Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Postmodernism and Deconstructionism

Theorists struggle with the definition of deconstructionism, as it is not easily or well-defined. Supposedly, it does not represent a method or school of philosophy for the purpose of textual criticism. However, the term deconstruction represents a type of textual criticism that attempts to identify the unwritten assumptions, presuppositions of a literary work or ideology, hopefully arriving at understanding of the thought or belief conveyed. The process complicates the meaning of a work or idea by a sort-of critiquing it through a nihilistic viewpoint or cynicism. In some ways, it may be seen as an attempt to re-infuse metaphysical principles and consideration back into thought and culture that modernism and the age of reason tended to neglect. It could be, perhaps a means of seeking truth within a system that does not recognize or only accepts truth with much distrust and cynicism. Or stated differently, it is an attempt to reason by means of the logical fallacy of circular reasoning. Deconstructionism can never escape it’s own presuppositions of cynical distrust and denial of objective truth, while it dubiously attempts to arrive at truth.

"The philosophical method of choice for many postmodern thinkers is "deconstruction", a term made famous by the French philosopher Jacques Derrida, meaning a taking apart of the belief structures of Western science, philosophy, and art. More specifically, Derrida seeks to take a text apart, to reveal its inner contradictions, its hidden assumptions, its moral and political hierarchies, its "warring forces of signification". His preferred approach to the discovering of meaning is diffĂ©rance, which means to defer, postpone, or put off a text's meaning, given the central postmodernist premise that we should avoid forcing a given interpretation on a text or person (which is itself based on the further beliefs that all the world's a text, and that all readings of these texts are equally valid.” Dr. Douglas Mann, Dept. of Philosophy, University of Windsor

(I’m sure the quote didn’t help you understand deconstructionism any better than anyone else does.) Getting back to the Barna quote: “Rather than provide the audience with beauty, creativity, self-enlightenment or wisdom, postmodern entertainment is all about escapism, exploding accepted limits and exploiting technique.” Rather than study to find transcendence and meaning in life like previous eras within philosophy and cultural thought, postmoderns tend to see everything with a strong degree of negativity and distrust. Thus, deconstruction seems to me to be the effect of nihilism on thought and logic, or the world seen through mustard tinted glasses.

Here’s a metanarrative that makes about as much practical sense as that TV commercial/PSA about “ "Your Brain On Drugs” just to evoke another twist on a great postmodern quip:
“Deconstructionism: This is your logic. This is your logic in nihilistic depression. Get the picture?”