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His interdisciplinary discourse spans such topics as epistemology and communication, the human body, modern art and postmodern artliterature and critical theorymusic, film, time and memory, space, the city and landscape, the sublimeand the relation between aesthetics and politics.
He is best known for his articulation of postmodernism after the late s and the analysis of the impact of postmodernity on the human condition. As a child, Lyotard had many aspirations: He later gave up the dream of becoming a writer when he finished writing an unsuccessful fictional novel at the age of He studied philosophy at the Sorbonne in the late s.
Das postmoderne Wissen
Having moved to teach at the new campus of Nanterre inLyotard participated in the events following March 22 and the tumult of May InLyotard earned a State doctorate with his dissertation Postmorerne, figure under Mikel Dufrenne —the work was published the same year. In lyoatrd, Lyotard became a member of Socialisme ou Barbariea French political kyotard formed in around the inadequacy of the Trotskyist analysis to explain the new forms of domination in the Soviet Union.
Socialisme ou Barbarie had an objective to conduct a critique of Marxism from within during the Algerian war of liberation. His writings in this period mostly concern with ultra-left politicswith a focus on the Algerian situation—which he witnessed first-hand while teaching philosophy in Constantine. Following disputes with Cornelius Lyootard inLyotard left Socialisme ou Barbarie for the newly formed splinter group Pouvoir Ouvrierbefore resigning from Pouvoir Ouvrier in turn in During the next two decades he lectured outside France, notably as a Professor of Critical Theory at the University of California, Irvine and as visiting professor at universities around the world.
Lyotard’s work is characterised by postmoderrne persistent opposition to universalsmeta-narrativesand generality. He is fiercely lyorard of many of the ‘universalist’ claims of the Enlightenmentand several of his works serve to undermine the fundamental principles that generate these broad claims.
In his writings of the early s, he rejects what wisxen regards as theological underpinnings of both Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud: Here a politics, there a therapeutics, in both cases a laical theology, potmoderne top of the arbitrariness and the roaming of forces”. Adorno ‘s negative dialectics because he viewed them as seeking a “therapeutic resolution in the framework of a religion, here the religion of history.
Lyotard is a skeptic for modern cultural thought. According to his La Condition postmoderne: Rapport sur le savoir The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledgethe impact of the postmodern condition was to provoke skepticism about universalizing theories.
Lyotard argues that we have outgrown our needs for grand narratives due to the advancement of techniques and technologies since World War II. He argues against the possibility of justifying the narratives that bring together disciplines and social practices, such as science and culture; “the narratives we wisden to justify a single set of laws and stakes are inherently unjust. Little narratives have now become the appropriate way for explaining social transformations and political problems.
Lyotard argues that this is the driving force behind postmodern science.
Das postmoderne Wissen : Jean-Francois Lyotard :
As metanarratives fade, science suffers a loss of faith in its search for truthand therefore must find other ways of legitimating its efforts.
Connected to this scientific legitimacy is the growing dominance for information machines. Lyotard argues that one day, wwissen order for knowledge to be considered useful, it will have to be converted into computerized data. Years later, this led him into writing his book The Inhumanpublished inin which he illustrates a world where technology has taken over.
Most famously, in La Condition postmoderne: A Report on Knowledgehe proposes what he calls an extreme simplification of the “postmodern” as an ‘incredulity towards meta-narratives’. Lyotard argues that we have ceased to believe that narratives of this kind are adequate lyotxrd represent and contain us all.
He points out that no one seemed to agree on what, if anything, was real and everyone had their own perspective and story. Lyotard notes that it is based on mapping of society according to the concept of the language games. In Lyotard’s works, the term ‘language games’, sometimes also called ‘phrase regimens’, denotes the multiplicity of communities of meaning, the innumerable and incommensurable separate systems in which meanings are produced and rules for their circulation are created.
That is, the story of how the human postmodene has set itself free that brings together the language game of science, the language game of human wisseb conflicts and the language game of human qualities into the overall justification of the steady development of the human race in terms of wealth and moral well-being.
According to this metanarrative, the justification of science is related to wealth and education. The development of history is seen as a steady progress towards civilization or moral well-being. The language game of human passions, qualities and faults c. The point is that any event ought to be able to be understood in terms of the justifications of this metanarrative; anything that happens can be understood and judged according to the discourse of human emancipation.
For example, for any new social, political or scientific revolution we could ask the question, “Is this revolution a step towards the greater well-being of the mass of human beings?
This becomes more crucial in Au juste: It might appear that the atomisation of human beings implied by the notion of the micronarrative and the language game suggests a collapse of ethics.
It has often been thought that universality is a condition for something to be a properly ethical statement: The latter is too particular to be an ethical statement what’s so special pyotard Margaret? But universals are impermissible in a world that has lost faith in metanarratives, and so it would seem that ethics is impossible.
Justice and injustice postmodrene only be terms within language games, and the universality of ethics is out of the window.
Lyotard argues that notions of justice and injustice do in fact remain in postmodernism.
The new definition of injustice is indeed to use the language rules from one ‘phrase regimen’ and apply them to another. Ethical behaviour is about remaining alert precisely to the threat of this injustice, about paying attention to things in their particularity and not enclosing them within abstract conceptuality.
