The Instigator
EndonLenn
Pro (for)
Tied
7 Points
The Contender
TheUnexaminedLife
Con (against)
Tied
7 Points

Leftists are not Postmodernists

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Voting Style: Open Point System: Select Winner
Started: 6/15/2018 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,508 times Debate No: 115574
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (45)
Votes (2)

 

EndonLenn

Pro

My argument is very simple: despite what Jordan Peterson and others on the anti-SJW side have been saying so far, the Progressive Left is not a result of postmodernism.

Although my understanding of postmodernism (post-structuralism) is limited, everywhere I have looked it seemed obvious that the postmodern intellectuals - Derrida, Foucault, Baudrillard, Latour - are as much opposed to Capitalism as they are to Marxism. Consequently, although feminists, BLM, etc often make use of tools very similar to those the postmodernists used, I would argue that the use they are being put to is not that which the postmodernists intended it to be.

Where Leftists are all too often rejecting accurate science as a mere social construct, postmodernists would simply point out that scientific research is influenced by its social environment, but would not deny the reality of established scientific facts.

One quote that, I think, exemplifies this difference is the following from Bruno Latour, one of the founders of "science studies":

"Was I wrong to participate in the invention of this field known as science
studies? Is it enough to say that we did not really mean what we said?"

The field was originally created to help re-orient scientific research when it ignored potential risks to the environment, etc., but "science studies" now serve to deny the existence of differences between men and women.

The subject of this debate is therefore very simple: are Leftists a direct consequence of postmodernism, or even postmodernists themselves? My opponent will have to argue for the notion that Leftists are, indeed, postmodernists, while I will argue against it. I hope this discussion will be fruitful!
TheUnexaminedLife

Con

If you are going to implicitly accuse the latest public intellectual and orator, Jordan Peterson, of conflating "Leftists" and "postmodernists", you have to provide video evidence of this. Indeed you can be a leftist and not believe in postmodern theory, despite postmodernism having an active participatory role in some leftist movements and ideas. If anything Peterson is arguing against replacing social structures and narratives that are useful or hold positive functioning if they cannot be replaced by better (/more truthful or functional) means.

Postmodernist thinkers, generally-speaking, find a common ancestor in Marx; and, although this does not necessarily entail that they subscribe to the tenants of Marxism, they nevertheless are grounded by its constitutive structure: that society as it is experienced is determined by underlying causes that people aren't always consciously aware of, and which guides their behaviour to reproduce certain social relations. Where under all this is reality, something to be uncovered and deconstructed, as the structures of how we think and orientate ourselves in the world are revealed as constructs internalised into our unconscious / subconscious from social and group structures. Constructs which are often arbitrary and hierarchical -- thinkers like Foucault implying that we should resist reproducing the status quo and the underlying material and symbolic power relations that frame our everyday actions.

So yes, you are right in the sense that postmodernists wouldn't spit on science as mere subjectivity. They would question the value judgements and subjectivity that motivates what kind of research occurs and how it is applied, acknowledging that scientists aren't value-neutral robots without biases. Many leftists too can accept this.

You've used general group categorisations like "Leftists" and "postmodernists" as if they were just homogeneous groups: as have I. We should acknowledge this as problematic even if useful for debate.
Debate Round No. 1
EndonLenn

Pro

I would like to once again advance the idea that postmodernism is largely incompatible with "leftism", relating to Jordan Peterson's use of the word "radical left" in a video untitled "Jordan Peterson on Marxism, Socialism and Postmodernism". In this video, Dr. Peterson first refers to "radical leftists" around the 1:00 mark, and later switches to postmodernist intellectuals, signaling an implicit equivalence between both terms. In short, Dr. Peterson describes postmodernism as grounded in Marxism, which brings him close to TheUnexaminedLife's stance on the matter.

Personally, I could not agree more. I would again entirely agree that the radical left makes extensive use of postmodernist methodology. Indeed, the radical Left's theory is basically based on the same "social constructivism" postmodernism is based upon, albeit its radical version. This radical version denies the existence of reality or the ability of humans to perceive any of it, whereas the "casual" version proposes that accessing it might be difficult, but not impossible.

