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David_Gerard comments on Making Beliefs Pay Rent (in Anticipated Experiences) - Less Wrong

110 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 28 July 2007 10:59PM

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Comment author: David_Gerard 02 December 2010 02:12:56PM *  7 points [-]

Indeed. Some rationalists have a fondness for using straw postmodernists to illustrate irrationality. (Note that Alan Sokal deliberately chose a very poor journal, not even peer-reviewed, to send his fake paper to.) It's really not all incomprehensible Frenchmen. While there may be a small number of postmodernists who literally do not believe objective reality exists, and some more who try to deconstruct actual science and not just the scientists doing it, it remains the case that the human cultural realm is inherently squishy and much more relative than people commonly assume, and postmodernism is a useful critical technique to get through the layers of obfuscation motivating many human cultural activities. Any writer of fiction who is any good, for instance, needs to know postmodernist techniques, whether they call them that or not.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 02 December 2010 03:46:53PM 3 points [-]

Yes.

That said, it's not too surprising that postmodernists are often the straw opponent of choice.

The idea that the categories we experience as "in the world" are actually in our heads is something postmodernists share with cognitive scientists; many of the topics discussed here (especially those explicitly concerned with cognitive bias) are part of that same enterprise.

I suspect this leads to a kind of uncanny valley effect, where something similar-but-different creates more revulsion than something genuinely opposed would.

Of course, knowing that does not make me any less frustrated with the sort of soi-disant postmodernist for whom category deconstruction is just a verbal formula, rather than the end result of actual thought.

I also weakly suspect that postmodernists get a particularly bad rap simply because of the oxymoronic name.

Comment author: David_Gerard 02 December 2010 03:51:29PM 1 point [-]

That said, it's not too surprising that postmodernists are often the straw opponent of choice.

Oh yeah. While it's far from a worthless field, and straw postmodernists are a sign of lazy thinking, it is also the case that postmodernism contains staggering quantities of complete BS.

Thankfully, these are also susceptible to postmodernist analysis, if not by those who wish to keep their status ...