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Education Without Truth in Postmodern Perspectivism

05.22.2020

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During the last third of 20th century, the so-called
postmodern world has been technically modernized in an unprecedented way.
An unconstrained capitalist economy imposing constantly changing
technologies determine, among other systems of social control, various
forms of the educational system, each one of them promoting knowledge as a
commodity. The ferment that swept, some years ago, not only the Third World
but also the industrial societies for revolutionnary change of social and
political institutions has given its place to a forceful modernization of
established authority, political power and modes of accummulation.

The belief that we live in a rapidly changing world is
well spread. In fact, we live in a frenetically modernized but not
changing world, given that the deification of the modern against the
traditional forms of education, organization and communication levels the
need to create a vision of a future society. The creation of such a vision
presupposes the critical approach of the legitimacy of the established
authority, of political power or wealth; issues which are no longer
broadly discussed. The early and forceful advocates of libertarian or
socialist values seem to be forgotten or definitely marginalised. (1)
The philosophical tradition developed by
philosophers like Rousseau, Kant, Fichte, Schelling, Hegel or Marx is
confronted as a whole of illusionnary meta-narratives mystifying humanity
as the hero of freedom who, guided by the light of reason alone,
struggled for the change of the established social order by trying to
redefine the meaning and goal of human existence, and thus failed
dramatically in its project. (2)

Under such conditions, a radical rupture with the
Greek-Western tradition of thought is judged as a realistic movement
against fantasies of the past and has been attempted by postmoderrn
thinkers like Lyotad or Rorty who try to disconnect the triple value of
truth-freedom-justice which orientated the classical philosophical
tradition and the pattern of education animated by it. The chain with
which reflective reason linked justice with truth and freedom is broken
and the nexus formed by these three values is dissolved. Reflective and
critical reason giving ground to moral, political, juridicial or
aesthetical judgments whereupon educational models had to be built, in the
past, has been attacked as the main foresight. This polemic is favoured by
an arbitrary identification of reflective reason to instrumental reason
which favours a violent rationalisation of social practices in order to
achieve a more efficient organisation of maintained social order.

The question whether Education is and should continue to
be bound to reason and internalization of norms that are in need of
justification, has already been given a negative answer by Rorty and
Lyotard.

Claiming that any attempt to ground political,
aesthetical, juridicial or educational schemes or propositions on
premisses deriving form Theory of knowledge constitute a late revival of
Platonism (3) or a reinscription of philosophical modernist narratives, (4) the
two thinkers both suggest that whenever we insist on relating justice,
beauty or education to cognitivist tradition which gives to the quest for
truth a primordial role, we become victims of an old fashionned
philosophical thought radically cut from the conditions prevailing whithin
postmodern social reality, given that this latter favours a nature-like
development and organisation withdrawn from reflection. (5)

This turn has been facilitated by the lack of technical
kwoledge for mastering contigencies and of theoretical strategies for
penetrating the multiplicity of apparent , nominalistically produced
contingencies, and has given rise to the conception of consciousness and
freedom as mere contingency (6) too. It has also been facilitated by the
Nitzschean perspectival theory of the affects taken as basis of the
post-structuralist programmatic nihilism in the context of which, neither
validity claims nor claims to truth derive from will to truth but from
will to power. But whereas Nietzsche, on the basis of the critique of the
modern world and of the established rationalism justifying its
institutional and normative context , in an attempt to create new paths
leading to another world truer than the given one, breaks free from the
Universalism of Enlightenment and its programme, post-structuralism and
neopragmatism as well, denounce the quest for truth as a quest to
legitimize various philosophicasl claims to truth on the level of
universal human value by covering the indirect coercion of their discourse
or imagery.

Following this vogue, Rorty and Lyotard use perspectivism
as an argument against cognitivist grounding of patterns and schemes
regulating social practices, and trying to cut off Theory of Knowledge and
its rationale from philosophical reflection, they orientate this
latter to a metaphilosophical edifying discipline (Rorty) or to an equally
meta-philosophical learning (savoir) (Lyotard), in accordance to the
meta-philosophical era opend up by the postmodern version of
neo-liberalism..

Both the Rortyan edifying philosophy and the Lyotardian
learning give into a discourse of a literary or prosy character very
little clarified in their ground and function .

