Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Books and Isms

We've had some great discussions lately touching on post-modernism, and I'd encourage everyone to check out the books that started this whole debacle. Mair would be rightly all up on if you said "Sociology is" without doing the reading, thinking and discussing to back up your pronouncement of the essence of a discipline, and there are grad students in ivory towers around the globe whose heads would explode if they read some of what passes for posting in the blogosophere. Don't be satisfied with some book by James W. Sire that devotes 3 pages to the godless scourge of post-modernism--go ad fontes, my friends.

My candidate for a good, first post-modernist is Pascal. He's easy to read, as is Nietzsche. Some of the 20th-century folks like Heidegger and his structuralist, hermeneutical and post-structuralist children are impossible--dark labyrinths of thought. Wittgenstein, who metamorphoses from a Bertrand Russell clone to a Norwegian gardener to an anti-foundationalist linguist, is not as hard as your Heideggers and Gadamers, but is not easy. He's also essential reading. Start with the Tractatus. Move on to the Philosophical Investigations. They're both short.

Derrida and Foucault get dragged in as well. Of Grammatology is the only Derrida I've read in its entirety, and it's tough and frustrating. I've not read anything but excerpts of Foucault. Lyotard's 1984 book The Postmodern Condition is short, difficult, and good.

Richard Rorty counts himself a pragmatist and disciple of John Dewey. (If you want to see redhurt's face fall off, tell him that John Dewey is the only person you like more than Hillary Clinton.) His earlier works, like Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, and Consequences of Pragmatism, are hard; his later works, like his books of papers and Philosophy and Social Hope, are easy.

Let me know how it goes.


At 11:16 AM, Blogger RedHurt said...

I agree on Pascal, as I've said before, but I think Voltaire had something to contribute too. They both saw the end of the enlightenment during it's beginning and were way ahead of their time on that.

I don't find Pascal particularly easy to read because he left nothing cogent around to be read. The best we've got is Pensees, right? And that's just a fragmented collection of notes on the masterpiece he was constructing in his mind but had never bothered to put to paper, mores the pity.


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