How French “Intellectuals” Ruined the West: Postmodernism and Its Impact, Explained

Postmodernism presents a threat not only to liberal democracy but to modernity itself. That may sound like a bold or even hyperbolic claim, but the reality is that the cluster of ideas and values at the root of postmodernism have broken the bounds of academia and gained great cultural power in western society. The irrational and identitarian “symptoms” of postmodernism are easily recognizable and much criticized, but the ethos underlying them is not well understood. This is partly because postmodernists rarely explain themselves clearly and partly because of the inherent contradictions and inconsistencies of a way of thought which denies a stable reality or reliable knowledge to exist. However, there are consistent ideas at the root of postmodernism and understanding them is essential if we intend to counter them. They underlie the problems we see today in Social Justice Activism, undermine the credibility of the Left and threaten to return us to an irrational and tribal “pre-modern” culture.

Postmodernism, most simply, is an artistic and philosophical movement which began in France in the 1960s and produced bewildering art and even more bewildering  “theory.” It drew on avant-garde and surrealist art and earlier philosophical ideas, particularly those of Nietzsche and Heidegger, for its anti-realism and rejection of the concept of the unified and coherent individual. It reacted against the liberal humanism of the modernist artistic and intellectual movements, which its proponents saw as naïvely universalizing a western, middle-class and male experience.

It rejected philosophy which valued ethics, reason and clarity with the same accusation. Structuralism, a movement which (often over-confidently) attempted to analyze human culture and psychology according to consistent structures of relationships, came under attack. Marxism, with its understanding of society through class and economic structures was regarded as equally rigid and simplistic. Above all, postmodernists attacked science and its goal of attaining objective knowledge about a reality which exists independently of human perceptions which they saw as merely another form of constructed ideology dominated by bourgeois, western assumptions. Decidedly left-wing, postmodernism had both a nihilistic and a revolutionary ethos which resonated with a post-war, post-empire zeitgeist in the West. As postmodernism continued to develop and diversify, its initially stronger nihilistic deconstructive phase became secondary (but still fundamental) to its revolutionary “identity politics” phase.

It has been a matter of contention whether postmodernism is a reaction against modernity. The modern era is the period of history which saw Renaissance Humanism, the Enlightenment, the Scientific Revolution and the development of liberal values and human rights; the period when Western societies gradually came to value reason and science over faith and superstition as routes to knowledge, and developed a concept of the person as an individual member of the human race deserving of rights and freedoms rather than as part of various collectives subject to rigid hierarchical roles in society.

The Encyclopaedia Britannica says postmodernism “is largely a reaction against the philosophical assumptions and values of the modern period of Western (specifically European) history” whilst the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy denies this and says “Rather, its differences lie within modernity itself, and postmodernism is a continuation of modern thinking in another mode.” I’d suggest the difference lies in whether we see modernity in terms of what was produced or what was destroyed. If we see the essence of modernity as the development of science and reason as well as humanism and universal liberalism, postmodernists are opposed to it. If we see modernity as the tearing down of structures of power including feudalism, the Church, patriarchy, and Empire, postmodernists are attempting to continue it, but their targets are now science, reason, humanism and liberalism. Consequently, the roots of postmodernism are inherently political and revolutionary, albeit in a destructive or, as they would term it, deconstructive way.

The term “postmodern” was coined by Jean-François Lyotard in his 1979 book, The Postmodern Condition. He defined the postmodern condition as “an incredulity towards metanarratives.” A metanarrative is a wide-ranging and cohesive explanation for large phenomena. Religions and other totalizing ideologies are metanarratives in their attempts to explain the meaning of life or all of society’s ills. Lyotard advocated replacing these with “mininarratives” to get at smaller and more personal “truths.” He addressed Christianity and Marxism in this way but also science.