More explicitly, according to Rorty, the schemes and
patterns regulating social relations do not derive from reason and its
canonicity but rather from self-images created by the community on the
basis of solidarity of its members. (7) In opposition to reason and its
norms, solidarity does not need any justification or legitimation given
that the social bond expressed by it is prior to any act of legitimizing
claims to truth attempted by reason. (8)

Contingent and improvised as are the perspectivistic
schemes and patterns invented by members of community, although they are
not capable to ground a canonicity of universal consistency and value,
they are still in position to regulate social relations and practices at
least within community , thanks to the edifying training given to its
members as a part of the metaphilosophical culture in which they have to
be integrated, in postmodern era.

The disagreement among community members given rise by
the perpsectival character of schemes and patterns created according to
specific aims or interests, is not confronted or discussed in the Rortyan
problematic of solidarity .

Lyotard fils this gap by his own problematic of linguist
games. The multiplicity of linguist games renders universal consent of
community members impossible; given that there is no meta-language capable
of subordinating their plurality to a set of universal principles to
ground upon, political, juridicial, aesthetical or educational decisions
or practices. (9)

For Lyotard, since the social bond imply exchanges
between non autonomous and unequal subjects, no universal stipulation
covering up the heterogeneity of linguistic games can suggest truth,
justice, beauty or other values of general acceptance. All it suggets is
pieces of these values each one shared by different groups whose players
play their own lingustic games warranting their own way of judging and
evaluating. Under these terms, the players’ consent is not founded by a
normative idea-product of an historico-critical synthetic judgment
presupposed in their moves; it is rather formed by players’ ability to use
imagination for experimenting with the existing rules of the linguistic
games in order to make them more sufficient or to change them, changing
their rules as well. (10)

Lyotard’s proposed strategy, here, is the elaboration of
multiple heterogeneous patterns and schemes harmonised with the multiple
new forms of subjectivity created by multiple linguist games, through
learning.

While the modernist meta-narratives attempt to legalize
the truth of propositions arising from the currently held (positivist or
dialectical) modes of scientific approach, Lyotardian learning (mathesis)
undertakes the task of corroborating the trurth of propositions derived
from a radically new mode of approach capable of bringing all possible
forms of indeterminism into light.

Unlike the deterministic logic of Positivist thought and
in opposition to holistic and dynamic character of dialectical thought,
the indeterministic logic of such postmodern rationalism is that of
paralogy. Paralogy is the logic of the impossible yielded by the libidic
economy of human relations related to chaotic phenomena. (11)

Under these terms, Lyotard shifts the founding of truth
from the realm of reason, its historico-critical judgments and its
reflective evaluations to the realm of the desire for the impossible (12)
seated in the nucleus of the unconscious whence springs the sense of
sublime. Sublime in unfounded and without an object, so that the desire
for it which nurtures various aesthetic schemes defining all possible
forms of judging and evaluating, cannot lead to claims to truth of general
acceptance. In terms of the desire for the impossible, learning is not in
the position to overcome linguistic heterogeneity that gives rise to
perspectivism; (13) all it can do is to warrant and corroborate the truth of
postmodern scientific thought which sheds, as already said, light upon
chaotic phenomena and their paralogy, without being in a position to
legitimize such knowledge.

Without drawing a distinction between instrumental and
reflective reason and without elucidating the transition of human mind
from the irrational of the desire for the impossible to rationalized will
to truth (confronted by dialectical thought in strictly historico-critical
terms) the Lyotardian spirit is cut off from the modernist scientific and
philosophical thought; this latter was put forward by epistemologists and
theoreticians of the so-called “nouvel esprit scientifique” like
Bachelard, earlier, or Castoriadis, more recently, who have both
undertaken the task, in the epistemological-ontological field, to
elucidate the controversial relation between conscious-unconscious,
intelligible-unintelligible, or effable-ineffable.

In summing up, both Rortyan edifying philosophy (14) and
Lyotardian mathesis — perspectivistic in their pragmatist (Rorty) or non
pragmatist (Lyotard) scope — seem to be incompatible with reflective reason
only because their perpsectivism is used as a step toward justification
and legitimation of ad hoc and circumstantially formed schemes and
patterns regulating all possible social practices. Such contingent and
circumstantial schemes defined within the framework of extracognitive
procedures, function blindly, given that they take no notice of the
fundamental convention that binds human condition with the quest for truth
as the theoretical basis of evaluating judgments guiding decisions and
practices.

