Aestheticization of life

Featherstone isolates three aspects of the postmodern aestheticization of daily life: 1) Artistic movements such as Dada and Surrealism attempt to break down the boundary between art and daily life by turning toilets and such into art objects. This is both an attempt to “dissemble . . . . Continue Reading »

Theater of the Absurd

In a lecture on Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Ian Johnston makes this helpful distinction between existentialist drama and the Theater of the Absurd. “In the Theatre of the Absurd the protagonists are discovered in a world which they do not, indeed they cannot, . . . . Continue Reading »

Postmodern mathesis

Modernity attempts to spatialize time, and to chart temporally shifting reality in a fixed mathesis. So argues Catherine Pickstock at least. But in this sense postmodernism is hypermodernism. Featherstone notes that MTV “seems to exist in a timeless present with video artists ransacking film . . . . Continue Reading »

Turn of the Century Bobos

Mike Featherstone, expounding on the “aestheticitization of everyday life” that he claims is characteristic of the postmodern ethos, notes that similar motifs are evident in the early development of the fashion industry: “The intensified place of fashion increases our . . . . Continue Reading »

Meta-Narrative’s Revenge

Postmodern intellectuals believe they have seen through the arrogant or naive efforts of earlier generations of intellectuals. Now we see the folly of foundationalism, now we see that all knowledge is intertwined with regimes of power-knowledge, now we know that all thought arises from knotty . . . . Continue Reading »

Universalism and relativism

Is truth universal? Is the only alternative to an idea of the universalism of all truth an affirmation of the relativism of all truth? This seems to be a false dichotomy from the beginning. Upon a moment’s reflection, it seems clear that the truth is that some truths are relative and some are . . . . Continue Reading »

Tantrum of the Intellectuals

Featherstone suggests that postmodernism is in part a “loss of confidence on the part of the intellectuals in the universal potential of their project.” Thus, postmodern theory is marked by “tendencies toward indeterminacies , the recognition of openness, pluralism, randomness, . . . . Continue Reading »

Theology of punishment

In a recent First Things review, Gilbert Meilander summarized Oliver O’Donovan’s theory of punishment as follows: “anything called punishment must be ‘backward-looking’ and hence, in some sense, retributive. But he is not persuaded by any account of retribution that . . . . Continue Reading »

Hamlet again

INTRODUCTION It is often said that fourth acts in Shakespeare plays are weak. Action slows down, the principal character is sometimes off stage, and the drama seems to dissipate before the final catastrophe. Act 4 of Macbeth begins with Macbeth’s renewed contact with the witches, but then . . . . Continue Reading »

Religion and Politics

Noah Feldman has a challenging review of Jay Sekulow’s book on the religion of the Supreme Court in the Feb 20 issue of TNR. He argues that the Constitution’s prohibition of religious oaths means a subordination of religious to political conviction: “To move beyond Locke, the . . . . Continue Reading »