[FRIAM] Postmodernism for Rationalists

Nick Thompson nickthompson at earthlink.net
Sat Nov 18 22:53:33 EST 2017

Sorry.  As usual I am playing catch up in this argument. 


What, for instance, is a cargo cult ideology?  Praying to whatever might cause useful stuff to fall out of the sky?  


And, what is the relation between PoMo and Existentialism?   I take existentialism to be the doctrine that all meaning in life, if human life has any meaning, is generated or asserted by the humans that live it. 



Nicholas S. Thompson

Emeritus Professor of Psychology and Biology

Clark University

 <http://home.earthlink.net/~nickthompson/naturaldesigns/> http://home.earthlink.net/~nickthompson/naturaldesigns/


From: Friam [mailto:friam-bounces at redfish.com] On Behalf Of Frank Wimberly
Sent: Saturday, November 18, 2017 5:53 PM
To: The Friday Morning Applied Complexity Coffee Group <friam at redfish.com>
Subject: Re: [FRIAM] Postmodernism for Rationalists


This stimulated a memory.  When I was a sophomore at Carnegie Mellon one of my classmates, FM, was one of the most enthusiastic fraternity boys ever.  I transferred to Berkeley that year.  When I returned to CMU as a graduate student 5 years later he was also a grad student and a florid Hippie.  I recently did a search and discovered that he is a prominent member of a folk-dancing group for elders.  Some people are like chameleons; I am not being judgmental.



Frank Wimberly
Phone (505) 670-9918 <tel:(505)%20670-9918> 


On Nov 18, 2017 5:44 PM, "Prof David West" <profwest at fastmail.fm <mailto:profwest at fastmail.fm> > wrote:

I believe Frank is generally right. However,when I was in college in the late sixties hippies were in full bloom but  Maynard G Krebs (Adventures of Dobie Gillis) was a TV icon and Lord Buckley was on the pop radio.


dave west



On Sat, Nov 18, 2017, at 05:39 PM, Frank Wimberly wrote:

In my experience, growing up in n the Bay Area, Beatniks had come and gone before the Hippies emerged.




Frank Wimberly

Phone (505) 670-9918 <tel:(505)%20670-9918> 


On Nov 18, 2017 11:15 AM, "Steven A Smith" <sasmyth at swcp.com <mailto:sasmyth at swcp.com> > wrote:

Glen ☣-


A Postmodernist trying to Rationalize Postmodernism to Rationalists?


Actually I found it somewhat interesting...  and was (nicely?) put off by the formatting... the ragged use of bullet points... a "bulleted list of one" seems very symbolic of my caricature of PoMo aesthetic.


As for the summary you included here from the presentation:


Best of Times:


    A) my introduction (informal) to PoMo presented significantly as both dogmatic and ideological... but that may have been partly projection and partly the selectivity of what I *recognized as* PoMo.

    2) The "focus on human values" is a tautological statement?  PoMo seems to be centered (to the exclusion of all else) on a subjectivity that is intrinsically "human" and maybe even more acutely "self" as in "self-centered"?    I'm not trying to say that I don't find the PoMo perspective useful and even appealing in many ways, but in it's purest form, it would seem to degenerate to pure narcissism (without judgement of that)?

    c.) Definitely seems to help "expand the mind" in roughly the same manner that hallucinagens do?  I also don't mean that to be acutely dismissive, but the mechanism seems to be similar to this, and/or maybe "annealing" with repeated (arbitrary?) randomizing of the smallest elements with thermal excitation?

    IV) This one feels like the most useful (or least challenging?) of his observations.


Worst of Times:


    0.0 My earliest introduction to PoMo was exclusively (selective hearing?) used to push shoddy agendas...  I observed it being used as a turd in the punchbowl more than anything.  I think I'm (well?) past judging it by that early introduction, but I think the author cited here is (in other text) pointing at the abuses of the Alt.Right these days.

    II.) I like the allusion to Cargo Cult...  and it fits the superficial approach of PoMo as I apprehend it...   elevating correlation (free association)  to the level of causation.  Ignoring the implicit commutativity in the Form/Function duality.  I don't mean PoMo is intrinsically superficial, but rather that it is often invoked in that mode and perhaps (too) often apprehended that way in an attempt to dismiss it's confrontational style (nature?).

    c.a) 0.0 above exhibited in this way more than not... it was the tool of self-styled "young Turks" who, in some ways, like the Anarchists of early c20, recognized that it is easier (and can be more satisfying) to toss a bomb into things than it is to try to deconstruct/reconstruct thoughtfully.

    Zed ☣) The existential loneliness of PoMo seems to associate it with Nihilism and may drive the worst aspects of it's presentation in culture?  


PoMo seems "mature" enough now that it, itself is wanting to be received seriously (trying to rationalize itself to rationalists?).   It's (unfortunate) association with the Beat culture (my experience growing up was that the Beats were mostly the over-30 dropout men who were trying to horn in on the youth culture of the Hippies, especially (surprise!) the girls) and aspects of the (subsequent) drop-out culture exemplified by the Merry Pranksters.


But what comes after/follows-from PoMo?   Post-Postmodernism?  MetaModernism?   A plenitude of *modernisms (as suggested by the PoMo aesthetic?)


>From the Wikipedia Post Postmodernism entry:


Salient features of postmodernism are normally thought to include the ironic play with styles, citations and narrative levels,[6] <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post-postmodernism#cite_note-6>  a metaphysical skepticism or nihilism <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nihilism>  towards a “grand narrative <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_narrative> ” of Western culture,[7] <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post-postmodernism#cite_note-7>  a preference for the virtual at the expense of the real (or more accurately, a fundamental questioning of what 'the real' constitutes)[8] <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post-postmodernism#cite_note-8>  and a “waning of affect”[9] <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post-postmodernism#cite_note-9>  on the part of the subject, who is caught up in the free interplay of virtual, endlessly reproducible signs inducing a state of consciousness similar to schizophrenia.[10] <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post-postmodernism#cite_note-10> 

All I know about PoPoMo I just read in Wikipedia (how non-PoMo of me?) but recognize some of the ideas and names referenced there.   Eric Gan's PostMillenialism struck me for it's dismissal (judgement?) of PoMo as "victimary thinking"... a corollary of nihilism?   I don't really take Gan's Generative Anthropology seriously (though it has interesting ideas) and DO (against my personal convenience) believe in a postCapitalist/postDemocracy (r)evolution on the cusp of happening (perhaps even in my lifetime?).


I also find something interesting in this description of metaModernism (same source):


As examples of the metamodern sensibility Vermeulen and van den Akker cite the 'informed naivety', 'pragmatic idealism' and 'moderate fanaticism' of the various cultural responses to, among others, climate change, the financial crisis, and (geo)political instability.

The prefix 'meta' here refers not to some reflective stance or repeated rumination, but to Plato's metaxy <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metaxy> , which intends a movement between opposite poles as well as beyond.[25] <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post-postmodernism#cite_note-25> 


Fire away!

 - Sieve




I appreciated these 2 slides:

• Postmodernism at its best
  · Not dogmatic and ideological
  · Focuses on human values
  · Allows you to approach and understand other subjects and viewpoints
  · Acknowledges that the territory might require multiple maps
• Postmodernism at its worst
  · Used to push shoddy political agendas
  · Cargo cult ideology
  · Used to rationalize and excuse asocial behavior
  · Results in existential loneliness





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FRIAM Applied Complexity Group listserv
Meets Fridays 9a-11:30 at cafe at St. John's College
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