Free Will Christian theology tells us that God can give his creatures free will, and presumably he could also control their actions if he chose to, but he cannot do both at the same time. God cannot simultaneously give a being freedom of choice and withhold that freedom from it: God cannot carry out both of two mutually exclusive alternatives any more than you or I can, not because there is a limit to his power, but because nonsense remains nonsense even when he speak it about God. In general (again, according to most Christian theology) God chooses to allow his creatures free will, rather than intervene. God apparently considers free will to be a very good thing, good enough that it in some sense outweighs all the evil that is caused by the abuse of free will. --- Gravity's Rainbow The "holy grail" of postmodernism is not some real space which escapes the symbolization of a totalizing system - the existence of such spaces is given, is in a sense the problem itself - but rather the discovery of some mode of discourse which can embrace this heterogeniety of reality. Let me use a specific example, one not actually part of the "discourse on postmodernism", but one which is analogous: As I understand it (and I trust any real physicists out there will correct me if I'm wrong), a big problem facing modern physics now is the inconsisteny that exists between quantum mechanics and general relativity. As successful as both of these theories are in describing the universe at certain scales (the very small for quantum mechanics and the very large for relativity), the two theories are, strictly speaking, mutually incompatable. A great deal of work is now being done to construct a "Grand Unification Theory", in other words, a totalizing system beneath which all of physical science could, at least in theory, be subsumed. Now, my personal feeling - and here my opinion is typical of most postmodern theory - is that such a project, while it may advance our understanding of the universe, is ultimately doomed to failure. The relationship between rationality and the universe, the relationship between the symbolic and the real if you will, is such that our representations will never be adequate. No theory of even the physical universe will be entirely satisfactory, there will always be inconsistencies, ruptures. Human reason is fundamentally incapable of constructing a universally valid system, and thus all totalizing systems will reveal some fundamental inadequecy. Can I prove this? No, but history seems to support such a view. Throughout history philosophers and scientists have attempted to construct systems that would settle certain fundamental questions "once and for all", but they have never succeeded. It is the very inadequecy of all constructed systems that is the motive force behind the constant production of new systems: this is the reason that we still have philosophers and theoretical physicists, and the reason why these disciplines still continue to "advance" in some sense or other. --- Paradox I think that people like Derrida are saying _both_ "there can be no totalizing theory" (in the sense that no totalizing theory will be adequate or _true_) _and_ "we cannot avoid using totalizing theories". It's a paradox which, when explored, generates huge amounts of abstract discourse which, it would seem, gets us nowhere (e.g. Derrida's _Differance_). --- Postmodernism If you're interested in the "philosophically oriented stuff", you might want to go straight to the "canonical" postmodern works ("canonical postmodern" ought to be an oxymoron, but let's face it, it's not): Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Jean Baudrillard. Warning! Most of this stuff is very dense and difficult. If you're interested in the psycho-analytic strand of postmodernism, Deleuze is good, and Lacan seems to be quoted by just about everyone, though I've never read him. Good preliminary reading to both of these strands of postmodern theory is Ferdinand de Saussure ("Course on General Linguistics"). Saussure was the originator of certain specialized terms that get used throughout postmodern theory (namely "signifier", "signified", "sign", and "referent"), and if you don't understand these terms as used by Saussure, you will not understand (or will misunderstand) a lot of postmodern theory. None of the above-mentioned theorists (to the best of my knowledge) actually use the term "postmodern", and as I said, they are very dense and abstract. They are the most purely philosophical, though. If you're interested in more cultural/philosophical (and also more contemporary) work, some names you might check out are Frederic Jameson, Lyotard, Habermas, and Zizek. Frederic Jameson's "Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism" is very good (I understand it's widely considered THE seminal work on postmodernism, though I wouldn't really know about that.) I think your best bet would be to get a good anthology of essays. My favorite is "The Anti-Aesthetic", edited by Hal Foster. This includes the famous essay by Jameson and a very good one by Baudrillard. Some other anthologies are "Universal Abandon?" and "Postmodernism and its Discontents". I would advise _against_ reading anything that claims to offer a summary or overview of postmodernism, or even of any particular theorist within the "movement" (if you can really call it that). These theories are very subtle, and every attempt I've ever read at summarizing them ends up being horribly reductive and at least partially misses the point. Don't, for example, try to understand deconstructionism by reading Terry Eagleton's "Literary Theory". --- Outlook I think one of the more interesting tendencies in postmodernism is that the distinction between "serious" and "fun" is being erased. Consider Jameson's concept of "pastiche": is