File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0107, message 157

Date: Sat, 28 Jul 2001 10:35:01 -0500
Subject: Re: Paralogy in psychology

Glen wrote:

I looked paralogy up on, and it came back with the 

paralogy \Pa*ral"o*gy\, n. [Gr. ?; ? beside, beyond + ? reason.] False 
reasoning; paralogism.

In what sense does Lyotard use the word? (I am guessing he leans more 
towards 'beyond reason' rather than 'false reason')


Lyotard certainly develops the concept of paralogy is ways that aren't
contained within the dictionary definition.  He argues with the
postmodern crisis, the performative emerges as the primary form of
legitimation and it requires innovation to maintain the dynamics of the
system. Against this, Lyotard opposes paralogy and argues for it both in
terms of science and art.

On the scientific side, Lyotard points specifically to the work of
Benoit Mandelbrot on fractals, Rene Thom on catastrophe theory and
Gregory Bateson on the double bind theory of schizophrenia.  These
theories help us understand "how research centered on singularities and
"incommensurabilities" is applicable to the pragmatics of the most
everyday problems."  At that time, chaos theory and complexity theory
did not really exist yet and it would have been interesting to see how
Lyotard would have responded to these. 

"Postmodern science - by concerning itself with such things as
undecidables, the limits of precise control, conflicts characterized by
incomplete information, "fracta," catastrophes, and pragmatic paradoxes
- is theorizing its own evolution as discontinuous, catastrophic,
nonrectifiable, and paradoxical."

In art, Lyotard points to the condition of modernity "which takes place
in the withdrawal of the real and according to the sublime relation
between the presentable and the conceivable."

Lyotard argues that it is possible here as well to distinguish between
two modes:  

1. "The emphasis can be placed on the powerlessness of the faculty of
presentation, on the nostalgia for presence felt by the human subject."  
2. "The emphasis can be placed, rather, on the power of the faculty to
conceive, on its "inhumanity" so to speak...The emphasis can also be
placed on the  increase of being and the jubilation which result from
the invention of new rules of the game."

This discussion of paralogy in art and science is what leads Lyotard to
make his political assessment of legitimation which is the real purpose
of "The Postmodern Condition".  Assuming legitimation by consensus and
the performative, the computer "could become the dream instrument for
controlling and regulating the market system... In that case, it would
inevitably involve the use of terror."

"But it could also aid groups discussing metaprescriptives by supplying
them with the information they usually lack for making knowledgeable
decisions.  This would be legitimation by paralogy - "give the public
free access to the memory and data banks."


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