Postmodernism: A Primer for Reasoning Minds | Part 1: What Is Postmodernism?

It is by all means to be believed, because it is absurd. 

Tertullian

It is meaningless to speak in the name of—or against—Reason, Truth, or Knowledge.

Michel Foucault

Heidegger claims that “Because the truth of metaphysics is so unfathomable” we have to set aside reason and logic: “If this breaks the sovereignty of reason in the field of enquiry into Nothing and Being, then the fate of the rule of ‘logic’ is also decided. The very idea of ‘logic’ disintegrates in the vortex of a more original questioning.”

Stephen Hicks on Heidegger, http://www.stephenhicks.org/2009/09/19/the-fountainheads-gordon-prescott—heideggers-disciple/

Postmodernism as a skeptical philosophy and ideology is all the rage in the culture of today’s classrooms and institutions of higher learning. It is becoming increasingly mainstream as people begin to pay attention to the causes of the confusing absurdities and disconcerting destabilizing events playing out in our political institutions, media, universities, communities, workplaces, and perhaps even our own households.

Where modernism represents rationality and reason in pursuit of human endeavors that guided the enlightenment period, postmodernism is the opposite, representing irrationality and emotionalism as humankind’s most appropriate (perhaps only) approach to human action and the pursuit of ends. Postmodernism declares that reason is dead and emotion rules.

The alleged superior efficacy of postmodernism as a practical and useful paradigm of human problem-solving is refuted by the achievements of the Enlightenment era in wiping out poverty and extending human health and welfare beyond anything previously imaginable. As against all that is revealed by our senses and applied reason, postmodernism directly rejects this conclusion about the efficacy of human reason. It wishes to claim that the unprecedented effects were achieved without the benefit of applied reason as the cause.

Postmodernism posits as an arbitrary axiom that reason is a prejudiced and unwarranted illusion brought forward by mankind’s hubris. It then sets out in earnest without reason as a guide to human understanding and action, to destroy the vast richness of the achievements of applied reason that are set before us and upon which our well-being and survival as individuals and as a species now and always depends.

The online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/postmodernism/), indicates that postmodernism is a term that arrived in philosophy in 1979 with the publication of The Postmodern Conditionby Jean-Fracois Lyotard. 

The body of thought Lyotard attempted to define was extracted from an earlier body of mostly German and French thinkers going back more than a century. Post-modernism is an ersatz mélange of Kant, Weber, Hegel, Marx, Freud, Rousseau, , Nietzsche, Derrida, Foucault, Lyotard, and a whole series of skeptical and analytic philosophers (see Stephen R.C. Hicks, Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault). These are names that most people don’t know, but whose ideas are rapidly threatening the well-being of reasonable and productive people.

According to the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Postmodernism is a loose “set of critical strategic and rhetorical practices employing concepts” directed towards the “destabaliz[ation of] other concepts such as presence, identity, historical progress, epistemic certainty, and the univocity of meaning.” [Univocal: having only one meaning, unambiguous.]

If something is rational and can be verified by the mind, postmodernism opposes it. It is an incomprehensible attempt to justify and engage in the practices of nihilism, skepticism, emotionalism, and irrationalism. It stands on invented theory for its guidance in opposition to logical and scientific proof for establishing and defending facts about the world. In rejecting Reason, Truth and Knowledge as meaningless, adherents of postmodernism necessarily embrace irrationality as an all-encompassing method of discovery and thereby necessarily create cognitive chaos. 

Postmodernism’s most devout theorists, supporters, defenders, and practitioners having convinced themselves that they must be released from the bounds of observed reality, rationality and cause and effect, leave themselves with the only available alternative to fill the void: they actively, proudly, and with the devotion of religious zealots, embrace and defend the absurd. 

Absurdity as a method, to the extent that it must separate the absurdist from a cognitive grounding in reality, is the hallmark of mental illness. We should not be surprised therefore to see what we see at the extremes from those who substantially embrace postmodernism as an ideology: a deeply emotional psychological existential angst directed towards everything and everybody who holds a rational foundation for seeking knowledge that crosses the movement’s arbitrary incursion against reality. Reason is the enemy of madness. To the extent that the postmodernist grudge against reality is real and visceral, it is itself madness.

Professor and author Gad Saad identifies the absurdity of postmodernism as madness and writes sardonically but in earnest in his best-sellling book The Parasitic Mind:

Several years ago, when I realized that idea pathogens were causing more more people to reject reality, I coined the term Ostrich Parasitic Syndrome (OPS). Here’s how I defined this dreadful attack on reason:

This disorder causes a person to reject realities that are otherwise as clear as the existence of gravity. Sufferers of OPS do not believe their lying eyes. They construct an alternative reality known as Unicornia. In such a world, science, reason, rules of causality, evidentiary thresholds, a near-infinite amount of data, data analytic procedures, inferential statistics, the epistemological rules inherent to the scientific method, rules of logic, historical patterns, daily patterns, and common sense are all rejected. Instead, the delusional ramblings of an OPS sufferer are rooted in illusory correlations, non-existent causal links, and feel-good progressive platitudes. Ostrich logic is always delivered via an air of haughty moral superiority.

Saad, The Parasitic Mind: How Infectious Ideas are Killing Common Sense, Pp. 123-124

Next: Part 2—Postmodernism: A Creeping Creepy Ideology of Destruction

Some video resources for further insight about Postmodernism on the march:

1. Stephen Hicks, Explaining Postmodernism in 2018, https://youtu.be/-BGbHG63x8w

2. Understanding Postmodernism with Professor Stephen Hicks, 2018, https://youtu.be/knOwcZ0y5IE

© 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.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.