Wittgenstein: Philosophy, Postmodernism, Pedagogy

By Michael Peters; James Marshall | Go to book overview

thinking of difference into the mold of abstract identity based on atomistic individualism. Readings concludes:

The assumption of universal human nature . . . lights the way to terror even as it upholds the torch of human rights. The problem of averting genocide demands a respect for difference, a deconstructive ethics, that is prepared to relinquish the concept of the human, to separate liberty from fraternity. Deconstruction rephrases the political, not by adding race along with gender and class to the categories by which we calculate oppression but by invoking an incalculable difference, an unrepresentable other, in the face of which any claim to community must be staked. (pp. 186-87)

The analysis of other cultures provided by Readings in terms of difference is not an isolated one. We mention it here because of its relevance to an Australian audience. Paul Patton ( 1995) has provided a similar analysis of Australian society in terms of the philosophy of difference, focusing on the Mabo debate and utilizing a poststructuralist approach to political questions. Patton ( 1995, p. 167) makes clear, contra Rorty on cultural difference, that Rawl's theory "reflects a deep commitment within liberal theory: to a principle of sameness or identity among members of the political community." In the idea of difference, he suggests, difference understood as specificity or variation rather than opposition or exclusion, "we can find some intimations of a different idea of both society and justice, one that does not entail the assimilation of one culture by another." 10

Lyotard's later work provides a basis for rethinking philosophy of education and of making central to it the ethicopolitical question of other cultures. His notion of pagan judgment allows the question of judgment to be kept alive in the era of globalization, where the claim to a universal history is not the ground for a global community but rather one of terror and victimization. Lyotard's philosophy enables us to stop trying to force cultural differences into the universal language of liberty and freedom, a discourse that reinterprets difference in the mold of abstract identity based upon atomistic individualism.


NOTES

Parts of Chapter 7 are based on "Metanarratives, Nihilism and the End of Metaphysics: Wittgenstein and Lyotard," a paper presented by Michael Peters at the conference "Narrative and Metaphor: Across the Disciplines," The University of Auckland, New Zealand, July 8-10, 1996, and Peters ( 1995b, pp. 189-204).

1.
Lyotard ( 1984, p. 40) also mentions Martin Buber and Emmanel Levinas as developing philosophies in response to delegitimation or nihilism.
2.
By reference to modern developments in logic and arithmetic Lyotard shows that the principle of a universal metalanguage required for demonstrating

-131-

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