Theorising, capable in its historico-critical character,
to judge and evaluate these schemes on the basis of an hyperperspectivist
scope seems to be excluded, here, as a totalitarian or terroristic
manipulation of pluralistic prisms favouring attitudes of moral,
aesthetic, religious or political tolerance. (15)

However, a more thorough examination of their grounding
would reveal that both Lyotardian and Rortyan perpsectivism remain trapped
in an individualistic logic which founded an abstract and schematic notion
of community.

Individualistic logic, dominant two centuries ago, was
overcome when Kant enhanced Aristotelian categories with the category of
community (or interdependence). This latter integrated in hegelian
philosophy, allowed Hegel to overcome the individualistic prism and
determine the relation between civil society and the state, in a non
reductive way; that is to say, in terms of an holistic logic capable to
elucidate ensembles of relations , i.e. structures. By criticizing the
mysticisism of Hegelian logic, Marx did not regress to the 18th century
individualism, but tried to render the dialectical type of hegelian logic
a methodological instrument capable to analyze the capitalist society and
the antithetical relations that articulate its structure, in
historico-critical terms.

The marxian logic, identitarian and ensembilistic in its
character , is the product of the transcendence of the individualistic
logic, and it leads also to perspectivism. (16) The question is whether is
possible or not to transcend the individualistic and collectivistic prisms
governing these two types of logic. And also, whether it is necessary to
overcome their perspectivism.

We could understand better the need to overcome
perspectivism , if we reflect on antinomies devastating postmodern
problematics like these developed by Rorty and Lyotard. The strengthening
of solidarity and conscesnsus ( Rorty) and the respect for disagreement
(Lyotard) which are both promulgated as projects for promoting better
schemes and patterns of regulation within neo-liberal democracy, exclude
or subverse each other; for the former is based on homogeneity which
eliminates differences, whereas the latter is based on heterogeneity
eliminating similarities.

It is true that perspectivism does not favour the
construction of broader prisms under which the antinomies created by two
different or opposed prisms would be ressolved or would preserve a
creative tension favouring meaningfull acts to grow. However, the need for
analysis within the framework of a specific system of reference does not
exclude the posssibiility of critical or reflective thought to coordinate
singular and specific systems of references which promulgrate each one of
them its own perspective, or to put them under an hierarchical order.

Under these terms, while perspectivism is taken as un
unsurmountable limit of thought, it is not. For this limit is defined by
our efforts to transcend it in order to avoid to become self enclosed
within a single prism.

It is through these efforts that we succeed in going
beyond perspectivism’s inherent relativity and reestimate the truth of the
propositions held within its framework, by taking into account the whole
of the multiple prisms from which these propositions derive. By doing
that, we will have a most thorough and radical understanding of the
contradictions or possible convergences they give in; we will have, thus,
the possiblity to reconsider the specific needs, aspirations, or
ideologies which give them rise, in all their possible interdependences.
Our aim , here, is not to legitimate the partial truth of each one of
these perspectives , but to grasp the truth given rise by their
interconnection and reflect on it. In such a strategy,legitimation is not
any more dependent on the power of argumentation woven by each one of the
individuals or groups or collectivities in order to impose their will or
their belief (i.e. their single prism) to the others. Now legitimation is
inherent in the approach of understanding and reflecting on their
partialities and subjectivities contradicting or converging one another.
Such a radical understanding leading to reflection and evaluation of
multiple and various perspectives is the only way out of truth or justice
of the powerful or of the privileged economically, politically or
culturally.

In this sense, perspectivism which functions as an alibi
against the will to power, cannot be an unsurmountable barrier against the
will for truth and the cognitive and evaluative approaches implied by its
quest. Just as surrealists undertook the task to transcend the limits of
realism through their artistic creations, so philosophers too are in a
position to transcend perspectivism (yielded by the need for specific
systems of reference constructed in the fields of scientific
specialisation or the need for particular prisms guided by particular
interests or aspirations) and open the way to an hyperpespectivism.

