Postmodernism became the leading intellectual movement in the late twentieth century. It has replaced modernism, the philosophy of the Enlightenment. For modernism’s principles of objective reality, reason, and individualism, it has substituted its own precepts of relative feeling, social construction, and groupism. This substitution has now spread to major cultural institutions such as education, journalism, and the law, where it manifests itself as race and gender politics, advocacy journalism, political correctness, multiculturalism, and the rejection of science and technology.
Any major philosophy has a view of reality and of man’s place in reality. That will include a view of our core capacities, particularly our cognitive capacities, and a view of our core needs and values. Postmodernism, as a philosophy and as an intellectual movement, is characterized by strong skepticism and subjectivism, and consequently by ethical relativism. In social philosophy, it combines collectivism with a zero-sum view of human relations.
Postmodernism holds that our identities are constructed by our race, gender, or class identities.
Those last two work together. For example, postmodernism holds that our identities are constructed by our race or gender or class identities—that is the collectivized part of it: You exist only as part of a collective group. The zero-sum part is that those groups are in a life-and-death conflict with each other. So, society is made up of blacks versus whites, men versus women, rich versus poor. Generally, the political philosophy of postmodernism is left collectivism. The aesthetic view is very fragmented and rather nihilistic.
Exploring the content here will be eye-opening and help you to recognize postmodern ideas in the academy and beyond.
Free Speech and Postmodernism by Stephen Hicks
When we set up specialized social institutions to seek and advance our knowledge of the truth—scientific societies, research institutes, colleges and universities—we should take special pains to protect, nurture, and encourage the freedom of creative minds. It is therefore surprising that the greatest current threats to free speech come from within our colleges and universities.
Postmodernism (Part 1)
In this video, Professor Stephen Hicks offers a systematic analysis and dissection of the Postmodernist movement and outlines the core Objectivist tenets needed to rejuvenate the Enlightenment spirit. Postmodernists cited include Stanley Fish, Fredric Jameson, Thomas Kuhn, Richard Rorty, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, and Jean-François Lyotard.
Postmodernism (Part 2)
How did we get from modernism to the postmodern predicament? in this video, Stephen Hicks continues with a closer look at the role of epistemology and he identifies postmodern epistemology as an opportunitistic grounding for socialism.
Why Art Became Ugly by Stephen Hicks
Elephant dung. Goldfish in a blender. Liquid entrails. Why has the art world adopted the ugly and the offensive?
The Postmodern Assault on Reason: an Interview with Stephen Hicks
In this fascinating interview, Hicks discusses his thesis that for the far Left, the failure of socialism made postmodernism necessary. "Postmodernism, including its epistemological strategy, was the only way in the latter part of the twentieth century for someone to retain his faith in socialism as an ideology." He contends that postmodernists are defenders of a political position first, and concerned with philosophical ideas only as a means to the defense of their politics.
Food for Thought: The Egalitarian Worldview by David Kelley
The egalitarian view is adopted without argument. The hallmark of this approach is an obsession with statistics on the distribution of income and wealth: the share going to the top 1 % (or 5% or 20%) as against the share going to lower brackets. Despite the use of numbers, this entire discussion is dominated by an image, the image of a pie that has appeared somehow on the table and must now by divided up.
The Fourth Revolution by David Kelley
The ethical principle that individual ability is a social asset is incompatible with a free society. If freedom is to survive and flourish, we need a fourth revolution, a moral revolution, that establishes the moral right of the individual to live for himself.
BOOK: A Life of One's Own: Individual Rights and the Welfare State by David Kelley
"Anyone interested in the moral legitimacy of the welfare state must deal with the arguments in this book." —Ellen Frankel Paul, Editor, Social Philosophy and Policy
The welfare state rests on the assumption that people have rights to food, shelter, health care, retirement income, and other goods provided by the government. In this groundbreaking book, David Kelley examines the historical origins of that assumption, and the rationale used to support it today.