View Full Version : The flaws of Post-Modern thought

10-15-09, 03:28 AM
Post-Modernism is a philosophical stance that denies:

The existence of an objective reality (1) and as such...
... reason can't be used to understand reality (2) or ethics (3)
and that there is such a thing as "human nature" (4)
Generally postmodernism is deeply skeptical (5)

That we live in a relativistic world filled with only human truths and human ethics.

In my view, there are some things that they get right. I don't believe that you can use reason to understand ethics because ethics does not respond to a rational paradigm. Ethics is not a rational process. Ethics is (demonstrably) relative from person to person and varying wildly over time and culture. To suggest that ethics is anything more than a majority function (heavily mediated by other factors and open to undue influence from some) to me seems crazy. I think you'd need some pretty extraordinary evidence to make the case that there is such a thing as universal ethics. (Point 3)

The denial of an external reality is pure solipsism and is a misinterpretation of a complex and important point. If you were to say that we are unable to be purely objective in our interpretation of reality, I'd agree whole heartedly as we are limited by our very limited perception.

To say that there is no external reality however is madness because there are natural laws that all matter and energy conforms to, implying limitation and predictability. The human brain has evolved impressive abilities that it uses to test our physical reality, if there was no external reality, why bother? (Point 1) Certainly there is another level of human existence that is socially constructed (and thus arbitrary), that only exists on the condition that the construction is continually perpetuated. The contributions of post modernism have a lot more weight in this world which involves culture and literature, but it vastly overestimates the importance of social construction.

That reason/rationality can't be used to understand reality is also a silly concept. Many abusive analogies have been drawn to the Holocaust and the so called "Final Solution" that seem to highlight the "dangers" of reason. Hitler's conclusion that Jews, Gypsies etc were inferior and thus needed to be killed was not in any way rational, it was a rationalisation. His own emotions and prejudices were the chief influences of that decision, the rationalisation was found much later. Even if it was proven beyond a doubt that Hitler's choice was 100% rational (which it was not) it still wasn't a justification, since ethics aren't strictly rational.

Reason never fails. Imperfect reasoning by imperfect humans does. (Point 2)

The idea that there is no such thing as human nature stems more from ideological wish thinking than anything else. We don't seem to have any problems saying that monkeys, cats and dogs have a nature, but to apply it to ourselves (also animals) seems too scary for some apparently. The idea that we are a "blank slate" is a stale doctrine conclusively disproven in books like "The Blank Slate" by Steven Pinker so I won't go into it here. Indeed in an ADHD forum I think most will find this notion of "no human nature" a bit silly, considering what we've experienced since birth. (4)

Skeptisism is fundamental to science and as such it is an incredibly useful tool used to further our understanding. Of course the danger here is that being skeptical about everything is (a) a lot of work (b) potentially uncomfortable (c) notoriously difficult to do objectively. What this means is that people are only skeptical about things they don't want to be true, while accepting other things uncritically. Ironically this manfests in people being skeptical (if not in outright denial) of science (which is built on skeptism) while uncritically accepting all sorts of other things that they'd prefer to believe. (5)