In his view, “there is a strict interlinkage between the kind of language called science and the kind called ethics and politics” (p8). By tying science and the knowledge it produces to government and power he rejects its claim to objectivity. Lyotard describes this incredulous postmodern condition as a general one, and argues that from the end of the 19th century, “an internal erosion of the legitimacy principle of knowledge” began to cause a change in the status of knowledge (p39). By the 1960s, the resulting “doubt” and “demoralization” of scientists had made “an impact on the central problem of legitimization” (p8). No number of scientists telling him they are not demoralized nor any more doubtful than befits the practitioners of a method whose results are always provisional and whose hypotheses are never “proven” could sway him from this.

We see in Lyotard an explicit epistemic relativism (belief in personal or culturally specific truths or facts) and the advocacy of privileging  “lived experience” over empirical evidence. We see too the promotion of a version of pluralism which privileges the views of minority groups over the general consensus of scientists or liberal democratic ethics which are presented as authoritarian and dogmatic. This is consistent in postmodern thought.

Jean-François Lyotard

Michel Foucault’s work is also centered on language and relativism although he applied this to history and culture. He called this approach “archeology” because he saw himself as “uncovering” aspects of historical culture through recorded discourses (speech which promotes or assumes a particular view). For Foucault, discourses control what can be “known” and in different periods and places, different systems of institutional power control discourses. Therefore, knowledge is a direct product of power. “In any given culture and at any given moment, there is always only one ‘episteme’ that defines the conditions of possibility of all knowledge, whether expressed in theory or silently invested in a practice.”[1]

Furthermore, people themselves were culturally constructed. “The individual, with his identity and characteristics, is the product of a relation of power exercised over bodies, multiplicities, movements, desires, forces.”[2]  He leaves almost no room for individual agency or autonomy. As Christopher Butler says, Foucault “relies on beliefs about the inherent evil of the individual’s class position, or professional position, seen as ‘discourse’, regardless of the morality of his or her individual conduct.”[3] He presents medieval feudalism and modern liberal democracy as equally oppressive, and advocates criticizing and attacking institutions to unmask the “political violence that has always exercised itself obscurely through them.” [4]

We see in Foucault the most extreme expression of cultural relativism read through structures of power in which shared humanity and individuality are almost entirely absent. Instead, people are constructed by their position in relation to dominant cultural ideas either as oppressors or oppressed. Judith Butler drew on Foucault for her foundational role in queer theory focusing on the culturally constructed nature of gender, as did Edward Said in his similar role in post-colonialism and “Orientalism” and Kimberlé Crenshaw in her development of “intersectionality” and advocacy of identity politics. We see too the equation of language with violence and coercion and the equation of reason and universal liberalism with oppression.

It was Jacques Derrida who introduced the concept of “deconstruction,” and he too argued for cultural constructivism and cultural and personal relativism. He focused even more explicitly on language. Derrida’s best-known pronouncement “There is no outside-text” relates to his rejection of the idea that words refer to anything straightforwardly. Rather, “there are only contexts without any center of absolute anchoring.” [5]

Therefore the author of a text is not the authority on its meaning. The reader or listener makes their own equally valid meaning and every text “engenders infinitely new contexts in an absolutely nonsaturable fashion.” Derrida coined the term différance which he derived from the verb “differer” which means both “to defer” and “to differ.” This was to indicate that not only is meaning never final but it is constructed by differences, specifically by oppositions. The word “young” only makes sense in its relationship with the word “old” and he argued, following Saussure, that meaning is constructed by the conflict of these elemental oppositions which, to him, always form a positive and negative. “Man” is positive and “woman” negative. “Occident” is positive and “Orient” negative. He insisted that “We are not dealing with the peaceful co-existence of a vis-a-vis, but rather with a violent hierarchy. One of the two terms governs the other (axiologically, logically, etc.), or has the upper hand. To deconstruct the opposition, first of all, is to overturn the hierarchy at a given moment.”[6] Deconstruction, therefore, involves inverting these perceived hierarchies, making “woman” and “Orient” positive and “man” and “Occident” negative. This is to be done ironically to reveal the culturally constructed and arbitrary nature of these perceived oppositions in unequal conflict.

