11 August 2014

The Top Five Misrepresentations of those who Reject Post-Modernism

Welcome to my blog. This is a short post I wrote a while back that deals with a pet peeve of mine, post-modernism (I also refer to it as "relativism" sometimes.) You may not know what post-modernism is, but if you are a university student you probably believe in it. Read on to find out more.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Introduction

Conservatives, radical leftists and other groups with passionate political viewpoints have commented on the emergence of post-modernism within universities and in the culture in general. Though few people label themselves as post-modernists, phrases which promote post-modernist ideas such as “everyone has their own reality” and “everyone’s ideas are valid” seem to be everywhere. In short, post-modernism is the belief that there is no real, objective world and that people who try to convince you that they have a correct understanding of reality are dictatorial monsters who are persecuting you for having different beliefs to them. Post-modernists despise anyone who has a political ideology, moral system, philosophical worldview or a belief in the value of science and who dares to try to change people’s minds because of it.
-
There is no term for people who reject post-modernism and perhaps there should not be, since post-modernism rejecters have a wide variety of worldviews, personalities and attitudes to truth. Some post-modernism rejecters have very dogmatic worldviews, others have more flexible worldviews. In spite of these differences, promoters of post-modernism view its opponents as one homogeneous, totalitarian group. Of course, post-modernists do not often speak about post-modernism rejecters directly. In fact they hardly ever speak about anything in a direct manner, but what they say does suggest a view of post-modernism rejecters that is inaccurate (or at the very least, not characteristic of most post-modernism rejecters.) Please note that in this context a post-modernism rejecter is anyone who does not adhere to the post-modernist view that reality is subjective and/or unknowable. One does not need to be an open critic of post-modernism to be a post-modernism rejecter.
-
So without further ado, I shall examine the top five misrepresentations of post-modernism rejecters implicitly promoted by post-modernist discourse (to those of you who are not part of academia “discourse” is just a fancy word for “talk”.)
-
1. They Think That Everyone Thinks the Same Way 

Opponents of post-modernism are often implicitly accused of failing to acknowledge the existance of viewpoints other than their own. In reality, post-modernism rejecters do recognise that different people perceive the world in different ways. They merely reject the idea that all beliefs about the world are accurate. They believe that some ways of viewing the world are more accurate than others (meaning they better represent the way the world actually is.) This is not the same thing as believing that one’s own perceptions of the world are totally accurate. Truth-orientated people try to adjust their views of the world to match reality and ask that others do the same. Post-modernism rejecters recognise that reality and perception are not the same thing, so while people do have their own perceptions they do not have their “own realities”.
-
In order to gain a better understanding of the world, one should consider unconventional views and ideas that are contrary to their own. Thus, the notion that post-modernism rejecters simply have not considered alternative viewpoints is condescending and often incorrect. One can consider a viewpoint and still reject it as false. If a person immediately rejects a viewpoint that is presented to them, this is not proof that they have not “considered” it. It could simply mean that they have encountered it in the past and do not feel the need to “consider” it again.
-
In the same way that post modernism rejecters understand that not all individuals have the same worldview, they also understand that not all societies and culture promote the same worldview. They recognise that ideas which are dominant in their part of the world may not be dominant in other parts of the world. However, they do not believe that any idea a person has because of their “culture” must be correct and may challenge cultural views that they believe to be incorrect.
-
2. They Think They Are Right about Everything

Those who reject post-modernism do not believe that they are infallible or that they have all the right answers. They merely believe that right answers exist. Usually they also believe that it is possible to arrive at an answer and be reasonably sure that it is accurate. Post-modernism rejecters employ various methods to try to understand the world and have lively debates about which method is correct.
-
Of course post-modernism rejecters think that the ideas they believe in are true, otherwise they would not believe in them. They also think that contradictory ideas are false, that is also part of believing a claim. This is different from believing that one is incapable of making a mistake or holding a false belief. Passionately promoting a certain viewpoint does not make one close minded. If a viewpoint can be backed up through rational argument it makes sense that one would have a strong belief in it.
-
3. They All Blindly Follow Some Infallible Authority Figure

Like I mentioned above, rejecters of post-modernism recognise that there are correct answers to things, but don’t necessarily believe that they have found them, nor do they always believe that somebody out there has all the answers. They don’t necessary have a perfect method for finding answers either, but they use the method that they think does the best job of investigating reality. There are other options besides blindly believing everything a particular source says and blindly rejecting all truth claims in the name of not being “dogmatic”.
-
Truth claims presented by authority figures should be rationally evaluated to determine whether they are correct not. This evaluation may lead one to decide that the viewpoint presented is correct. The fact that somebody happens to agree with something an authority figure has said is not proof that they are a blind follower of that authority figure. It is entirely possible to agree with some things which an authority has said while disagreeing with other things.
-
4. They Do Not Realise That Views Are Influenced by Society

