Re: transparency and paradigms

Lois Shawver (
Tue, 14 May 1996 22:58:47 -0700 (PDT)

On Wed, 15 May 1996, Wendy Crebbin wrote:

> Is it considered a modernism to want to stand somewhere, to take a
> position, in order to argue a case? Is it possible not to take a
> position?

No, not if you can champion your position without losing the ability to
set it aside for a while and really sink into the other point of view,
understand its nuances and distinctiveness as it is expressed by the
person at hand. If championing your position is presenting arguments and
compelling rhetoric for what you believe in, if it challenges the dominant
abstract realm to show another side, then you can be postmodern.

But when a person stops trying to develop a credible case for a position
and shifts into the fight mode, becomes more concerned with pointing out
the other person's foibles than in presenting the position that
inspires one, then, one drifts into the methods and styles of modernity --
as I understand it.

> You see I acknoweldge that Imight need to hold onto some modernism if
> that is the only place where issues such as justice and freedom can
> be argued on a basis other than relativity.

Maybe you do feel a need for taking a stance militantly. Do you?
Maybe postmodernism is too soft for you to want to take in any of it.
You tell me.

Let me explain a little more what I mean by modernism. I think of
modernism (a la Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition) as a sense that one has
gotten hold of a metanarrative, or a theory, that has no other point of
view. (Lyotard specifically mentions Marxism and psychoanalysis as
examples of such metanarratives, feminism would be another.) In order to
maintain this position, I think, with people one is just getting to know,
one must, supplement the new words one hears with what one imagines the
other must be saying on the basis of what "people like that say".
Otherwise, there is always room to listen more and to recognize the
possibility that the other person might have something interesting to
contribute to the dialogue.

But once the agonistics get started, it's hard for any of us to
listen. Each person takes a line on things and conversation is just a
see-saw with lack of dialectical growth.

How am I doing here? Do you feel challenged by this? I hope not. Can you
identify with any of it? Or maybe point to something my account neglects
in a way that doesn't challenge me? If you can, or even want to, then
you're at least a little bit postmodern, in my book.

..Lois Shawver