Postmodernism: The Decline of TruthJul 15, 2019
Is postmodernism to blame for the rise of the post-truth era? At first glance that seems very hard to believe. When we see Kellyanne Conway talking about “alternative facts” or Rudy Giuliani saying “truth isn’t truth,” we don’t immediately assume they’ve been busy reading Jacques Derrida.
Harold G. Neuman
Tuesday, June 25, 2019 -- 12:16 PMI think that postmodernism is
I think that postmodernism is just another phase civilization is (or is not) going through. See, everyone who is exposed to postmodern ethics (or the lack thereof) has an opportunity to choose. Anyone who fails to 'get it', for whatever reason(s), has his/her own right to reject the entire postmodern agenda. Moreover, if he or she DOES get it, the same rule applies. Fake news does not depend on postmodern ethics for its' rise to stardom. Relativism was emerging, long before the term was uttered. Popular and mass culture have been with us for decades ; trends and other such anomalies of civilization come and go, with the relentless march of technology and cultural change. I might read Mr. de Zengotita's book, inasmuch as I'd like to know what a 'new humanism' might look like. Word has it that the old humanism has been around since the thirteenth century, substantially preceding the Enlightenment. There are some absolutes: meaning; truth;reason; and knowledge are examples, even though, at times, their applications may be, uh, relativistic. Our interests drive relativism, to a great extent, so it is little wonder that we can become confused and feel overwhelmed by different ways of viewing old values and ethics. But consider that interests are somewhat akin to beliefs: THEY are personal affairs, which are, in turn, adventures, which (according to Dewey's assessment of beliefs), are SHADY. I wonder what the current batch of humanists thinks about a new humanism? Do they consider themselves in that light? I just don't know.
In any case, I am not worried by current affairs, postmodernism or fake news. I feel badly for those who are. If you don't like the weather in Ohio, you only have to wait a minute...
Harold G. Neuman
Monday, July 15, 2019 -- 11:17 AMPOST-NOTE: Interests are a
POST-NOTE: Interests are a powerful force, driving people to do things they might not otherwise contemplate. Conventions, pressures and expectations lead us to our worst fears and wildest fantasies.
Friday, October 18, 2019 -- 12:00 PMThanks very much for your
Thanks very much for your comment. This particular episode focused on the specific question whether postmodernist approaches to truth could be taken to have any connection to the "post-truth era" we are currently in. (Hence the background history wasn't the main concern in this particular context.) If you’re interested in episodes devoted to post-structuralism and postmodernism more broadly, please check out our show on Foucault, our show on Derrida and Deconstruction, and our show on Postmodernism. Thank you for listening!
Tuesday, February 22, 2022 -- 9:34 PMand thank you for thinking!
and thank you for thinking!
Sunday, January 2, 2022 -- 1:15 PMI'm not sure what FAB5 said
I'm not sure what FAB5 said above, but I am much less charitable to PostModernism than Ken, Josh, or Thomas were in this show. I don't see the need or benefit of PostModern thought.
Did Po-Mo contribute to Post-Truth? Absolutely. Josh gives several examples, but intellectual history is never precise. That Post-Truth predates Po-Mo is no solace, one can aid the other again and again and back and forth… there is no rule of causality to establish contribution.
Did Po-Mo cause Post-Truth? No. But that is only because there are other factors, most significantly, I would add economic circumstances, which had no reliance on Po-Mo.
Yes, Post Modernism should be rebutted, and the minimal statement that reality is somewhat subjective should be restated. There is clear evidence of subjective truth in science, philosophy, and everyday experience. The idea that there is no truth, relative truth, or multiple truths is felonious in most all cases.
The damage is already done. There is no unwinding this coil except to rebut point by point. Trust can not be regained in one motion once squandered. The best we can do is punish conscious opportunists and restore lost opportunities on a case-by-case basis. That is the work.
Harold G. Neuman
Thursday, January 6, 2022 -- 6:59 AMSince beginning work on a
Since beginning work on a theory of contextual reality, I reviewed comments on this post from 2019 and one from Tim Smith, earlier this year (2022), wherewith I concur. Having said that, my attention, as often, goes to origins. Rejection(s) of Enlightenment values must have started before what we now call posrmodernism.. Smith at least tacitly agrees, if I understand his remark correctly. Without examining the "whys" of rejections, it may be more instructive to think about what in modern parlance we label mass and popular culture. Change is always with us---we are fairly certain there were eggs before there were chickens. Safe to say, I think, someone, some when before the postmodern, became bored with the Enlightenment.