We see in Derrida further relativism, both cultural and epistemic, and further justification for identity politics. There is an explicit denial that differences can be other than oppositional and therefore a rejection of Enlightenment liberalism’s values of overcoming differences and focusing on universal human rights and individual freedom and empowerment. We see here the basis of “ironic misandry” and the mantra “reverse racism isn’t real” and the idea that identity dictates what can be understood. We see too a rejection of the need for clarity in speech and argument and to understand the other’s point of view and avoid minterpretation. The intention of the speaker is irrelevant. What matters is the impact of speech. This, along with Foucauldian ideas, underlies the current belief in the deeply damaging nature of “microaggressions” and misuse of terminology related to gender, race or sexuality.

Jacques Derrida

Lyotard, Foucault, and Derrida are just three of the “founding fathers” of postmodernism but their ideas share common themes with other influential “theorists” and were taken up by later postmodernists who applied them to an increasingly diverse range of disciplines within the social sciences and humanities. We’ve seen that this includes an intense sensitivity to language on the level of the word and a feeling that what the speaker means is less important than how it is received, no matter how radical the interpretation. Shared humanity and individuality are essentially illusions and people are propagators or victims of discourses depending on their social position; a position which is dependent on identity far more than their individual engagement with society. Morality is culturally relative, as is reality itself. Empirical evidence is suspect and so are any culturally dominant ideas including science, reason, and universal liberalism. These are Enlightenment values which are naïve, totalizing and oppressive, and there is a moral necessity to smash them. Far more important is the lived experience, narratives and beliefs of “marginalized” groups all of which are equally “true” but must now be privileged over Enlightenment values to reverse an oppressive, unjust and entirely arbitrary social construction of reality, morality and knowledge.

The desire to “smash” the status quo, challenge widely held values and institutions and champion the marginalized is absolutely liberal in ethos. Opposing it is resolutely conservative. This is the historical reality, but we are at a unique point in history where the status quo is fairly consistently liberal, with a liberalism that upholds the values of freedom, equal rights and opportunities for everyone regardless of gender, race and sexuality. The result is confusion in which life-long liberals wishing to conserve this kind of liberal status quo find themselves considered conservative and those wishing to avoid conservatism at all costs find themselves defending irrationalism and illiberalism. Whilst the first postmodernists mostly challenged discourse with discourse, the activists motivated by their ideas are becoming more authoritarian and following those ideas to their logical conclusion. Freedom of speech is under threat because speech is now dangerous. So dangerous that people considering themselves liberal can now justify responding to it with violence. The need to argue a case persuasively using reasoned argument is now often replaced with references to identity and pure rage.

Despite all the evidence that racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and xenophobia are at an all-time low in Western societies, Leftist academics and SocJus activists display a fatalistic pessimism, enabled by postmodern interpretative “reading” practices which valorize confirmation bias. The authoritarian power of the postmodern academics and activists seems to be invisible to them whilst being apparent to everyone else. As Andrew Sullivan says of intersectionality:

“It posits a classic orthodoxy through which all of human experience is explained — and through which all speech must be filtered. … Like the Puritanism once familiar in New England, intersectionality controls language and the very terms of discourse.” [7]

Postmodernism has become a Lyotardian metanarrative, a Foucauldian system of discursive power, and a Derridean oppressive hierarchy.

The logical problem of self-referentiality has been pointed out to postmodernists by philosophers fairly constantly but it is one they have yet to address convincingly. As Christopher Butler points out, “the plausibility of Lyotard’s claim for the decline of metanarratives in the late 20th century ultimately depends upon an appeal to the cultural condition of an intellectual minority.” In other words, Lyotard’s claim comes directly from the discourses surrounding him in his bourgeois academic bubble and is, in fact, a metanarrative towards which he is not remotely incredulous. Equally, Foucault’s argument that knowledge is historically contingent must itself be historically contingent, and one wonders why Derrida bothered to explain the infinite malleability of texts at such length if I could read his entire body of work and claim it to be a story about bunny rabbits with the same degree of authority.

