A critique of postmodernism
Because of the need for brevity, we will limit ourselves to just four points of criticism.
To begin, postmodernists and postmodern studies provide some contributions that are helpful to understand human society. Postmodernists provide good insight into a number of societal matters ranging from human communication to epistemology to the potentially harmful inclination of humans when trying to control and rule people. Many of these issues need continual evaluation and at times societal correction. Postmodern thought provides some helpful perspectives and should be included when evaluating our culture.
James Sire points out three primary areas where postmodern thought contributes to understanding human interaction in society (Sire, The Universe Next Door, p. 235-237). First, postmodernism is critical of “optimistic naturalism.” By this Sire means that often too much emphasis and credit is placed upon human reason to understand truth and work out mankind’s greatest problems. As mentioned earlier, postmodernism is primarily a reaction to the modernist view that human reason alone provides insight into the reality of truth.
Secondly, postmodernists contend that human interaction through language has short comings and is often used by individuals and groups to gain societal control over other people. The potential for such pernicious efforts for position is always present and needs to be kept in check. Postmodernism contributes insight that is beneficial when critiqing such means of attaining power.
And finally, Sire points out that postmodernists are correct when postulating that humans are limited in their abilities to understand reality. Seeing that people are molded and formed to a significant degree through personal and community experience, consideration should be taken when attempting to understand the perspectives of people groups.
Nevertheless, postmodernism has significant shortcomings and consequences that need to be understood and critiqued.
Postmodern thought is self-defeating
As already stated, postmodernism insists that no meta-narrative explains reality any more than any other. Because postmodernism is itself a meta-narrative, it is thus contradictory and self-defeating. Furthermore, postmodernism’s assertion that meta-narratives are simply an attempt to control other people proves to be self-defeating. For postmodernists fall into their own criticism of controlling people through language when attempting to persuade others of their views. And as postmodernists maintain that any attempt to define truth with language and meta-narratives is oppressive, they prove to do the same (Sire p. 224). Josiah H. Nelson provides insight on this matter, and writes,
By claiming that history cannot be viewed as having any narrative, they institute their own sort of narrative, that is, a narrative of absence. Similarly, by asserting that there is no absolute truth, they create their own absolute truth, namely that there are no absolute truths. By doing these things, they erect a meta-narrative that they so desperately try to disprove. In short, their argument is self-defeating. (Taken from https://bluelabyrinths.com/2015/05/04/is-postmodernism-self-defeating/).
Postmodern thought leads to anti-realism
Once again, Sire clarifies the short coming of postmodern thought. Here, Sire points out that postmodernism leads to anti-realism.
Postmodernism has made little impact on science itself—either on how it is conducted or on how it is understood by most scientists. Nonetheless, postmodernism has begun to rewrite our understanding of what science is despite what scientists do or say. Most scientists, whether naturalists or Christian theists, are critical realists. They believe that there is a world external to themselves and that the findings of science describe what the world is like more or less accurately. Postmodernists are anti-realists; they deny that there is any known or knowable connection between what we think and say with what is actually there (Sire, The Universe Next Door, p. 232).
A quote from an anonymous writer provides a concise summation of the anti-realism position maintained by postmodernists: “Postmodernists claim that in a media-saturated world, where we are constantly immersed in media, 24/7—and at work, at home—the distinction between reality and the media representation of it becomes blurred. Simply put, we no longer have any sense of the differences between the real things and images of them.” Postmodernism has significantly shaped the media representation and is complicit in blurring the lines between reality and images of reality. Unfortunately, many people in society do not recognize the blurring of reality nor do they realize the ongoing affect postmodernism has on their perspective of reality.
Postmodernism denies truth exists
Postmodernism clearly contends that truth does not exist. According to postmodernists, even if truth did exist, humans are not sufficiently equipped to discover or know the truth. Mark Earley explains postmodernism’s view of truth like this: “The postmodern worldview denies that there is such a thing as truth: historical, moral, or otherwise. It denies that truth exists independently of our perspectives and interests.”
In other words, postmodernism postulates that truth is dependent upon what people believe to be true. From the postmodern perspective, truth is constructed by people according to how they perceive truth and explain those views through communication, art, media, and the like and conveyed through the groups of people from which the views originate.
Dean Geuras, Professor of Philosophy, Southwest Texas State University, in his paper, “Richard Rorty and the Postmodern Rejection of Absolute Truth,” quotes Stanley Grenz and writes, “[Postmodernism] affirms that whatever we accept as truth and even the way we envision truth are dependent on the community in which we participate...there is no absolute truth: rather truth is relative to the community in which we participate.” (Taken from http://www.leaderu.com/aip/docs/geuras.html).
A closing thought on the threat of postmodernism
Because postmodernism believes and teaches that no truth exists, the problem of postmodernism cannot be overstated. George Will attempts to summarize the threat of postmodernism and its assertions by saying (italics added for emphasis), “Concerning [postmodern] ideas, let us not mince words. The ideas are profoundly dangerous. They subvert our civilization by denying truth is found by conscientious attempts accurately to portray a reality that exists independently of our perception or attitudes or other attributes such as race, ethnicity, sex or class.”
If postmodernism is such a threat, what then are the dangers posed by postmodernism? Let's continue our discussion for some brief comments.To next section Homepage