism vs Post-Modernism

Peter Staudenmaier:

I think it makes little sense to say that entire cultures are somehow superior to others. All cultures have good and bad aspects.

Daniel:

This brings up an interesting question. If cultures have good and bad aspects, is it possible that one culture has more good aspects than another culture? Purely in abstract theory, mind you. For if you admit that cultures have good and bad aspects (a value judgment) I find it an odd next step to maintain that it is not possible to quantify these aspects. The logically consistent position would be to maintain that there is nothing good or bad about any culture; this is a position from which no one can claim the superiority of one culture over another. If, on the other hand, cultures have good and bad aspects, then a comparison of these aspects ought to be possible. In fact, it is logically inconsistent to maintain that cultures have good and bad aspects, but that comparing these is impossible.

Patrick:
[Raymon:]

This seems to me to show an example of the contrast between the modernist outlook – relevant here because it was this within which terms Steiner had necessarily to express himself - and today's post- modernist outlook. Would you agree that there was a certain paradigm shift in Western thought in the 90's, resulting from the influences of post-modernist philosophy, and that some of the differences in view between yourself and others here result from this shift?

Peter Staudenmaier:

I doubt it, but that's an interesting angle. Perhaps others could weigh in to clarify the various stances. My own stance is very strongly opposed to postmodernism (which is why I find your hypothesis doubtful); I am very much a modernist myself, and the modernist elements in Steiner's worldview are part of what I admire about him. Postmodernists often preach a thoroughgoing relativism; not only do they deny that any culture as a whole is superior to any other, they frequently deny that any aspect of any culture is better or worse than any other. I consider this second view deeply wrongheaded, indeed incoherent.

Daniel:

Still trying to have it both ways, I see. Absolute and relative, modernist yet postmodernist. As I said above, I find it logically impossible to consider that an entity (a culture) has characteristics that are quantifiable as "good" and "bad" but that these characteristics cannot be compared to the characteristics of another similar entity. The postmodernists are at least being logically consistent, which is more than I can say for this position.

Peter, you seem to define yourself first by the label you desire ("my own stance is very strongly opposed to postmodernism" = I don't want to be a "postmodernist") and then you try to foist your views off as an anti-postmodernist stance. I propose that this is backwards. First look at your stance, and then see what label applies. You stated position in earlier posts is unadulterated, classic cultural relativism, a textbook case of postmodernism. Yet you don't want the label, so you deny it, even if it requires redfining the term and thereby being quite illogical. It is the same thing you do with Steiner. In your view, Steiner is a racist and anti-Semite, and it is merely a matter of finding the quotes to demonstrate this. You would land closer to the truth if you first read some Steiner (whole books, and not paragraphs) and attempted to determine if the central argument or any of the asides - in context - are actually anti-Semitic or racist.

Daniel Hindes

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From: Peter Staudenmaier
Date: Tue Apr 6, 2004 7:41 pm
Subject: Re: [anthroposophy_tomorrow] Modernism vs Post-Modernism

Hi Daniel, you wrote:

This brings up an interesting question. If cultures have good and bad aspects, is it possible that one culture has more good aspects than another culture?

Maybe. I don't know how one would quantify such a thing, though. In any case, whole cultures aren't monolithic; they contain contradictory elements, some of which will strike some people as good and others as bad.

For if you admit that cultures have good and bad aspects (a value judgment) I find it an odd next step to maintain that it is not possible to quantify these aspects.

What is odd about that? Quality and quantity are different things.

The logically consistent position would be to maintain that there is nothing good or bad about any culture

That would be quite foolish, in my view. All cultures include both good and bad aspects, don't you think?

If, on the other hand, cultures have good and bad aspects, then a comparison of these aspects ought to be possible.

Yes, of course. A comparison of the specific *aspects*, not of the whole cultures.

You stated position in earlier posts is unadulterated, classic cultural relativism, a textbook case of postmodernism.

That kind of cultural relativism, the Boasian variety, long predates postmodernism. It is very different from postmodern versions of relativism.

You would land closer to the truth if you first read some Steiner (whole books, and not paragraphs) and attempted to determine if the central argument or any of the asides - in context - are actually anti-Semitic or racist.

That's exactly what I have done. Some of them are indeed racist and antisemitic. Some of them are not. Amazing how complex people's ideas can be, huh?

Peter

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From: at
Date: Wed Apr 21, 2004 6:47 pm
Subject: Re: [anthroposophy_tomorrow] Re: Modernism vs Post-Modernism

Peter Staudenmaier:

After being away for a while, Daniel comes running back, and writes:

Daniel:

Peter, I've been here all along. I was quietly waiting for you to answer about 12 posts that I addressed to you in the last two weaks. But you seem to be avoiding all substantive discussion, so I thought I'd jump in again.

Peter Staudenmaier:

Quite so. Did you think we were discussing hatemongering? I thought we were discussing racism.

Daniel:

I thought we were discussing racism too, but then you stopped responding to my posts, so I guessed you were trying to quietly sneak away from any substantive discussion of the issue while loudly boasting that you reall, no really, wanted to discuss the issue. I was also discussing how you really messed up in your article "Anthroposophy and Ecofascism" and attributed Aryan elitism to Steiner in a book that contained nothing of the sort, and then did not have the integrity to admit your error. Your lack of integrity remains, and the fact also remains that you are scared of facing your many errors in this article, and avoid discussing your mistakes at ever opportunity.

Daniel Hindes

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