This is, of course, not the only criticism commonly made of postmodernism. The most glaring problem of epistemic cultural relativism has been addressed by philosophers and scientists. The philosopher, David Detmer, in Challenging Postmodernism, says

“Consider this example, provided by Erazim Kohak, ‘When I try, unsuccessfully, to squeeze a tennis ball into a wine bottle, I need not try several wine bottles and several tennis balls before, using Mill’s canons of induction, I arrive inductively at the hypothesis that tennis balls do not fit into wine bottles’… We are now in a position to turn the tables on [postmodernist claims of cultural relativism] and ask, ‘If I judge that tennis balls do not fit into wine bottles, can you show precisely how it is that my gender, historical and spatial location, class, ethnicity, etc., undermine the objectivity of this judgement?” [8]

However, he has not found postmodernists committed to explaining their reasoning and describes a bewildering conversation with postmodern philosopher, Laurie Calhoun,

“When I had occasion to ask her whether or not it was a fact that giraffes are taller than ants, she replied that it was not a fact, but rather an article of religious faith in our culture.”

Physicists Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont address the same problem from the perspective of science in Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals’ Abuse of Science:

“Who could now seriously deny the ‘grand narrative’ of evolution, except someone in the grip of a far less plausible master narrative such as Creationism? And who would wish to deny the truth of basic physics? The answer was, ‘some postmodernists.’”


“There is something very odd indeed in the belief that in looking, say, for causal laws or a unified theory, or in asking whether atoms really do obey the laws of quantum mechanics, the activities of scientists are somehow inherently ‘bourgeois’ or ‘Eurocentric’ or ‘masculinist’, or even ‘militarist.'”

How much of a threat is postmodernism to science? There are certainly some external attacks. In the recent protests against a talk given by Charles Murray at Middlebury, the protesters chanted, as one,

“Science has always been used to legitimize racism, sexism, classism, transphobia, ableism, and homophobia, all veiled as rational and fact, and supported by the government and state. In this world today, there is little that is true ‘fact.'”[9]

When the organizers of the March for Science tweeted:

“colonization, racism, immigration, native rights, sexism, ableism, queer-, trans-, intersex-phobia, & econ justice are scientific issues,”[10] many scientists immediately criticized this politicization of science and derailment of the focus on preservation of science to intersectional ideology. In South Africa, the #ScienceMustFall and #DecolonizeScience progressive student movement announced that science was only one way of knowing that people had been taught to accept. They suggested witchcraft as one alternative. [11]

Screen Shot 2017-03-27 at 9.57.46 AM.png
Photo by Drew Hayes

Despite this, science as a methodology is not going anywhere. It cannot be “adapted” to include epistemic relativism and “alternative ways of knowing.” It can, however, lose public confidence and thereby, state funding, and this is a threat not to be underestimated. Also, at a time in which world rulers doubt climate change, parents believe false claims that vaccines cause autism and people turn to homeopaths and naturopaths for solutions to serious medical conditions, it is dangerous to the degree of an existential threat to further damage people’s confidence in the empirical sciences.

The social sciences and humanities, however, are in danger of changing out of all recognition. Some disciplines within the social sciences already have. Cultural anthropology, sociology, cultural studies and gender studies, for example, have succumbed almost entirely not only to moral relativism but epistemic relativism. English (literature) too, in my experience, is teaching a thoroughly postmodern orthodoxy. Philosophy, as we have seen, is divided. So is history.