The fact that a viewpoint is the result of society’s influence does not make it incorrect. The problem is that people tend to think that ideas that are popular in society are true simply because they are popular, ideas like post-modernism for example.
-
Anyhow, a person may well acknowledge that their society played a role in enabling them to find out things about the world (e.g. if we did not live in a scientifically advanced society we may not know that stars are giant balls of gas light-years away from the earth rather than dots floating around the earth) while still holding an idea to be objectively true. The fact that someone may not believe in a particular idea if they were born under different circumstances has no bearing on whether or not the idea is true.
-
Post-modernism rejecters can also recognise that the practice of science is influenced by society. In fact, one of the functions of the scientific method is to prevent personal and society-created biases from influencing one’s experimental results. Scientists do not deny that they are prone to bias, in fact, a well designed scientific experiment accounts for such biases (e.g. by ensuring that those participating in, as well as those conducting the experiment, do not know anything that would then cause their biases to influence the results, this is known as double-blinding.)
-
5. They Blindly Believe In The Ideas of Western Society

Failing to accept cultural relativism, the post-modernist view that what is true and morally right varies depending on culture, does not automatically make one a worshiper of Western culture. Western culture should be subject to the same criticism that foreign cultures receive. While post-modernists try to protect all oppressive cultures from criticism, genuine radicals ought to ruthlessly critique all class divided societies and the cultures which they create, including the culture of the West.
-
The ironic thing about this accusation is that post-modernism and cultural relativism are themselves Western ideas, not only in the sense that they emerged within the West, but also in the sense that they reflect the individualistic thinking which is characteristic of the West. Less individual-centred societies would scoff at the notion that individuals could have their own personal realities and that all behaviours are acceptable so long as they are part of your culture. In fact this way of thinking is part of the reason why religious fundamentalists around the world despise what they see as the “decadent” West.
-
Conclusion

This list does not include all of the misconceptions that those influenced by post-modernism have regarding post-modernism’s rejecters, but it does contain the most common and most irritating ones. I would like to see an end to the promotion of these misrepresentations in universities and elsewhere.
-
Of course some post-modernism rejecters do have the characteristics that post-modernists accuse them of having, but none of these characteristics are the necessary result of rejecting post-modernism. Religious fundamentalists and dogmatic conservatives do reject post-modernism, but they are not the only ones who do so. Many radical (and even some non-radical) leftists also reject post-modernism, as do scientifically minded people. Thus the mere fact that a person rejects post-modernism does not tell one anything about what that person believes politically, except that they probably have a political belief of some kind.
-
Therefore promoters of post-modernism should stop universally dismissing its opponents as reactionaries and instead start taking what they have to say seriously. Post-modernism rejecters are not closed-minded idiots who have never heard your way of thinking before.  In reality, post-modernism is the dominant view in universities nowadays and we have heard it all before, so it is time for post-modernists to give post-modernism rejecters a turn to speak.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Thanks for reading. If you are a university student I hope that my article made you rethink some of the things that academics have told you. If you are not a university student, be glad that you do not have to put up with this nonsense.

3 comments:

  1. When I saw postmodernism in art, I thought it was harmless. It was only when I saw it in religion and spirituality, feminism and other politics, that I saw its harmfulness. It is a pretense of equality that doesn't exist.

    I plan on citing this post on my blog. Great work!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the citation!

      I don't know much about post-modernism in art. From what I have heard it's about trying out new styles of painting, writing, etc. I am all for creativity and inventiveness in the realm of art, but I think it is also important to example the ways in which art influences people's ideas about the world and I fear that many people have never been taught how to examine art in this way.

      Yes, post-modernism has been applied to a range of different areas, which is ironic because according to post-modernism an idea which is applied to a number of different areas is "totalising" and therefore bad. Oh, the irony.

      "It is a pretense of equality that doesn't exist."

      This is a good summary of what is wrong with post-modernism. It takes the true and progressive notion that all human beings are equal and turns it into "all ideas and feelings are equal", when they are not.

      Delete
  2. I especially like point 4. It's so fundamental to epistemology and yet it's ignored so often in so many different contexts. Like how childists believe that we can have "freedom of thought" when we've been socialized to think in certain ways for the first 18 years of our life.

    ReplyDelete