If the above is correct, then it is a sufficiently large difference for me to draw a line between postmodernism and the radical left. Although nothing more than a difference in how far the theory is pushed, this difference is not so distant from discussions around, for instance, what makes a patriot a patriot and not a nationalist. In short, I would like to suggest that it might be more accurate to describe the radical left (following Dr. Peterson's use of the word) as "radical postmodernists", rather than postmodernists.
TheUnexaminedLife

Con

Having watched this video/tirade, it would be very easy to accuse Dr. Peterson of the straw man fallacy; for whilst he uses terms like "Marxism" and "postmodernists", he does not theoretically attack any theorists in-themselves (nor has he particularly done so as an academic) but rather attacks some of their in-world followers. For instead of giving arguments here, he provides a tone of condemnation that proclaims that what he is saying is just blatantly right. It's sloppy: all Marxist theory is apparently wrong because of the failures of the USSR and China. All postmodernist theory is apparently wrong because some people today (in his perspective) have used it at the expense of truth. These people deeming "truth" as the standard of legitimation constructed by the powerful to exclude certain types of people from being recognised as having a valid claim to truth (e.g. my identity claim is valid!) or participating in discourse. He's attacking a species of postmodernism and some (only some) of the crude assumptions postmodern theorists make. This, however, doesn't mean that all Marxist theory and postmodernist theory is wrong and that we can't learn and develop insights from it. Like all theory, it is part-right and part-wrong: our jobs as readers is to separate the two.

You have conceded your first argument that the radical left Dr Peterson is raging against are not, in large part, a development and lived practice of postmodern theory. Now, you claim that the leftism and postmodernism cannot be conflated as one, which is true. There are leftist positions that precede postmodern theory and leftist positions that are alternative to it. However, Dr. Peterson is centring his attacks on the certain species of radical leftism (most characterised within the LGBT community and feminism) that are rapidly taking hold of western culture in what appears to be one of the biggest cultural movement occurring today.
Debate Round No. 2
EndonLenn

Pro

Indeed, in this video Dr. Peterson's reasoning when it comes to both marxism and postmodernism is sketchy, but I would argue that it is the view most prevalent within the anti-SJW crowd. Dr. Peterson himself rarely departs from it throughout his many videos, occasionally mentioning the name of a single postmodernist and what he sees as their philosophy. But whether he is aware of the over-simplification or not, this simplification has a real purpose in today's political climate, and is likely more justified than any radical leftist propensity to cast anything remotely to their right as racist. Keep in mind that, as a psychologist, Dr. Peterson mostly addresses those ideologies that he regards as born from resentment towards the powerful, meaning the detail of the theories is not of great concern to him.

However, my argument was precisely that postmodernism and SJW-type (or whatever type Dr. Peterson is pointing at as radical Leftism) are inherently incompatible with regards to the notion of social constructivism, which I think is probably the most important theme of both philosophies. I am not arguing that they cannot be 'conflated' because #NotAllPostmodernists are leftists, I am arguing that a postmodernist CANNOT be part of "Peterson's radical left". Essentially, I am saying that it is impossible for anyone to be part of the radical left and still think they follow the core postmodern precepts, simply because radical leftism is just on a whole new level.

As to all theories being part-right, part-wrong, it would probably be more accurate to say that some are 50% right, and 100% wrong. Of course it is true that rare are the theories that really get nothing right at all, but among those that get a lot wrong there are those whose slightest application in the real world leads to a disaster 100% of the time. From a historical perspective, marxism seems to be a strong candidate for this one, and fascism another.
TheUnexaminedLife

Con

You, in this regard similar to me, have not read the hundreds upon thousands of pages of Marx's writings, some of which conflict others and some of which merely address a historical Fordism and Taylorism in industrialised Europe. To argue all Marxism as wrong is nothing but ignorance dressed up in the general social reprobation of Marx. Academic laziness. What about the few successes of Marxism in places like Cuba and Vietnam? What about all the modern Marxist theory (like in George Ritzer) which re-articulate Marx's concerns today? I agree: in the USSR and China particularly, Marxism had a series of pragmatic failures especially when opposing a global capitalist economy. But, this doesn't offer finality about whether all of Marx's insights were useless or whether or not other factors aside from the theory affected how it was interpreted and implemented.

Dr. Peterson is an academic; he lectures, he writes journal papers and books, and has articulated that he is against the loss of individual responsibility and those who resent the truth (seeing it as merely a construct of the powerful to keep people in their places). What we don't need is another master of rhetoric like Christopher Hitchens, who with a strong following and eloquence of speech, can say whatever he likes to the applause of his hero worshippers. If Peterson talks in general terms, it is to create a social effect and real-world momentum against the theories he disagrees with; when he does this, he does not touch the theories themselves. Instead, he delivers his personal opinions in a way which fails to meet academic standards.

