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Source: (consider it) Thread: why doesn't postmodernism apply to politics ?
moonlitdoor
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I have wondered about this for a while but was prompted by the quote below.

quote:

originally posted by Schroedinger's Cat

Now I should make it clear that I find voting for XXX or for YYY to be completely incomprehensible. I cannot even start to comprehend a mindset that considers either of these choices to be in the best interests of the world or the respective countries or even the individuals themselves.

But some of the people who voted differently to the majority here are intelligent, reasonable people. I mean, clearly wrong, but still not stupid.


Now I would expect someone who identifies as postmodern to find it very natural that people vote in different ways, because politics seems to me to lend itself better than almost any other subject to the idea of competing narratives rather than a single objective truth.

But it occurred to me that not only Schroedinger's Cat but all the people on ship of fools who I remember as identifying themselves as postmodern in outlook ( which is only a smallish number admittedly ), post about politics in a way that suggests they believe in a single objective truth which everybody should be able to grasp.

I am curious as to why this might be.
Does postmodernism fall away when it comes to a subject the individual feels passionate about or is there something about politics in particular that makes it inapplicable ?

I placed an XXX and YYY in quoting him, because although of course I cannot determine what other people write about, I personally have no interest in discussing here the merits of any particular political viewpoint, for which there are already plenty of other opportunities.

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Avey
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I think that politics has largely replaced religion in the post-modern world. The problem is that the division of ideas and policies satisfies no-one.

The centre-left and the centre-right has become indistinguishable in modern parlance. There is no traditional working class left for the Labour Party to appeal to and conversely these is no comfortable middle class Tories either.

There seems no viable Third Way. Labour seems unsustainable with taxation for those less fortunate and the Tories are brutal with cuts to the disabled, the old and the demented.

I work in the public sector and have seen our budgets cut to nothing. I don't know where we go from here.

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HCH
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I'm never sure I understand post-modernism. The Wikipedia article on it says that it "asserts that knowledge and truth are the product of unique systems of social, historical, or political discourse and interpretation, and are therefore contextual and constructed to varying degrees."

This suggests that attempts to define words are pointless and therefore that "post-modernism" cannot be defined.

Of course, the construction of the word seems to refer to the future ("after modern"), but how can one be sure?

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Schroedinger's cat

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The point of PM is that all worldviews have value, that your perspective and position is valid, as well as mine. But also, where we clash, we can discuss, and I might see your position, or you might see mine, or neither. But we understand that we have different perspectives which is what allows for different truths to be valid.

The problems that I discussed, and that frustrate me, are where people cannot discuss and explore their belief, where we cannot discuss it because another person cannot discuss with me, because we have no equal basis to discuss.

This is (to me) the problem of a post-truth world, that, rather than more debate, there is less, because people haven't thought through their position, they simply believe it. If I don't believe it, then I am wrong.

As an example outside the area of politics, If I claim that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was 3ft 6 tall, in a PM world, we could discuss where I get this idea from, what my basis is to make such a claim. In a PT world, I just state it because I know it to be the case. Any reasoning that you make against it, I can simply ignore or dismiss.

I realise that I am an old fuddy duddy, but I cannot grapple with how anyone comes to their beliefs or ideas without seeing and weighing up the evidence. If we all know that politicians lie, why do we nonetheless accept their arguments when we agree with them?

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Ricardus
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quote:
Originally posted by Schroedinger's cat:

As an example outside the area of politics, If I claim that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was 3ft 6 tall, in a PM world, we could discuss where I get this idea from, what my basis is to make such a claim.

How is that different from modernism or even empiricism?

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anteater

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Milton: May I call you by your name? I had hoped ES had called his cat Fluffy, but in a PMT world maybe he did?

quote:
The problems that I discussed, and that frustrate me, are where people cannot discuss and explore their belief, where we cannot discuss it because another person cannot discuss with me, because we have no equal basis to discuss
I think you may underestimate the sheer difficulty and time required to debated the issues au fond, and this, to me, is the reason why debate dies, even when people are willing to engage in a constructive discussion.
So (sorry to the PM-er) relating I think to XXX. For us to discuss in depth just one aspect of the case for XXX would take an enormous amount of time. I had in mind David Owen's lengthy discussion both in his book on XXX as well as one devoted to the NHS, about how the ZZ is an existential threat to the NHS, which most people initially react to with WTF or some similar reasoning. But he marshals a lot of arguments and 'facts'.