One must bear witness to the ‘differend. However, the act of being able to bridge the two and understand the claims of both parties, is the first step towards finding a solution. If the addressor, the addressee, and the sense of the testimony are neutralized, everything takes place as if there were no damages. A case of differend between two parties takes place when the regulation of the conflict that opposes them is done in the idiom of one of the parties while the wrong suffered by the other is not signified in that idiom.
In more than one book, Lyotard promoted what he called paganism and contrasted it with both the rejection of the pagan gods in Book II of Plato ‘s The Republic and the monotheism of Judaism. Lyotard argued that the pagan gods, unlike Platonic philosophy and monotheism, never claimed to have universal truth, but instead were better than humans because they were better at deceit and metamorphosis.
Lyotard’s paganism was also feminist because he argued that women, like paganism, are antirational and antiphilosophical. In The Differendbased on Immanuel Kant ‘s views on the separation of Understanding, Judgment, and Reason, Lyotard identifies the moment in which language fails as the differend, and explains it as follows: The meaning of a phrase—an event something happens –cannot be fixed by appealing to reality what actually happened. Lyotard develops this view of language by defining “reality” in an original way, as a complex of possible senses attached to a referent through a name.
The correct sense of a phrase cannot be determined by a reference to reality, since the referent itself does not fix sense, and reality itself is defined as the complex of competing senses attached to a referent.
Therefore, the phrase event remains indeterminate. Faurisson will only accept proof of the existence of gas chambers from eyewitnesses who were themselves victims of the gas chambers. However, any such eyewitnesses are dead and are not able to testify.
Either there were no gas chambers, in which case there would be no eyewitnesses to produce evidence, or there were gas chambers, in which case there would still be no eyewitnesses to produce evidence, because they would be dead.
Since Faurisson will accept no evidence for the existence of gas chambers, except the testimony of actual victims, he will conclude from both possibilities gas chambers existed and gas chambers did not exist that gas chambers did not exist. This presents a double bind. There are two alternatives, either there were gas chambers or there were not, which lead to the same conclusion: Lyotard was a frequent writer on aesthetic matters.
He was, despite his reputation as a postmodernist, a great promoter of modernist art. Lyotard saw postmodernism as a latent tendency within thought throughout time and not a narrowly limited historical period. He favoured the startling and perplexing works of the high modernist avant-garde. In them he found a demonstration of the limits of our conceptuality, a valuable lesson for anyone too imbued with Enlightenment confidence. Lyotard has written extensively also on many contemporary artists of his choice: He developed these themes in particular by discussing the sublime.
The “sublime” is a term in aesthetics whose fortunes revived under postmodernism after a century or more of neglect. It refers to the experience of pleasurable anxiety that we experience when confronting wild and threatening sights like, for example, a massive craggy mountain, black against the sky, looming terrifyingly in our vision.
A sublime is the conjunction of two opposed feelings, which makes it harder for us to see the injustice of it, or a solution to it. Lyotard found particularly interesting the explanation of the sublime offered by Immanuel Kant in his Critique of Judgment sometimes Critique of the Power of Judgment.
In this book, Kant explains this mixture of anxiety and pleasure in the following terms: In the ‘mathematically’ sublime, an object strikes the mind in such a way that we find ourselves unable to take it in as a whole. More precisely, we experience a clash between our reason which tells us that all objects are finite and the imagination the aspect of the mind that organizes what we see, and which sees an object incalculably larger than ourselves, and feels infinite.
In the ‘dynamically’ sublime, the mind recoils at an object so immeasurably more powerful than we, whose weight, force, scale could crush us without the remotest hope of our being able to resist it. Kant stresses that if we are in actual danger, our feeling of anxiety is very different from that of a sublime feeling.
The sublime is an aesthetic experience, not a practical feeling of personal danger. This explains the feeling of anxiety. What is deeply unsettling about the mathematically sublime is that the mental faculties that present visual perceptions to the mind are inadequate to the concept corresponding to it; in other words, what we are able to make ourselves see cannot fully match up to what we know is there.
We know it’s a mountain but we cannot take the postmodernd thing into our perception. Our sensibility is incapable of coping with such sights, but our reason can assert the finitude of the presentation. The body may be dwarfed by its power but our reason need not be. This explains, in both cases, why the sublime is an experience of pleasure as well as pain. Lyotard is fascinated by this admission, from one of the philosophical architects podtmoderne the Enlightenment, that the mind cannot always organise the world rationally.
Some objects are simply incapable of being brought neatly under concepts. For Lyotard, in Lessons on the Analytic of the Sublimebut drawing on his argument in The Differendthis is a good thing.
Such generalities as ‘concepts’ fail to pay proper attention to the particularity of things. What happens in the sublime is a crisis where we realise the inadequacy of the imagination and reason to each other.
What we are witnessing, says Lyotard, is actually the differend; the straining of the mind at the edges of itself and at the edges of its conceptuality. Lyotard claims that this is due to libidinal energy. The term “libidinal” coming from the wisssen libido which is used to refer to the psychoanalytical desires of our deeper consciousness.