FEYERABEND, LYOTARD, AND POSTMODERNISM (2): the “end” of philosophy?

“Does Feyerabend believe in the end of philosophy, as some postmoderns do? (This question was posed by Ian James Kidd on his facebook page).

This question is more complex than it seems, given that the relevant philosophers did not use the same terminology as Feyerabend. The “postmoderns” (but who are they? who can say?) did not call for or announce an end to philosophy, that would be a rather essentialist move to make) but rather to “metaphysics”, conceived of as a totalising, homogeneous, and dogmatic figure of philosophy.

Who are the postmoderns? Lyotard (who put the concept on the philosophical, as opposed to merely journalistic or culture critical, map) lists Deleuze, Levinas, Derrida, Foucault, Serres, and himself (and elsewhere includes Feyerabend):

“la philosophie française des dernières années, si elle a été postmoderne de quelque manière, c’est qu’elle a mis à travers sa réflexion sur la déconstruction de l’écriture (Derrida), sur le désordre du discours (Foucault), sur le paradoxe épistémologique (Serres), sur l’altérité (Lévinas), sur l’effet de sens par rencontre nomadique (Deleuze), c’est qu’elle a mis ainsi l’accent sur les incommensurabilités” (Lyotard, TOMBEAU DE L’INTELLECTUEL, 84-85).

“recent French philosophy, if it has in any way been postmodern, it is in that by way of its reflection on the deconstruction of writing (Derrida), on the disorder of discourse (Foucault), on epistemological paradox  (Serres), on alterity (Levinas), on the effect of sense by nomadic encounter (Deleuze), it has put the accent on incommensurabilities” (my translation).

Feyerabend has much in common with these thinkers, in particular with Lyotard (and I would add with Serres and Deleuze, but their case is different). Feyerabend in line with these thinkers does not call for an end to philosophy as such (Feyerabend clearly tells us that “philosophy” does not exist as a well-defined and homogeneous activity, any more than “science” does) rather for an end to the hegemony of abstract traditions (what others would call “Platonism”, the relation of Platonism to the actual philosophical practice of Plato being a moot point).

Postmoderns (in the “noble”, Lyotardian sense) criticise such doctrines as the “end of philosophy” as being just as dogmatic, in their certainty of an ending, as the dogmatic metaphysics that they are identifying with philosophy and whose end they proclaim. The end of the hegemony of that form of philosophy does not mean the end of all philosophy, but only the freeing up of possibilities for thinking.

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One Response to FEYERABEND, LYOTARD, AND POSTMODERNISM (2): the “end” of philosophy?

  1. dmf says:

    there also seems to be a common tendency to focus on creation rather than trying to be true to something that already exists.

    Liked by 1 person

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