I don't even know if I have the expertise to do full fact checking on his claims (he was a Hospital Doctor - I'm not). Nor am I sure that it is worth the effort.

So it may be that this complexity is why people think rational debate impractical (one could add: Global Warming, GM modified crops, Fracking fracking etc etc ad nauseam to the list).

It not about the non-existence of objective truths, and more on our inability to individually arrive at them. So we trust the experts, or go with our gut.

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SvitlanaV2
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People vote as they do for all sorts of reasons. In many cases the choices we make aren't based on every single word that emerges from a politician's mouth, or a close analysis of every policy proposal. There are plenty of other factors involved.
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Beeswax Altar
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quote:
originally posted by Schroedinger's Cat:
The problems that I discussed, and that frustrate me, are where people cannot discuss and explore their belief, where we cannot discuss it because another person cannot discuss with me, because we have no equal basis to discuss.

Absent a grand narrative, debate often becomes fruitless because we do not inhabit the same language game. Our language games determine what we accept as good reasoning and good evidence. Also, absent a grand narrative, we don't even share a common understanding of the good.

quote:
originally posted by Schroedinger's Cat:
This is (to me) the problem of a post-truth world, that, rather than more debate, there is less, because people haven't thought through their position, they simply believe it. If I don't believe it, then I am wrong.

Postmodernism ultimately leads to fideism. Nothing wrong with fideism. We are all fideists in the end.

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Schroedinger's cat

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quote:
Originally posted by Ricardus:
quote:
Originally posted by Schroedinger's cat:

As an example outside the area of politics, If I claim that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was 3ft 6 tall, in a PM world, we could discuss where I get this idea from, what my basis is to make such a claim.

How is that different from modernism or even empiricism?
Because I cannot claim that my principles are binding on others. That is the difference.

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Jane R
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SC:
quote:
Because I cannot claim that my principles are binding on others. That is the difference.
But surely that's the big weakness of post-modernism when applied to questions of the "real" world such as the height of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Because if you agree that she was a real person who really existed (as you must do, if you have an opinion about her height) then she must have been a particular height as an adult. The only reason why we are arguing about it is because it is no longer possible to go and measure her.
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Ricardus
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quote:
Originally posted by Schroedinger's cat:
quote:
Originally posted by Ricardus:
quote:
Originally posted by Schroedinger's cat:

As an example outside the area of politics, If I claim that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was 3ft 6 tall, in a PM world, we could discuss where I get this idea from, what my basis is to make such a claim.

How is that different from modernism or even empiricism?
Because I cannot claim that my principles are binding on others. That is the difference.
I suppose what I'm getting at is that for me to accept that your reasons constitute evidence and not just post-truth making shit up, we must have some shared understanding of what evidence is, and then we aren't too far from modernism. (I think intellectual history has always accepted the existence of different 'schools of thought'.)

At the risk of being loftily dismissive, I think my problem with postmodernism is that the sensible kind seems to be a reaction against a strawman, and the silly kind is, well, silly.

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moonlitdoor
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I don't see how saying that people who believe political point of view X are clearly wrong fits with saying that those people don't have to share the same principles as oneself.

To say that that someone is clearly wrong surely does mean that you are expecting them to make their decision based on the same criteria as you would use.

I think there is a difference between politics and the height of the virgin Mary. Most people would agree about how to measure someone's height, but that's not so true about whether it would be better politically to do X or Y, because people want different things from society.

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Dafyd
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quote:
Originally posted by Schroedinger's cat:
quote:
Originally posted by Ricardus:
How is that different from modernism or even empiricism?

Because I cannot claim that my principles are binding on others. That is the difference.
But you could. That's not anything to do with postmodernism. Your principles tell you that your other principles aren't binding on other people.

What you are saying is you can't tell the fascist-libertarian trolls in the alt-right not to make their principles binding on you.

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lilBuddha
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quote:
Originally posted by moonlitdoor:
post about politics in a way that suggests they believe in a single objective truth which everybody should be able to grasp.

Politics has objective truths, subjective truths and practical truths. The problem is identifying them as honestly as possible.
It is often in the interest of a politician* to state the subjective as objective and/or dismiss the objective and practical as subjective.
The electorate often do similar to support their own interests and/or hopes and fears.

