Sunday, February 1, 2009


photo by Martin Hart (The American WideScreen Museum)

Nietzsche's Chariot*









*      *      *

One exercise I do every few weeks or so, out of curiosity, is to search Google News and Blogs for the latest posts with words the "deconstructionism" or "postmodernism" (aka "pomo") in them (or related words without the "ism" or with "ist" instead). I'm particularly interested in the "critics", who use these as representative lingo for everything that is wrong with the world.

There seem to be three camps, or teams if you will:
  • Alpha — the far right Christian and conservative groups, who use these terms (especially the latter) as labels for "the media/academia class" who do not believe in the "authority" of Scripture, i.e. "absolute" truth
  • Beta — those of the the secular left (and right, a la Andrew Sullivan) who ignorantly push the idea that practitioners of these enterprises are just New-Age unscientific bozos (who don't believe in the "authority" of science)
  • Gamma — deconstructionists and postmodernists and their fans
Now I have some books on both these subjects, and while I would pretty be confident saying I was a "deconstructionist" and have some confidence in its specificity, I frankly don't know what a "postmodernist" is, except as being some sort of superclass of deconstructist. Supposedly a deconstructionist architect, for example, would design building where the inside/outside distinction is blurred. (On another note, Derrida apparently didn't like adding "ism" to the name of whatever he was doing — Maybe an "ism" is just more intellectual jism.)

If I were to present deconstruction on a single slide, it would bullet its two targets (both considered to be be "artificial" constructions that have led humankind astray):
  • binary oppositions
  • double standards
and I would cite as examples two sources, respectively, who are not generally considered to be part of the pomo pantheon:
  • W.V. Quine, "Two Dogmas of Empiricism" [DiText] — where the belief that some statements are "analytic" and others are "synthetic" is deconstructed
  • Huw Price, Time's Arrow and Archimedes' Point [Google Books] — where the belief that there is an "arrow of time" (that belief being an anthropocentric confusion due to a statistical thermodynamic "arrow") has led to thinking there are such things as quantum "paradoxes"

So one does not have to go to some fuzzy Frenchies to find their culprits — one can start here.

There is a third deconstructionist concept:

double reading — any text can be (is) re-read in ways that can deconstruct its naive meaning. Every text contains the seeds of its own deconstruction.

Il n'y a pas de hors-texte.

Go Gammas!

2009/02/18 — "posted" to Totally Optional Prompts: Request for Poems: Coin a New Word

*The poem originally appeared in this blog January 6, 2009 as The Four Deconstructionists. Originally, I was thinking the "Decon Four" as like the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse", but I knew Nietzsche was missing. So here he is, the driver — of course — of the four-horse chariot.

(Nietzsche has his own "horse-tale" to be told: On January 3, 1889, Nietzsche suffered a collapse which seems to have triggered a psychotic break. Two policemen approached him after he caused a public disturbance in the streets of Turin. What actually happened remains unknown, but the often-repeated tale states that Nietzsche witnessed the whipping of a horse at the other end of the Piazza Carlo Alberto, ran to the horse, threw his arms up around the horse’s neck to protect it, and collapsed to the ground. [Wikipedia]