Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Slang Suggestion & Discussion: "PoMo"

I'm thinking of using the term 'PoMo' or 'Pomo' to describe the subset of woos who've gotten drunk on bad Postmodernism. By this, I mean the sorts who reject the concept of objective reality in favor of complete relativism or subjectivity. I'm even thinking of using it on people who rely on irrelevant ad hominems and subjective judgment criteria: If a fact can be dismissed because the guy bringing it up is an atheist/non-conservative/geek/whatever, they might as well be PoMos.

So, what do you think?

7 comments:

King of Ferrets said...

Sure, why not?

Dunc said...

I dunno man, I think PoMo has gotten a lot of bad press that it doesn't really deserve... The use of the term "post-modern" has itself become post-modern, in that it's used to refer to a whole bunch of things that aren't really post-modern. I'm not convinced it should be used outside of the humanities, and the fact that other assholes have done so doesn't mean we should join them in their error. It did actually mean something worthwhile once, and I think "solipsists" or "wankers" are more appropriate terms.

However, I do recognise that this position has about as much chance of success as my ongoing attempts to reclaim the original meaning of the phrase "to beg the question"...

Dark Jaguar said...

What did post-modern used to mean? I mean the words suggest "the future" to me, since that's what's after now, the modern day. Seriously, that's what I thought it meant when I first heard the term. I've only ever heard it in reference to "total relativism" since then though.

I can't see how "beg the question" could mean anything except something demanding to be asked.

Dunc said...

Well, originally, post-modernism was a style of architecture - specifically, the style that followed (and reacted against) the earlier style known as "modernism". Subsequently it became a technical term in literary criticism, referring to a mode of analysis which considers the motivations and cultural preconceptions of both authors and readers as essentially inseparable from the work itself. From there it moved into other humanities - for example, a post-modernist approach to history concerns itself with the motivations and preconceptions of historians as a means to re-interpret their work. You can't read a biography of Lord Kitchener (to pluck a name at random) as a simply factual historical document - you must also ask who wrote it, why they wrote it, and how their beliefs and preconceptions shaped it. It's perfectly reasonable (indeed, I think it's very valuable) as long as it's confined to appropriate subjects.

The phrase "to beg the question" originally referred to a specific fallacy of formal logic, otherwise known as "circular reasoning", where the desired conclusion is embedded in the premises. So called because such an "argument" doesn't present any valid reason to accept the conclusion - it merely asks ("begs") you to accept it a priori, and then reason from there.

Anonymous said...

Well that's how I always understood "to beg the question" anyway, and I've never heard it used otherwise.

I wasn't aware of the architectural history of the term post-modern. I had known of the "literary interpretation" one, and I'd say once it stepped out of fiction it stepped out of bounds. When people are interpretting math, well controlled scientific studies, and a well traced historical record, they're reaching too far.

To be honest, I see how it would go from there to the wishy washy form pretty easily. It only takes the extra step of saying that if "all literarature" can be interpretted only as the moores of the times it was written, all reality can be interpretted that way, and thus everything's subjective.

Dunc said...

Well that's how I always understood "to beg the question" anyway, and I've never heard it used otherwise.

Yeah, the formal logical meaning of "to beg the question" is almost unheard of now. It's a lost cause - but I kinda like lost causes sometimes.

When people are interpretting math, well controlled scientific studies, and a well traced historical record, they're reaching too far.

Well, I'd agree with you on the math and science bits. History is an altogether more equivocal matter, because even when it appears well traced, it's usually only well traced from a specific point of view - usually that of the winners. Heck, the interpretation of current events can be a remarkably difficult matter...

It only takes the extra step of saying that if "all literarature" can be interpretted only as the moores of the times it was written, all reality can be interpretted that way, and thus everything's subjective.

True, but that one step is stupid. It's the one extra step it takes to fall off a philosophical cliff into solipsism.

Dikkii said...

...to beg the question...

I've always hated this phrase being straitjacked as that specific logical fallacy. The English language is poorer for such narrow definitions.

For example, I heard recently about a friend of mine getting a promotion at work. It was described as being a "Cinderella story". To me the questions of who the evil stepmother figure and the fairy godmother were simply begging to be asked.

PoMo on the other hand. I was aware of the architectural history, however, it was my understanding that the term "postmodern" wasn't applied to postmodern architecture until well after the event. Kinda like how Talk Talk's later work has been branded "post-rock" even though the term originated in the late nineties, well after Talk Talk broke up.

Which raises the question, I suppose (because I don't know and I'm not looking it up): did the same thing happen with postmodernism's evil siblings deconstructionism and poststructuralism.