Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Evaluating Postmodernism

What 's good/true about postmodernism? What's false and bad about postmodernism?

1)It offers a powerful critique of the autonomy and total sufficiency of human reason

Whereas Modernism spawned unbridled intellectual pride, Postmodernism can provide us with a much-needed dose of intellectual humility. It makes for a fabulous philosophical laxative! However, you can't live on laxatives!

God says, "I AM," therefore everything else can exist."
Descartes said, "I think, therefore I am."
Derrida says, "There is no self, only linguistic constructs."

But if I am only a linguistic construct, why should we worry about being constructed one way rather than another? Indeed, how is it even possible?

2)It reminds us that language is indeed closely associated with power.

However, saying that "all linguistic utterances are power plays" is self-refuting. It tells us that we have no reason to prefer one discourse/story/narrative/worldview over another, leading to intellectual and moral anarchy. As Hauerwas says, "Who told you the story that there is no Story?" The rejection of all metanarratives is itself a metanarrative.

2) It alerts us to the limitations of our perspective

In idolizing reason, Modernism ignored the fact that our environment does shape us in various ways. Postmodernism can encourage us to see how our culture forms us through various "metanarratives." It tells us that we have no access to reality: there is no knowable connection betweeen what we think and say with what is actually "out there." All we can do is "tell stories."

It is one thing to admit that our knowledge is not infinite and perfect, and that much of what we "know" is given to us by our culture. However, when it emphasizes culture as the exclusive cause of our knowledge and values, Postmodernism leads to metaphysical, epistemological and moral relativism. It continues the modernist habit of anti-realism, denying that there is an external world which we are able to know more or less accurately. and denying that there is any special revelation that enables us to know anything with certainty. The truth is no longer "out there" or even "within." Like God, truth is dead. All that can possibly remain is "meaning."

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