>(6) I am unimpressed by appeals to the fact that the laws of reason do
> not rationally justify themselves. That strikes me as a line of
> argument structurally (and intellectually) akin to the argument
> whereby the proposition "there is no truth" is shown to be
> self-defeating, thus refuting global relativism or social or
> linguistic constructivism or the "Strong Programme" or whatever
> folks choose to call it around here. It is cheaper than a cheap
> stunt. <<2>> On the other hand, I most certainly am impressed by any
> nice clean, tidy, formally valid arguments the conclusions of which
> go something like "the laws of reason are not universally binding,"
> or "the laws of reason cannot be known to be universally binding," or
> even better "the laws of reason can be proven not to be universally
> binding." I mean, even Descartes in Med. I and Hume in his Treatise
> gave us good reasons to worry about that. In connection with this, I
> am very interested in the reply from John Ransom. If it can be made
> to go, it strikes as one of the most promising lines of argument,
> though we will have to evaluate it for formal soundness.
> Broadly speaking, what I'm wondering is whether or not an argument
> similar to or better than the sort I allude to above might be found
> somewhere between the pages of some book, article, or the plurals
> thereof by Lyotard, Baudrillard, Bataille, Derrida, Foucault, Adorno,
> or anybody else popularly associated with "postmodernism" and
> "poststructuralism." I'm quite familiar with the process of digging
> genuine and good arguments out of the writings of philosophers who
> are hostile to the notion of being understood by the rest of us. I
> spent ten years doing just that with Heidegger, and some of his
> quasi-Kantian phenomenological arguments really are excellent.
You seem to be issuing the charge of "performative contradiction." In my experience, for what it's worth, the person associated with postmodern thought who most directly and coherently, and with clear prose, addresses the issue of postmodernism's self-contradiction is the legal scholar Pierre Schlag, who i believe is a professor of law at the University of Colorado. Although many of his arguments are made in the context of CLS and the "critique of normativity", they apply to self-contradiction in criticisms of rationality.
His book-length criticism of reason can be found in "The Enchantment of Reason," published in 1998, and available at amazon and bn.com. For more detailed analysis of the "performative contradiction" issue, you might want to look through some old law reviews of his. He answers the charge that a normative criticism of normative legal thought is self-contradictory. See "Normativity and the Politics of Form" in the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, some time in 1991. This article is also reproduced in a book Schlag co-wrote with some other people, known as "Against the Law," also available online. You would also be interested in "Normative and Nowhere to Go," in a 1990 issue of the Stanford Law Review.
Since i know about Schlag through high schoold debate, i'll summarize some of the answers to the contradiction charge found in my Schlag file.
--A paradox occurs because of self-referentiality. We must express ourselves in a certain language, and any type of questioning of the status quo way of arranging language MUST contradict itself.
--Excluding performatively contradictory arguments marginalizes reflexive inquiry, calling into question the integrity of a system arranged to discourage inquiry into itself.
--It must also be remembered that many postmodernists do not call for the abandonment of rationality. Part of their argument is that one CANNOT step outside the system. Deconstruction does not call for an alternative, it is a way of inhabiting structures to show how they "always already undermine themselves," or whatever. In fact, many would argue that no alternative is possible in the first place, that deconstruction is the only alternative.
--In writing and difference, derrida writes that "there is no sense in doing without the concepts of metaphysics in order to shake metaphysics.....We can pronounce not a single destructive proposition which has not already had to slip into the form, the logic, and the implicit postulations of precisely what it seeks to contest."
--Schlag also compares the demand for consistency to Pascal's wager. It is simply assumed that consistency is possible in the first place, and/or that it would be nice if it would be, and people act accordingly.
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