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Community and incommensurability: Modern and postmodern modes of thought and (post)modern vacillations in Enzensberger's writing

Kilian, Monika (1996) Community and incommensurability: Modern and postmodern modes of thought and (post)modern vacillations in Enzensberger's writing. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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Abstract

This thesis examines postmodern challenges to the modern understanding of subjectivity, reality, rationality and morality and uses the work of Hans Magnus Enzensberger to exemplify and comment on the debates between modern and postmodern thought.

The modern and the postmodern are presented as modes of thought (rather than as specific theories) that are defined by the way their respective discourses are conducted. This thesis shows how modern and postmodern ways of thinking approach the concepts of the subject and the Self, the notions of reality, truth and representation, the problem of morality and justice, and the question of what it means to be rational.

The impetus behind postmodern thought is its dissatisfaction - on both cognitive and moral grounds with the universalising and commensurating strategies of modern discourse. To ensure the heterogeneity of individual paradigms, as well as to safeguard their autonomy and "purity" (Lyotard), postmodern thought promotes incommensurability and advances a type of discourse that is suspicious of metanarratives and resists methodological constraints.

The postmodern insistence on incommensurability and plurality, however, becomes especially problematic where the issue of morality is concerned. This thesis argues that the very notion of morality depends on an intersubjective "we" to distinguish it from the self-interest of moral relativism. From the postmodern perspective, however, the notion of community threatens the inviolability of the individual and brings about the spectre of coercion. This thesis examines the different ways postmodern thought approaches the problem of incommensurability and morality, while maintaining its opposition to relativism.

The above themes are discussed with reference to Enzensberger's writing through which he raises his concerns about both modes of thinking. This thesis contends that although Enzensberger generally supports the open-ended, pluralistic discourse of postmodern thought and disputes the validity of the either/or approach of modern thought, his writing nevertheless retains a critical awareness of the limitations of both modem and postmodern attitudes.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Humanities
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: repository@murdoch.edu.au. Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Kalaga, Wojciech, Colebrook, Claire and Nielsen, Brett
URI: http://researchrepository.murdoch.edu.au/id/eprint/52969
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