Re: transparency and paradigms
Wed, 15 May 1996 10:49:47 EST

>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?
> Lois Shawver replied:
>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.

>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.

Interesting, but this seems to define modernity only by its negatives.
I don't think modernity should be defined in terms of adopting a "fight"
mode, although this might be a part of modernity (and it may even have
value.. more on this in a minute). It seems to me that there is nothing
incompatible about both trying to erect a grand narrative while at the
same time setting aside one's narrative, grasping alternative narratives,
and presenting compelling arguments meant to develop and refine one's own
narrative. Postmodernity doesn't have a monopoly on these values.

The "fight mode" might have value -- if it is conducted in a fashion
directed at the articulation of ideas rather than at faulting individuals.
If I put my ideas on the table, and you attack them, and I defend them,
you are helping me make my ideas (perhaps a grand narrative) stronger. And
if others are convinced by your attacks on me, then my grand narrative
may go by the wayside, and your narrative might gain greater acceptability.
The fight mode can be a worthy way of testing, developing and refining

And a good "fighter" should not be too worried about incorporating the
ideas of her antagonists.

>How am I doing here? Do you feel challenged by this? I hope not.
>..Lois Shawver

I would differentiate between challenging me-as-a-person-worthy-of-
respect and challenging my ideas. I assume that you mean that you don't
wish to challenge my integrity. We must proceed with this assumption as
a given in academic or intellectual discourse. However, I want my ideas
to be challenged by you; this is an important way for me to develop them,
and for me to help you develop yours. So no apologies are necessary...

All the best,

Mike Mascolo