Take the NHS.
An objective truth is that a public funded health care system benefits the poorer members of society.
A practical truth is that private management will lead to the emphasis on profit over the health of those it services.
A subjective truth is whether either of those is important.


*And civil servants more directly obligated to the politicians.

Note: I do not identify as post-modern.

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Schroedinger's cat

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Ok, I will try to explain the difference as I understand it. Bear in mind that I may be wrong, but this is my broad (and simplified) understanding.

Modernism: This is how you determine truth. According to that, I have identified that Mary was just 3' 6" tall. If you want to reject that, you have to prove that I am wrong from the same principles. If you can show that a politician is not telling the truth, they are wrong and are misleading you. Don't trust them.

PM: This is how I determine truth. According to this particular approach, I have determined the height of Mary. Of course, in some areas of life, my belief in the existence of Mary has no relevance. If you can show me that I am wrong based on my principles, I will listen. But your belief that Mary didn't exist or was normal height is based on different starting points, so is valid in your world, but not in mine. And my understanding of Mary is not fixed, of course. I am internally consistent in one situation.

If a politician tells me something that is different from what I understand, that they don't believe in God, that is fine. If they tell me that science shows something that it clearly doesn't, within its own criteria, they are lying. If I can show them to be wrong, they will probably have to resign, because they are clearly lying.

PT: Truth doesn't matter. My belief in the height of Mary helps me get what I want, so I will argue it despite the lack of any chain of thought that leads me to that idea. In reality, I know it is a lie, but I still promote it, because it serves my purpose. The means justifies the end, the end being my personal promotion. If you prove that I am telling a lie, that will have no effect on me, because it was never about truth, it was about effects.

So Mary not existing, or the wall not ever going to happen, doesn't change the fact that Mary was 3' 6".

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lilBuddha
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So, you've just said that politics is, and always has been, post modern and that post modernism is useless and dangerous outside of purely academic discussions of philosophy.

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If it's not here soon, I might be done
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quetzalcoatl
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That was my first reaction, that politics just is postmodern in a sense, and always has been. I mean, that it has relied on shifting sands, which tend to be defined by those in power.

I was watching the Dan Snow documentary on Lloyd George, and he pointed out how LG went from exhorting masses of young men to sacrifice themselves in the war (WWI), and then warning his wife not to let their sons go to the front.

Well, it's straightforward hypocrisy, and probably fairly normal, but I was struck my LG's eulogy of war as a means of solving things. He didn't really have to explain it fully, I suppose, as it would get drowned out by jingoism. But then it hit home when it came to his own sons. Is their death a necessary sacrifice, well, errm, give me a minute, maybe not.

All the premises that you have used in the first argument are reduced to ash, when confronted by personal life. (They did go to the front in the end, and survived, unlike Kipling's son. And Kipling wrote, 'If any question why we died/Tell them, because our fathers lied).

[ 12. January 2017, 12:41: Message edited by: quetzalcoatl ]

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rolyn
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Besides which LG also, later on, had shares in a South African gold mine he knew full well didn't exist which was blatant corruption.
There does seem to be a peculiar brand of hypocrisy in our leaders which the masses rather like. Viewed as strength maybe? The sentiment of the mob does follow a path, not always the one of logic.

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Timothy the Obscure

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PM is an epistemological stance--it doesn't make any ontological assertions at all. It's about what factors condition and constrain our perception and understanding of phenomena, and properly understood should generate skepticism and modesty in our claims of certainty, not a fideist "I can believe anything I want" attitude.

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moonlitdoor
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quote:

posted by Timothy the Obscure

properly understood should generate skepticism and modesty in our claims of certainty

That is what I was asking about. It seems to me that in relation to religion for example, postmodernists are inclined to such modesty. But in relation to politics they seem as likely as anyone else to make very strong truth claims about their own ideas. I am wondering what the reason for that is.

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Timothy the Obscure

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This, I think, has more to do with a failure to distinguish between judgments of fact and judgments of value than anything else. One of the more egregious examples is "anthropogenic climate change would require massive government intervention; government intervention is bad; therefore anthropogenic climate change must not be happening." (One can find examples from other political perspectives, but that's the first one that occurred to me.)

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When you think of the long and gloomy history of man, you will find more hideous crimes have been committed in the name of obedience than have ever been committed in the name of rebellion.
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