Monthly Archives: January 2009

The Nature of Postmodernism

There are two sections or ideas within Postmodernism that need to be addressed, and they each have to deal with the idea of truth. One idea claims that there is no truth, or if it exists, it cannot be known by man. The other idea claims that all truth is relative. How is it that we came to acquire the knowledge that there is ultimately no truth or that there is truth but it cannot possibly be known by man? Knowledge has to be discovered by someone at some point in the line, and if either of the above statements are to be taken seriously, then it cannot be possible that this knowledge was discovered by anyone? If the knowledge wasn’t discovered by anyone then why would anyone believe those ideas versus what has been previously believed; that is that there is truth that can absolutely be found by one way or another. The idea that there can ultimately be no truth defeats itself in stating. Postmodernism shares that ideal and it tends to be regarded as philosophy. Translated from Greek, philosophy literally means “love of wisdom” so what someone is truly saying when they state that Postmodernism is a form of philosophy is that they have a love of wisdom without ultimately being able to attain it, because it is nonexistent. Philosophy in its purest, most correct form would be asking the questions of one’s existence and the ultimate search for truth and the creation and or purpose of life. Along with the movement of Postmodernism has come the prevailing ideology of what I call moral relativism. It is the belief that everything can be interpreted differently by each person that encounters it. Also, if you happen to disagree with someone else’s interpretation of something, you have to respect them and place their interpretation on equal footing with your own. Common phrases that arise out of this idea are “it depends on each person’s interpretation,” “that’s true for you, but not for me,” the first statement seems to be an easy “educated” way to say that someone is intellectually lazy. Forum debating and classical rhetoric can be entirely avoided if you can simply use that closing statement and move on to something else. Nobody has to deal with confrontation when everybody is equally right for themselves; that is so long as they don’t try and take their personal truth and prove it or force it onto others. The second statement is similar to the first but it takes it a step farther in saying that every person’s individual interpretation is entirely true. However this truth is limited to the person who views it as such. Accompanying this thought is the generally understood social norm that you have to respect everyone’s individual interpretation of any given subject. This idea seems fine on the surface, as we should naturally all respect our fellow man; however the idea is taken even further than that. Not only do you have to respect everyone’s opinion, you also have to acknowledge that it is entirely true for that person and is on the same “truth level” as your own interpretation, even if your two interpretations are opposite of one another. Logically this idea doesn’t make sense because if truth is, in fact, a reality, then two or more opposing ideas cannot be equally true. There is an argument that states several instances of physical, observational perspective differences as evidence for relativistic truth. An example of this would be that a man standing 7ft tall looking at a 5ft tree would think that tree is not tall at all, whereas a man standing 4ft tall would think the tree is tall indeed. This is not an example of opposing truth claims because they are not comparing the reality of the tree or the real height of the tree, they are simply using different adjectives to describe the tree based on their observational viewpoint. An example of relativistic truth would be a man claiming that he is shoveling his walk with a shovel, when in reality he is actually using a rake; another man happens to see the first man shoveling with a rake and claims that he is shoveling with a rake instead of a shovel. The difficulties with this are quite obvious so instead of explaining the obvious discrepancies of this worldview with common sense, I’ll focus on a problem that exists within the confines of the worldview itself. One of the tenets of Postmodernism is the idea that every idea must be respected as individual truth equally. The problem with this is that when you combine the idea of equal truth and individual interpretation you get an effect similar to that of the “telephone game”. If postmodern person A claims that 2+2=5, postmodern person B has to conform to that being true for that person while also maintaining his idea that 2+2=6 being true. A more complicated problem is the question of finding out if person B correctly interpreted person A’s interpretation. This question couldn’t be answered by person B because he doesn’t know the mind of person A, nor does he agree with person A’s assessment of the equation. Person A would never answer the question for person B because he isn’t even aware there is a difference of opinions, nor might there even be because what person B thought was a discrepancy was just a misinterpretation of person A’s identical truth. Eventually, with all these individual interpretations going through the line, person Z thinks concretely that person A evaluated the equation as 2+2=435, all the while every prior person thinks something different, but not technically allowed to find out if their interpretation is right or wrong.
There are several moral issues that are raised in the ideology of Postmodernism that have the same basic problems of my previous analogy. To most sane people, the idea of murder is intrinsically wrong; however without even touching on tougher issues like killing during war there are still problems with the idea of murder within the school of thought known as Postmodernism. One of the most famous historical examples would of course be Hitler and the Nazi’s genocide of the Jews. Most people agree with one another in stating that the act of genocide that was committed was absolutely wrong. However if you look at that instance from a postmodern viewpoint, things might look a little differently. Hitler truly believed that he was doing a good service to mankind; he thought that the Jews were an inferior race, in fact not even humans at all but more of an infestation that was a drain on real society. Logically, if there is something that is threatening society as a whole and is a real threat to the social order, then the best thing to do would be to eliminate the threat. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the two most basic classes are that of physiological protection and then of safety so most people would agree that if they shared Hitler’s mindset, then he did not do anything wrong by massacring millions of people. Within the Postmodern worldview, the problem is paramount in that example because in society as a whole, the genocide is looked at as being concretely wrong and evil, but within their own ideology they have to accept that Hitler’s viewpoint was equally true with their own current viewpoint. Postmodernism is a worldview in which its followers are at constant war with themselves with no clear path that comes from the worldview to help them come to terms with their struggles. The classical tradition of philosophy is the love of wisdom, which clearly indicates that there must be absolute truth that is able to be discovered by man. In truly studying philosophy the questions that are brought to mind are most adequately answered by, in my opinion, the most pure form of philosophy known as theology or the study of gods or a god. Christian theology is the study of the God that answers all of the questions that Postmodernism simply cannot. It also answers the questions of those true lovers of wisdom that are openly searching for the absolute truth that is attainable by man.