You are on page 1of 16

Postmodernism

Given the correctness of Kants analysis of perception and the failure of his Transcendental Deduction, we must concede that the Protagorians could have been right all those thousands of years ago. Its possible that each human being lives in his/her own world, a world of his/her own making.

[T]he German Romantic Philosophers [Fichte, Goethe, Nietzsche, et al.] who . . . followed Kant replaced his notion of constitution with the more exciting notion of creation. We create our realities, they announced. We are all artists, building our worlds. Notice the words realities and worlds; there is no longer confidence, much less a guarantee, that there is only one reality or one world.
Robert C. Solomon, Introducing Philosophy, p. 218

The notion that humans create, rather than discover, reality is the key tenet of what has come to be called Post-Modernism. Stanley J. Grenz has pointed out that, although Post-Modernism has its roots in Nineteenth Century German Romanticism, it does not take off until the last quarter of the Twentieth Century.

Deconstructionism: Texts do not contain an inherent structure that is the same for all cultures and by which human experience is interpreted by all people. Rather, each reader of a text imputes his/her own meaning to it. Alternatively, the meaning arises from the interaction between reader and text. There is, potentially, therefore, an infinite set of valid interpretations of a text.

Post-Modern philosophers apply the deconstructionist claims about texts to reality as a whole.
Just as the meaning of a text depends

upon the reader, so, also, reality can be read differently depending on the perspectives of the knowing selves that encounter it. This means that there is no one meaning of the world, no transcendent center to reality as a whole.
Stanley J. Grenz, Star Trek and the Next Generation

The Post-Modernist view follows quite naturally when you accept Kants analysis of perception but reject his Transcendental Deduction. If the world in itself (the noumenal world) is unknowable and individual human minds do not structure the world of perception (the phenomenal world) in the same way, then the Post-Modernists are right.

Postmodernist Moral Relativism One widely popular version of relativism is [the postmodernist] notion that truth is what my peers will let me get away with saying . . . . Although this view is very much au courant and with-it, in the contemporary intellectual world, it has consequences that are peculiar, not to say preposterous. For example, most of us think that the Chinese authorities did something monstrous in murdering

those hundreds of young people in

Tiananmen Square, and then compounded their wickedness by denying that they had done it. On [the postmodernist] view, however, this is an uncharitable misunderstanding. What the authorities were really doing, in denying that they had murdered those students, was something wholly praiseworthy: They were trying to bring it about that the alleged massacre never happened.

For they were trying to see to it that their

peers would let them get away with saying that the massacre never happened; that is, they were trying to make it true that it never happened; and who can fault them for that? The same goes for those contemporary neoNazis who claim that there was no holocaust; from a [postmodernist] view, they are only trying to see to it that such a terrible thing never happened; and what could be more commendable than that . . . ?

At a more personal level, if you have done

something wrong, it is not too late: Lie about it, thus bringing it about that your peers will let you get away with saying that you didn't do it, then it will be true both that you didn't do it, and, as an added bonus, that you didn't even lie about it.
Alvin Plantinga, The Twin Pillars of Christian Scholarship

In fairness to postmodernists, political oppression and lying are not usually liable to keep the conversation going. Nevertheless, the most postmodernists can offer are pragmatic, not principled, objections to these practices. Under certain conditions, e.g. maintaining world peace, it might be best to tolerate these practices.

The Radical Post-Modernism of Michel Foucault


All attempts to put forth an interpretation of reality, by whatever means, is a power grab. Merely naming something is an act of power and, therefore, does violence to the named. All institutions do violence by attempting to impose their understandings on the flux of experience.

This sort of Foucaultian Post-Modernism is the basis for much of the radical intellectual lefts criticisms of the United States.
By means of the global economy, the United States imposes its view of reality on the world. Terrorism against the United States is, therefore, justified because its merely the victims striking back.

Any response to terrorism by the United States, e.g. the attacks on the Taliban and Iraq, is merely another act of American tyranny over the rest of the world. The only legitimate response is for the USA to admit its sins against the world and dismantle the global economy. Most of those who opposed the war against Iraq and the USA continued presence there probably find the radical lefts criticism of the United States absurd, though this is the view of the organizers of, but not necessarily of all the participants in, the recent anti-war protests around the world.

Final thoughts
If one accepts Kants view of perception, but rejects his Transcendental Deduction, some form of Post-Modernism, however unedifying it might be, is unavoidable. The only way to avoid Post-Modernism is to reject Kants view of perception. But then, how does one avoid whats just as bad as Post-Modernism Humes radical skepticism?

To avoid both Humes radical skepticism and its Post-Modern alternative, one must go back to the very beginning of modern empiricism and the fundamental mistakes its founder, John Locke, made. Over 400 years before Lockes Essay Concerning Human Understanding, St. Thomas Aquinas, in the first part of his Summa Theologica (1265), anticipated the mistakes Locke would make and provided a better, common sense understanding of human knowledge.