Now your argument has become somewhat analogous to those who claim: ISIS aren't real Muslims. Or, only pacifists are true Christians. To claim that a group is not enacting a group's precepts because they enact them too radically is absurd. Those Peterson opposes are just the logical development and unfurling of the postmodernist theory they draw from. They are a subset of PM
Debate Round No. 3
EndonLenn

Pro

If you look carefully, I am not saying that the whole of marxist theory is wrong, or evil, or anything of that sort. Much of the marxist critic of capitalism is relevant enough that it can be used to prevent the sort of economic disparity that would threaten the integrity of society. But I am forced to wonder if you are actually serious in claiming that Cuba and Vietnam are somehow examples of successful marxist societies. Both of these countries got very close to seeing generalized famine occur, and both had to experiment with some level of free market to avoid implosion, especially after the Soviet subsidies were withdrawn as the USSR came to an end.

Secondly, I mostly agree with what you say about the way Dr. Peterson uses his words to create a social effect. However, I think I should point out that few of those he addresses have a sufficient academic background that would allow them to understand a speech that would indeed meet academic standards. His speeches and lectures are tailored to his various audiences, and, as far as I am concerned, he has never been filmed talking to a crowd of his peers from the Psychology Department.

Lastly, my argument definitely could be construed as just another derivative of the ISIS-not-real-Muslims type, but I actually had already answered this point in Round 2. I expressly asked that the current radical left be called "radical postmodernists", underlining both the postmodern heritage and the radical departure from the base material. I would also suggest that it is equally weak to label ISIS fighters as "just Muslims", as there is an obvious difference between moderate and radical Islam. Note, however, that in the case of who from the moderate or radical Muslim gets to meet more of the standards laid down in the Quran and be a 'true' Muslim, chances are the radical wins this one (although I am in no way on authority on the subject). In the case of postmodernism, however, the moderates win the round.
TheUnexaminedLife

Con

& vice versa, if you look carefully, I am not saying that Cuba and Vietnam have entirely successful governmental systems: rather, that they have had some successes. I just thought you were being too readily dismissive of Marxist theory. And how we measure the success of a nation is an entirely different debate. I'm not too convinced that we can judge them by using the criterion of capitalism (though Vietnam has still been successful in this regards).

Dr.Peterson can be quite insightful, but here he presents his worldview and interpretations on texts as opposed to the theory of these texts themselves (evident in some of his lectures which only loosely-relate to those he is lecturing on)... In the video you sent, he is basically performing for a public audience. He simply gives his opinions without providing a strong argument or evidence that directly supports them. If you're accepting his views just based on such material (which I'm not suggesting you, personally, are), that isn't good enough. Go read the texts. One of his slogans is "the data is quite clear on this": be sceptical of anyone who claims to be the singular mouthpiece for any current empirical research.

Overall, it hasn't been clear what you've been arguing. You abandoned the notion that the radical left aren't a development of postmodernism, for you saw that they were just taking further the precepts of classic postmodernist theory. You called these 'radical postmodernists'. Then, you argued that 'radical postmodernist theory' is incompatible with postmodernism, despite it clearly stemming from it. When, in actual fact, postmodernist theory is still being written in support of what Dr.Peterson is sceptical on citing classical texts, like the proliferation of labels in the LGBT movement and re-centring of discourse on identity politics. If your argument is simply: modern postmodernists have gone beyond the classical texts, well then duh... It's been 50 years. Who are these moderates you defend? Comment
Debate Round No. 4
45 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by EndonLenn 3 years ago
EndonLenn
I absolutely agree that Mr. Damore suggestions appear redundant. I am not sure how he would intend to put in place is system that is both more people-centered, and just as competitive as before. I suspect he does not know himself.

Your three categories are a little confusing, since you mix perception and reality. I was specifically talking of three categories of perception since we know perception <> reality. Anyway, that is only a detail. I would only add that, when one's self-perception is really absurd, ridicule or judgment is not enough: sometimes therapy is necessary. That is no big news of course, but I for one consider that the Otherkin might be in serious need of such therapy. It is well known that trans-genders suffer greatly from stress, anxiety, or even depression. This is too often partly due to bullying and others forms of intimidation, but depression anyway arises from nothing more than the disconnect mind-body that occurs around one's identity. I can only wonder what it must be like to think a part of you comes from another dimension in which dragons thrive.

