Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Solomon among the Postmoderns

My sister, much to my parents dismay was a punk from 1977-1979. The whole deal-tartan trousers, purple hair and a leather jacket with 'Joy Division' written in large white letters on its back. I can still see it now. She often now complains that today's teenagers don't have that same 1977 fire. I tend to agree.

The reason is perhaps postmodernity.

What's that you ask? Well, on one level its a load of French philosophers with too much time on their hands drinking coffee who thought too much (Michael Foucault being most prominent). Their central thesis is that truth is relative. A postmodern really really dislikes the absolute.

'Modernity is a clock; postmodernity is a turbulent stream...In a word, modernity is mid-twentieth century Detroit; post-modernity is Vegas' [Page 58]

In Solomon among the Postmoderns, Peter Leithart looks at the history of philosophical thought covering its three giant pillars; the Enlightenment, Modernity and the current season of Post-modernity (or are we now in post-post?). He looks at it rather cleverly through the book of Ecclesiastes and as a study grappling with big thoughts this a pretty good one. It did lose me in parts but in the main it was very accessible and a good primer.

There a lots of good stories, the best of which was the story of Duncan McDougall. In 1907, he discovered that humans at the point of death lost weight. Dogs when they die don't apparently. He concluded that this must be the departure of the soul. He was so fascinated by this that he decided to discover the weight of the human soul. 21 grams is the answer. [Page 108]. How cool and mad was he!

If you are interested in philosophy and want to cover it all in 160 pages then this is the read for you. If my sister reads it, it might go some way to explaining to her why there are no bands as good as the Ramones and why it is no one goes on marches any more. Ah marches-remember those.

The times they certianly have a changed.


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