Comments on Lyotard's "pagan" from Just Gaming

1.) The "pagan" is postmodern. It is not a "period" concept but a strategic aspect of "discourse pragmatics" (31). It is unlike the "classical" in that it is not determined by prior criteria.

1.a) In the classical "an author can write while putting himself at the same time in the position of reader" (9). The classical assumes a homogeneity of culture, or an "internalized set of rules" (9), or a "possible consensus" (15) that enable the author to anticipate the reactions of readers.

1.b) The postmodern/pagan has no such rules. The act of writing is a specific performance that Lyotard associates with "experimentation" (10), "rusing" (41), "innovation," and the testing of "hitherto untouched limits of sensibility or of culture" (14).

2.) The pagan has ethical and political implications.

2.a) The pagan is both a principle of change, revision, "variation" (33-34), possibly revolution and a principle of tradition, social unity, belonging, cultural history.

2.b) The pagan also describes within discourse pragmatics a Levinasian priority of ethics over ontology. The pagan is a particular relationship to otherness, a sense of "obligation" to extend and preserve the foundation of justice.

2.c) This ethics is a responsibility to listen and to pass on the specific dynamics of an exchange between speaker and listener which demands not servitude from the listener but rather that the listener speak. In this is preserved the freedom to speak for oneself.

2.d) This specific dynamics demands freedom from criteria. It is pagan.

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