HYPERMODERNITY (2): the re-intensification of truth

According to some observers we have entered into a new metaphysical epoch, a new episteme, or a new understanding of Being – the post-truth era. John David Ebert and Brian Culkin give a more nuanced diagnosis under the name of « hypermodernity ».

In their new book HYPERMODERNITY AND THE END OF THE WORLD, the first volume in a projected trilogy, Ebert and Culkin consider « hypermodernity » not as the rupture with and the abolition of postmodernity but as a double bifurcation affecting the postmodern processes – the intensification both of decomposition and of the compensatory creative processes of individuation. Hypermodernity is both illness and cure.

In that light, Ebert and Culkin analyse the pathologies of the post-truth regime (called by some the « Trumpocene ») while exemplifying a way out, by providing us with more truth, not less.

This is very clear from reading Ebert’s THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF JOHN DAVID EBERT, in which the virtue of parrhesia, theorised by Foucault but never practised to this degree, is raised to a new level of intensity. In this autobiography Ebert recounts his encounters with familial neurosis, sexuality, love, madness, and also with esoteric experiences in a direct and honest way. We can see Ebert’s response to the hypermodern condition that has governed his life: a re-intensification of truth.

Ebert’s background assumptions owe more to Sloterdijk than to Heidegger, so his ethic of sincerity is not reducible to Heideggerian « authenticity » as there is no unified Dasein and no metaphysical centre. Re-intensification is more like Lyotardian anamnesis.

Note: Lyotard later regretted the historical and sociological connotations of the prefix « post- » in his analysis and defence of the postmodern condition and he came to prefer the term « anamnesis » over « postmodern ». Even here the « ana- » is ambiguous between a chronological return (horizontal time axis) and meaning recurrence (vertical time axis).

According to Ebert in the Introduction to HYPERMODERNITY AND THE END OF THE WORLD, incommensurability has now reached hypertrophied proportions. We are no longer in the epoch of the clash of civilisations, but in that of the clash of semiotic sign regimes:

in Hypermodernity each individual is a nation state unto himself armed and equipped with his own electronic sign regime (page 32)

This means that he posits enough incommensurability to evade Habermasian reductivity. Nor does Derridean deconstruction fare any better. Post-structuralist deconstruction and de-centering are not enough. They are necessary but insufficient, hypermodern thinking requires the play of incommensurability as well. This is the move that Lyotard makes from LIBIDINAL ECONOMY to THE DIFFEREND, from intensities to phrases, but this is only a halfway house.We do not live in a world of phrases.

Lyotard’s late work contains a split between phrases and the body, and he was not able to construct a coherent language capable of dealing with both aspects. Ebert’s language of spheres and of semiotic regimes uses elements taken from Deleuze and Guattari and from Sloterdijk, combined with elements from many other thinkers, creating his own multi-centred sign regime.

For Ebert and Culkin we are now living in a world of hyper-incommensurability, and we must separate legitimacy from legitimation. Ebert and Culkin agree with Lyotard that the era of meta-narratives of legitimation is over, but they do not think that this spells the end of meta-narratives as such. They have their own meta-narrative, but held without prescriptive force.

Ebert and Culkin do not grant authority to the different legitimacies, they situate them spherologically in the era of microspheres, each with its own semiotic regime, and its own legitimacy.

It is true that we may question the appropriateness of the term « hypermodern » but it is necessary to have a (temporarily) non-appropriated term. I think that there is also an intensification indicated in this term (intensification of incommensurability, of truth, of experience). We shall see what plays out as this process continues. We are only at volume one of the Hypermodern Trilogy. It is a good beginning.

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