Postmodernism posits as a basic premise the rejection of reason as a Western superstition. It does not demonstrate that reason is akin to superstition, for the practical reason that an argument requires evidence or proof, and evidence and proof require an objective reality to establish evidential facts acquired from the foundational sensory evidence that forms the building blocks for the creation of higher-level concepts. Also, to hold something as superstition as against reason is to have already established a valid standard of reason. Postmodernism can’t pursue this methodology precisely because of its axiomatic rejection of reason as a valid method of understanding.
A cat is a thing—an entity—we perceive by means of our senses and recognize it cognitively as it moves around in our house. We give the concept of ownership of a household animal a name: pet. We also give it a pronoun to identify it as a specific pet: Skimbleshanks. When we add a dog and a bird we have a larger concept of householdpets. When we add other pets that may be uncommon and unusual, perhaps even dangerous, we create a new concept: exotic pets. Pets themselves exist as a subset of a larger higher-level category of animals and wildlife. We can include other branches of concepts formed the same way, and in all sorts of ways, integrating through sensory experience and logic as we go up the hierarchy. We can include plants and insects with animals and derive the concept of living things, which include ourselves. We can contrast living things from non-living things on the basis of observational data and reason. These categories are man-made, but they aren’t arbitrary. They are made objective by the universality of the process applied to establish valid definitions.
The point here is not to argue the particulars of epistemology, but rather to identify the hierarchical nature of a valid process of concept formation. We cannot do this correctly without applied logic and reason. Concept formation and the process of creating definitions are not arbitrary. Elon Musk and the engineers he employs can’t land humans on the moon and return them safely on the premises underlying the epistemology of postmodernism because that epistemology is arbitrary and asserted without evidence. It is not scientific: it doesn’t align with reality.
The interconnected processes required from farmers acquiring and planting seed through harvesting, distribution, manufacturing, wholesaling, retailing, and all that is required to get it into your home and onto your table so that you can live a satisfying life can’t happen with the rejection of logic and objectivity in concepts and method. Without this strict adherence to the laws of nature and reality, postmodernism can only be a force for destruction of the positive values required for successful living.
When reason—the human survival tool—is rejected as the first premise to a proposed school of thought, and with it an attempt to undermine and destroy our natural cognitive requirements as given by nature, you have no school of thought. To act against human nature is anti-human. To assert otherwise is pretense.
Those who advocate for postmodernism and its variants can’t escape the fact that the human capacity for rationality is hard-wired into the biological mind. Postmodernists and their sympathizers may publicly and prejudicially repudiate logic, reason, concept formation and any of its products of discovery such as the scientific method as a brazen attempt to justify their theory, but even so they must still apply logic and reason to retain some minimum of coherence and social relevance. There must be enough semblance of (overlooked or unacknowledged) reasonableness if only in form and not substance to be convincing to themselves and others who sympathize with their emotional appeal. For example, they must still attempt to adhere to legitimizing some methodologies of proof or legitimacy of concept formation and application, including math (although even this is under attack by some).
By arbitrarily denying the virtues and validity of the discoveries, products and achievements of past creative geniuses—and by identifying and cursing them as “western” or “male” or “white” and therefore inherently bad, corrupt, morally illegitimate and even reprehensible, postmodernism’s apologists must still rely on a form of applied logic and reason to remain coherent, even if their version of reason is floating free from its ties to reality. They cannot escape the fundamental philosophical axioms including the validity of human consciousness as the faculty of perceiving that which exists (in Ayn Rand’s formulation: Existence is Identity, Consciousness is Identification).
There are facts of reality that must be accepted both emotionally and logically, and practiced by postmodernists, whether they want to recognize them or evade them, to even exist and remain alive from day to day.
