Skip to comments.The crisis of the postmodern world view
Posted on 12/10/2004 9:25:38 AM PST by kjvail
The Postmodern World View is schizophrenic. It is split in two and the two parts contradict one another. Francis Shaeffer taught us to think of it as a house with an upper story and a lower story. There is no stairway to connect the two stories. The upper story and the lower story are walled off from one another.
In the lower story is scientific materialism which dogmatically asserts that the world is be a closed system which consists of nothing but matter and energy which is subject to the laws of cause and effect. A second dogmatic assertion follows hard upon the first the only thing we can know with assurance is derived from empirical scientific methods working in the lower story. Everything else is mere opinion, bias, subjective preference and illusion, or so we are told. The third assertion is that man is a machine governed by blind laws of heredity and environment. Therefore, free will, reason and moral conscience are illusions, or thus decrees the little man in the lower story.
There are no windows or doors in the lower story. The thought is cramped and blinkered. The feel of the place is claustrophobic like being trapped in a tomb. Pride and ignorance rules in these dark caverns. Pride comes from inflated presumption that only empirical science working in the lower story has the capacity for certain knowledge. The reputed "knowledge" is self assured and brutally dogmatic. Ignorance comes from rooting out of all other forms of knowledge and leaving a few bare bones in the darkness. The meaning of those dry bones is largely misconstrued by the sweeping generalities and vain speculations of scientists. These speculations are exempt from authentic criticism because it is "science." Only specially certified men of science who share the same three brutal assumptions may review and criticize the speculations in special journals. The extreme dogmatism of our prestigious science establishment. about these narrow assertions has made this a great age of inhuman dogmatism, prejudice and ignorance. No bigot of the Jim Crow era can come close to the sheer narrowness of mind, arrogance of presumption, or prejudice towards dissenters of our vaunted establishment science.
Intelligent Postmodernists sometimes admit that no one can live their private lives in the lower story. This was a major premise of Francis Schaeffer. No one can function in the real world thinking they are merely a cog in a machine. No automaton can have reason, will, value, purpose, conscience, or self-consciousness. One must vault up into the upper story to furnish a place to live. No stairways of reason connects the two stories so one must make a leap into the dark. No laws of science or nature can be allowed to intrude into the upper story where a refuge of absolute freedom is to be established. Likewise, no universal moral law or cultural norm can be allowed to intrude and limit potential choices. Personal feelings, values and choices, yes. Universal and timeless truth, no. No God of design may enter these chambers. A new "god" of haughty Self has taken up residence in the upper story with his own contingent designs and momentary agendas.
Each Postmodern individual invents his own private upper story world, his own self, his own values and his own preferences or so we are told. It is a personally invented world. One makes it up on the fly as he goes along. And it is to be air tight and exempt from criticism, social norms and moral laws. The upper story is just as insulated from moral criticism as the lower story is insulated from rational criticism. The standard defense of the upper story anarchy will be "I have values." But this is a half-lie. The upper story mind has transitory preferences. The strong preference are presumed to be "values." In the sense of "I value it because I chose it and because it pleases me," I suppose these are values of a sort. In the sense of enduing truths and moral laws, these are not real Values. The Postmodernist will insist that the universal moral laws of the Christian are roughly the same thing. The Postmodernist presumes that the Christian arbitrarily selects concepts from an old tradition and subjectively decides to "value" them. Therefore, the Postmodernist will tell another half-lie: "My values are just as good as your values." His inevitable conclusion is that "No one should impose their values on others." This would be true if all values are only feelings, arbitrary preferences, opinions, tastes, and choices. But this is nonsense, of course. The universal moral law has objective existence, and universal applicability whether one values it or dreads it or denies it. We receive the moral law from a Higher Authority, we understand it by reason and we are subject to the judgement by that Authority.
Postmodernists are "antinomian" (against law) and deny that any such law or higher authority exists. The thoroughgoing Postmodernist believes that "good" and "evil" are arbitrary labels assigned subjectively to relative and equivocal situations. The Postmodernist is the very prototype of an unprincipled man, a man without any fixed principles which cannot be rigged in his favor. He may give temporary allegiance to a "value" if it helps his agenda of the moment. Scoundrels have always been with us but the Postmodern carries the arts of dishonesty to new levels. He can be an unrestrained and unreformed malefactor and yet demand the right to be free from moral accountability except for those selective "values" he can bend to work for him. A perfect example is the profoundly corrupt but unshakably self-righteous Kofi Annan.
On the political stage, wherever we see the rationalization of evil and the harsh criticism of good, we see Postmodernism at work. The postmodern art of moral equivalence follows the formula, good = evil. For example, Michael Moore's movie tries to prove that Saddam Hussein's Iraq is just as good as America or maybe better. Half of the Democratic Party leaders attended the movie and praised it. They were blind to the fallacy of good = evil. They are also blind as to why their party is in decline.
