On Reactionary Modern Philosophy and Art

Wim Rietdijk, D.Sci.

The reactionary tendency Postmodernism, incoherent Modern Art and Subjectivism have in common; the emperors without clothes

Andy Warhol said: "All is pretty."
Samuel Beckett wrote : "There is nothing to express, nothing with which to express, no power to express, together with no obligation to express."
John Cage informed us: "I have nothing to say and I am saying it."
Eugène Ionesco confesses: "There are no solutions. History solved nothing. Nothing. ... For I do not give solutions, either, no answers, I only ask questions, in a tattling way. I talk much, much, very much, in order to disrupt language. I pitch into the ideas by the uproar of the word."
Michel Foucault - as commented upon by sociologist Daniel Bell - feels that madness is not only a form of knowledge, but that reason itself has no superiority over unreason.
Postmodernist Jacques Derrida wants us to believe: "The Einsteinian constant is not a constant, is not a center. It is the very concept of variability - it is, finally, the concept of the game. In other words, it is not the concept of something - of a center starting from which an observer could master the field - but the very concept of the game."
Jean-François Lyotard, another postmodernist, discovered: "If Lacan says: To love means that one gives what one does not have, then it means for him: forget that one has been emasculated. However, it should mean: one never has something, there is no subject, and therefore there is nothing but love; one not only can never give something because one does not have anything, but because there is nobody who could give or take."

In line with the above quotations, subjectivistic and relativistic philosophy posit that truth and values are purely based upon arbitrary human choice, in fact depriving them from any substance: torture and Auschwitz are OK provided that you as a subject, or your traditions, feel them to be so, as the Nazi's did.
      Robert Rauschenberg, Joseph Beuys, Karel Appel etc. etc. sell or sold rather incoherent structures without beauty or power to move our souls as "modern art". They are among the world's best-paid artists.
      How could this happen?
And the strangest of all: How could it happen that publicly criticising or ridiculing "modern art" is simply not done or even taboo among intellectuals? What - evidently powerful - interests are behind such art and at the background of the massive wave of irrationalism - existentialism, structuralism, postmodernism,... -, interests that unconsciously shield them as sacred cows inherent to the in-crowd ideology?

Part of the explanation:
Censorship served the status quo and the powers that be for ages by prohibiting rational argument, also about good and evil. Of course, it can no longer be imposed in the modern West. However, those many having something to hide against reason and the enlightened ethic of integrity and neighbourly love, instinctively found new ways of undermining and devaluing reason and rational argument on good and evil. Ways that are tuned in to our non-authoritarian era. Viz.: push the idea that the world is chaos, man is irrational, and good and evil or even truth are relative, depending on subjective and non-rational "premises" or conventions. Then you fight good arguments as effectively as by censoring them: you imply them to be irrelevant, dependent on mere arbitrary "premises" and convention. The consequence is that power and vested interests are more safe for reason now. Moreover, the very idea of status-quo-moving progress loses its meaning in a chaotic, irrational world in which everything is relative.

John Dewey wrote: "If we once start thinking no one can guarantee what will be the outcome, except that many objects, ends and institutions will be surely doomed..."
      Well, the Ionesco's and Becketts, the Heideggers and Lyotards, the Rauschenbergs, Appels and John Cages all help to stop thinking and the idea of a coherent world at all, as the relativists help stopping conscience and rational arguments about good and evil. That is, in the twentieth century they do things similar to what in the eighteenth and nineteenth was done by censorship, traditionalism and the Church: keeping reason and rational values and morals subdued. In both cases it was done to the benefit of those having to fear from the mechanism John Dewey described.

Generally, we can explain the popularity of postmodernism, existentialism, and subjectivistic and relativistic theories about truth, good and evil by the circumstance that they foster the opposite of rational argument, rational and objective ethic and awakened emotions leading to coherent rational action. Incoherent, emotionless "art" without beauty or eloquently transmitted meaning does precisely the same thing. Both also make progress, moral failure and inferior (human) quality senseless concepts, which is fine for egalitarians, too, who now dominate ideology. In all, they exude the idea that progress is meaningless or impossible, certainly via rational thinking and coherent action. This is the cornerstone of reactionary philosophy and heavenly music for everyone who is both powerful and immoral, wanting such status quo to be continued.
      Criticising the relevant philosophical and artistic fashions is "not done" for similar reasons why criticising convention and the Church was taboo earlier. They are ideological forces shielding modern vested interests and the status quo against the forces of reason, just as more brutal means - such as bajonets and censorship - did so in earlier times.
      The absurdistic nihilism illustrated by the foregoing quotations is very prominent among our intelligentsia. So much so that, e.g., Stephen Jay Gould could recently assert (in his Full House) that even biological evolution did not mean progress at all, without his being laughed out of the room. Small wonder that human quality, IQ, crime, underclasses, education and related problems will be addressed to in the utmost egalitarian ways.
      If studied humbug and nihilism - from James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake and music without melody or rhythm to postmodernism and relativism implying that nothing was objectively wrong with Auschwitz - become cults and passwords for being accepted by the cultural establishment, something serious is going on. Especially if everybody keeps mum at the chutzpah.

In case you are interested in the integration of the above and many other ideas into a coherent theory of society and culture, also explaining crucial repressions and taboos which prevented many vital insights from being hit upon (thus largely restricting the results of socio-cultural thinking to a mess of details), see: The Scientifization of Culture.

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