Cultural change emerges from evolution, revolution, boredom and re-enlightenment. Context, over some lesser or greater period(s) of time, likewise undergoes change---for better, worse or indifferently.. So, in this sense, reality is created to fit contextual circumstance. (I cannot decide, nor could I be certain if this happens another way 'round.)
Therefore, it seems to me, postmodernism is, within a current window, is a manifestation (incarnation?) of contextual reality. Still fleshing it all out.
Harold G. Neuman
Thursday, January 13, 2022 -- 5:38 AMPostmodernism is but one
Postmodernism is but one contributor to the post-truth era. I say that because not everyone knows of it or would care if they did. Alternately, many see the advantage of well-placed lies.; have little hesitancy about employing them to get what they want, and, are famously creative in causing absurdity to resemble truth. Recent excerpts from conversations with the deposed king of fabrication show us there was, or is, nothing off the table if it might improve his fading charisma. Slick Willie's comment, 'everybody lies' was actually admired by some, if only for the audacity he had in saying it.
This is an evolving facet of the human condition. Calling it an art would be generous. Accurate, maybe, but still generous...
Harold G. Neuman
Friday, January 14, 2022 -- 4:22 AMEditorial note, previous
Editorial note, previous comment: you may recall hearing a Pope decry the relativism of modern society. I can't be certain of whether it was the present Pontiff or his predecessor. This aversion, ostensibly, arises from the value placed on truth. Yet, much of such truth is predicated on belief and faith. So, no, the Church and its' faithful are not fond of postmodernism. And that is as it should be. Which came first though: relativism or postmodernism? If I read it aright, the former preceded the latter. As a practical matter, it makes little difference.
Harold G. Neuman
Saturday, February 5, 2022 -- 4:51 AMThings that are true, are.
Things that are true, are.
Not all, or even most things relatively true, are true....they are rooted in context. Contingent.
Postmodernism is liar's poker. Or worse.
Pascal's Wager was a facade, which is equivalent to liar'$ poker. But, we knew that.
( We all need to hedge our bets, from time to time.)
My full ideas on truth are brief.
I may share them. Sometime.
The entire project will be longer...you knew that...
Tuesday, February 22, 2022 -- 9:19 PMI knew that! You must be mad!
I knew that! You must be mad!
I knew only that the entire project will be much longer than even Pascal's Wanger (silly typo, ha! the gods at it once again!) I mean Pascal's Wager. Pokers and liars and all that....
Things are true, relatively true, and contingent, all the while rooted in facades and liar'$ poker, or worse.....
Perhaps we all may share them, fully and briefly (in our briefs) or not!
Ha! I am not a robot!
Harold G. Neuman
Sunday, February 6, 2022 -- 4:59 AMIs postmodern kitsch a
Is postmodern kitsch a vehicle for blame, or, more likely, an excuse? If I were to buy a worn out horse with rotting teeth, there would be no blame to place, on either me or the seller of the animal. His stance might be caveat emptor. Mine: I make a calculated risk, paying little for the horse, and gambling that I will, somehow, realize worth commensurate with the money spent. There is an understanding. My risk is an excuse. The seller's stance has not changed, nor should it. My risk, my excuse, is my burden and mine alone. Those who find value in postmodern thought are, they think, hedging their bets. They have little investment in a long view. Or worse, they have nothing to invest at all. I do not see much mileage in the postmodern. It lacks a longview. If it has any view at all.
It has been a diversion, or, en francais, divertisement. As our good friend Smith might have deemed it: a lark.
Tuesday, February 22, 2022 -- 9:22 PMA worn out horse with rotting
A worn out horse with rotting teeth! What fun!
En francais, bon merde!
Harold G. Neuman
Thursday, February 10, 2022 -- 1:21 PMJust for balance, I took a
Just for balance, I took a look at some things said here, circa 2010. The remarks from that snapshot seemed to show a misunderstanding of postmodernism. Or perhaps it was ONLY mistrust. Yet, those being proffered now fair---or is that fare---little better. Insofar as this is inconclusive, this inquirer lapses back upon his notion of contextual reality. A pope may be excused for defending his faith, propositional though that may be. Over time, other watchers have expressed doubts as to the efficacy or usefulness of postmodernism. Pragmatists (like me) have found it, uh, absurd. That's right, a-b-s-u-r-d. Let me just say this: if it entails circumstance; content; context; and contingency, it is nothing more than contextually real. That altered state has an attenuated shelf-life. Poor utility begets poorer reliability.
