Lyotard: Postmodern Condition

This was my "questioning" for Lyotard's Postmodern Condition. This post is part of a series from my CMNS 857 Philosophy of Technology seminar with Andrew Feenberg. For more information, see this linked post.


It was fulfilling to finally have been given the mandate (excuse) to actually spend time with Lyotard’s essay on epistemology and the postmodern. I wonder how many writers cite this essay and misquote or misrepresent his work; my fear is far too many. I have three questions.

First, a specifically “pragmatic” observation and question. I am familiar (more than I sometimes care to admit) with the theory of speech acts best represented by John Searle and greatly influenced by Austin. I am intrigued (thought not terribly) to see Lyotard draw on Wittgenstein for his language games (an observation not often referenced by those quoting Lyotard). To summarize, I find it quite interesting that Lyotard draws on analytic philosophers and the analytic tradition to help him argue his point. I think it ingenious to appropriate and make a term your own and pivotal to your thinking. Bravo, Lyotard! Specifically coming the James, Dewey, and Rorty angle, why does Lyotard remain committed to an objective Truth?

My second is more a reflection that I would appreciate confirmation on. Throughout my reading, it occurred to me again and again that Lyotard was describing the landscapes and horizons that I see and move about in daily within education. For example, performativity, knowledge as commodity, technical training; not to mention Obama’s Second Inaugural that included an awkwardly timed call for more engineers via reformed immigration policy (see Lyotard’s discussion of technical professions on p. 48): “Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country.” My second question: Am I right in assuming (naming) Lyotard’s supreme ability to tell the future?

Finally and connected to my first question, why “save” the natural sciences? (Referring to Jameson’s reflections from the Forward.) Why leave room for the saving of the sciences? Why do they need to be saved and for what purpose? I see the final thread of “Truth” that connects to the natural sciences--why not go ahead and cut the ties?


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