"Woe unto them who call evil, good, and good, evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!' Isaiah 5:20
In the lower story of the Postmodern schism, there is bondage to a random and meaningly world of brutal deterministic forces. In the upper story, there is a formless chaos of narcissistic fantasies and impulses in perpetual flux. It is a fun house world of warped mirrors, dissolving perspectives and false turnings. One escapes the claustrophobic machine in the lower story to enter a surreal world of madness in the upper story. The mood, flux, and fantasy of the upper story is captured by some of the surreal paintings of Salvador Dali. He depicts a weird and dismal landscape with perverse and discordant images in the foreground and a monotonous perspective of a flat waste land receding to an infinite horizon. An infinite horizon is impossible on a round planet. Ships sink below the horizon at three miles out when the observer stands with his feet touching the water. Dali's impossibly infinite desert horizon is both monotonous and alarming. Dali evokes what Sartre called "condemned to be free." One of the plays of Sartre was titled "No Exit." Absolute nihilistic freedom is a bondage from which there is no escape. The Romantic landscape painters used to use horizons to give one the delicious feeling of being set free. Dali's oppressive horizons gives one the sense of a hellish freedom of futility and doom. This is the difference between living in the real world which God has made and living in a narcissistic world of one's own invention.
The Great Hypocrisy
The Liberal Postmodernist is the ultimate hypocrite. While he demands absolute freedom from moral restraints in his private upper story world, he is sees nothing wrong with the most brutal and mindless group think and the most controlling and oppressive codes of political correctness. He is blind to the anarchy/bondage contradiction.
In the upper story, the postmodernist is a god creating his own world. He is a jealous god which frets lest the Christian God gets a foothold in his surreal domain. But he is a cog in a machine in his lower story world which gives him the lowest possible view of man. He accepts no moral responsibility for his acts because his machine lower story informs him that all his ideas and actions are predetermined by cause and effect. Thus, the machine-like lower story is an enabler and rationalizer of his lawless upper story. He thinks all the events of the world of men are governed by "root causes" in a closed system of cause and effect. Group think and strictly enforced codes of correct speech seem natural to him because his lower story world dogmatically imparts an extremely low view of man, and a mechanistic view of group dynamics. But his own lower story is blind to the surreal despair or demented orgy in his wild upper story. Thick ceilings and bricked off staircases prevent any intrusion from the lumbering machinery of analysis and judgement to enter the unrestrained party upstairs. This explains his blindness to his own hypocrisy.
If a Postmoderm liberal has real political power he will tend to be self-indulgent and unruly in his private life but dictatorial with others, and be perfectly blind to this contradiction. He will be what the Bible calls an evil ruler. Postmodern liberals yearn for executive power because of their itch to control, but are constitutionally unfitted for the responsible use of power. While Bill Clinton was secretly partying with pretty young interns (exhibiting upper story anarchy) Hillary was trying to bring socialism to medicine (exhibiting a lower story urge to control.) If we ever have a postmodern dictator, the country will be turned into a prison while wild orgies are going on in the capital. Shades of Nero, Caligula, Sejanus, and Commodus.
The only stable features in the postmodern upper story is the supremacy of the arbitrary godlike will, the value of pampering and pandering to unrestrained feelings, and a narcissistic obsession with self. Just as the upper story is cut off from the lower story, it is also cut off from reality. By definition, the illusions of narcissism cannot exist unless they are sheltered from the light of reality.
The Nature of the Postmodern Crisis
The lower zone assumptions about the world is in constant contradiction with reality. This is one reason why liberals cluster together in group think communities in academia, government bureaucracies, the news media, entertainment and the arts community. They get constant reinforcement of their deterministic and politically correct views from their self-enclosed ant colony. The self-reinforcing group insulates them from reality.
The perpetual flux of the upper story Postmodernism reveals an obvious instability. The narcissistic fantasies of their upper story life are severely endangered by exposure to stable human life lived in a wholesome and healthy manner. That is why they are reflexively anti-family. It also explains why the insecure narcissistic gays demand public recognition of their perverse life style through the legal recognition of gay marriage. Their explosive wrath against any mention of the divine law is rooted in terror. Narcissistic fantasies are always on the verge of collapse and cannot endure a hint of criticism. One reason for the politically correct speech codes is to prevent any dissent which carries with it a hint of criticism.
If Postmodernism is entirely help up by artificial props, one wonders why it has not long since collapsed. Two inner reward mechanisms keeps this deeply pathologic and malformed world view in operation. Pandering to the godlike illusions of the upper story gives one the reward of pride in the self-deity which creates itself, and, of course the gratification of the self-indulgent whims of hedonism. Asserting the superior knowledge of the automaton who lives in the lower story enables one to assert superiority over lesser mortals on the outside. A self-contained Postmodern can be astonishingly arrogant and smug.