Empirical historians are often criticized by the postmodernists among us for claiming to know what really happened in the past. Christopher Butler recalls Diane Purkiss’ accusation that Keith Thomas was enabling a myth that grounded men’s historical identity in “the powerlessness and speechlessness of women” when he provided evidence that accused witches were usually powerless beggar women. Presumably, he should have claimed, against the evidence, that they were wealthy women or better still, men. As Butler says,

“It seems as though Thomas’s empirical claims here have simply run foul of Purkiss’s rival organizing principle for historical narrative – that it should be used to support contemporary notions of female empowerment” (p36)

I encountered the same problem when trying to write about race and gender at the turn of the seventeenth century. I’d argued that Shakespeare’s audience’s would not have found Desdemona’s attraction to Black Othello, who was Christian and a soldier for Venice, so difficult to understand because prejudice against skin color did not become prevalent until a little later in the seventeenth century when the Atlantic Slave Trade gained steam, and that religious and national differences were far more profound before that. I was told this was problematic by an eminent professor and asked how Black communities in contemporary America would feel about my claim. If today’s African Americans felt badly about it, it was implied, it either could not have been true in the seventeenth century or it is morally wrong to mention it. As Christopher Butler says,

“Postmodernist thought sees the culture as containing a number of perpetually competing stories, whose effectiveness depends not so much on an appeal to an independent standard of judgement, as upon their appeal to the communities in which they circulate.”

I fear for the future of the humanities.

The dangers of postmodernism are not limited to pockets of society which center around academia and Social Justice, however. Relativist ideas, sensitivity to language and focus on identity over humanity or individuality have gained dominance in wider society. It is much easier to say what you feel than rigorously examine the evidence. The freedom to “interpret” reality according to one’s own values feeds into the very human tendency towards confirmation bias and motivated reasoning.

It has become commonplace to note that the far-Right is now using identity politics and epistemic relativism in a very similar way to the postmodern-Left. Of course, elements of the far-Right have always been divisive on the grounds of race, gender and sexuality and prone to irrational and anti-science views but postmodernism has produced a culture more widely receptive to this. Kenan Malik describes this shift,

“When I suggested earlier that the idea of ‘alternative facts’ draws upon ‘a set of concepts that in recent decades have been used by radicals’, I was not suggesting that Kellyanne Conway, or Steve Bannon, still less Donald Trump, have been reading up on Foucault or Baudrillard… It is rather that sections of academia and of the left have in recent decades helped create a culture in which relativized views of facts and knowledge seem untroubling, and hence made it easier for the reactionary right not just to re-appropriate but also to promote reactionary ideas.”[12]

This “set of concepts” threaten to take us back to a time before the Enlightenment, when “reason” was regarded as not only inferior to faith but as a sin. James K. A. Smith, Reformed theologian and professor of philosophy, has been quick to see the advantages for Christianity and regards postmodernism as “a fresh wind of the Spirit sent to revitalize the dry bones of the church” (p18). In Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism?: Taking Derrida, Lyotard, and Foucault to Church, he says,

“A thoughtful engagement with postmodernism will encourage us to look backward. We will see that much that goes under the banner of postmodern philosophy has one eye on ancient and medieval sources and constitutes a significant recovery of premodern ways of knowing, being, and doing.” (p25)


“Postmodernism can be a catalyst for the church to reclaim its faith not as a system of truth dictated by a neutral reason but rather as a story that requires ‘eyes to see and ears to hear.” (p125)

We on the Left should be very afraid of what “our side” has produced. Of course, not every problem in society today is the fault of postmodern thinking, and it is not helpful to suggest that it is. The rise of populism and nationalism in the US and across Europe are also due to a strong existing far-Right and the fear of Islamism produced by the refugee crisis. Taking a rigidly “anti-SJW” stance and blaming everything on this element of the Left is itself rife with motivated reasoning and confirmation bias. The Left is not responsible for the far-Right or the religious-Right or secular nationalism, but it is responsible for not engaging with reasonable concerns reasonably and thereby making itself harder for reasonable people to support. It is responsible for its own fragmentation, purity demands and divisiveness which make even the far-Right appear comparatively coherent and cohesive.