Honestly, I would to think of the Otherkin as an over-identification with the lizard parts of our brain. However, this seems pretty unlikely if we consider a few things: the last common ancestor between humans and reptiles lived more than 200 million years ago; our brains are significantly different from modern reptilian brains (even in the parts that we, and all animals, share). It is a balance of probability, but it seems more likely Otherkin simply identifies with a representation of a reptile coming right out of their unconscious - hence a human version of a reptile - than there being a 'lizard brain' in their heads. It is certain, however, that recognising the presence of an animal or mystical figure in their perceived identity is key to communication.
Posted by TheUnexaminedLife 3 years ago
TheUnexaminedLife
I'm sure by habit and performed actions, they could create a few neural pathways which would enable them to function more like lizards, as well.
Posted by TheUnexaminedLife 3 years ago
TheUnexaminedLife
Say someone identifies as a lizard; they appear human and thereby will be recognised as human. However, it could be that the parts of the brain humans have in common with lizards is over-active in this person, and that their behaviours and cosmetic appearance somewhat resemble the behaviour and appearance of lizards. Sure, their DNA would still be human, but their analogy in identifying with lizards would not be altogether false. It would in fact have some utility, be apt, in describing how they differ from other humans.
Posted by TheUnexaminedLife 3 years ago
TheUnexaminedLife
Concerning the Google Memo, we are now just speculating on Google's admissions policy into engineering work without any data. So, I think we've exhausted the topic. Though to briefly respond to your point, if Mr.Damore was merely suggesting several ways to attract more women in general to engineering by suggesting that engineering work should slightly change in-itself, then I find his suggestions even more redundant. He would basically be suggesting that engineering should be open to a larger sect of women by appealing to traits generally associated with the female sex. However, this doesn't seem to improve engineering work or efficiency at all. Instead, women with pre-existing dispositions for the job in their educations and lives should be encouraged to develop these traits thereby increasing the number of women applying for engineering jobs. This would make the application process more competitive. Though, I think there are still sufficient number of women applying for engineering jobs as to take up a large number of positions in major corporations, even if there are less women than men applying for such jobs. I.e. don't change engineering, create the conditions where there would be a larger number of women applying for such engineering jobs.

There are three categories: how I perceive myself, how others perceive me, and how I actually am. How others perceive me, is not necessarily how I actually am (that's a big philosophical question into the nature of the human condition and consciousness, etc.). Neither is how I perceive myself. Nonetheless, society ought to recognise at least the emotions and right of the individual to claim their own identity and not be fettered entirely by social perceptions. If the identity one proclaims, however, is completely absurd (e.g. I am the Messiah!), then other's have the right to ridicule and judge you. The tension is in finding a compromise between the two.
Posted by EndonLenn 3 years ago
EndonLenn
Sure, society is wrong about your identity because it is too dogmatic. To that we should add that the people around you are also wrong about you, because they have no access to your thoughts. But you are also wrong about yourself, because you have no idea what lies in your unconscious. However, none of these three actors are entirely wrong either: society is right on the two (three if you count hermaphrodites, which I usually do not) most basic forms of sexual identity; those around you are sometimes more right about you than you are yourself, especially when you are overrun with emotions; and introspection sometimes - though the indeterminacy remains - leads to satisfying results. Conclusion: identity is a negotiation between those three actors, and none has a monopoly over it. If this is correct, than it allows us to refute Otherkin's argument swiftly, and carry on.

Lastly, as to which authors I like reading: depending on how open I am able to remain to new ideas, anyone that does not have too sloppy a writing style (and in that last regard, reading Dr. Peterson's 12 Rules was a real pain at times). It is just a matter of motivation really.
Posted by EndonLenn 3 years ago
EndonLenn
Now onto the subject of identity. First, I would like to confirm that we are talking about the same thing (if we are not, then what follows does not apply). When you say identity, would I be wrong in supposing that you are talking about self-perceived identity? If I guessed this right, then I will use the Otherkin as an example once more, to show that self-perceived identity and biological transformation are not contingent. That is, the reduction of self-perceived identity, which is what Mrs. Butler expounds upon, is only limited by our imagination. If you consider that bodily features are tools for the imprinting of society's standard of identity (which I agree with), then there is nothing preventing you from rejecting those features altogether, and proclaim that the body itself is only an imprinting. Note that this is exactly the type of argument Otherkin makes, and there is nothing Mrs. Butler can say to disabuse them. Even though it is obvious from looking at them that they are human - and I know no feminist/etc in the world would argue otherwise -, Butler's dependence on self-perception in the context of identity leads to the following conclusion: anything goes. After all, in her theory, nothing can be definitely established as not being influenced by society in the least, meaning there always remain a certain level of indeterminacy as to what is real or not.

