Postmodernism: The Destruction Of Thought

Originally posted on http://rayharvey.org/

Postmodernism, in all its vicious variations, is a term devoid of any real content, and for this reason dictionaries and philosophy dictionaries offer very little help in defining it.

And yet postmodernism has today become almost universally embraced as the dominant philosophy of science — which is the primary reason that science crumbles before our eyes under its corrupt and carious epistemology.

Postmodernism, like everything else, is a philosophical issue. Accordingly, postmodernism’s tentacles have extended into every major branch of philosophy — from metaphysics, to epistemology, to esthetics, to ethics, to politics, to economics.

In order to get any kind of grasp on postmodernism, one must grasp first that postmodernism doesn’t want to be defined. Its distinguishing characteristic is in the dispensing of all definitions — because definitions presuppose a firm and comprehensible universe.

You must understand next that postmodernism is a revolt against the philosophical movement that immediately preceded it: Modernism.

We’re told by postmodernists today, that modernism and everything that modernism stands for is dead.

Thus, whereas modernism preached the existence of independent reality, postmodernism preaches anti-realism, solipsism, and “reality” as a term that always requires quotation marks.

Whereas modernism preached reason and science, postmodernism preaches social subjectivism and knowledge by consensus.

Whereas modernism preached free-will and self-governance, postmodernism preaches determinism and the rule of the collective.

Whereas modernism preached the freedom of each and every individual, postmodernism preaches multiculturalism, feminism, environmentalism, egalitarianism by coercion.

Whereas modernism preached free-markets and free-exchange, postmodernism preaches Marxism and its little bitch: statism.

Whereas modernism preached objective meaning and knowledge, postmodernism preaches deconstruction and no-knowledge — or, if there is any meaning at all (and there’s not), it’s subjective and ultimately unverifiable.

In the words of postmodernism’s high priest Michel Foucault: “It is meaningless to speak in the name of — or against — Reason, Truth, or Knowledge.”

Why?

Because according to Mr. Foucault again: “Reason is the ultimate language of madness.”

We can thus define postmodernism as follows:

It is the philosophy of absolute agnosticism — meaning: a philosophy that preaches the impossibility of human knowledge.

What this translates to in day-to-day life is pure subjectivism, the ramifications of which are, in the area of literature, for example, no meaning, completely open interpretation, unintelligibility.

Othello, therefore, is as much about racism and affirmative action as it is about jealousy.

Since there is no objective meaning in art, all interpretations are equally valid.

Postmodernism is anti-reason, anti-logic, anti-intelligibility.

Politically, it is anti-freedom. It explicitly advocates leftist, collectivist neo-Marxism and the deconstruction of industry, as well as the dispensing of inalienable rights to property and person.

There is, however, a deeply fatal flaw built into the very premise of postmodernism, which flaw makes postmodernism impossible to take seriously and very easy to reject:

If reason and logic are invalid and no objective knowledge is possible, then the whole pseudo-philosophy of postmodernism is also invalidated.

One can’t use reason to prove that reason is false.

In May of 2009, his book Leave Us Alone was published to overwhelming acclaim.

His first novel, More and More unto the Perfect Day, is a literary crime novel of astronomical proportions.

3 Responses to “Postmodernism: The Destruction Of Thought”

  1. Ray Harvey says:

    Hello Michael. I liked your comment, though for the record Ray Harvey is not an Austrian, much as he admires Ludwig von Mises. You're at your best in your comment above when you make the distinction between subjectivist ontology and subjectivist epistemology, and when you say "The problem here is a collapse of multiple uses for the terms objective, subjective, ontology and epistemology."

    Thank you for reading.

    Ray

    • Michael says:

      Ah, my apologies on that front, then. I was making assumptions based upon the location at which I found the article. Still, given the location-context, those remarks may have been of some use and relevance to potential readers. Sorry though to have painted you with an aberrant brush. (That metaphor didn't really work out.)

      Thanks for writing (on both occasions)

      Michael

  2. Michael says:

    This is an interesting and somewhat unexpected turn for the Mises.ca dialogue. While I generally agree with the author’s ultimate disapproval, I would suggest a different route to getting there. Though it’s true that subjectivism and anti-reason are central tenets in the postmodern discourse (as they would say), these are not as problematic for Austrians as Ray Harvey seems to think. Obviously there is a good deal of subjectivism in Austrian economics and indeed, the way in which Mises uses the term “rational,” even the anti-reason dimension of postmodernism isn’t so far off base. The "reason" being criticized by postmodernism is the very reason that Mises resisted by determinedly defining rational as referring to human action arising from marginal preferences. We each make our own choices, based upon our own preferences and in doing so are acting fully rationally – regardless of what anyone else thinks. The “reason” or “rationality” opposed by the postmodernist is the same social engineering, central planner, who always knows what’s best for everyone else, kind of reason that Austrians and libertarians also reject. The two positions are not nearly so far apart as Ray Harvey seems to think.

    Where the postmodernists get into trouble – as Ray alludes – is in confusing subjectivist ontology with a subjectivist epistemology. Just because all preferences, meaning and identity are subjective does not mean that they cannot be studied objectively. The problem here is a collapse of multiple uses for the terms objective, subjective, ontology and epistemology. There’s no room in such a comment to elaborate it, but those interested should see the work of John Searle on these matters. Clearly, though, Mises understood this distinction and it is at least intuitive to Austrians.

    The fundamental problem with postmodernism, it seems to me, is not its rejection of reason, but its rejection of universalism. The confusion of thinking subjectivist ontology inevitably leads to a subjectivist epistemology, leads them to the assumption that all claims for universality and grand narratives must be inherently illegitimate. Instead, only the local and the uncertain have merit, while the universal and the absolute are intrinsically illegitimate. To paraphrase, from my self-published e-book that everyone should read: The problem with this postmodern fetish for the contingent is that it sweepingly dismisses universal aspirations and progress for any hint of indeterminacy or uncertainty, while then turning around and celebrating these very same qualities as expressed and experienced in their preferred decentred and contingent ideal-world. Surely it can’t be had both ways. It must be that, either, indeterminacy and uncertainty are intolerable, in which case they must be equally intolerable in both universal and relativist worldviews, or they are tolerable, in which case the discovery of ambiguity of meaning is no grounds for the sweeping dismissal of any universal aspiration. Otherwise, the postmodernist position is little more than self-serving hypocrisy

    Those interested in much more in-depth discussion of these matters, from an Austrian perspective, should see Michael McConkey, Acting Human; Communication Costs on Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/Acting-Human-Communication-

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