Postmodernism philosophy emerged in the second half of the twentieth century, in opposition to modernist philosophical ideas developed during the Enlightenment period in the eighteenth century. This article examines some of the ideas of Heidegger, Nietzsche, Lyotard, and Wallace. While many of these ideas may sound familiar, they have different meanings. In addition, each philosophy is rooted in a unique historical context.
Heidegger’s question of being and its history may seem strange to an uninitiated reader. This quest to discover meaning may lead the reader to argue that the concept of being itself has no history. In fact, the term “being” has no history, any more than Aristotle’s was likely to have one. But what is the task of the philosopher who argues that there is a meaningful concept of being?
Heidegger rejects the concept of subjective truth, or solipsism regarding the truth of Being. Instead, he says that truth exists as an un-covering or covering-up of Being. Moreover, it has nothing to do with correspondence, or coherence. It is the opposite, which makes truth more problematic. In Heidegger’s postmodern philosophy, truth is not the same as Being.
The question of being was Heidegger’s preoccupation from his high school studies, when he first read Franz Brentano’s book on the manifold meanings of being in Aristotle. Only twenty years later, in Being and Time, did he develop the question. His response to this question would be an entirely different book. In Being and Time, Heidegger would write that he “understood that being has multiple meanings in history.”
Though Heidegger did not agree with Husserl’s phenomenology, he was indebted to his mentor. Husserl’s phenomenology was influential, and Heidegger would eventually use the latter to reinterpret it to make his own position more nuanced. In this way, postmodern philosophy would be more challenging and radical than it had been before.
In Nietzsche’s postmodernism philosophical work, we are encouraged to abandon any sense of history as static and relegate all values to subjective judgement. We are reminded of the fact that we can only be conscious to the extent that we are using it to achieve some goal, such as being aware of a cherished ideal or idealizing the world around us. Nietzsche argues that all our sense perceptions are filtered through value judgments.
Friedrich Nietzsche’s postmodernism theory manifests itself in the Antechrist. The Antechrist renounces the idea of God, conventional metaphysics, and perspectivism, and exalts the volonte of power and will. This philosophy liberates the translator by allowing for the possibility of significant multi-interpretations and a re-interpretation of his ideas.
In his book Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche rejects the concept of God, which he saw as an enlightenment invention. He also rejects the idea of reason and slavery morality, and advocates a radically different conception of reality. Nietzsche’s postmodern philosophy is fundamental to postmodern translation studies because it liberates the translator from ethical considerations. It also encourages the translator to develop subjectivity in the translation process.
While Nietzsche and Benjamin both questioned the concept of language, Benjamin argued for naming as translation. In Nietzsche’s postmodernism philosophy, naming is translated into another language, while Benjamin views the original language as displaced. Benjamin is similar to Nietzsche, but differs from him in several ways. While both postmodernism philosophers questioned the adequacy of language, Benjamin is more concerned with the way language is shaped by translation.
The philosophy of postmodernism by Jean-Francois Lyotard relates to the complexities of contemporary art and is characterized by avant-garde experimentation. Postmodernism, then, is a disruptive force within modernism. Lyotard argues that postmodern art is not merely about aesthetics or realism, but also about the limits of representation.
The term ‘postmodern’ comes from a French philosopher who was fascinated by the avant-garde and developed a theory of aesthetics focusing on that movement. His philosophy of postmodernism was informed by examples of individual artists and movements within art. Lyotard also organised the 1985 exhibition Les immateriaux at the Centre Georges Pompidou, showcasing works that explored the connections between art, space, and media.
A central element in Lyotard’s philosophy is his notion of events as phrases. This allows him to analyze events in terms of language, and develop his theory through language analysis. He calls this linking of phrases into a series a ‘concatenation’ of phrases. His law of concatenation states that the ‘concatenation’ of these phrases must take place. However, he argues that there is no right or wrong way to link phrases together.
A second aspect of Lyotard’s philosophy of postmodernism concerns the limits of scientific knowledge. The author argues that science does not legitimately claim to be more valid than narrative knowledge. In other words, Lyotard is defending narrative knowledge against scientific dominance in postmodernity. The danger is that science cannot capture the essence of reality within a single genre. If science attempts to capture reality, it will miss some aspects of an event, including its social context.
David Foster Wallace’s philosophy of postmodernism is based on the fact that we are surrounded by media and culture that is so far removed from the human condition. The postmodern aesthetic play, and the philosophy of indeterminacy that goes with it, are empty distractions from the reality of meaninglessness, which is a common theme in contemporary society. Though this constant state of uncertainty is comforting in a way, it also alienates us from human emotion and compassion.
The Broom of the System, Wallace’s autobiographical roman a clef, is an example of his philosophical engagement with Wittgenstein’s philosophy. Wittgenstein’s solipsism doctrine, in which nothing exists apart from the mind, bewitched Wallace’s intellectual and artistic imagination. Solipsism’s paradoxical implications bewitched Wallace’s mind, and his fascination with the philosophy became a lifelong obsession.
Wallace’s Infinite Jest, one of the most ambitious novels in the last decade, is a prime example of postmodernism. Its enormous scope, its cast of characters, and Wallace’s mastery of language have earned it comparisons to Ulysses and Gravity’s Rainbow. The novel is a complex work of art and literature, addressing issues such as narcissism, addiction, depression, and so forth, which have been studied in an Existentialist framework.
Postmodernism has many proponents and detractors. Many critics see it as an outdated philosophy that only reveals the worst of human nature. Some say it is destructive and has no place in our modern world. Yet, Wallace argues that postmodernism is more useful than destructive. For example, we can learn from history, and we can learn from the mistakes of others. Wallace’s work has also influenced many contemporary authors, such as Kakutani.
Jean-François Lyotard’s discussion of postmodernism is also centered on Holderlin’s “Notes on the Oedipus” (The Oedipus): this text lists the central points of the postmodern and encapsulates its crisis. Lyotard reworks Holderlin’s ideas to make clear that postmodernism involves a crisis of narrative and aesthetic modalities.
A central theme in Holderlin’s postmodernism is the idea that there is no absolute knowledge. The human being is a product of our present-day circumstances, and we must strive to express it through our work. The “present” is not present only in literature and philosophy, but also in the unconscious. This makes Holderlin’s philosophy particularly interesting. Here are three key elements:
Heidegger borrows from Holderlin, describing our contemporary condition as the flight of gods. In ‘The Question Concerning Technology’, he invokes Holderlin’s phrase, linking the saving power of modern technology to poetry and art, and contrasting it with the originary meaning of the Greek word techne. The second theme is the question of how we can make sense of postmodernism.
Heidegger argues that Nietzsche is more suited to the postmodern era than Holderlin, and Gadamer, the philosopher of modernism, also a modernist, finds in Heidegger nostalgia for being. Likewise, Nietzsche’s immortal return emphasises the repetition of the different. Postmodernists read Heidegger’s metaphysics as a repetition of a metaphysical gesture. Holderlin’s postmodernism philosophy emphasizes that the past and present are merely a series of occurrences, and that there is no “originality” in being.
Modernism sought to make cities fit the logic of industrial mass production, but instead it reverted to a large-scale, prefabricated design solution. The result was homogeneous landscapes and a loss of urban life. Modernism was widely criticized as obscurantism and meaninglessness. The philosophy was eventually adopted by the American architect Frank Gehry and the architect Rembrandt.