In order to regain credibility, the Left needs to recover a strong, coherent and reasonable liberalism. To do this, we need to out-discourse the postmodern-Left. We need to meet their oppositions, divisions and hierarchies with universal principles of freedom, equality and justice. There must be a consistency of liberal principles in opposition to all attempts to evaluate or limit people by race, gender or sexuality. We must address concerns about immigration, globalism and authoritarian identity politics currently empowering the far- Right rather than calling people who express them “racist,” “sexist” or “homophobic” and accusing them of wanting to commit verbal violence. We can do this whilst continuing to oppose authoritarian factions of the Right who genuinely are racist, sexist and homophobic, but can now hide behind a façade of reasonable opposition to the postmodern-Left.

Our current crisis is not one of Left versus Right but of consistency, reason, humility and universal liberalism versus inconsistency, irrationalism, zealous certainty and tribal authoritarianism. The future of freedom, equality and justice looks equally bleak whether the postmodern Left or the post-truth Right wins this current war. Those of us who value liberal democracy and the fruits of the Enlightenment and Scientific Revolution and modernity itself must provide a better option.


[1] The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences (2011) Routledge. p183

[2] ‘About the Beginning of the Hermeneutics of the Self: Two Lectures at Dartmouth.’ Political Theory, 21, 198-227

[3] Postmodernism: A Very Short Introduction. (2002) Oxford University Press. p49

[4] The Chomsky – Foucault Debate: On Human Nature (2006) The New Press. P41

[5] http://hydra.humanities.uci.edu/derrida/sec.html

[6] Positions. (1981) University of Chicago Press p41

[7] http://hotair.com/archives/2017/03/10/is-intersectionality-a-religion/

[8] Challenging Postmodernism: Philosophy and the Politics of Truth (2003) Prometheus Press. p 26.

[9] In Sullivan http://hotair.com/archives/2017/03/10/is-intersectionality-a-religion/

[10]  http://dailycaller.com/2017/01/30/anti-trump-march-for-science-maintains-that-racism-ableism-and-native-rights-are-scientific-issues/#ixzz4bPD4TA1o

[11] http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2016/10/science-must-fall-time-decolonise-science/

[12] https://kenanmalik.wordpress.com/2017/02/05/not-post-truth-as-too-many-truths/

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  1. >Postmodernism, most simply, is an artistic and philosophical movement which began in France in the 1960s<

    Didn't warning bells go off here? Didn't people realise, even at this early stage, that the author simply doesn't know what they're talking about?

      1. As an artistic movement it precedes the 1960s and was definitely not French (coined by a British painter, Chapman, 1880s as a response to French impressionism) and by the 1920s used in poetry, art, and music.

        In the social sciences the term was first used in a major work by the British historian Toynbee to refer to the post-WWI.

        Even generously describing it in the context of the OP’s own position “postmodernism” is primarily the material that follows Lyotard’s “The Postmodern Condition” (1979), which itself is a response to Jurgen Habermas’ “Legitimationsprobleme im Spätkapitalismus” (1973).

        In that book, Habermas explicitly describes some of the questions concerning the potential of a new, post-modern (and classless) social formation deriving from Daniel Bell’s post-industrial society (that is, prior to the publication of his seminal book on the subject in 1974) and with his debates with the neofunctionalist systems theorist Niklas Luhmann (Habermas, Luhmann, Theorie der Gesellschaft oder Sozialtechnologie, 1971).

        And if I came across as a little off-handed it’s because the OP should have known all this prior to posting.

        1. For all intents and purposes, her definition is much more generally accepted than yours. Wikipedia defines it as what is below in quotes, which is how I have found it defined it any academic coursework I have participated in or been referred to. Just because the word postmodernism was coined prior to the second half the 20th century, doesn’t mean that original coining is how it is academically or colloquially understood. I find it incredibly ironic to have read this article and been presented with your comment that is a red herring through and through.

          “Postmodernism is a broad movement that developed in the mid- to late-20th century across philosophy, the arts, architecture, and criticism and that marked a departure from modernism.[1][2][3] The term has also more generally been applied to the historical era following modernity and the tendencies of this era.”

