Post-Modernism Isn’t.

I have long been of the opinion that what passes for post-modern “philosophy” is not a philosophy so much as rhetorical exercise, or in my phrase, “word games”. Consider the act of “deconstructing” something: of tacking a thing to the culture that produced it, to the assumptions of that culture, to the history of those assumptions, etc.

What you haven’t done in any of that is make any kind of statement towards the Truth or value of the thing deconstructed. And if you haven’t done that, then what does the deconstruction of it matter?

The act of skepticism assumes the existence of truth, because skepticism is the suspicion of falsehood, and falsehood cannot exist without truth. Philosophy is the rational pursuit of truth, and one cannot pursue what does not exist. To say “This is not truth,” is to say “That is truth.”

But, as this article at Quillette by Galen Watts explains, the po-mos refuse to admit this.

 The scholar begins by deconstructing existing discourses, as if from a position of mere skepticism. However, he is simultaneously making the case that these are corrupt or oppressive in some sense, thereby endorsing some (implicit) normative standard. But you can’t have it both ways. Either you endorse a position and critique others from there, or you commit fully to your epistemic skepticism.

This is why the only philosophy available to those who take post-modernism seriously is nihilism, the rejection of all values. But nihilism is not a philosophy, it is the denial of a philosophy. Thus, I state that there is no such thing as post-modern philosophy, only the post-modern critique of philosophy. And it’s not a particularly useful critique. To tell me that I absorb values from the culture around me, and the traditions of that culture, sounds like a damning verdict, but it isn’t. Because what has not been established is why I should not absorb those values, or why I should not absorb them that way. To do that requires the discussion of alternatives.

A person who attacks your values without stating his own is dishonest. If he has alternative values, he should state them, as they undergird his arguments against yours. If he has no values, then he has no basis for attacking any values at all.

Therefore much of what we see being advanced under the banner of “postmodernism” is simply hypocrisy in disguise.

We see this in my discussion of Ivan Karamazov, as referenced by Camus:

Suffering will continue regardless of how sullenly you refuse to countenance it. What child does Ivan save from suffering? If none, then we must conclude the the intellectual solidarity with the suffering is a sham, or at any rate, a means to an end. And the end is power, moral power as a precursor to political power, the power over life and death.

The Quillette article is worth reading in full.