File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0109, message 49

Date: Sun, 16 Sep 2001 00:01:21 -0500
Subject: Mystify me!

Mal wrote:

In my way of thinking, the most important statement made by various
postmodernisms is that "mystification" is not something that can be
overcome. There is no meta-science that can tell us which beliefs are
mystifications and which beliefs are true.  The pragmatic realization is
that things are true or false based on what you are doing at the moment.
The explanations we use to guide our actions are never true in an
ahistorical sense.  Nevertheless, they are true insofar as they allow us
to act well (and "wellness" is also contingent).


Let's step this down a notch.  You say "there is no meta-science that
can tell us which beliefs are true." I agree, but then I would turn
around and ask you if you believe there is any science that can tell you
which beliefs are true?  

You mentioned pragmatism and I'll mention Dewey who argued that concepts
are technological tools that impact instrumentally on the world in ways
that transform it and us into something else.  We are always the
products of our own interdependent actions. (You see, we have always
been cyborgs.)

The reason why an atheist and a believer can never reach agreement is
not merely because the meta-science is lacking or (to invoke Lyotard
here) because no tribunal exists that can resolve the differend, the
phrases in dispute.  

It is also because our concept technology operates in a holistic
fashion. To quote WVO Quine: 

"The total field is so undetermined by its boundary conditions,
experience, that there is much latitude of choice as to what statements
to reevaluate in the light of any single contrary experience.  No
particular experiences are linked with any particular statements in the
interior of the field, except indirectly through consideration of
equilibrium affecting the field as a whole."

Whatever logical points our atheist may score against the believer, the
latter will not change because the interior of the field, the deep
structure remains impervious.

Does this mean that the holistic structures that govern religion will
never change? Obviously not, for the simple reason you also invoked.
These holistic structures are embedded in a dynamic environment that is
relentlessly historical and driven by temporality.  

Why are there so few Zoroastrians or active temples of worship for Diana
today? For the simple reason that God appears to have placed all
religions into a Darwinian universe.  

So, yes, I believe it is possible to argue politically that institutions
such as Islam, Christianity, and Judaism are  "mystifications" because I
think they are adapted to the needs of an earlier age and their inherent
xenophobia renders them ill-suited to the new cultures blossoming within
the emerging globalism.

What is the meta-science I use to determine this?  None at all.  I am
simply making an empirical judgement based upon my own holistic garden
of forking concepts and a set of values that favor greater autonomy and
self-determination for individuals and hence is opposed to all those
institutions that remain authoritarian, anti-gay, anti-women and white
supremacist. (For the latter I am referring primarily to certain strands
of Fundamentalist Christianity.)    

My judgement is inherently falsifiable. Only time will tell if I am
right or wrong, but my actions will create that emerging time as well
through the feedback loops of history.


You also say: "It is always the other folks that are mystified."

Well, no, not exactly.  In my own lifetime I have been a Roman Catholic,
an atheist, a Buddhist, a born-again Pagan, a tithing student of AdiDa
and finally the practicing Epicurean I am today. How is it that I myself
became de-mystified, unless you want to posit some thoroughly postmodern
plurality of selves where it was always just those other folks and never

Does this mean I have become de-mystified in some kind of absolute,
metaphysical way?  Of course not.   It is all thoroughly
organimistically, pragmatically, holistically evolving concepts and
judgements.  I deeply believe my concepts and judgements have improved
over time and I bet yours have too.

Let's have a postmodernism which honors that instead of an abstract
relativistic discourse that impoverishes political and social action and
makes us all a little too weak-kneed before the authoritarian bullies
who currently run the planet and could care less about metadiscourses or
metanarratives.  The structures of knowledge may seem relative, but the
structures of power are not!


For the rest, I liked what you had to say about Bataille, the general
economy and religion.  Have you seen that Canadian letter currently
making the rounds? (I think it was even read on tv by Peter Jennings.) 
It also invokes the Marshall Plan as a sign of American generosity.  The
trouble is that was over fifty years ago.  As you imply, why not forgive
the IMF debt now that is crippling so many countries?

I also have argued in the past for a cybernetic potlatch society based
upon similar notions deriving from Bataille about the general economy
and the notion of the accursed share. A postmodern global information
society is all about play and dis-play. The only competition should be
for each one of us to strive to exceed one another in joy, ecstasy, love
and beauty. At the ataraxia of the turning world, there the dance is. 

best wishes & may you groove with your God to the beat of the times,



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