JG. Wattimo. Postmodernism: Transparent society? - Reader on philosophy

JG. Wattimo. Postmodernism: A Transparent Society?

WATTIMO Gianni (born 1936) is an Italian philosopher, aesthetician, culturologist, representative of the hermeneutic version of postmodern philosophy. He was a disciple of Paraison, experienced the influence of Nietzsche, Heidegger, Gadamer. Since 1969, Professor of the University of Turin. Prefers the term late modernity & quot ;, and not postmodernity ( postmodern ). Defines contemporary society as a "society of universal communication".

Recognizes the collapse of the main enlightenment ideals of humanism, giving way to skepticism, nihilism and cynicism. He believes that the post-modernity caused "erosion" all fundamental principles, including the "reality principle", as well as the concepts of being, subject, truth, etc., making them "weakened". Believes that the organization of the post-modern world is technological, and its essence is aesthetic.

Essential Works : End of Modernity (1987); Transparent Society (1990); Beyond the interpretation (1994).

Today there is a lot of talk about postmodernity - so much is said about it, that now it has become almost mandatory to take a certain distance in relation to this concept: whether to consider it a transitory fashion, whether to declare it yet another overcome concept ... I think that everything same - the concept of "postmodern" makes sense, and this meaning is due to the fact that the society in which we live is a society of universal communication, a mass media society.

First of all: we are talking about postmodernity, because we believe that in some of its most important, essential aspect, modernity (modernita) is completed. The meaning that we have in mind, saying that the present is completed, depends on what is meant in each concrete case under modernity. I believe that among its numerous definitions there is one which can not be disagreed: modernity is an era when the very fact of being modern becomes a certain value. I think that not only in Italian, but also in many others, will still be an insult to tell anyone that he is a "reactionary", that is, a person tied to the values ​​of the past, to a tradition "surpassed" forms of thinking. Such or about such a praise of modern existence, the "eulogical" to him the attitude is just what, from my point of view, characterizes the whole of modern culture.

This attitude was not particularly noticeable until the end of Quattrocento ("official" beginning of the modern era), although from that time onwards an increasingly intense cult of the new, original, is gradually emerging. [...]

With the passage of centuries, it becomes more and more obvious that the cult of the new and original in art is associated with a more general worldview, which, as in the Age of Enlightenment, regards human history as a progressive process of emancipation, as an increasingly perfect realization of the ideal person [ ...] However, the condition for the perception of history as a progressive realization of true humanity is the possibility of considering it as a single process. You can talk about progress only if there is one story.

So, in the hypothesis that I propose, modernity ends, when - for many reasons - it is no longer possible to talk about history as something unified. This vision of history actually carries the idea of ​​the existence of a center around which events are organized and organized. We think of history as ordered around the zero year of the birth of Christ, and more specifically as a cohesion of the historical destinies of peoples central (middle) region of the Earth - the West, which is the receptacle of civilization and beyond which there are "primitive" peoples, "developing nations".

The philosophy of the turn of the XIX and XX centuries radically criticized the idea of ​​a single history, exposing the ideological nature of these ideas. Thus, Walter Benjamin in a small text in 1938 (Theses to the philosophy of history) argued that history as a kind of single movement is such a representation of the past that was generated by socially dominant groups and classes. What, in fact, is passed on to us from the past? Not everything that happened, but only what seems important: for example, at school we learned a lot of dates of peace pacts, and battles, and revolutions, but we have never been told about the changes in our way of eating, about how it was organized our sexual experience. Thus, what history tells about is the stories of people who have a social weight: the stories of the nobles, princes or the bourgeoisie when it becomes the ruling class; but the stories of the poor, as well as those aspects of life that are considered "low", do not "constitute stories".

If such arguments arise (in the direction indicated even before Benjamin Marx and Nietzsche), in the end we come to the fact that the idea of ​​history as a single movement begins to dissolve. There is no single story, there are images of the past that correspond to different points of view, and illusion will believe that there is a higher, all-encompassing point of view that can unite all the others: what would a global "history" look like that would encompass the history of art, literature, wars , sexuality, etc.?

The crisis of the idea of ​​history entails also the crisis of the idea of ​​progress: if there is no single course of human history, it is also impossible to assert that it is moving toward a certain goal, that a rational project of perfection, enlightenment, and emancipation is realized here. However, the goal that, according to modernity, guided the course of events, was also presented in the perspective of a certain vision of the human ideal. Enlighteners, Hegel, Marx, positivists, historians of all sorts believed - more or less uniformly - that the meaning of history is the realization of civilization and, consequently, the model of existence embodied in a modern European man. [...]

