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Lyotard And The Postmodern Condition Essay

1019 words - 5 pages

Jean-François Lyotard was a French philosopher and literary theorist. He was a key figure in the development of postmodernist philosophy. Beyond helping to define postmodernism, Lyotard also analyzed the effect of postmodernism on the human condition. The Postmodern Condition is one of Lyotard’s seminal works on the impact of postmodernism on the modern world. The focus of the work is the current transition of societies from an industrial to a postindustrial framework. How does this shift revise the means and methods of productions and the products created? How does the alteration of legitimation from Enlightenment/Newtonian criteria for legitimation to postmodern ones affect the ...view middle of the document...

e. experiments are narratives waiting to be told), Lyotard warns against belief in totalizing "metanarratives". There were two main metanarratives referred to as legitimizing science before post-modernism; one, that science is legitimized as a tool for the liberation of humanity, and two, that science is to define a speculative unity for all of knowledge-a totalizing philosophy of the universe, so to speak.

Since science has gone from a representational to a non-representational practice, these two justifications (especially the second) are no longer valid. Since science is no longer seen as something capable of revealing some objective reality (which post-modernists say is impossible), what could take their place as legitimation? Besides a consideration of the effects of this societal evolution on the people and power structures residing within society, The Postmodern Condition is a thinly veiled polemic against Jürgen Habermas and the theory he suggested as a replacement for the old legitimation of metanarratives.

Jürgen Habermas was a German sociologist and philosopher. He agreed with Lyotard that the metanarratives of the Enlightenment were no longer useful as legitimation for science and knowledge. But he felt that with this change, society was rearranging into a new social form, a society based on communication as legitimation. This new form of community would use rational discourse and consent of the community as methods of legitimation. For any given situation, the community affected would test the validity claims of the norms in question. They would come to a conclusion that in that particular situation, the norms were right. Lyotard believed that this theory was erroneous. He felt that reliance on the ideal of consensus as a criterion for truth to be particularly specious, even going so far as to call it “terrorist”. This reliance on the ideal of consensus was just another “totalizing” philosophy.

But then what could stand in for legitimation in the postmodern world. Lyotard salvages the legitimization of science by redefining it (of course lol) in terms of linguistics and the act of the performative. The justification for science then becomes not as a means of...

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