The Postmodernism Generator and beliefs paying rent

The Postmodernism Generator is a program that automatically generates random, completely meaningless “postmodernist” essays. Related: the snarXiv for physics, the famous Sokal affair (“quantum gravity is a social construct” – see Derrida’s response here), SCIgen for computer science….

Here’s an example of (a portion of) an essay auto-generated by the Postmodernism Generator:

Objectivism in the works of Joyce

2. “Expressions of rubicon”

The main theme of the works of Joyce is a self-falsifying whole. Marx promotes the use of neocapitalist theory to analyse and challenge society. It could be said that Lacan uses the term ‘Marxist capitalism’ to denote the bridge between truth and class.

The primary theme of Cameron’s[5] critique of objectivism is a structuralist reality. Therefore, Foucault uses the term ‘neocapitalist theory’ to denote not discourse as such, but neodiscourse.

Sartre suggests the use of the postdialectic paradigm of consensus to attack colonialist perceptions of sexuality. However, the premise of neocapitalist theory holds that reality is a product of communication, given that Foucault’s model of preconstructivist theory is invalid.

Baudrillard uses the term ‘material neomodernist theory’ to denote the role of the participant as observer. In a sense, the subject is interpolated into a neocapitalist theory that includes art as a totality.

This is why beliefs must pay rent – in other words, they must constrain anticipated experiences (it’s what gives a scientific theory its predictive power for instance, otherwise if it could explain everything it would explain nothing and therefore be useless). To elaborate:

Suppose your postmodern English professor teaches you that the famous writer Wulky Wilkinsen is actually a “post-utopian”. What does this mean you should expect from his books? Nothing. The belief, if you can call it that, doesn’t connect to sensory experience at all. But you had better remember the propositional assertion that “Wulky Wilkinsen” has the “post-utopian” attribute, so you can regurgitate it on the upcoming quiz. Likewise if “post-utopians” show “colonial alienation”; if the quiz asks whether Wulky Wilkinsen shows colonial alienation, you’d better answer yes. The beliefs are connected to each other, though still not connected to any anticipated experience.

We can build up whole networks of beliefs that are connected only to each other—call these “floating” beliefs. It is a uniquely human flaw among animal species, a perversion of Homo sapiens’s ability to build more general and flexible belief networks.

The rationalist virtue of empiricism consists of constantly asking which experiences our beliefs predict—or better yet, prohibit.  Do you believe that phlogiston is the cause of fire?  Then what do you expect to see happen, because of that? Do you believe that Wulky Wilkinsen is a post-utopian? Then what do you expect to see because of that? No, not “colonial alienation”; what experience will happen to you?

It is even better to ask: what experience must not happen to you?  Do you believe that elan vital explains the mysterious aliveness of living beings?  Then what does this belief not allow to happen—what would definitely falsify this belief? A null answer means that your belief does not constrain experience; it permits anything to happen to you.  It floats.

When you argue a seemingly factual question, always keep in mind which difference of anticipation you are arguing about. If you can’t find the difference of anticipation, you’re probably arguing about labels in your belief network—or even worse, floating beliefs, barnacles on your network. If you don’t know what experiences are implied by Wulky Wilkinsen being a post-utopian, you can go on arguing forever. (You can also publish papers forever.)

Above all, don’t ask what to believe—ask what to anticipate.

Every question of belief should flow from a question of anticipation, and that question of anticipation should be the center of the inquiry.


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