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Postmodernism why is it so vilified?

  1. Apr 19, 2003 #1
    I'm curious as to why the postmodernist movement and postmodern ideas have not only been rejected but have been downright vilified by so many academicians, what are your opinions?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 20, 2003 #2


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    Compare postmodernism to Wernicke's aphasia --- at $100-200/hr., I might be willing to read/listen to it, but I ain't no shrink, nor do I have the patience to cater to "postmodernists/deconstructionists" on a charity basis.
  4. Apr 20, 2003 #3
    alright, how about this (from The Illusions of Postmodernism , by Colin Mooers):

    It seems to me from reading postmodernist writings that the defining theme of postmodernism is its radical skepticism. It seems like an obvious backlash to the globalization and scientizing that has occured in the past 100 years, but not something that should be outrightly dismissed. I personally feel that the deconstructionist school of literary criticism has a lot of strong points and arguments that have, unfortunately, been passed over or rejected because it became caught up in the larger political and social issues that postmodernism has confronted.
  5. Apr 22, 2003 #4
    Mainly it says that there is no objective reality, and it's all just subjective experience - no real correct or incorrect. There's different levels and versions to this but that's the basic idea.

    It's rejected because it's...

    1) Impractical: even if true, we have to rely on our senses and do the best we can anyway.

    2) Disproved: to say that there's no objective truth is to deny the ability of anyone to accomplish anything. This has been proven false by the fact of our accomplishments, based on the assumption of prerequisite facts.

    3) Stupid: it just is. If you'd heard some of the assanine conclusions reached by these people, it's hard to believe their not in a padded room. And it's silly too - basically just people trying to sound philosophic without really providing anything meaningful to the world.

    Also, Skepticism is the OPPOSITE of postmodernism. I'm a Skeptic. Postmodernism is based more on CYNICISM. Cynics say that real truth is unobtainable. Skeptics say that it IS obtainable, but that the degree of belief in a proposition should be proportionate to the degree of physical evidence for a propositions. In other words, Skeptics are NOT "nay sayers" - they believe in things, but always as it is supported by evidence. By contrast, Postmodernists reject the validity of any evidence.
  6. Apr 22, 2003 #5
    I said radical skepticism. Certainly postmodernists place extreme emphasis on subjectivity, but there's a world of difference between claiming that they say that real truth is unobtainable or that they reject the validity of any evidence and saying that they believe that all evidence or truth is equally valid: none more higher than the other.
  7. Apr 23, 2003 #6
    True. Saying there's no such thing as objective reality is different from saying that we cannot ever obtain the truth about that reality. Postmodernism, at its core, suggests the former from my understanding. I have no problem with the idea that we may never know for certain if/when we have real truth, due to the imperfection of our senses and reasoning ability. But I find it hard to believe that we NEVER obtain real truth. I think there's probably quite a lot that we DO understand accurately. Our affectiveness in the world provides good reason to suspect we've found little truths here and there, which we've been able to put to good use.

    If you want to compare "Radical skepticism" to "moderate postmodernism" then it's going to come out skewed. I could compare "radical hinduism" to "moderate buddhism" and get similar results. My previous post was comparring what I believe are the mainlines of the two.
  8. Apr 23, 2003 #7
    Fundamentalists and scientific rationalists are hooked on the idea of absolutes as in Absolute Truth, final answers, objectivity. Post-modernism has done some good sniping attacks on those concepts, seeing truth not as absolute but as something upon which there is consensus or agreement; it's relative. The fundies, religious and scientific, hate relativism.

    Postmodernism has also mocked science on occasion and a number of post-modern thinkers have commented on science without understanding the science (the Sokal scandal).

    Scientists can have a rather high opinion of themselves too, seeing themselves as truth-finders rather than problem-solvers. This has variously amused and annoyed post-modern philosophers.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 23, 2003
  9. Apr 23, 2003 #8
    There's a crucial difference between fundamentalist and scientific rationalists you're missing N_Quire.

    Saying that there IS an objective truth is not the same as saying "I KNOW" what that objective truth IS.

    Science has built-in mechanisms to avoid dogma and allows it to continually refine and correct itself in the light of new evidence. It is precisely that process which gets it closer and closer to truth as we go and the very reason WHY we are progressing technologically.

    The dogma of fundamentalism, however, takes one idea and proclaims that IT IS that objective truth. If science operated this way we wouldn't have computers to talk about this on.

    Again, two things have been equated here which are complete opposites (science and fundamentalism).
  10. Apr 23, 2003 #9
    I think this touches on the core reason why post modernists are vilified so much without spelling it out in plain english. It is a reactionary movement to the conservative mainstream and such movements knowingly and willingly present themselves as targets to be vilified. Considering zk4586 defense of postmodernism, I have to wonder if this is also the point of this thread. :0)
  11. Apr 23, 2003 #10


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    Greetings !
    Exactly ! And even more refining that difference
    I'd say: Science and the scientific approach are
    NOT an indication of truth at all, they are an
    indication of usefullness. Although they originate
    from these prime "reality questions".
    (That may not be recognized as the "popular" part,
    but I think that scientists themselves do accept
    this point as part of their approach as well.)

