Postmodern Journeys 04

Walk On ! 04

By Joseph Natoli

Trnaslated by Springhero

     Let me put the paradox on a less abstract level, in fact, on an everyday level: In order to test my theory that we journey in a different way as postmodernists than as modernists, that the postmodern take on the encounter between identity and difference necessitates a whole new way of “ studying other cultures and peoples, “ I proposed to do a series of “ study abroad” programs, specifically rail and hostel tours of Europe.


       While I proposed that our journey include stays in several European countries, I announced that mastery of the different languages, histories, politics, arts, literatures, folkways, and so on was not claimed by me, nor was it a goal of the program, although I didn’t set the program up to discourage interest in any of these. Here’s my argument in one long sentence:


      If the world is configured differently in different states of “ throwness,” different latitudes and longitudes of mediation, within each of which we “ make” the world differently by encouncing different stories about it, and we have neither an unimpeachable rod by which to measure the value of each nor a foundation of prior absolute and universal judgment upon which to stand, then no one’s mastery can stand unimpeached and each of us is compelled to ‘ walk on!” both geographically and ontologically.


        Indeed, what I hoped to reach through these journeys was a perception of what comprises our being-in-the-world as humans as well as, through a continual clash of identity and difference, what is shackled or rejected by the particular circumstances of our own societal and cultural throwness.


       In short, the journey was toward making conceivable what previously had no existence in the mind of the traveler and thus toward extending the panorama of human awareness, imagination, empathy, sympathy, understanding. We were traveling along the hermeneutic circle of contrastive, differently situated, and contextualized cultural interpretations.


        My intent here was countered by a series of questions. While I had answers to all of these questions, my answers emerged from a postmodern way of knowing the world and that way produced the reasoning that made my “ answers” answers. The questions, on the other hand, emerged from a modernist way of knowing the world and that way produced the reasoning that asked the questions and could not at the same time find my answers to be reasonable, or “ good answers.”


      I was inferring that “ reason” came out of the lifeworld and did not exist outside it or prior to it, although stories of what is reasonable vary according to time and place. So we were back to the lifeworld, to the notion of everything, being sculpted or worded or sounded from within a personal, social, and cultural framing of the world, including our entire “ critical reasoning” enterprise.


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