February 8, 2015


The Good, the True, & the Postmodern (Chase Padusniak, 2/08/15, Imaginative Conservative)

With the exception of a few figures like Professor Peter Augustine Lawler, who is a self-identified "postmodern conservative," conservatives are generally suspicious of the word "postmodern." I think this aversion is uncalled for, and that the interests of a broadly-understood postmodernity align with many of conservatism's central tenets.

Critics such as William Lane Craig have argued that our culture is not postmodern because it is not wholly relativistic. This is simply not true; postmodernism and relativism are not equivalent terms. The early postmodern philosopher, Martin Heidegger, made his entire project an analysis of being and what it means to be, going so far as to wonder: "Why are there beings at all, and why not rather nothing? That is the question." These do not sound like the words of a mere moral relativist interested in deconstructing systems of power.

Neither is postmodernism simply an academic fad to students like myself. Something like relativism does exist in our colleges and universities, but it derives largely from the thought of Michel Foucault. But to disdain all of postmodernism over is the equivalent of assuming all liberalism is broken because you dislike John Rawls. What about Adam Smith, John Locke, and Edmund Burke? In fact, much of the direction the humanities have taken recently is rooted in something more modern than postmodern; namely, the influence of the social sciences, and the turning of literary criticism from textual analysis into a process for the cultural weaponization of words.

If anything, postmodernity provides a critique of modernity, because it dispels the commonly held conception that postmodernity implies relativism or the complete denial of all things good and holy. All that the term "postmodern" need imply is any thought that comes after modernity, and necessarily provides some movement away from it. In fact, Merriam Webster's primary definition for "postmodern" is "of, relating to, or being an era after a modern one." So, let us drop the preconceptions.

What, then, is modernity?

We would define these things more narrowly.  Modernism can be understood as the faith in Materialism that afflicted continental Europe and is best dated from Descartes' cogito ergo sum. Thanks to the skepticism of our philosophers the English-speaking world largely avoided this dead end.  But to the extent that Academia and Intellectuals had followed Scientism down the rabbit hole, the reaction within that milieu can be considered postmodernism. It's essentially just a return to traditional skepticism about Reason mostly among  those who don't make it quite as far as Faith.  

Posted by at February 8, 2015 6:31 PM

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