Mimi Wolff


The Post Modern Condition: A Report on Knowledge
By: Jean-Francois Lyotard


1. The Field: Knowledge in Computerized Societies

            -status of knowledge changes as we enter “postmodern age”

-         focus on scientific and technological knowledge, having to do with language

        ex. Communications, computers and their languages, data banks, etc…

- functions of knowledge:

            1) research- ex- genetics

            2) transmission of acquired learning –ex- computers/machines changing the way we live life

-changing the way we learn if learning could be translated into quantities of information

- “We can predict that anything in the constituted body of knowledge that is not translatable in this way will be abandoned and that the direction of new research will be dictated by the possibility of its eventual results being translatable into computer language”

-what about knowledge that cannot be translated into machine language? Will it be abandoned?

-“The old principle that the acquisition of knowledge is indissociable from the training of minds or individuals, is becoming more obsolete”

- knowledge is taking the form of some sort of commodity- and item with producers and consumers

-goal is exchange of knowledge, then what is the purpose of knowledge? power?, future wars over information?

-“Knowledge ceases to be an end in itself, it loses its ‘use-value’”

- learning will circulate along the same lines as money

2. The Problem: Legitimation

            -legitimacy- questioning the status of knowledge

-computerization of highly developed societies allow us to focus on the transformation of knowledge and its effect on public power

- there is more to knowledge than scientific knowledge, conflicts with narrative knowledge

-for the scientific world, something must be legitimized through the scientific community

-direct link between science and the language of ethics and politics-right to decide what is true and what is just

-“Who decides what knowledge is and who knows what needs to be decided?”

3. The Method: Language Games

- a sender, an addressee, and referent (what the statement deals with)  critical to language/communication

-language games- “various categories of utterance can be defined in terms of rules specifying their properties and the uses to which they can be put”

-language pragmatic in context

4. The Nature of the Social Bond: The Modern Alternative

            -how knowledge is applied to society, either:

                        -1)society functions as a whole-optimistic outlook

                        -2) society is divided into two

            - “It is impossible to know what the state of knowledge is- in other words, the

            problems of its development and distribution are facing today- with out knowing

            something of the society within which it is situated”

5. The Nature of the Social Bond: The Postmodern Perspective

            -who will have access to the information that machines store

            -the ruling and privileges class will be making the decisions

            -“Each of us knows that our self does not amount to much”

            -what will be the point of learning then?

            -as an individual we are all connected to each other-ports for messages to pass


            -yet every time we speak we affect others(language games)

Back to the Syllabus