    1. And why is that? I found the article incredibly well written, engaging, thoughtful, and researched. I find it ironic that after reading this article, that you make a baseless claim.

  2. I am grateful for this article, Dr Pluckrose. Postmodernism had quite taken over the department where I did my PhD in Comparative Religion. It made me, more than anything else, embarrassed to be an academic. It gave no strength of conviction, and replaced argument with abuse – see above for examples.

    By discarding truth tests as essentially oppressive, they leave only one way to settle arguments: force. We have seen that in universities where bad opinions are not argued down, but run out of town.

    And we see it in the White House.

    So – please keep up the critique.

  3. I agree with your (Pluckrose’s) position on identity politics. But I believe that you go too far in rejecting the idea of positionality. There is no inconsistency in claiming, on the one hand, that ideas can be rejected, refined, and modified on the basis of reason while on the other hand also accepting that ideas (both true and false) are shaped by social context.

  4. It’s tempting, this philosophy, relativism, I think it feels good on the ego to think it, and feels fearless to declare it. Also, there is something wrong with humans, something askew in our relationship with reality, and a pure relativism would seem to solve it, to imagine we are simply lost in our senses or our thoughts . . . but the answer for that will be simpler, if we ever find it. It’s going to be in our blindness somewhere, in our willful blindness, not in any inherent “unseeability” of the world.

  5. I would submit that it is not postmodernism that has ruined the West but instead, the rejection of personal Christianity that has lead many to the embrace of postmodernism.

    As you have written, “Jean-François Lyotard… defined the postmodern condition as “an incredulity towards metanarratives.” A metanarrative is a wide-ranging and cohesive explanation for large phenomena. Religions and other totalizing ideologies are metanarratives in their attempts to explain the meaning of life or all of society’s ills. ”

    Western society was founded on Christian values. All one has to do is drive across the various countries founded on Christian principles and notice that the oldest and generally largest man-made structures in every village, town, and city are Christian churches. The church was the place not only where they worshipped Christ but it was the meeting place of the communities where they openly discussed how to improve the future for their communities. Those communities prospered, and as they prospered together, so did their countries. And the crime rates were low.

    This is supported by Leading German Sociologist and Historian Jurgen Habermas when he said back in 1999, “For the normative self-understanding of modernity, Christianity has functioned as more than just a precursor or catalyst. Universalistic egalitarianism, from which sprang the ideals of freedom and a collective life in solidarity, the autonomous conduct of life and emancipation, the individual morality of conscience, human rights and democracy, is the direct legacy of the Judaic ethic of justice and the Christian ethic of love. This legacy, substantially unchanged, has been the object of a continual critical reappropriation and reinterpretation. Up to this very day there is no alternative to it. Christianity, and nothing else, is the ultimate foundation of liberty, conscience, human rights, and democracy, the benchmarks of Western civilization. To this day, we have no other options. We continue to nourish ourselves from this source. Everything else is postmodern chatter. ”

    However, in the West, the churches for the most part have failed. The most common response of people leaving the Christian churches in Britain over the last number of decades was that the churches, “do not answer our questions.” If you add to that a huge population that searches for truth from the Internet, and that are now educated in a system that has removed the concept of God, then the usual postmodern response is retorted to and that is that that all religions are equal, that morality is relative and so are cultures.

    If Nietzsche were alive today, he would probably respond to the post modernists concept of morality as he did in the past. As he once wrote, “How can a person rationally justify any commitment to timeless values whatsoever without implicitly invoking God? They cannot”. The thing about the postmodernists of today is, they do not “rationally” justify their morality.