In addition to the fundamental philosophical axioms of Existence, Consciousness and Identity, there are also corollaries. It is impossible to deny cause and effect. It is everywhere and at all times. Try to deny time itself. You can’t. It is the measurement of movement. The natural sciences and math are all system built from direct observation and logic, and the concepts derived, when proved and observed, are just as real as physical stuff we can touch and feel. Other fields of study, such as economics, politics, and law, are also built with axioms as their foundation, and the positive human values of a healthy, peaceful, meaningful, and prosperous life as guides to understanding social rules of engagement.
The basic axioms of philosophy exist as a reckoning to those who wish to deny their authenticity precisely because they can be neither proved nor denied. This statement confounds some people. The reason they cannot be proved is that any proof already rests on the validity of the axioms. To prove something, you must already exist, have identity, and be conscious. You cannot prove existence exists unless something already exists. In this way, existence precedes any attempt at proof, and doesn’t itself require proof. Existence is self-evident, i.e., axiomatic. The same is true for Consciousness and Identity. Their validity is established ostensively, by direct awareness and introspection. A formal proof is not required. Other important concepts can be discovered the same way, and developed and expanded through logical reasoning. Geometry is a prime example.
A person not being guided by reason is being guided by something other than reason. When a person gives up on reason or attempts to bypass reason, they have two alternatives. They can rely on their emotional whims—the feelings that strike them at the time—or they can give their thinking over to, and make themselves dependent on, the thinking of others.
When people allow their choices and actions to be determined by others, they become counterfeit individuals in the sense that they choose or elect to no longer be under their own control. By giving up primary responsibility for guiding their own thought and action, they shun responsibility—they become non-responsible, perhaps irresponsible.
Counterfeit individuals are subjectivists in the sense that they refuse to take responsibility for identifying the objective world for what it is, instead becoming dependent on the thinking of others to define their context for action and the goals that are acceptable and valuable to pursue. Thinking and reason are necessary for survival. Certainty about knowledge requires a focus on reality. When you give up reason as your method of understanding the real world in exchange for thinking done for you by others and conclusions passed on to you by others (by group consensus perhaps), you take your survival and well-being out of your own hands through an abrogation of personal responsibility, and place your life’s survival mechanisms into the hands (and minds) of others. There is a loss of independence, of individualism, which is requires one’s own judgment with regards to facts and conclusions, and not reliance on the thinking and value judgments of others. Independence is another primary human virtue that postmodernists explicitly eschew.
Philosopher Leonard Peikoff correctly observes: “Reason is your means of knowing reality: if you divorce the two, you do not know reality and you are not reasonable” (Teaching Johnny to Think, p. 10). Not only that, but “Just as reason and freedom are corollaries, so too are faith and force. … You have to use force where reason is abandoned” (Peikoff, Teaching Johnny to Think, P. 71).
This is the explanation of why postmodernists so quickly and willingly embrace violence: force and the threat of force are the only means available to them to achieve any social goal in any realm (including, for example, education, politics, jurisprudence, journalism, and economics).
Emotional outburst and social destruction are the only outcomes achievable when the modernist method of reason, individual rights, and political freedom are eviscerated.
Next: Part 7 – Every Reasonable Argument to Refute Reason is Self-Refuting
© 2021, Barry L. Linetsky. All Rights Reserved
Barry Linetsky is a Partner with The Strategic Planning Group in Toronto, Canada, where he and his colleagues have been helping executives and owners define and align their business purpose with customer values since 1994. Barry is the author of the acclaimed business biography The Business of Walt Disney and the Nine Principles of His Success (Theme Park Press). His two most recent books, Understanding and Creating Vision and Mission Statements and Understanding and Creating Strategic Performance Indicators and Business Scenarios, co-authored with Dobri Stojsic, are available from amazon. The third book in the series Understanding and Creating Critical Success Factors will be available soon. Barry’s thought-leadership articles have been published by Ivey Business Journal, Rotman Magazine, Mises Wire, and the Economist Intelligence Unit in conjunction with Harvard Business School. Barry is also a writer, researcher, analyst, photographer, and business strategy enabler. Read his blog and learn more at barrylinetsky.com. Follow him on Twitter @BizPhilosopher.