Tuesday, February 22, 2022 -- 9:26 PMAnd the altered state of a
And the altered state of a pope is really nothing more than absurd, propositional though it may be....
Monday, February 21, 2022 -- 9:46 AMJust curious about postmodern
Just curious about postmodern democracies. In ancient democratic societies, like Athens, the citizens (men 18 and over who completed military service and were born of Athenian parents) rotated the performance of the responsibilities of citizenship. Women, slaves, metics (foreign guests), and children were immune from such responsibilities. (Curiously, it appears that many of the Athenian slaves were Scythian archers from precisely the region where all the political conflict between Russia and the Ukraine is happening today.) In our postmodern democracy, it seems the civic responsibilities are strangely reversed. Women, children, and foreign guests are responsible for performing much of the duties once reserved for citizens, but rather than view them as burdens to be endured, we view them as privileges to be pursued. We desire holding civic office, desire leadership positions,
and strangely only those that are supported financially by their partners, or are retired, or possess tremendous personal wealth can participate actively in the most meaningful expressions of political power, such as jury duty, teaching (since the pay is so low), or higher education in general. Poetry, dance, philosophy, classical music, and the classics in the humanities--powerfully influential areas of study in terms of social status and influence--are in general all but inaccessible for anyone but very wealthy.
It seems in postmodern democracies, a curious elite class emerges that participates politically but very much invisibly, by managing to skirt the visible duties ancient democracies required of their citizens, like coming down and actually rowing in the bottom of a trireme ship, instead of buying their way out of these jobs, and instead using money as a means of invisibly behind the scenes exerting control.
In ancient democracies, this invisible class dynamic existed as well. The priests were at the apex of the cone of power. Today we would probably describe the ancient priest's professional function as something between a mystic and a physicist, since geometry was such a key aspect of their spiritual practice. Socrates clearly was in on this elite invisible manifestation of political influence and participation, transmitted mainly at the level of education. If one understood the "mysteries" (i.e., physics and geometry) one was in on the game. The sophists were interfering with this elite monopoly on hidden power because anyone could hire a sophist and learn certain esoteric "truths" and get pretty good at faking an education, or perhaps even acquiring a degree of genuine knowledge.
Back then, sharing the knowledge of the mystery cults (the Gods) could get you killed. But it seems to have gotten out on the street nonetheless. I think Socrates was critical of ancient democracy because in transmitting knowledge privately, and in simultaneously excluding women, children/youth, and foreign guests from citizenship responsibilities, Athens made itself vulnerable to surreptitious colonial influence. For example, Aspasia, Pericles' partner, was from Ionia and was also a sophist. According to Socrates, at one time she was even his teacher (see the book Socrates in Love by D'Angour). Socrates wanted teaching/knowledge transmission, specifically when it came to geometry and physics, to be explicitly and openly acknowledged and funded by the state.
And he ended up dead.
Just wondering how this relates to our present postmodern political reality? It seems like religion and education were historically linked until the modern period, when this function began to be superseded by the state. Hidden in the role of the teacher, the non-secular/sacred aspects related to knowledge transmission remained veiled within our social ideal of justice/equity/balance. We granted consent to those we perceived as just, equitable, and balanced. A source of authority was perceived as "good" if their influence on their environment (the society/the classroom) was one that inspired harmony and peace and not disruption.
But this standard of justice as balance (with all of its hidden geometrical, scientific, and mystical aspects) is rapidly disappearing. We no longer seem to even believe in justice as a social possibility/ideal that can be approximated in the present. And I suspect it's because unconsciously we know our present system tacitly denies women, children/youths, and foreign guests a meaningful opportunity to pursue instruction in the actual science underlying the four Socratic virtues of moderation, courage, wisdom, and justice. The keys to understanding the scientific aspects of these virtues are, as they were back in ancient Athens, openly discussed only by a select group of individuals, today mainly physicists and those into esoteric ideas and practices. Again, one needs to be jumped into the gang before they can actually effectively participate in the dynamics of political power. It seems the reality of political participation (accessing a real position of influence) is primarily limited to the wealthy and the retired. Being invited into effective and legitimate forms of political engagement is a bit like immaculate conception (or becoming a member of I.A.T.S.E. in Hollywood). Unless one is born into it, you're out. And this understandably leads to open and massive justified public outrage, for people cannot participate in or control what they cannot understand, and social power as it actually functions is largely outside of the grasp of average people.
