I’ve never much felt like I was part of a cultural movement. I’m too much a “digital native” to be fully part of Gen X. I’m insufficiently idealistic to be a Millennial. I’m part of the transhumanist, the rationalist, and the effective altruist subcultures, but in a weak way that more resembles atomization than membership. And my philosophy is one of irreducible complexity. So I was surprised to discover I’m a metamodernist.

In a The Huffington Post piece from January, Seth Abramson describes metamodernism this way:

[M]etamodernism believes in reconstructing things that have been deconstructed with a view toward reestablishing hope and optimism in the midst of a period (the postmodern period) marked by irony, cynicism, and despair.
Generally speaking, metamodernism reconstructs things by joining their opposing elements in an entirely new configuration rather than seeing those elements as being in competition with one another. If postmodernism favored deconstructing wholes and then putting the resulting parts in zero-sum conflict with one another — a process generally referred to as “dialectics” — metamodernism focuses instead on dialogue, collaboration, simultaneity, and “generative paradox” (this last being the idea that combining things which seem impossible to combine is an act of meaningful creation, not anarchic destruction). Metamodernists will often say that they “oscillate” between extremes, which really just means that they move so quickly between two extremes that the way they act incorporates both these two extremes and everything between them. The result is something totally new.

Abramson goes on to examine how metamodernism manifests in music, art, film, literature, and memes and finds examples in the Childish Gambino, Shia LaBeouf, My Dinner with Andre, David Foster Wallace, and The Bee Movie. Elsewhere Abramson has compared metamodernism to other living cultural philosophies and sees similar relationships to those Chapman sees between different modes of meaning. Of greatest interest to me, though, is that metamodernism gives wider context to the philosophical work of myself and other post-rationalists.

Or maybe we should be the meta-rationalists to allude to metamodernism since there is much in metamodernism that jives with the meta-rational, especially the notion of reconstructing the deconstructed. Perhaps why we’ve so far struggled to make ourselves comprehensible is that our closest intellectual cousins, the post-modernists, were largely content to deconstruct things without reconstructing them. Comparing ourselves to them we are forced to explain how postmodernism failed despite having a good start, but if we compare ourselves to the metamodernists then the story is simpler because we also look to move beyond deconstruction to reconstruction, and not in spite of deconstruction but in the spirit of it. In this way our divergence from the rationalists seems to go beyond epistemological differences to a belief that the world can be deconstructed while maintaining its shape rather than being reducible.

tennis is basically baseball

Sorry if that seems like a lot of inside baseball, but how meta-rationality is understood by others has been a salient topic for me of late. Rest assured that my drafts folder is filled with posts on the relationship between feedback and suffering, the important of regression to the mean, and my ever elusive mathematical foundation for phenomenology. I expect to tackle all those topics in the next few months.


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11 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 4:53 AM

From Abramson's article that you link to:

We needed a technology that would help us live “as if” things untrue were actually true, that would allow us to think in five and six dimensions rather than just in over-literal, excessively reality-bound terms. (If thinking in five and six dimensions sounds New Agey to you, realize that, in science, quantum mechanics already has physicists authoring equations and theories in eleven and even twelve dimensions.)

I feel that endorsing stuff like that is pretty much backpedaling from rationality.

I agree and don't endorse his explanation here. Acting as if untrue things were true sounds to me like an attempt to force pre-modern thinking after you've already seen that it doesn't work. I'm willing to give the guy a little slack because this is the kind of mistake it's easy to make when you're trying to figure out how to explain these ideas at first, and based on the other things he writes I'm willing to believe he's pointing at the same things as me, though he sometimes lacks sufficient precision of language to express it.


I find it interesting to think about metamodernism and metarationalism. I find myself at a similar intersection as you communities-wise, so I'm also trying to find my place.

I think I am constrained rationalist. I think there are resource/informational/logcal constraints to forming one coherent world view. So I am comfortable with multiple views of reality. However we should still try and push up against those constraints and try and unify things as much as is possible, as they should impinge on each other. This can be seen as a meta-modern view point, trying to embrace both construction and the deconstruction.

There is lots that I am not sure about metamodernism though.

If postmodernism favored deconstructing wholes and then putting the resulting parts in zero-sum conflict with one another — a process generally referred to as “dialectics” — metamodernism focuses instead on dialogue, collaboration, simultaneity, and “generative paradox” (this last being the idea that combining things which seem impossible to combine is an act of meaningful creation, not anarchic destruction).

If you can't beat them, join them.

To me that sentence is quite clear.

If you take Internal Double Crux as an example, it's about creating dialogue between different mental parts. You want the parts to collaborate to create a solution but the point isn't to destroy any of the involved parts and make them obsolate. In Internal Double Crux neither of the two parts gets deconstructed.

In the postmodernist deconstructivism on the other hand you deconstruct a part in the hope of making it obsolate. In deconstructivist dialog you find the goal of desconstructing system like capitalism and patriarchy and make them obsolate.

There are ideas that are sufficiently advanced that it's not easy to understand by people without any background to the subject. That's easy to accept in a case like advanced math but the same also goes for other subjects where people put in work to develop concepts.

This reminds me, I was sort of sad when I saw the original double crux post. The method itself is fine, but I was sad that it took years for rationalists to reinvent the Hegelian dialectic. Makes you wonder what other well known methods are being ignored because they're not packaged in rationalist language.

That comment is surprising to me. I didn't understand the Hegelian dialectic about talking to internal parts. Which authors do describe the Hegelian dialectic as part work?

I'm not aware of anyone describing dialectic in that way. I would instead say that the double crux seems to me a more highly specified version of the dialectical method with specific instructions on how to carry it out. To be fair this is arguably a useful invention since it's helping people carry out dialectics in a particular way at least rather than not at all.

There are plenty of other techniques for dealing with internal parts. To the extend that CFAR reinvented the wheel I think it makes more sense to focus on other parts work.

NLP has 6-step reframing. Family systems therapy has it's own methods. Even older paradigms like various forms of shamanism have their own methods for doing part work. Those techniques are direct competitors to Internal Double Crux and worthy to be compared to it for the applications of the technique.

I know, I was making a pun.