Universal Values and the Justification of Internationality

Topics: Postmodernism, Logic, Meaning of life Pages: 19 (3934 words) Published: September 22, 2014
Universal Values and the Justification of Internationality By Shaya Aldosari

Introduction:
Does cultural plurality deny any possibility of universal morality? Universality means, among many definitions, internationality. It also means the eternal validity of human ethics. Before the so-called postmodernism, humanity used to believe in transcendental values and ideas that hold good of everyone1, that is, every ‘animal rationale’ which according to Aristotle is the only animal who is capable of reason. Rationality is not merely a feature of cognition, it is also of practical usage: “Virtue […] is a state of character concerned with choice, lying in a mean, i.e. the mean relative to us, this being determined by a rational principle, and by that principle by which the man of practical wisdom would determine it 2.” Rationality was, then, the basis of every human action. It also had brought about all universal categories regarding knowledge, ethics, aesthetics, theology,..etc. When Reason breaks down, they all would do so. Thus exactly what postmodernism contributes, i.e., it destroys the universal validity of Reason. In other words, it refutes the absolute normativity of reason. That might explain the well-known definition which Jean-François Lyotard gives to postmodernism: “I define postmodern as incredulity toward metanarratives3.” The breakdown of absolute belief in reason, progression, God, metaphysics, and so on, which can be described under the rubric metanarratives, led towards slogans such as the death of man with Louis Althusser, the death of author with Roland Barthes, the death of Humanism with Heidegger, and the end of history with Francis Fukuyama. The American- Egyptian critic Ihab Hassan In his book The Dismemberment of Orpheus: Toward a Postmodern Literature produces a list of differences between modernism and postmodernism as follows:

Modernism
Postmodernism
Romanticism/Symbolism
Pataphysics/Dadaism
Form (conjunctive, closed)
Antiform (disjunctive, open)
Purpose
Play
Design
Chance
Hierarchy
Anarchy
Mastery/Logos
Exhaustion/Silence
Art object/Finished work
Process/Performance/Happening
Distance
Participation
Creation/Totalization
Decreation/Deconstruction
Synthesis
Antithesis
Presence
Absence
Centring
Dispersal
Genre/Boundary
Text/Intertext
Semantics
Rhetoric
Paradigm
Syntagm
Hypotaxis
Parataxis
Metaphor
Metonymy
Selection
Combination
Root/Depth
Rhizome/Surface
Interpretation/Reading
Against Interpretation/Misreading
Signified
Signifier
Lisible (readerly)
Scriptible (writerly)
Narrative/Grande histoire
Antinarrative/Petite histoire
Master code
Idiolect
Symptom
Desire
Type
Mutant
Genital/Phallic
Polymorphous/Androgynous
Paranoia
Schizophrenia
Origin/Cause
Difference – differance/trace
God the Father
The Holy Ghost
Metaphysics
Irony
Determinacy
Indeterminacy
Transcendence
Immanence

Accordingly, it is obvious that any belief in universal values will be under attack. The major thinkers of postmodernism such as Jean Baudrillard, Jean-François Lyotard, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Rechard Rorty and others have an exaggerated fear of the return to the ideological era in that they refuse any universal claim to truth. Edward Said criticized these thinkers who “say that to speak of an author at all (as in "the author of Milton's poems") is a highly tendentious, not to say ideological, overstatement4.” Hence, they have been also criticized by Edward Said for they have retired from public life and given up the role of the universal or international intellectual: “ Similarly, the French philosopher Michel Foucault has said that the so-called universal intellectual (he probably had Jean-Paul Sartre in mind) has had his or her place taken by the "specific" intellectual, someone who works inside a discipline but who is able to use his expertise anyway5.” One of the...

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