Although Postmoderns enjoy an internally self-reinforcing system, there is an inner war which undercuts their confidence at every turn. Postmoderns can be the most insecure and terrified of men.
The lower story message radically contradicts the upper story message. One cannot be both a god who creates and a cog in a machine. One cannot live in a world of infinitely receding perspective and be closed in a machine. A narcissistic self concept radically contradicts how all one's fellows view one. They don't think that the narcissist is a god, even if they are narcissist god-pretenders themselves. Within the tight little group think cult, there is a tremendous secret contempt and alienation. When a Postmodern breaks out of one group-think circle and joins another one, he will be eager to tell the second group how rotten the first group was. Finally, the dogmatic assertions of the lower story are contradicted by all the lessons of experience life has to teach.
Why does not the world of Postmodernism instantly fall like a house of cards? It is held up by two kinds of energy. The soulish energy of narcissism and an affiliated satanic energy. The diabolical realm is the great ally of narcissism. Sheer blindness prevents any self examination or any awareness of the utter dishonesty and the gigantic contradictions and hypocrisies. Ignorance is bliss for the postmodern. But the postmodern life is not a real life. It substitutes cruel illusions for life. The Postmodern world is not and cannot be sustainable over the long haul. One day, God will blow upon it and the house of cards will collapse. Our job is to see to it that the civilization does not collapse with it. As they follow the ways of destruction let us be busy at work rebuilding the ravaged culture.
"Ye see the distress we are in, how Jerusalem lieth waste, and its gates are burned with fire; come, and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach." Nehemiah 2:17
Why does not the world of Post-modernism instantly fall like a house of cards? It is held up by two kinds of energy. The soulish energy of narcissism and an affiliated satanic energy.
Rather than use the paradigm of "post-modernism," I think it would be easier to call a spade a spade.
There are the anti-God forces and the God forces.
The anti-God forces are comprised of the secular humanists, hedonists, narcissists, faithful Muslims (Allah is most certainly Satanic), the ACLU, the sex-addicted, the greedy, communists and the extreme left, the parties of hate (Nazi's, Fascists), and...
Postmodernism is a complicated academic concept. But everyone needs to understand at least the basics of what it represents, because what began in the academy has spread into the world.
This article touches on only a few elements of the full story, but it does get at the gist of the problem.
To understand how far the poison has spread, just take a look at the famous, totally vacuous statement in the Supreme Court's Casey decision, that each person has an unlimited right to define his or her own version of reality.
As this article says, in the lower story science insists that nothing is real but matter in motion. But in the upper story, we get to define reality however we like--including a reality that says it's our right to kill babies if we choose to for any reason.
The crisis of the postmodern world view
is its postmodern lawyers.......and Judges' rulings?
I'd be interested to see the arguments for the position you take. I'm all for informed opinion but it seems as if most of these declarations have been made without some serious thought or reading. I've been reading several books on the concept of free will, rationality, and free choice and most authors present the issue in a much more complex manner without a clearcut declaration that "free will" does not exist in a rational world. In addition, the fact that you can make an argument and communicate to another individual indicates that to a certain extent society is built on necessary fictions (i.e. we both assume the words we use mean the same thing to both of us). If it's necessary to have certain fictions for all people to communicate then it seems that the whole world is a "house of cards." How can you reasonably distinguish what "groups" are clearly going to collapse? Finally, you yourself are being hypocritical by attempting make an argument about denying rationality that must make use of logic to convey its point. To a certain extent rationality is an absolute necessity to exist in a society. If you are not interested in society, then don't post. Am interested in a logical response and information about your sources.
ANYONE with a repeatable experiment is free to dislodge even the most widely accepted scientific theories. In fact, the scientific method is designed that way.
There is some severe hypocrisy coming from the author in that sentence. How well does faith accept criticism and change?
When was postmodernism the 'in' thing?
All IMHO and subject to vigorous debate, I can tell ya...
Not exactly...But I can see how a non-believer might think so.
You mean that heavenly rewards have nothing to do with a believer's moral decisions?
I know that most mothers and fathers would sacrifice anything for their children...endure any amount of suffering, if it could prevent their children from being separated from God after death.
Not all physicists are post-modernists but the scientific establishment as a whole is dedictated to the principle of proving that God does not exist. They do this in a thousands different ways - some blatant, some not so obvious. For instance if you are surfing the Discovery-Times channel in the next couple of weeks you will stumble across a documentary about the death of the son of Ramses the Great. The crux of the documentary is to "prove" the child which the book of Exodus claims was killed by the wrath of God was actually killed by "natural causes". As if proving one (assuming it had any credibility) would automatically disprove the other.
