The World as History - the Features of Postmodernism

By Miller, James B. | The World and I, December 2000 | Go to article overview

The World as History - the Features of Postmodernism


Miller, James B., The World and I


By surveying scientific and philosophical developments, we have set the stage for an attempt to identify the general features that are coming to characterize a postmodern and postcritical perspective.

* First, rationality is broader than logicality. Mathematics and geometry are no longer taken as the paradigms of rationality. They are instead special cases. Rationality is taken to have dimensions that are explicitly social, related to the solution of human problems and the pursuit of human goals in community.

* A second feature is the view that even the most rational of knowledge is beyond complete, explicit articulation. Polanyi argued that all explicit knowledge was dependent on tacit elements that could never be articulated fully. Wittgenstein argued that even logic could not be stated explicitly but only "shown."

* A third feature is the affirmation that wholes are greater than the sum of their parts. Though this synergistic principle has become almost trite, it nevertheless expresses a central postmodern position. Reductionistic analysis, though a useful tool for identifying the constituents of a whole, cannot of itself provide an explanation of the whole.

* Fourth, following on this antireductionist stance, there is an affirmation of a fundamental holism. This position is perhaps most clearly expressed in Bohm's description of the "holomovement," but it is also present in the emphasis on context in Wittgenstein's reflections on meaning in language and in Toulmin's and Polanyi's considerations of the nature of truth in the sciences. …

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