Had Rorty and Lyotard — each within his own perpsective —
avoided to raise liberal democracy to an absolute measure for their
analyses and evaluations, they would have found the way to transcend the
narrowlly deterministic prism of either analytical or of dialectical
thought and achieve a further development of its canonicity whereupon
evaluation and legitimation of schemes and patterns to ground.

If in our turn, we try to do so, then we should transfer
into the heart of analysis of patterns governing various social practices,
methodological categories that have been proved to be key-concepts for
modern scientific and philosophical approaches; such as the category of
interdisciplinarity and the category of interrelation, correspondingly.
Examining under the prism of interdisciplinarirty or of interrelation, the
prisms of individuality and collectivity, we transform them into
interrelated prisms that allow us to go beyond the analysis of civil
society in its relation to the state or beyond the analysis of economic
system in its relation to political structures or beyond the analysis of
educational system in its relation to economical and political strtuctures
; we will be , thus, in a position to analyse the whole of relations
developed in ethnic societies which determine political or other practices
taking place within their framework, and also those taking place between
their respective national states on an international level. This renders
possible to reconsider determinations developed by Western countries’
neoliberal policies and practices; it renders possible as well to
reconsider the interdependences between the West and the third World and
thus enhance the study of international law with problematics that could
possibly rejuvenate its current stipulations.

The prism offered by categories committed to the
interdisciplinarity or interrelation principle, without loosing its
historical and relativistic character, is, in fact, the only one to allow
us to go beyond the perspectivism unveiled by Nietzsche in his criticizing
Western rationalism or by Marx in his criticizing western capitalism.

The question to be answered then is up to what point
perspectivism is indeed in a position to cancel our attempts to go beyond
the multiplicity and subjectivity of particular prisms or
or to go beyond the multiplicity of specific systems of reference elaborated in the framework
of science.

Within the framework of technological science that limits
itself into calculating and predicting, perspectivism does not only
undermine such endeavours; it rather cancels them. Nevertheless, in the
framework of a science which does not exclude from its scope the critical
and reflective function, perspectivism, even if it makes the transcendence
endeavours more difficult, is not in the position to cancel them. Even if
it were in a position to do so, we should resist.

Buckbone of such endeavours for transcending
perspectivism and to be led to an hyperperspectivism, are, as said, the
categories of interdisciplinarity and interrelation, correspondingly.
Because they allow us, as implied earlier, to overcome the limitations
posed by specialised systems of references and so to be led to an
hierarchy or coordination of the particular perspectives they entail. The
suggestion that what is true, just or beneficial for A (community or
individual ) may well not be for B , is correct and underlies the
relativity inherent in all particular prisms of analysis or evaluation.
But it is an equally correct suggestion to say that what is unjust or
harmful for A or for B may be a just arrangement of the relation between
them engaging both parts in a democratic way. The democratic way in which
this third arrangemet engage them is the outcome of a critical (and
auto-criticised ) reason rather than that of political measures or
tactics.

Such pondering judgments concerning truth and justice,
and their channeling through education, arise from multi-sided prisms;
these latter in their crystal-like forms, express in the most approppriate
way the networks of mutual recognitions achieved when individuals or
collectivities try to take into account all possible interconnections of
their one-sided perspectives through which they search, judge and act.
Education, here, is charged with an essential role , by favouring
processes of democratization which, in their turn, help in its own
strenghtening and corroboration as an institution of capital
importance.

In this sense, the idea of interdisciplinarity or of
interrelation can function as a theoretical measure against the coercion
exercised by one-sided prisms, as well as by one-sided approaches, given
that in both cases, one-sidedness facilitates cynical or nihilistic
relativisation of values of truth, justice or freedom and leads to their
gradual weakening and elimination. Both interdisciplinarity and
interrelation are interwoven together with hyperperspectivism; this latter
as a telos offers them an epistemological ground of legitimation,
being itself the outcome of the attempt of historico-critical, reflective
and evaluative reason to overcome perspectivistic approaches.

Thus, the hyperpespectivism to which we are led by a
critical relativistic spirit, whereas it remains historically and
culturally determined, is nevertheless the leading thread in the search
for truth and in the planification of educational programs of Bildung, by
making possible the formulation of princiles and rules of general
acceptance; that is to say, of principles and rules that can be valid
beyond the limits posed by individuals’ or communities’ particular
perspectives.

