Postmodernist Bilgewater Generator

I have just discovered this hilarious computer programme, the Postmodern Essay Generator that generates anything a post-modernist student could ever want if he is late handing in an essay. Every time you renew this page, you get a completely different essay.

The language and jargon are meaningless, what the French call langue de bois. A friend of mine and fellow undergraduate at Fribourg called this stuff, even when written by humans, intellectual masturbation! It is tempting to react with Enlightenment rationalism and Yorkshire grit, but the response has to be a lot more subtle.

I am presently trying to get my mind around the theory of knowledge in German Idealism and Romanticism. Fortunately, these notions are largely based on Plato and Aristotle, and can be approached by traditional means with enough work. Until I get much clearer in this domain, I would not dream of trying to write anything new on that subject. I am attracted by the late eighteenth-century reaction against materialism and determinism, the human being treated as a machine. God and consciousness precede matter, not the other way round. The fundamental intuitions of Idealism have attracted me, but the more I discover, the more study I have to do. That is quite different from post-modernism, because for me language has its limits, but it’s the only way we have to communicate with each other, to relate, to negotiate and learn from each other. Take the validity away from language and the world will become a shit-hole, literally!

I did wonder if there was a remote link between Romanticism and Post-modernism, a kind of Devil’s Advocate argument that I was treading in dangerous waters. I find no sign of it. The philosophical (if you want to abuse that noble word) roots of post-modernism come from post World War II Paris, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault and Jacques Lacan in particular. This is an interesting article on Post-modernism, giving a humorous criticism of matters like identity politics and Islamic theocracies, which really amount to little more like the ideology of Chinese and North Korean Communism – and of Big Brother.

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7 Responses to Postmodernist Bilgewater Generator

  1. Timothy Graham says:

    If you want a (fruitful) link between Romanticism and Post-modernism, written in clear and lucid English, then look into Owen Barfield. He was one of the Inklings of course. I felt that the world had been turned upside-down – maybe the right way up again – after reading his “Saving the Appearances”. He also wrote the best book I’ve read on Coleridge’s philosophy, “What Coleridge Thought”. He is a Romantic, yes, an Idealist, but also qualifies as Post-modern because of his rejection of crude scientific realism. Unlike some Post-modernists he had a philosophy to articulate, he wasn’t simply into clever-dick deconstruction. It is arguable that he was a deeper thinker philosophically than Lewis & Tolkien.

    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      There is apparently an English version of Norbert Feinendegen, Denk-Weg zu Christus. C. S. Lewis als kritischer Denker der Moderne. Ratio Fidei, Band 37. (Regensburg: Verlag Friedrich Pustet, 2008) in the works. He is one of the editors of The “Great War” of Owen Barfield and C. S. Lewis: Philosophical Writings 1927-1930 (Inklings Studies Supplements № 1 (2015) ) – a fascinating, though not an easy, read!

    • This is going to be quite a challenge. My intuition is that there is post-modernism, simply because it is a reaction against modern “realism” and materialism along similar lines to Idealism / Romanticism. There is also the “clever-dick deconstruction”, identity politics and totalitarianism. I suppose that also comes “after” modernism. The big problem is the use of words and language that mean different things to different people. Already there is divergence between the Idealism of Kant, Hegel – and Schlegel and Novalis in terms of epistemology. The saving feature is their being united more or less by Plato’s theory of Universal Ideas. The “post-modernists” of our time are not. I go on reading, because I have to know what I am talking about! I have a long way to go and a lot to learn… Owen Barfield is my next port of call.

  2. Timothy Graham says:

    David – you mention a recent 2015 “Great War” publication. I have an older publication from 1978 originally (ed. Lionel Adey) – do you know if the new book adds anything?

    I was at a day-conference on Barfield in Oxford about 2 years ago, run partly by his grandson Owen, but I can’t see that anything is planned at the moment. Most of Barfield’s output is here:
    …although I think that the current inheritors of Barfield’s literary estate are very much into Steiner, whereas I remain ambivalent to that side of Barfield. It is integral to his thought though.

    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      Yes – this is the actual stuff Lionel Adey discusses, available in full, at last!

      Have a look here:

      I just missed meeting Owen (the grandson) in Oxford two years ago, myself (slow traffic from the airport!), and was encouraged to get in contact by someone who knows him – and timorously and idiotically have yet to do so. (I had the pleasure of meeting Owen Barfield more than once, back in the day – I was on the committee that invited him to give the talk “Lewis and/or Barfield” – later published in Owen Barfield on C.S. Lewis (Wesleyan UP, 1989.)

      I am… I suppose ‘bewildered’ is not a bad word-choice – about the Steiner connexion, and have not plunged into trying to read enough by and about Barfield which addresses this specifically.

  3. Timothy Graham says:

    Thanks for the link on the Great War book, I’m looking forward to reading the full text. I envy you very much for having met Barfield. I was 18 when he died. I have unsuccessfully tried to contact Walter Hooper – just to talk to someone who talked to the Inklings! – but I believe he is quite advanced in years now and I don’t want to be a nuisance.

    I have some sympathies with Steiner’s philosophy, as distilled by Barfield and separated out from his more esoteric doctrines. His followers tend to be true believers, but I don’t have much sympathy with all the eurhythmy stuff etc., and unfortunately some of them don’t take kindly to a critical attitude towards the man and the educational practices. I can’t help thinking that there is something profoundly important in it: I mean their philosophical ideas and especially Goethe’s qualitative approach to science, but they have turned it into something of a personality cult and the potential good is locked up and lost in their odd rituals and terminology.

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