Grover and Barthes (Part II)

Last time, I looked at how The Monster at the End of the Book illustrates post-structural tendencies. (History lesson: post-structuralism was the school of literary criticism that came after, you guessed it, structuralism. Postmoderism is largely indebted to post-structuralism, though the former term predated the latter.)

But who cares?

Well, I think the illustration shows us how a philosophy (like postmodernism) actually works in the real world. We like to think that we’re perfectly reasonable beings who examine different philosophies, religions, and ways of knowing, and then we accept or reject what’s most logical. But the real world doesn’t work that way.

Think about it. If you were one of the millions of children who read that book, or read spinoffs and hundreds of books like it that include interaction with the reader, irony, and other hallmarks of post-structuralism, then you were raised with postmodern views about texts.

Video games offer a similar style of storytelling. You create the story by interacting with it.

So, rather than being a blank slate at a certain age when you had questions, you had presuppositions about how the world works, formed from a young age. Your choice of what makes sense wasn’t completely free.

(Nor, of course, was is completely determined. You have rationality, even if your experience leads you toward certain choices.)

But rather than tripping down the choice/determination rabbit hole, I’d rather point out: this is how philosophies work. They are lived. They are experienced. I’ve heard one philosopher claim that postmodernity is a condition as much as anything. If this is true, it is true for each philosophy: we all are conditioned to assert and live various philosophies.

Postmodernism is not so much a set of propositions as it is a way of seeing and interacting with the world.

It’s crucial to remember this. In various conservative cultures that I’ve experienced, postmodernity has always been something to attack with logic. But whether it stands up or doesn’t stand up to logic isn’t the point. The point is that millions of children have grown with this lens and this experience.

We don’t see the world in logical proofs of black and white. We’re intensely interested in how we experience the world, giving validity to each person’s experience. We’re study the amalgam of cultural, political, religious, familial influences that have colored our experience.

It’s reflected in our language. When you want to assert something, are you more likely to say, “We should do it this way,” or “I feel like we should do it this way?”

Experience over logic.

So the question for meaning makers increasingly isn’t what makes sense–it’s what makes people feel? What moves them to a new space where they can assert something as True? What experience will create new vistas of reality?

As 21st century Westerners, we don’t need to look at the world logically. We need to experience it deeply.

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