However, this is done not apriorily and in a platonic
way, given that these principles and rules are able to bind all their
members and to guide them in their interrelating and interacting, only
because they derive from interconnection of the particular perspectives
binding each one of them.

If we could be able to look at the order, on a map,
of singular linguist games through the multi-sided prism
of hyperperspectivism, we would then see that group boundaries within
which these games unfold, rather than being closed and inaccessible, (
as Lyotard insists on the argument of their differences) are open
and accessible. They are so, for the particular linguist idioms obey
the generative grammatical rules that bind all languages. Is there
a linguistic game — however peculiar it may be — which does not have a
grammar and syntax in which it is expressed? Or is there a society which
ignores crime, irrespectively of the way in which it conceives it? The same
holds for individual or collective criteria for the true, just, bneneficial
or beautiful. Even if they differ from individual to individual,
collectivity to collectivity, or from society to society, the fact that they
correspond to men’s need to stipulate rules in order to judge, remains common to
all. This general condition of judging according to rules rationally
(i.e. critically and reflectively) elaborated — even if it unfolds with
different meaning in each particular linguistic game — remains a
characteristic feature of all possiby taking place — actually or
potentially — within the given historical and social framework of modern
world.

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Notes

(1) See N.Chomsky, Language and
Freedom, in J.Peck (ed.) The Chomsky Reader, Serpent;s Tail, 1995,
pp.139-155.

(2) See, J.-Fr.Lyotard, La condition postmoderne, Les
editions de minuit, Paris, 1979, pp.54-62.

(3) R.Rorty, Objectivity, Relativism, and Truth,
Cambridge Univ.Press, 1991, pp.21-22. See also,R.Rorty, Consequences of
Pragmatism,Univ.of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, pp. 160-166.

(4) J.-Fr.Lyotard, La condition postmoderne, op.cit.

(5) J.Habermas, Legitimation Crisis, Beacon Press,
Boston 1975, p.131.

(6) Op.cit. pp.119-120.

(7) R.Rorty, Objectivity, Relativism, and Truth,
op.cit., p.28 and p. 32.

(8) Op.cit., p.22. See also R.Rorty,
Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, Princeton University Press,
I980,p.170 where understanding philosophy is defined as unedrstanding the
social justification of belief.

(9) J.-Fr.Lyotard, La condition postmoderne, op.cit.,
pp.7-8.

(10) J.-Fr.Lyotasrd, Just gaming,
Manchester Univ. Press, 1985, p.62

(11) J.-Fr.Lyotard, Economie libidinale, les editions
de minuit, Paris 1974; see also J.-Fr.Lyotard, La condirtion postmoderne,
op.cit. See also, J.-Fr.Lyotard The Sublime and the Avant-Garde, in
Lyotard Reader, Basil Blackwell, 1989; See also J.-Fr.Lyotard, Sensus
communis, in A.Benjamin)ed.) Judging Lyoatrd, Routledge 1992. See also,
J-Fr.Lyotard, Lecons sur l’ analytique du sublime, Galilee, Par;isi
1991.

(12) J.-Fr.Lyotard, L’ inhumain, Causeries sur le
temps, Galil;ee, Paris 1988, p.147.

(13) J.-Fr. Lyotard, Lecons sur l’
Analytique du sublinme, Galilee, paris 1991; see also Sensus Communis,
op.cit. p.25; see also A.Baron, Lyotard and the Problem of Justice, in
Judging Lyotard, op.cit., p.31.

(14) R.Rorty, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature,
Princeton Univ. Press, pp.357-372.

(15) J.Margolis, The Truth about
Relativism, Basil Blackwell, Oxford 1991, p.15.

(16) For Nietzsche who follows the individualistic
logic, ratio is governed by taste, whereas for Marx who follows a
collectivistic (ensemblistic rather than holistic) logic, ratio is
governed by market. But for both Nietzsche and Marx, the way out of this
perpsectivism is given by critical thought exercised under a prism of
negation; negation of exploitation or of authoritarianism. In doionmg
that, both Marx and Nietzsche, each one in his own way, tried to fil the
gap separating tha classical tradition from the western thought, by
recognising in knowledge its emancipating power.

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Via: https://www.bu.edu/wcp/Papers/Cont/ContDeli.htm

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