Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Pluralist Reasons Against Authoritarian Reason

I'm not a "post-modernist" (anybody who knows the history of serial quarelles des anciens et modernes since the 17C -- let alone much earlier variations in the Roman imagination of the Greeks -- understands that the "high modern" "late modern" "post-modern" "post-post modern" "a-modern" skirmishes to and fro are a very old, and essentially modern, if I may say so, story) but I definitely do play the post-modernist online from time to time. I find myself in this curious position not only because of my elite effete aesthete penchant for paradoxical wordplay but because I know that whatever positions I actually make a case for, the most vitriolic opponents of "post-modernism" (whatever, finally, that is supposed to mean) definitely seem to have people like me in mind as their targets, so it makes a certain sense to defend myself on the terrain where the actual battle in unfolding. What is especially interesting to me is that in defending the pragmatist, pluralist, secularist, post-humanist humanities theses that often get me pilloried for post-modernism I find myself at odds with many people who under other circumstances I would assume to be clear allies, defenders of practical science, reality-based progressive activists, freethinkers, and so on.

I also find it interesting just how many pieces I have written on Amor Mundi over the years really do seem to be variations on this topic of my skepticism toward "priestly" or too authoritative understandings of truth, knowledge, science, selfhood, reality, the good, the future, and so on. Although these are far from the pieces of mine that have drawn the most eyeballs to this site or the most comments to the Moot (I guess my brand of cheerful comparatively nonjudgmental atheism in such posts does occasionally draw some notice at least), many of these happen to be the pieces I am proudest of, the pieces that seem to me to go to the real heart of my personal preoccupations, and the pieces that reflect my own best sense of what Amor Mundi is about most of all.

1. Values: Morals Versus Ethics, November 4, 2004.

2. Fundamentalist Devils, Postmodernist Angels, November 29, 2004.

3. Progress as a Natural Force Versus Progress as the Great Work, January 05, 2005.

4. Subject, Object, Abject, April 20, 2005.

5. Sovereign Or Subject?, April 21, 2005.

6. Selves Are Fictional But Not Illusory, June 10, 2005.

7. Is Science Democratic?, July 27, 2005.

8. Without God, August 19, 2005.

9. The Republican War on Science Is Premodern Not Postmodern, September 20, 2005.

10. But Then Who Will Save Us?, September 27, 2005.

11. MoPoMo, February 11, 2006.

12. Posthuman Terrains, July 10, 2006.

13. Our PreMo President, October 09, 2006.

14. Technoethical Pluralism, November 23, 2006.

15. Zerzan's Premodernist Complaint about "Postmodern" Thought, December 06, 2006.

16. Anti-Intellectual Arguments Against Anti-Intellectualism Are Always Such Fun!, December 29, 2006.

17. Faith in Technology?, February 5, 2007.

18. Mass Mediated Hand Holding: Depressive Bioconservative Cinema and Its Manic Technophiliac Twin, February 11, 2007.

19. What "Becomes" Post-Humanity?, March 10, 2007.

20. The World Needs Democracy, Not Saving (And Especially Not Self-Appointed "Saviors"), March 31, 2007

21. Close to You; Or, Truth-Talk Among the Philosophers, April 15, 2007.

22. "Relativisms," Left and Right, June 02, 2007.

23. Problematical Posthumanistical, June 02, 2007.

24. Richard Rorty, October 4, 1931 -- June 8, 2007, June 10, 2007.

25. More Rorty, June 12, 2007.

26. Priestly "Science" and Democratic Politics, July 17, 2007.

27. Pragmatic Science, Not Priestly Science, July 13, 2007.

28. Freedom and Figurative Language, August 10, 2007.

29. Confusing Moralizing for Politics, August, 2007.

30. Is Rationality Always Instrumental?, November 11, 2007.

31. But I'm Not a Relativist, December 10, 2007.

32. Many of the Faithful Are Really Just Aesthetes, December 10, 2007.

33. Scattered Speculations on Secularism, Atheism, and Anticlericalism, December 29, 2007.

34. As An Actual Person, May I Point Out That I'm Actually Speaking A "Language of the People" Already, Thank You Very Much?, February 15, 2008.

35. Transhumanists Appoint Themselves Master Defenders of "The Enlightenment", February 16, 2008.

36. From Enlightenment to Eliminationism in a Single Bound, February 17, 2008.

37. Loss, Connection, Transformation, March 03, 2008.

38. A Faith in Finitude?, March 29, 2008.

39. Moralizing Isn't Politics, April 20, 2008.

40. Science, Politics, and Administration, March 22, 2009.

41. Let A Bazillion Flowers Bloom, December 3, 2009.

42. Pluralist Reasonableness Against Fundamentalist, Reductionist, and Relativist Unreasonablenesses, May 16, 2010.

43. Raised Vulcan Eyebrows and Hopeless Human Hopes, June 6, 2010.

44. Rhetoric and Nonviolence, June 12, 2010.

45. We Already Won the Culture Wars, August 17, 2010.

46. Sold Out Truths, December 30, 2010.

47 ."Smug Atheists" Should Read More SF Counsels io9, November, 2012.


Anonymous said...

What is especially interesting to me is that in defending the pragmatist, pluralist, secularist, post-humanist humanities theses that often get me pilloried for postmodernism I find myself at odds with many people who under other circumstances I would assume to be clear allies,

You know,

Although these are far from the pieces of mine that have drawn the most eyeballs to this site or the most comments to the Moot, many of them happen to be the pieces I am proudest of
And many of them are reasons why people do return to your blog, at least I do. Anyone can critique libertarians or transhumanists, or, say, creationists, it is useful check against their more delusional notions, and it's a fun sport for those who have certain kind of sense of humor and possibility to vent off some aggression for those who don't.

Very few people can do that without becoming the sort of Paladins Of Quantum Clockwork Universe, or worse falling for vulgar and complacent "I'm OK, you're OK, nothing to worry about" relativism. (That's what Quantum Clockwork Paladins usually call "postmodernism". At least it was it in my QCP days.)

And it's not that QCPs are that wrong, this type of thinking IS abetting all sorts of kooks, sometimes dangerous kooks. Explaining how tolerance is possible without that sort of anything-goes relativism is important, much more so than debunking of any sub-cult out there.

Robin said...

Wow, I can't believe how many of these I missed the first time around. It's a curse to me that you write so prolifically sometimes, because I don't always get to read everything in a timely manner. I'm glad you're throwing these summary posts together so I can catch up. It has nothing to do with avoiding writing dissertation chapters, either!

Dale Carrico said...

I always thought I was the Queen of Procrastination. When I started dissertating, I learned the true meaning of procrastination. But even that did not prepare me for the procrastination that is "the book" after the dissertation...

Robin said...

Frankly, I'm going to be out of things to learn by the time I get to the next book. I've already taken up knitting, violin, and heck, tomorrow I start cello lessons!

I'm going to have to start skydiving or something next!

Poor Richard said...

On of the most interesting formulations of pragmatism I've seen lately is "Ostrom’s Law: A resource arrangement that works in practice can work in theory."

From: Property Rights in the Commons: The ubiquity of mixed systems(P2P Foundation blog)

Intellectuals can be pragmatists, but I tend to think of the "avatar" or icon of the pragmatist as a worker with a toolbox. A worker uses ideas, blueprints, etc. not as "grand designs" but as tools fit better for some purposes than for others. And there are good reasons why the worker often thinks of the architect or engineer as a dumbass.

Poor Richard said...

Oops, I forgot to check the email follow-up box.

S R Wright said...

I am very excited to read your works relating to pragmatism in the age of postmodernity. Thank you