    Live long and prosper.
  12. Apr 23, 2003 #11
    Essentially. I'm not saying that I am a postmodernism, merely that I understand the movement within the context that it arose. I tend to think of it as Neo-Romanticism, because you can find a lot of commonalities between the two movements, especially if you consider the reactionary nature of the Romantic movement -- that is, seeing romanticism as a backlash towards the Englightenment's ultimate commitment to rationality and reason and the failure of Enlightenment thinking to describe the entire universe, mankind and society in particular, in terms of scientific laws.
  13. Apr 23, 2003 #12
    Failure of the enlightenment?? Funny. *shakes head* :)
  14. Apr 23, 2003 #13
    you always seem to take portions of what I say without actually looking at the whole thing. If you know anything about the Enlightenment then you know that it was concerned with explaining everything in scientific, ie rational, terms. Not just the motion of the planets, and other astronomical and physical phenomena, but social systems, human actions and thought processes, et cetera. In the latter respect, it has failed.
  15. Apr 23, 2003 #14
    More to the point it was concerned with describing everything in absolutist reductionist terms including ethics and morality. It's failures have been as horrific at times as its successes have been monumental. In view of these facts calling it the "Enlightenment" is a rather strange choice of words, but the winners in any conflict write the history books.
  16. Apr 25, 2003 #15
    Yes, I know what you mean ZK, and I still disagree. You mentioned "social systems, human actions and thought processes, et cetera" so I'll address those...

    The scientific method has had a profound impact on the study of social systems, even giving rise to the field of sociology itself. An enormous amount of data has been gleaned about social systems including economic theories, political theories, trend analysis, polling methods, and so on. Complex systems theory is also touching on the dynamics of social systems in never before seen ways and I think we're making good progress here. Not quite a failure.

    Are you denying the entire field of psychology? I think we know a hell of a lot more now about human behavior then we did before the enlightenment. Also not a failure by any stretch of the imagination.

    There are literally thousands of books now on the subject, describing how brains function, process information, memory, emotion, instinct, and consciousness. This knowledge has lead to effective surgeries and treatments for brain injuries, as well as interfaces for paralyzed people. And to anyone not preoccupied with mystical conceptions, these models provide accurate and satisfying descriptions of how and why the brain works as it does. Are they complete in every detail? No, but comprehensively the data on this is huge and growing daily - hardly a failure.

    The only people who think that things aren't currently or can't be described scientifically are those who have some sort of predetermined insistance that there "must" be something more (or less in the case of postmodernists), due to cultural ideology or psychological needs. More commonly, it's simply a matter of wanting to pretend they can know as much about the questions of the universe as a physicist, neurosurgeon, or biologist without actually putting in the work and effort to learn about all of the tremendous successes in every field that the enlightenment has brought.
  17. Apr 25, 2003 #16
    I don't argue that science hasn't made any successful findings, nor do I dismiss science as merely another equally valid set of facts and truths, quite the contrary, actually. I'm all for science. But I still have to disagree with you. The Enlightenment was about the belief that if you can find scientific laws to model and describe and predict the workings of the heavens then you can find scientific laws to model and explain anything and everything. Have we axiomatized and equationized everything? Regardless of what psychology and cognitive science has told us about human behavior, do we believe that human beings are animals of reason, that we have an orderly and rationalized mental faculty? Or, rather, has science exposed that what is really going on is a magnificently complex series of molecular interactions -- a pandemonium (to use Dennett's term) of sensory data all vying for mental recognition -- fizzing throughout all regions of the brain, culminating, somehow, in our wonderous subjective mental experiences? Just because science has explained these things, or at the very least made good progress, doesn't mean that the goals of the Enlightenment have been accomplished, nor that the weltanschauung of the philosophes has been vindicated.
  18. Apr 25, 2003 #17
    This is in reply to the original post, quoted below,

    and the content of this post, quoted here:

    In response to the first point: There likely would not have been nearly as much criticism of postmodernism if it had simply remained an approach to literary studies. No one really cared a whit about it until it began to extend to other fields of inquiry in the humanities and social sciences.

    In response to the second: The idea of radical skepticism has already been addressed, so I won't comment here. If you want to do deconstructionist literary criticism, you still can, it just won't be under the name of "deconstructionism" or "postmodernism." The field has a notorious aversion to being defined or even characterized. You can try to develop general themes or recurring ideas, but you can usually find that even those associated with the field can find a way to distance themselves.

    Postmodernism may be fine for literary studies, and may have some small kernels of not totally useless ideas, but it is not the way to try to solve real life problems in the world. If you start disavowing any claim to facts and evidence, how can you make a case against government atrocities or heinous activities? I'm not even going to worry about science and medicine - what about historical revisionists who deny the Holocaust or imperialistic excesses in Africa and Asia by Western countries? I could claim that there was no evidence that would justify the U.S. having waged war in Iraq - just as easily as I could claim that there was no evidence that would condemn the U.S. for having waged war against Iraq. That's the kind of silly, shoddy reasoning that postmodernism permits.

    As a literary criticism school, I'm sure being a pomo is not the worst thing in the world. Beyond that, you're only deluding yourself.
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2003
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