Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Hegel used history to contextualize earlier epochs

Poststructuralism and Postmodernism: Bald Ambtion, Chapter 7 Jeff Meyerhoff
While his use of Habermas here is defensible, Wilber's periodization of modernity and postmodernity is confusing. He states that we can date the beginning of the “postmodern mood” to Hegel,[40] presumably because Hegel used history to contextualize earlier epochs, showed the constructed nature of knowledge and used vision-logic to create an all embracing system. But if Hegel, at the start of the 19th century begins the postmodern mood, then what are we to make of historical periodizations of postmodernity that date it from the mid to late 20th century and routinely refer to late 19th and early 20th century thinkers such as Nietzsche and Bataille as proto-postmodernists?
Adding to the confusion is the constructivism of Hegel's predecessor Kant who created his influential rendering of human subjectivity by seeing it as constitutive of the spatio-temporal world. So either we accept Wilber's broad definitions of constructivism and contextualism which lead to an odd overlapping of the modern and postmodern, or we reject these definitions as too general which requires a wholly different way of characterizing the differences between modern and postmodern thought.
This confusion of modern and postmodern thought is mirrored in Wilber's description of modern and postmodern social changes. He contends that the strength of postmodernism is pluralism, multiculturalism, and the respecting of all voices.[41] Yet isn't democratic pluralism, minority rights, public discussion, free press and religion, and the rational assessment of views a pluralistic part of modernity? The political theorist Robert A. Dahl published his famous theory of democratic pluralism, Who Governs?, in 1961, well before most periodizations of postmodernism. The strengths that Wilber assigns to postmodernism could easily be seen as the strengths of modernism.
By misattributing qualities to postmodernism that could just as easily be seen as aspects of modernism, Wilber avoids the stronger and more undermining aspects of postmodern thought. He says that vision-logic, like postmodern thinking, privileges no perspective and weaves them together into an integral-aperspective. Yet Wilber's integral synthesis privileges key ideas that postmodern thought criticizes: evolution, progress, a telos, anthropocentrism, a non-dual essence, the division between inner and outer, realism and a vocabulary that is binding on other times, persons and places. He never adequately confronts the fundamental problems that poststructuralism and postmodernism raise for his theory of everything.

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