Postmodern science dogmatically adheres to severly flawed "natural selection" theories - to the point they don't even admit it's still just a theory (and one with HUGE holes) but promote it as a dogmatic truth. Another good example of this conflict between theological truth and science, or perhaps better phrased between morals and science is of course embroyonic stem cell research. Moral theology rejects the idea that if one can do a thing, one should do a thing. But of course you have the post-modernists on TV everyday saying we are "replacing science with religion". Nonsense, we are trying to tell science where it cannot licitly go
I'd say that suggests The Scientific Method works pretty well.
I'm not saying it doesn't, when it confines itself to appropriate inquiry. It's a tool for understanding the physical world - it's not a pancea for understanding the human condition. Purely empirical science cannot measure the soul of a man. For instance science can describe the workings of the human eye, the optic nerve, even the brain (someday perhaps) but it can't explain beauty or love. For that you need philsophy and ultimately theology. A purely empirical approach reduces man to an animal and if man believes himself to be an animal, he will behave like an animal.
On the flip side, fundamentalist promote the idea that the Earth was created in 6 days, exactly as the Bible tells and that the Earth is some 6,000 years old. Nonsense of course, the book of Genesis was not written to teach science or cosmology or evolutionary biology - it is a theological treatsie on Man and his relationship to his God and each other. So fundamentalists are trying to use theology to explain science, the reverse error. Science and theology are complementary - they ask fundamentally different questions.
Researchers are getting a handle on some the genetic origins of human behaviors but I don't think any are suggesting we are utter slaves to our Biology. I'd like to see some sources cited here - that'd help me a lot.
Well it's ancedotal admittedly but I'm a source here. I hold a degree in Psychology and work in the field. The current focus of research in every university I am acquainted with is purely biological. Most clinicians these days assume a purely deterministic approach. I'm in the only area of psychology that continues to use any type of metaphysics - substance abuse.
That is because postmodernism is just a new word for paganism. If man is no longer sure about God, then he can be sure of nothing that is not measurable with a tool of some sort. Of course the previous poster tells us even the physical sciences are succumbing to nominalism - the philsophy that says nothing we percieve is real - a decent from Decrates statment "I think therefore I am".
web site/blog. He is all over this sort of thing.
Ok, pouring myself a "Tullamore Dew" and rolling up my sleeves...
My degree is in English and History but I love science (just didn't have the head for the math). I saw that same documentary on Ramses as you. We know that around 1200 b.c. there was a huge crisis in the ancient world and most major civilizations collapsed. The Egyptians were the only group to survive culturally intact and blamed the whole thing on a group of folk they called "The Sea People". The Greeks (then Myceneans) later blamed the Trojan War. Jews spoke of "The Exodus". Whatever happened - it was SERIOUS! The Greeks, for example, lost everything - literacy, farming, and became essentially a stone-age people who didn't recover for 500 years.
So yeah, Scientists tend to look to "rational" explanations for ancient historical events. that's what they do - they look to reason over faith. Is that odd? I don't think so. They're SCIENTISTS.
It works against them at times too: for centuries smug historians considered Homer's "Troy" as simply a myth. In the late 1800's German amateur archaeologist Heinrich Schleimann did something unthinkable: he followed the directions to Troy as put down in ancient writings and started digging where they said to. Guess what? He found TROY!
The 17th century represented a huge schism: the proto scientists of The Enlightenment were forced to confront the fact that in order to learn things about the real world they had to abandon theologies based on Aristotelian models and risk the wrath of a vairiety of theologicians, both Catholic and Protestant. Add to this nasty mix the fact that many of these early scientists were devoutly religious men and you have the makings of a major ulcer.
How did they deal with it? Compartmentalism.
You're a shrink - you know the word.
They set aside their faith and set aside their reason. They split the two. Faith was faith and reason is reason.
I think our next dialogue should be about "Postmodernism" itself. WHAT THE HELL IS IT?
Seriously, in 1920 everybody knew what "Modern" meant. In 1670 everybody knew what "Enlightenment" meant. In 178 "The Romantics" knew who they were too. Now we are all "PostModern" and we have no clue what that means! It's a great metaphor for the debased nature of our culture.
Personally, I think it's time to get rid of "Postmodernism". I propose we start at the beginning with a "New Enightenment". We should bring reason back to the arts and sciences.
But that's just me and I have had a glass of fine irish whiskey to serve as inspiration.
Oh by the way "Its Just a theory" doesn't work. Other "just" theories:
Theory of Microbial Infection
Theory of Gravity
Theory of General Relativity
Yeah, they're all "just" theories but they also happen to be true.
oops. :) Double post.
