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Augustine’s Cup: Boundary Conditions and Relocating Science in a Post-postmodern World
Unformatted Document Text:  implications, but invokes them because he finds them useful in justifying aesthetic and intellectual experimentation. The element of James’ thinking that perhaps deserves greater development, in the context of the problems addressed in this essay, is that of boundary conditions and relationships between systems of belief and inquiry. How do a variety of systems of belief, of methods of inquiry, accommodate themselves within an intellectual community, or within the intellect of a single individual? How permeable are the boundaries between these systems? Is there creative exchange, syncretic fusion, or does each operate, as it were, in parallel universes, obeying different laws of thought, value and method, for different purposes, like those hypothesized universes that may be based on different laws of physics? These are the unanswered questions implicit in James’s generous intellectual stance, questions that have been obscured by the subsequent developments in pragmatism but that come into focus when viewed through the lens provided by postmodernist concerns. Of Boundary Conditions, Limits on Systems of Ideas, and Post-postmodernism The use of the phrase “post-postmodernism” is intended to highlight some particular issues with respect to postmodernism. Postmodernism is a peculiar term. It locates a system of thought in time (following modernism) and defines that system as a reaction to the philosophic and aesthetic practices characterizing modernism. Indeed, the strength of postmodernism is as a system of criticism, as a corrective to an exceptionally constructive and durable modern world-view that in some ways was becoming increasingly removed from contemporary experience and concerns. Conversely, a system that defines itself as a transitional moment and as a reaction is not likely to sustain very long in its present form. I would be hardly the first to note the logical inconsistency of those versions of postmodernism that argue for the legitimacy of all manner of belief narratives, yet strive

Authors: Slater, Michael.
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implications, but invokes them because he finds them useful in justifying aesthetic and
intellectual experimentation.
The element of James’ thinking that perhaps deserves greater development, in the
context of the problems addressed in this essay, is that of boundary conditions and
relationships between systems of belief and inquiry. How do a variety of systems of belief,
of methods of inquiry, accommodate themselves within an intellectual community, or within
the intellect of a single individual? How permeable are the boundaries between these
systems? Is there creative exchange, syncretic fusion, or does each operate, as it were, in
parallel universes, obeying different laws of thought, value and method, for different
purposes, like those hypothesized universes that may be based on different laws of physics?
These are the unanswered questions implicit in James’s generous intellectual stance,
questions that have been obscured by the subsequent developments in pragmatism but that
come into focus when viewed through the lens provided by postmodernist concerns.
Of Boundary Conditions, Limits on Systems of Ideas, and Post-postmodernism
The use of the phrase “post-postmodernism” is intended to highlight some
particular issues with respect to postmodernism. Postmodernism is a peculiar term. It
locates a system of thought in time (following modernism) and defines that system as a
reaction to the philosophic and aesthetic practices characterizing modernism. Indeed, the
strength of postmodernism is as a system of criticism, as a corrective to an exceptionally
constructive and durable modern world-view that in some ways was becoming increasingly
removed from contemporary experience and concerns. Conversely, a system that defines
itself as a transitional moment and as a reaction is not likely to sustain very long in its present
form. I would be hardly the first to note the logical inconsistency of those versions of
postmodernism that argue for the legitimacy of all manner of belief narratives, yet strive


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