If you take into account all of the above, it becomes clear that the modern crisis of the concept of a single history, as well as the resulting crisis of the idea of ​​progress and the end of the present, is born not only by changes in the theoretical order - for example, the criticism that was subjected to the historicism of the nineteenth century - idealistic, positivist, Marxist in its foundations. Something else and much more happened: primitive peoples, i.e. those considered in this capacity are peoples colonized by Europeans for the sake of an obvious right more "high" and a more developed civilization, rebelled and in fact made a single, centralized history problematic. The European ideal of humanity appeared only as one of the ideals among others. This ideal is not necessarily bad, but it can not be attempted, without violence, to be presented as the true essence of a person, of each person.

Along with the completion of colonialism and imperialism, there was another important factor that was decisive for blurring the idea of ​​history and for ending modernity: this is the advent of the communication society.

I turn now to the second item, which refers to the "transparent society". I turn, observing some caution: the expression transparent society here it is entered with a question mark. Saying this, I intend to state the following:

a) in the birth of the society of postmodern the crucial role belongs to the mass media;

b) Mass media characterize this society not as a society more "transparent", more self-conscious, more "enlightened", but as a society more complex, even chaotic; and, finally,

c) it is in this relative "chaos" Our hopes for emancipation are rooted.

[...] It is this reality that determines the transition of our society to the era of postmodernity. And this is true not only in relation to other crops

tourist universums ( third world & quot ;, for example). Within itself, the West is also experiencing an explosion, a pluralistic boom that can not be resisted and which makes it impossible to understand the world and history on the basis of all-inclusive, all-inclusive views.

It is for these reasons that the mass media community is the complete opposite of the society of a more enlightened, more educated (in the sense of Lessing, or Hegel, or Comte, or Marx). Mass media, which theoretically make it possible to obtain information about everything that is happening in the world in the "real-time" mode, could in fact be represented by some concrete realization of the Absolute Spirit of Hegel, that is, the perfect self-consciousness of all mankind, the coincidence between what happens, the history and human awareness. [...]

But the release of many cultures and many Weltanschaungen, made possible by the mass media, refutes the very ideal of a transparent society: what would be the meaning of freedom of information or simply the existence of a multitude of radio and television channels in the world where the exact reproduction of reality, impeccable objectivity, a complete coincidence of the map with the terrain? In fact, increasing our information capabilities in relation to the most varied aspects of reality makes the idea of ​​a single reality less understandable. Perhaps, in the world of mass media, the "prophecy" is realized; Nietzsche: the real world eventually turns into a fairy tale. If we have the idea of ​​reality, then, proceeding from our existence in the situation of late modernity, reality can never be understood as an objective given that is on top or on the other side of images presented to us by the media. How and where can we achieve reality in ourselves & quot ;? Reality for us is more the result of interlacing (contaminazione, infections in the Latin sense) of numerous images, interpretations, reconstructions, which, competing with each other, and, at any rate, without any central coordination, disseminate the mass media.

The thesis that I'm going to propose is that in the mass media society instead of the ideal of freedom built on the model of self-consciousness, which would explain itself completely, instead of fully knowing the subject about how everything really is (be the Absolute Spirit of Hegel, or, in accordance with Marx's thought, a man who is not a slave to the ideology) - in that society an ideal of freedom is gradually realized, based more on oscillation, multiplicity and, ultimately, the erosion of the reality principle itself

A person today can finally understand that perfect, complete freedom is ns freedom in the understanding of Spinoza; it does not lie-as metaphysics has always dreamed-in knowing the necessary structure of reality and in adapting to it. On the contrary, the significance of the philosophical teachings of such authors as Nietzsche and Heidegger is fully revealed here; it is embodied in the fact that they offer us tools for understanding the liberating sense of the completion of modernity and its inherent idea of ​​history.

Nietzsche showed that the image of reality arranged in accordance with some reasonable basis (the prism through which metaphysics always viewed the world) is only "calming" the myth of humanity, still primitive and barbaric: metaphysics is still a wild way to respond to the situation of threat and violence; in fact, the desire to master.

In a society of universal communication and a multiplicity of cultures, the meeting with other worlds and forms of life does not look as speculative as it was in Dilthey: "other" the possibilities of existence are realized before our very eyes, they are represented by numerous dialects or even cultural universes, to which anthropology and ethnology open us access. To live in this diverse world means to have the experience of freedom, to feel it as an unceasing oscillation between involvement and lostness. [...]

But this is the problematic of freedom, that we ourselves do not know enough yet how to imagine it. We need an effort to think of hesitation as freedom: still rooted in us - in individuals and in society - longing for closed horizons, threatening and reassuring at the same time.

Nihilist philosophers such as Nietzsche and Heidegger (but also pragmatists such as Dewey or Wittgenstein) are trying to tell us the ability to capture this experience of the oscillation of the postmodern world, to see in it the chance of a new way to be humane. They show that being does not necessarily coincide with a stable, unchanging, permanent, but it is connected with an event, consent, dialogue, interpretation.

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