it funny? is it serious? the question ceases to even make much sense. --- Kafka Gregor Samsa turned into a bug. Why does that have to be a metaphore for anything? It just happened. It is only the stupid, or the hopelessly religious, who insist on seeing a 'meaning' in everything. Events in life don't 'mean' anything, aren't 'metaphors' for anything. Why should events in literature be any different? Gregor Samsa turned into an insect. So what? It happened to me once. Spent an entire month scurrying along the walls of my room, eating rotting vegetables and excreting brown fluid. Unlike Samsa, I got better. A little better, at least. Just lucky, I guess. --- Transcendence Throughout this thread there has been the assumption that identity is a real, objective property that a body possesses. It seems to me that the question "which (of any two hypothetical duplicates/reconstructions/ simulations/etc.) is the _real_ you" is meaningless. You are assuming that because we _perceive_ these past and present minds/bodies as continuous, that they _really_are_ continuous, in some noumenal sense. But the only meaningful definition of a mind or body "existing in the past" is that of a mind or body existing as a _memory_ (i.e. construct) of a _present_ mind. It is meaningless to ask which of two duplicate minds is _really_ continuous with a past mind, for they are both constructing similar past minds (i.e. they have the same memories). There is no objective sense in which one is more continuous this past mind because there is no objective sense in which this past mind actually exists: a past mind is only a construct of present minds. --- Souls There's a huge problem with saying that brains cause minds, unless we assume that the causal power runs both ways (i.e., we implicitly assume a dualist position). If the causal relationship only runs one way, then how can we talk about minds at all? That is, how can minds manifest themselves in the material universe - even in the form of discourse - unless either a) minds and bodies (or some part of the body, such as the brain) are not merely connected but are _the_same_thing, or b) minds have some causal power within the physical universe. To say that qualia are "epiphenomena" of physical processes is nonsense: if this were the case, we could never discuss qualia. --- Marxism Part of the reason we don't discuss Marx is because in many ways postmodernism was a revolt _against_ the older generation of Marxists that had become a dominating force in the liberal sectors of academia around the 50s and 60s. In many ways, Marxism is the modernist historical theory _par_excellence_. I'm not saying that this is a reason not to read him. In fact this is a reason _to_ read him, because in many ways one can't understand postmodernism until one understands modernism (and even vice-versa). But this _is_ a reason why one wouldn't want to put him down as a "postmodern" thinker. I don't know much about Marxist theory, so correct me if what I say is incorrect, but as I understand it, "historical materialism" is precisely that sort of meta-narrative which Lyotard defines as the antithesis of postmodernism. Moreover, "historical materialism" is not only a meta-narrative, but a _teleological_ one at that. These days, most people will just laugh at you if you try to say that there is actually a "purpose" to history. As for "postmodern" refutations of historical materialism, see Lyotard. For a not-so-postmodern refutation, see C.S. Lewis's essay "On Historicism". I believe it's in the collection called "The Seeing Eye". The similarities between C.S. Lewis and postmodernists like Lyotard are in many cases striking. --- Dreams of a Physicist Isn't it meaningless to talk of the Big Bang's being "caused"? Presumably causation is dependant on a temporal dimension (i.e. Time), and presumably there "was" no temporal dimension before the Big Bang. There wasn't really a "before" the Big Bang, since time didn't exist "back then", right? --- Dead Can Dance Okay, having made a substantial investment in owning all five DCD import CDs, here are my reviews, in approximately chronilogical order: _Dead Can Dance_ (which includes _Garden of the Arcane Delights_): Excellent, though much more goth-rock than any of their later stuff. If you like bauhaus at all, you'll LOVE this album. Even if you don't like bauhaus, you'll probably love this album. Also the only album (I think, could be wrong though) where Lisa Gerrard sings in English (though you still can't understand what she's saying). _Spleen And Ideal_: I'd say this is their worst album, though it's still pretty good. Somewhat reminiscent of early Cocteau Twins. _Serpent's Egg_: Very, very Good. Mostly Lisa Gerrard vocals, though the three Brendan Perry tracks are good. Very orchestral and gothic (in the medieval sense). _Within The Realm of a Dying Sun_: Excellent. Brendan Perry does the vocals for the first half of the album, and Lisa Gerrard does the vocals for the second half. Anywhere Out of the World is typical of the first half. The second half is just incredible though! It's similar to _Serpent's Egg_, but even more orchestral and instense. If I had to recommend just one album, it would probably be this one. _Aion_: Excellent. Howard Goodman was probably thinking about this one in particular, though, when he called the later Dead Can Dance "too retrogressive and esoteric". It's definitely their least modern sounding, containing straight covers of medieval and rennaisance music. If you're not used to this sort of thing, it can take a couple of listenings before you really appreciate it, but believe me, it's well worth the effort. I actually think this is my favorite. --- Spirituality Computer programs are essentially deterministic, whereas Christian theology tells us that human beings are essentially free.