Q: Why did God invent whiskey?
A: To prevent the Irish from ruling the world!
I'm not sure I can come up with a concise definition - it's one of those things that you know it when you see it.
I would say it's most obvious elements are a dogmatic rationalism - the absolute refusal to consider the supernatural or revelation. This results in a rejection of traditional morality and its view of man. What has made Western civilization possible is the Truth that man was created in the image of God and he has an end beyond this mortal coil.
Jim Kalb writes about modernity
"Modernity stands for a system of knowledge that starts with logic and clear and unquestionable truths and out of those things attempts to construct all knowledge. Such a theory of knowledge severely limits what we can recognize as real, and thus profoundly affects our view of what there is and what we should do. Our beliefs about knowledge end up driving our beliefs about what's good and true.
Observable facts and events, and our desires regarding them, are immediately and demonstrably present to us in a way that objective ultimate goods and realities are not. Modernity therefore pays attention to the former rather than the latter. That approach has had very important consequences: on the one hand modern natural science, medicine, and standards of comfort and productivity, and on the other liberty, equality, bureaucratic social management, and "enlightenment" regarding social, political and moral issues."
and defines postmodernity as the radicalization of that mindset.
John Paul II in Fides et Ratio touches on postmodernity
"Our age has been termed by some thinkers the age of postmodernity. Often used in very different contexts, the term designates the emergence of a complex of new factors which, widespread and powerful as they are, have shown themselves able to produce important and lasting changes. The term was first used with reference to aesthetic, social and technological phenomena. It was then transposed into the philosophical field, but has remained somewhat ambiguous, both because judgement on what is called postmodern is sometimes positive and sometimes negative, and because there is as yet no consensus on the delicate question of the demarcation of the different historical periods. One thing however is certain: the currents of thought which claim to be postmodern merit appropriate attention. According to some of them, the time of certainties is irrevocably past, and the human being must now learn to live in a horizon of total absence of meaning, where everything is provisional and ephemeral. In their destructive critique of every certitude, several authors have failed to make crucial distinctions and have called into question the certitudes of faith.
This nihilism has been justified in a sense by the terrible experience of evil which has marked our age. Such a dramatic experience has ensured the collapse of rationalist optimism, which viewed history as the triumphant progress of reason, the source of all happiness and freedom; and now, at the end of this century, one of our greatest threats is the temptation to despair.
Even so, it remains true that a certain positivist cast of mind continues to nurture the illusion that, thanks to scientific and technical progress, man and woman may live as a demiurge, single-handedly and completely taking charge of their destiny.
It is my opinion that the so-called "enlightenment" was actually the great closing of the Western mind - the rejection of wisdom in favor of "knowledge". Now it has had it's benefits of course, the exclusive focus of Western thought on matters of the physical world has given us modern medicine, telecommunications and transportation.
It has also given us moral relativism, totalitarianism and modern total warfare.
So yeah, Scientists tend to look to "rational" explanations for ancient historical events. that's what they do - they look to reason over faith. Is that odd? I don't think so. They're SCIENTISTS.
Your statement here assumes an inherent friction between the two but as John Paul II beautifully reminds us in Fides et Ratio :
Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truthin a word, to know himselfso that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves (cf. Ex 33:18; Ps 27:8-9; 63:2-3; Jn 14:8; 1 Jn 3:2).
We should bring reason back to the arts and sciences.
I would strongly agree with that!
Did you kust pour yourself a DOUBLE?
How did all you people get in my room?
"I would strongly agree with that!"
Dangling Participle AND Passive Voice! HAH! I WIN! (don't you hate it when some ideologue pulls rank?)
Ok when I sober up I will devastate you. Right now the puter is spinning too much.
student of postmodernism bum for later...
In many ways postmodernism can be described as a kind of postrationalism. Whereas Shaeffer points out the spill into irrationalism, we still do well acknolwedge the legitimate critique that arises from some of them as a movement against the modernist optimism in rational enlightenment (cf. Levinas).
Who says Conservatives can't be intellectuals.
Usually pseudo-intellectual liberals.
What modern people want to be made to understand is simply that all argument begins with an assumption; that is, with something that you do not doubt. You can, of course, if you like, doubt the assumption at the beginning of your argument, but in that case you are beginning a different argument with another assumption at the beginning of it. Every argument begins with an infallible dogma, and that infallible dogma can only be disputed by falling back on some other infallible dogma; you can never prove your first statement or it would not be your first. All this is the alphabet of thinking. And it has this special and positive point about it, that it can be taught in a school, like the other alphabet. Not to start an argument without stating your postulates could be taught in philosophy as it is taught in Euclid, in a common schoolroom with a blackboard. And I think it might be taught in some simple and rational degree even to the young, before they go out into the streets and are delivered over entirely to the logic and philosophy of the Daily Mail.