Just wondering what others may think...
Humbly, but prickly yours,
Sunday, February 20, 2022 -- 6:49 PMI'm also curious how
I'm also curious how knowledge conceived as property ("intellectual property") relates to the above topic. It seems to me we live in an age of professional sophistry, where knowledge is political power, and thus a commodity to be bought and sold like cabbages, thus making the meta data captured in the online learning dialectical experience between teacher and pupil worth quite a few rubles. This is a very relevant ethical subject, highly timely with respect to debates surrounding technology in early education, where the teacher is the student's model of just authoritative influence and is about to be replaced by a flat screen that consumes data as part of its function....lots of rubles in that data...just saying...
Harold G. Neuman
Saturday, March 5, 2022 -- 6:33 AMIf anyone is curious as to
If anyone is curious as to some other ideas, please note my late comments on this subject, from the July 15, 2019 blog archive. I gave a practical ( to me) example from past experience. I don't know if government personnel policies and practices have changed much. But, I sorta doubt it.
Harold G. Neuman
Thursday, March 10, 2022 -- 4:43 PMThere was a post, awhile back
There was a post, awhile back, that asked: should belief aim at truth? I re-visited that today, claiming, in essence, belief is not about truth at all. It IS about what 'believers want to convince others of.. I claimed that postmodernist thought is nothing more (aside from the fact that postmodernism represents boredom). Belief is not for thinkers, It is for sheep, who are not inclined to question, Anything...people who fear being different, and the challenges difference brings. In few cases, seems to me, does belief carry its' weight. And, when it does, outcomes may be favorable to some, though they need not be truthful. And so, there is no rule. And that is true---so many times.
Harold G. Neuman
Friday, March 18, 2022 -- 7:17 AMMoving right along, I read
Moving right along, I read something, novel-sounding, this morning. There is a movement---or, at least a proposal---to convene a forum, wherein philosophy minds might review/critique news. I suppose, but don't know, this has been done before on some scale. My comment was an explicit approval. With news, there are agendas---ulterior motives. The facts (when they are facts) get massaged to conform to positions and ideologies. Could a panel of philosophers or public intellectuals thread that needle? Maybe. But, there would need to be some moderation, I guess, to keep things on track and squelch inter-professional squabbling. Perhaps, it would be a dismal failure.
My pragmatism tells me there ought to be a way to find a way...
Saturday, March 26, 2022 -- 9:23 PMPhilosophical minds ought to
Philosophical minds ought to know better than to believe in Santa Claus. The news media are Santa Claus. Whatever you do, don't let old men with beards into your thought-sphere so as to know whether or not you've been naughty or nice. They will offer you free presents and treats and candies and especially candy apples, but just politely say, "No thank you," and go your own way. Santa Claus is for children. Don't tell him anything...trust me, Santas these days are just creeps in costumes, they're dirty old men posing as Santa, simply to get into your head and get a hold of your belief systems. Those belief systems are worth some good change in the marketplace of ideas. "Thought leaders" love to have such "followers." Trust me, tell Santa politely, "No thank you."
Your pragmatism ought to tell you never to trust a man with beard in a hat like that.
Harold G. Neuman
Sunday, March 20, 2022 -- 8:23 AMSupposedly, the late Richard
Supposedly, the late Richard Rorty said we need not worry about DEFINING truth. (Insofar as I have not read everything he wrote, i cannot attest to that.) ...part of his comment referred to sentences 'paying their own way'. To my way of thinking, there have been dozens of sentences, paragraphs and pages over the years that have not done so. If his assessment is partly right, we have a clue. And again, IMHO, we can see postmodernism not as a cause of truth demolition, but an outcome thereof.
One must often look to origins for answers to present questions.
Sunday, March 20, 2022 -- 9:19 PMAnd one must present origins
And one must present origins to the questions being answered.
Wittgenstein was a bit nutty, all swirly and twirly (mystical, nonsensical, like lightning flashes, like the angry Father up above).
Karl Popper was grumpy and crunchy, like oatmeal in the morning, with warm milk and dry toast (orthodox, sensible, like that which always arrives on time, wearing practical shoes and a knee length skirt, the Divine Mommy).
And then there's all of us kiddies, in between the one extreme (whirling insanity) and the other (everything's under control). We kiddies just want to make it through dinner safely without the two of them going at it again...
Mommy's gonna win. She always does...
Have another serving of apple sauce...and be in bed early.