reflecting back on it, i had an interesting experience in grad school. at hopkins, working on my ma, i took some classes with stanley fish (and also played on his intramural softball and basketball teams!), and then my ph.d. experience at uva centered around rorty. indeed, i first studied rorty (consequences of pragmatism) with fish. now, these were both actually rather funny and ironic men who loved life (well, fish is still that, no doubt). but it was hard to miss a sense of the end: certainly of philosophy, pictured as so tired and over, but vaguely of everything, like western culture and values, meaning, and stuff. also, um, the real world. rorty projected an air of sort-of-amused disappointment that anyone would still go get a ph.d., years after he said the whole thing was over with heidegger. that someone still believed in reality in 1986 just sort of saddened him.
they both also affirmed some form of liberal democracy and other positive values, and these affirmations were sincere and grew more intense as time went on. yet there was always that deflationary wry detachment, that shrug of the shoulders, that well-i-can't-seem-to-think-of-anything-better so, whatever. so that is actually how i think of the postmodern moment, because that was the bit of it i was in. it was attractive in its way, and they were good advertisements for their positions: fundemantally decent people. and yet it all made me want to...begin again.
you just have to find a way to reaffirm or go on after that, right? like you're after the end - even then it was getting longer and longer since the end of art, the death of the author, flies ditching fly-bottles, and so on and so forth: the pomo thinkers declared themselves to be a dead end, which leaves you in a bit of a quandary if you're trying to pull together a dissertation topic under their tutelage. (i think a fair amount of pomo theory could be accounted for by the disappointment of the left in that era, the dreams that ran aground on reagan and thatcher, the obvious evil and decline of communism.) but really if you're after after the end or whatever, you just...go on, don't you? that end shit got boring and odd, like a strange tic or not-quite-right recurrent phrase. and it was the teleological assumptions that these figures brought to bear - which they in turn inherited from their teachers - that brought on the disappointment or even exhaustion.
but i say to you straight up that we have not yet begun to inquire. there is plenty to do. sally forth!