Of course, I am not really expecting you to agree to the previous conclusion - this is a debate after all. But if, for one moment, we suppose I am right, then the answer to the problem of self-perceived identity is quite simple: it is not real either. Nobody knows who they 'truly' are, or who they are not, and self-perception is no more than self-deception.
Posted by EndonLenn 3 years ago
EndonLenn
The "unconscious bias" thing was my mistake, although I would recommend the use of quotation marks, if I may.

It still seems to me that the only possible reason why Google would put quotas in place is because there are too few competent-enough women applying. In this case, Mr. Damore suggestions offer a more pragmatic approach: aim at increasing the population of competent female candidates, relative to men. On the other hand, Google's strategy creates an imbalance: hire more from the already available female pool, even if some lack just a tinge of what would make them competent enough. If, as you say, the female candidates were really more competent on average than their counterparts, which allowed some less competent candidate to still be competent enough to get the job, there would be no need for quotas in the first place. Women might have had to work harder to appear competent, but that does not apply to Google, since the company actively promotes diversity: any sort of anti-female-engineer bias is unlikely to apply to them. From their follows the obvious conclusion: their are not enough competent women applying for the job to naturally fill Google's quotas.
Posted by TheUnexaminedLife 3 years ago
TheUnexaminedLife
P.S. just out of polite curiosity, can I ask what authors you like reading?
Posted by TheUnexaminedLife 3 years ago
TheUnexaminedLife
The point I was making about identity, in answering your question: where does the reduction end?, was in answering that it ends with our ability to biologically become that which we identify with. One of Judith Butler's points is that the terms "masculine" and "feminine" presuppose that traits generally held by "men" and "women" are essentially held by all males and females. This is not necessarily the case, she argues, and which I bring up in your raising of the terms "masculine and feminine". I don't think we disagree on this account. But, I asked you who actually are the radical postmodernists you rage against in the real world? And, the best answer you have given me is that they are those who identify with animals. This hardly appears to be the group you were originally going for; I remain unconvinced that you're not arguing against an imaginary people.

Are there groups and institutions which are left-leaning is society? Yes, of course. Do they dismiss scientific evidence for ideology without acknowledging evident biological truths? No, I don't think so.
Posted by TheUnexaminedLife 3 years ago
TheUnexaminedLife
Mr. Damore accused Google of unconscious biases; I was being ironic in reverting them back onto himself. You can read his memo is several ways, that I will concede. But, it doesn't follow that from there being less women applying for engineering jobs, that there are insufficient women applying for the jobs to fill Google's quotas. It just means that competent women engineers have to compete with less job candidates, if Google already has a predilection towards hiring female employees. There being less female candidates for such jobs than males, however, does not mean that Google will choose a less competent female over a male just to fill their quotas. I don't know why we would assume that just because female engineers are a smaller group than male engineers, that they are at the equivalent level of skill and motivation as their counterparts. It could be that because engineering is deemed a male-based job, that female employees have had to work harder and against social expectation to appear as competent as them. This would mean that the group of "female engineers". whilst fewer in number, are on average more competent than the average male candidate at the application process. Furthermore, you haven't considered that there are business advantages to having a more diverse workforce.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by RMTheSupreme 3 years ago
RMTheSupreme
EndonLennTheUnexaminedLife
Who won the debate:Vote Checkmark-
Reasons for voting decision: Something Con fails to do in the entire debate is prove that 'Leftists' which isn't defined by clearly both sides didn't troll the other in agreeing was left-wing advocates, are postmodernists. Con tries to prove, in the last Round, that Pro themselves admitted that the resolution is false since Pro stated that radical Leftists and postmodernists have similarities in the basis of their outlook but Con doesn't explain why having similar roots means you are the same and also fails to explain why non-radical leftists are postmodernists. I know that Con thinks they were clever in quoting Pro and using Pro's analogy against himself/herself but in the end that's a strawman which they brought in the last round and which Pro had no further round to defend against so I didn't like how it was pulled off and it also was insufficient evidence to prove that leftists are postmodernists and thus the win goes to Pro, for me.
Vote Placed by dsjpk5 3 years ago
dsjpk5
EndonLennTheUnexaminedLife
Who won the debate:-Vote Checkmark

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