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In his latest TCSDaily dispatch from the Modern Language Association confab, Nick Gillespie examines how Darwin is helping litcrit to evolve.

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  1. great article and right on target. post modernism reasoning isn’t “relativism” but an attempt to take away any priviledge vantage points and place people back in the real world instead of some platonic realm they invent to back up whatever it is they already believe. as someone that just dropped out of grad school for cognitive psychology I can say honestly that these “scientific” perspectives are often little more than attempts to disown ones responsibility for their beliefs and actions. Eugenics was a perfect of this example of scientists acting compelled to some ridiculous beliefs. Moving past the post modern era we can begin to acknowledge the huge benefits of scientific perspectives (even in literature) without allowing people to use their scientific perspective as a shield.

  2. It’s not deconstructive enough. In particular, it’s uncurious about the use of “hardwired” as a founding term ; for hardwiring functions as writing as it is used, thus importing at the foundation what it is supposed to explain at the end.

    Things haven’t advanced much beyond Coleridge in _Biographia Literaria_, which disposes of such theories rather neatly.

    http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/6081 chapters 6-8

  3. post modernism reasoning isn’t “relativism” but an attempt to take away any priviledge vantage points and place people back in the real world instead of some platonic realm they invent to back up whatever it is they already believe.

    If you’ll forgive me for saying so, this is a rather Platonic ideal of post-modernism. In practice, “post-modernism” generally comes down to the use of deconstructive jargon to tear down your intellectual opponent’s privileged position, so as to elevate your own.

    And, in fact, post-modernism is profoundly relativistic. It denies the existence of absolutes (jargonated as “privileged positions”), which is what relativism is all about. You might as well own up to it and be proud of it.

  4. This stuff hurts my brain.

  5. If I drop a tree on a postmodernist’s head, will anyone hear him scream?

    I buy the idea that some purely social constructs may have built into them a few biases of the ruling class (whatever and whoever that is), but the postmodern movement as a whole has become a joke. Especially when it attempts to strike out beyond the social sciences.

  6. “Yet if evolution is real in any sense of the word, it must have a profound effect on what we do as human beings when it comes to art and culture.”

    Not necessarily. In periods where much art and culture were significantly influenced by religion, it could be that the religions themselves were significantly influenced by the God(s) of those religions. To think otherwise would recognize implications for evolution that undermine religions beyond fundamentalist young-earth requiring ones.

    If people can believe in mind/body dualism, can’t they believe in species/culture dualism? Evolution explains species. God explains culture. After all, shouldn’t people who believe in an omnipotent God have him doing something?

  7. If I drop a tree on a postmodernist’s head, will anyone hear him scream?

    Yes, but our reactions will only reflect the oppressive paradigm that society has enforced in the indoctrination of those reactions.

    Or to borrow a joke from the banjo world: What happens when you drop a postmodernist from the Empire State Building? Answer: Who cares?

  8. “There’s no question that a huge amount of interesting work is being done — scholars of 17th-century British and Colonial American literature, for instance, are bringing to light all sorts of manuscripts and movements that are quietly revising our understanding of liberal political theory and gender roles …”

    Let’s just hope they do it way quietly, so that none of us has to hear it.

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