chapter  10
14 Pages

Postmodernism and identity conditions for discourses

ByJOHN B. DAVIS

Postmodernist thinking represents a collection of critical perspectives on modernist thought that together share the view that the modernist episteme of unified, certain knowledge is neither realizable nor coherent. One way in which this is often expressed is in the form of a critique of essentialism, or the idea that such classical epistemological notions as true, real, correct, logically necessary, and the like are required foundations for science and understanding. Many postmodernists doubt that these notions are ultimately viable, and argue that they rather function in an authoritarian and dogmatic manner to suppress discourses subversive of modern bureaucratic rationality. Essentialism, it is further argued, mistakenly makes our intellectual ideal that of a complete and systematic representation of the world. But intellectual activity on any candid reading, postmodernists insist, reflects undecidability, disorder, and indeterminacy on the one hand, and overdetermination and rivalry on the other. That is, we are both unable to ever really settle most things in life, and also unable to really narrow the range of competing discourses on virtually any given subject matter.