Much of our chaos about religion and doubt arises from this--that our modern sceptics always begin by telling us what they do not believe. But even in a sceptic we want to know first what he does believe. Before arguing, we want to know what we need not argue about. And this confusion is infinitely increased by the fact that all the sceptics of our time are sceptics at different degrees of the dissolution of scepticism.
Now you and I have, I hope, this advantage over all those clever new philosophers, that we happen not to be mad. All of us believe in St. Paul's Cathedral; most of us believe in St. Paul. But let us clearly realize this fact, that we do believe in a number of things which are part of our existence, but which cannot be demonstrated. Leave religion for the moment wholly out of the question. All sane men, I say, believe firmly and unalterably in a certain number of things which are unproved and unprovable. Let us state them roughly.
1. Every sane man believes that the world around him and the people in it are real, and not his own delusion or dream. No man starts burning London in the belief that his servant will soon wake him for breakfast. But that I, at any given moment, am not in a dream, is unproved and unprovable. That anything exists except myself is unproved and unprovable.
2. All sane men believe that this world not only exists, but matters. Every man believes there is a sort of obligation on us to interest ourselves in this vision or panorama of life. He would think a man wrong who said, "I did not ask for this farce and it bores me. I am aware that an old lady is being murdered down-stairs, but I am going to sleep." That there is any such duty to improve the things we did not make is a thing unproved and unprovable.
3. All sane men believe that there is such a thing as a self, or ego, which is continuous. There is no inch of my brain matter the same as it was ten years ago. But if I have saved a man in battle ten years ago, I am proud; if I have run away, I am ashamed. That there is such a paramount "I" is unproved and unprovable. But it is more than unproved and unprovable; it is definitely disputed by many metaphysicians.
4. Lastly, most sane men believe, and all sane men in practice assume, that they have a power of choice and responsibility for action.
Surely it might be possible to establish some plain, dull statement such as the above, to make people see where they stand. And if the youth of the future must not (at present) be taught any religion, it might at least be taught, clearly and firmly, the three or four sanities and certainties of human free thought.
" GK Chesterton
Daily News, 6/22/1907
Interesting discussion bump. Thanks for the post.
And if the youth of the future must not (at present) be taught any religion, it might at least be taught, clearly and firmly, the three or four sanities and certainties of human free thought.
The certainties are religious. This was the thesis of Dooyerweerd in his Critique. Here Chesterton sounds like Maritain, or Lewis, or even Havel, --hardly Calvinist. The three or four sanities and certainties of human free thought are the shroud of a true religion whereby wayfarers are snookered into the Good.
That there should remain three or four sanities is a good hope, but how often is this formality reduced and emasculated into the content-neutral thesis of politics? To the extent that it is so reduced, Chesterton's position resembles a thread of modernist optimism which the religionists call humanism.
For me postmodernism is a form of skepticism, the heir of the Enlightenment and probably also harkens back to a form of PreSocratic paganism. It tries to undermine modernism by showing the flaws inherent in large systems of belief (the grand narratives), whether it be sexual, cultural, scientific, religious or political. Their point is that these systems of belief don't account for 'differences' and are a form of tyranny that is used to suppress people who can't conform or fit nicely into these hierarchic structures (eg. sex (gays), race & religious minorities, etc.). As one poster points out, there can be no certainty... because any system of belief that poses as knowledge does so at the exclusion of differences. In other words, they exclude phenomena that can't be accounted for by the system. These systems of beliefs are, therefore, considered 'myths.'
Postmodern lack of certainty regarding religion can be traced back to existential thinkers (Sartre, Heidegger, Camus, etc.) and most importantly Nietzsche. Nietzsche proclaimed "God is Dead" and, therefore, everything is permitted. There is no ultimate grounding for religious beliefs and all such beliefs are relative and cultural. With no firm footing in a universal truth, man either creates his own values or he follows the values of others (the difference between hard and soft nihilism, eg., Hitler was a hard nihilist who imposed his values on others). Science, traditionally considered the domain of objective knowledge, is no better off because scientific theories change throughout history. Science is based on assumptions and theories which have changed through time. It can never really give a truthful or certain account of the world. The latest theory is that the scientist is also a part of his experiment and, therefore, can have no real objectivity. Again, everything, including science, is based on perspective which forever changes through time and there is no escaping it to see truth. It's all cultural.
One of the problems with postmodernism is that because it shows the absurdity, the lack of objectivity and dishonesty of the grand systems of belief, it can't take anything seriously and resorts to a nihilistic playfulness with language. Everything is relative, just a perspective based on language, just about words, words, words...(which reminds me of the playful madness of Hamlet). Nothing escapes language (the House of Being). In the farthest reaches of postmodern thought there is only language which 'is' the ultimate reality. Language is self contained and doesn't point to anything beyond itself. This ultimately borders on sophism.
