"Since at Least Plato--" and Other Postmodernist Myths
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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St. Martin's Press (1997)
My dissertation is concerned with the misconceptions many postmodernist theorists and critics harbor about the history of western philosophy and about various branches of it, misconceptions that I contend are the source of the simplistic account of both postwar culture and literature, and eighteenth-and nineteenth-century realist fiction, that they provide. ;In the first chapter, I consider the campaign that a host of postmodernists have mounted against something they typically refer to as the "logic of either/or," alleged to structure western thought. This logic they claim they try to "subvert" by recourse to something else called the "logic of both/and," which, they assert, violates the law of noncontradiction. Instantiations of the "logic of both/and" that postmodernists cite as evidence of the "contradictory," subversive nature of postmodernism include, for example, that postmodernism is both a break from and a continuation of modernism, that postmodernist fiction is both about reality and about the processes of artistic creation, and that postmodern humor is both destructive and constructive. None of these states of affairs, however, is a contradiction, much less a violation of the law of noncontradiction. What postmodernists assume is that by the terms of classical logic, postmodernism, for example, must be either a break from or a continuation of modernism--that is, they attribute to classical logicians what is considered by them to be one of the most common fallacies of presumption: the either/or fallacy, or black-and-white thinking. It is the trivial notion that A and B can both be predicated of x that underwrites, in effect, the "radical" claims made by postmodernists on behalf of the "logic of both/and." ;In the second chapter, I address the reductive accounts of both realist and postmodernist fiction that postmodernists characteristically offer. Many assume, for example, that a realist metaphysics is implicit in realist fiction, and argue that, for this reason, realist fiction is outmoded. The ground of this assumption is, among other things, a misconception about what metaphysical realism is. A belief in a "world out there" is not, as a number of postmodernists seem to think, tantamount to a belief in the truth of metaphysical realism-- the thesis, simply put, that reality is mind-independent. There is no pat, one-to-one correspondence between literary realism and metaphysical realism , and no reason--stylistic or otherwise--why a realist novel cannot express an anti-realist metaphysics--not even any reason why an eighteenth- or nineteenth-century realist novel couldn't, since metaphysical anti-realism was as alive and well then as metaphysical realism is today. The latter point is important, for postmodernists often base their assertions about the metaphysical assumptions that inform eighteenth- and nineteenth-century realist fiction not on any textual evidence, but on a priori assumptions about the metaphysical beliefs it was possible for realist fiction to reflect. This "ideas-of-the-time" approach to literary history is problematic in its own right, but it becomes even more so if one's assumptions about what were or were not the ideas of the time, are, as in this case, false
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