That's probably because Chesterton was not a Calvinist, he was Catholic.
I think their critique of modernism is spot-on, but the response is like a pendulum swing, from dogmatic optimism to nihilism. Nietzsche is their forerunner (if not Hegel); MacIntyre lays this out very nicely in his Gifford Lectures (Three Rival Versionso of Moral Inquiry).
"On the one hand, the various declarations of human rights and the many initiatives inspired by these declarations show that at the global level there is a growing moral sensitivity, more alert to acknowledging the value and dignity of every individual as a human being, without any distinction of race, nationality, religion, political opinion or social class.
On the other hand, these noble proclamations are unfortunately contradicted by a tragic repudiation of them in practice. This denial is still more distressing, indeed more scandalous, precisely because it is occurring in a society which makes the affirmation and protection of human rights its primary objective and its boast. How can these repeated affirmations of principle be reconciled with the continual increase and widespread justification of attacks on human life? How can we reconcile these declarations with the refusal to accept those who are weak and needy, or elderly, or those who have just been conceived? These attacks go directly against respect for life and they represent a direct threat to the entire culture of human rights. It is a threat capable, in the end, of jeopardizing the very meaning of democratic coexistence: rather than societies of "people living together", our cities risk becoming societies of people who are rejected, marginalized, uprooted and oppressed. If we then look at the wider worldwide perspective, how can we fail to think that the very affirmation of the rights of individuals and peoples made in distinguished international assemblies is a merely futile exercise of rhetoric, if we fail to unmask the selfishness of the rich countries which exclude poorer countries from access to development or make such access dependent on arbitrary prohibitions against procreation, setting up an opposition between development and man himself? Should we not question the very economic models often adopted by States which, also as a result of international pressures and forms of conditioning, cause and aggravate situations of injustice and violence in which the life of whole peoples is degraded and trampled upon?
What are the roots of this remarkable contradiction?
We can find them in an overall assessment of a cultural and moral nature, beginning with the mentality which carries the concept of subjectivity to an extreme and even distorts it, and recognizes as a subject of rights only the person who enjoys full or at least incipient autonomy and who emerges from a state of total dependence on others. But how can we reconcile this approach with the exaltation of man as a being who is "not to be used"? The theory of human rights is based precisely on the affirmation that the human person, unlike animals and things, cannot be subjected to domination by others. We must also mention the mentality which tends to equate personal dignity with the capacity for verbal and explicit, or at least perceptible, communication. It is clear that on the basis of these presuppositions there is no place in the world for anyone who, like the unborn or the dying, is a weak element in the social structure, or for anyone who appears completely at the mercy of others and radically dependent on them, and can only communicate through the silent language of a profound sharing of affection. In this case it is force which becomes the criterion for choice and action in interpersonal relations and in social life. But this is the exact opposite of what a State ruled by law, as a community in which the "reasons of force" are replaced by the "force of reason", historically intended to affirm.
At another level, the roots of the contradiction between the solemn affirmation of human rights and their tragic denial in practice lies in a notion of freedom which exalts the isolated individual in an absolute way, and gives no place to solidarity, to openness to others and service of them. While it is true that the taking of life not yet born or in its final stages is sometimes marked by a mistaken sense of altruism and human compassion, it cannot be denied that such a culture of death, taken as a whole, betrays a completely individualistic concept of freedom, which ends up by becoming the freedom of "the strong" against the weak who have no choice but to submit."
It is precisely in this sense that Cain's answer to the Lord's question: "Where is Abel your brother?" can be interpreted: "I do not know; am I my brother's keeper?" (Gen 4:9). Yes, every man is his "brother's keeper", because God entrusts us to one another. And it is also in view of this entrusting that God gives everyone freedom, a freedom which possesses an inherently relational dimension. This is a great gift of the Creator, placed as it is at the service of the person and of his fulfilment through the gift of self and openness to others; but when freedom is made absolute in an individualistic way, it is emptied of its original content, and its very meaning and dignity are contradicted.
There is an even more profound aspect which needs to be emphasized: freedom negates and destroys itself, and becomes a factor leading to the destruction of others, when it no longer recognizes and respects its essential link with the truth. When freedom, out of a desire to emancipate itself from all forms of tradition and authority, shuts out even the most obvious evidence of an objective and universal truth, which is the foundation of personal and social life, then the person ends up by no longer taking as the sole and indisputable point of reference for his own choices the truth about good and evil, but only his subjective and changeable opinion or, indeed, his selfish interest and whim.
This view of freedom leads to a serious distortion of life in society. If the promotion of the self is understood in terms of absolute autonomy, people inevitably reach the point of rejecting one another. Everyone else is considered an enemy from whom one has to defend oneself. Thus soci- ety becomes a mass of individuals placed side by side, but without any mutual bonds. Each one wishes to assert himself independently of the other and in fact intends to make his own interests prevail. Still, in the face of other people's analogous interests, some kind of compromise must be found, if one wants a society in which the maximum possible freedom is guaranteed to each individual. In this way, any reference to common values and to a truth absolutely binding on everyone is lost, and social life ventures on to the shifting sands of complete relativism. At that point, everything is negotiable, everything is open to bargaining: even the first of the fundamental rights, the right to life.
This is what is happening also at the level of politics and government: the original and inalienable right to life is questioned or denied on the basis of a parliamentary vote or the will of one part of the people-even if it is the majority. This is the sinister result of a relativism which reigns unopposed: the "right" ceases to be such, because it is no longer firmly founded on the inviolable dignity of the person, but is made subject to the will of the stronger part. In this way democracy, contradicting its own principles, effectively moves towards a form of totalitarianism. The State is no longer the "common home" where all can live together on the basis of principles of fundamental equality, but is transformed into a tyrant State, which arrogates to itself the right to dispose of the life of the weakest and most defenceless members, from the unborn child to the elderly, in the name of a public interest which is really nothing but the interest of one part. The appearance of the strictest respect for legality is maintained, at least when the laws permitting abortion and euthanasia are the result of a ballot in accordance with what are generally seen as the rules of democracy. Really, what we have here is only the tragic caricature of legality; the democratic ideal, which is only truly such when it acknowledges and safeguards the dignity of every human person, is betrayed in its very foundations: "How is it still possible to speak of the dignity of every human person when the killing of the weakest and most innocent is permitted? In the name of what justice is the most unjust of discriminations practised: some individuals are held to be deserving of defence and others are denied that dignity?" 16 When this happens, the process leading to the breakdown of a genuinely human co-existence and the disintegration of the State itself has already begun.
(This is not meant to turn this into an abortion thread, but abortion is a symptom of postmodernism)
Postmodernism will also make it impossible, in the struggle with Islam, to assert our cultural superiority and right to exist.
Ping to self for later pingout.
This symptom has been very ably described by Chantal Delsol Icarus Fallen, published by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute isi.org. She points out how the prevaling ethos leaves the common person awash, being told to create their own ethic, prohibited from universalizing it.
bump and save
"For the last two centuries, in order to escape from the labyrinth of mediocrity, we have believed ourselves capable of radically transforming man and society. The philosophy of Progress has promised us since Condorcet to eliminate war, disease, and need, and various ideologies have announced a radiant future. We have just come to the realization via the revelation of human disasters in the East, and here through the reappearance of poverty, illiteracy, war, and epidemics that these hopes were in vain. We have fallen back down to earth where we must re-appropriate our human condition. But along the way we have lost the key of understanding, and we no longer recognize this mediocre world, nor do we know its meaning."
I sincerely hope her conclusion is correct as well
The man described by Kierkegaard, who builds a sumptuous castle and then lives in the gatekeepers quarters, or even in the doghouse, will some day gather about himself all that remains of his clairvoyance, and will draw up the plans for a house of truly human proportions. The children of Icarus will no longer demand bread, as they did two centuries ago, nor dreams, as they did a century later, but rather truth, which represents the only foundation upon which an ethics no one can do without can be built. For no one can seek the good without defining it. All hope is built upon knowledge. And no society can respect a man of whose particularities it is ignorant. Our main exigence is today to meditate about anthropology.
Toward the end of her dissection she concludes that we ought to be watchful. Vigilance from moment to moment to always choose the good.
That should not be assumed. It's only good for a working start. Words are a representation of reality. There is nothing fictitious about them when they represent and convey the essence of the reality to be represented.
I think your post was intended for kjvail, not the Freeper "Poster". "kjvail" should go in the "TO:" box. That's done automatically when you click "reply" on any post.
Post 5 sounds like nominalism to me
"In addition, the fact that you can make an argument and communicate to another individual indicates that to a certain extent society is built on necessary fictions"
Perhaps I'm misreading it but this sounds like you believe nothing has any reality beyond our perception of them. (if a tree falls in the forest, does it make a sound - no)I would have to disagree.
I subscribe to the school of realism - I have not yet entirely settled myself between Platonic ultra-realism and Aristolean moderate realism
I'm not really able to make much sense out of the rest of your post, perhaps you could clarify.
I agree, but I think he is, if anything, too limited in his view of postmodernism. A lot of postmodern theory actually attacks the enlightenment view of science as a path to emperical truth. Everything is discourse, including science.
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