    What is happening in the West is a systematic dehumanization of our civilization by postmodernists. Oswald Spengler in his book, ‘The Decline of the West’ believed that at this time, humanity would be going through what he coined as “Winter phase”. (The culture period makes up the “organic” Spring and Summer of a civilization, and is when the civilization is inspired by its own art and religion. Autumn and Winter make up the Civilization phase, in which the society becomes inorganic and is based only on the organization created during the Culture phase.) This is a largely unsuspected and unnoticed, and generally unsought, result of excessive secularization. Because the Enlightenment was essentially atheistic and anti-theistic, reason was gradually construed as being incompatible with religion. The great majority of people, whether they practice or even acknowledge a religion (though most people throughout the West do), believe in some sort of supernatural intelligence. Most people recognize that there are some spiritual forces in our lives, there was some sort of creation at the start of things, and the human mind can’t grasp the infinite — what there was before there was anything, or what there is beyond the outer limits of everything. So people have always, until relatively recently, in a general collective sense, recognized their limitations.

    But now academia, the media, and the governing elites are almost entirely atheistic. Under the spurious cover of separation of church and state, as if there were the slightest possibility of commingling them or anyone would stand for it, there is a war of extermination being waged by government, academia and the media against the philosophical origins of Western civilization. Western state religion is effectively atheism, and the same atheistic mind that believes in the flawed and insipid concept of the “perfectibility of man” starts by separating people between the good and the bad, based entirely on subjective morality. Since there is no supernatural intelligence, men and women can become gods, as the ancients, especially the Romans, tried to show.

    Anti-Christianism and not atheism is at the heart of postmodernist thought. If it was pure atheism, then Islam would not be embraced (as it much as it presently is), by post-modernists. Jesus Christ made explicit and absolute clams about the truth, that were accepted and believed by many generations through the centuries. The new generations have rejected the Christian heritage of their grandparents and great-grandparents, deeming themselves in their own minds, wiser than their predecessors. Postmodernism has no answer to death, no ultimate hope to give. It is an empty and a sterile worldview which leaves us in a closed Universe; a Universe that will ultimately destroy any last trace that we ever existed. Postmodernism is a hope-less philosophy. The resurrection of Jesus however, opens the door on a bigger story.

    1. Things aren’t quite as bad under postmodernism as they were under Christianity! Also God continues to seem not to exist.

  6. Good overview. I am not sure the leftwing viewpoint in the end is that useful. The failing of socialism is what caused disgruntled socialists to start to deny reality instead of changing their ideology. This is clear from the German intellectuals – the so called Frankfurter Schule – that preceeded these French writers. Socialism was the first attack on liberal republicanism and individual liberty, postmodernism it’s philosophical defense mechanism that is now eating away at the foundations of the heights of individual liberty and its products that the West achieved.

    Also, I missed the mention of environmentalism as one of the sects of intersectionality: humanity and it’s environment are juxtaposed, the former smeared as oppressor, the latter propagandised as oppressed. It also a new form of the pretense of knowlegde of these neo-marxists, in that their claims of being scientific are suppossed to mean they can plan our economy – much like ‘scientific marxism’. Environmentalism is more nihilistic than marxism, because the fundamental aim is not ‘uplifting the people’, but ‘saving the planet from the people’.

    1. “Environmentalism is more nihilistic than marxism, because the fundamental aim is not ‘uplifting the people’, but ‘saving the planet from the people’.”

      Except, of course, that’s total nonsense. Environmentalism is about keeping the planet a place in which we can live. The planet needs no saving from the people. The planet gives a flying f*ck whether we live or die. The planet has existed AND provided a safe harbour for life long before conditions were anywhere near supportive for HUMAN life.

      Quite the contrary, it’s people like you who preach a false dichotomy between humanity and the environment. And it’s cute that you claim that the aim of environmentalism was not uplifting of the people when in fact it is who who is the one preaching to make our condition as miserable as possible as long as select people promoting select technologies profit from it.

  7. Blaming society’s problems on some of the most popular of recent philosophers? This isn’t very different from the city of Athens condemning Socrates because he was perceived as corrupting the youth and challenging the accepted truths of Athenian society.

    There are many inaccuracies in this piece. Here are a few:
    1) Derrida never describes himself as “postmodern,” and he never uses the word “postmodernism,” so affiliating him with such a movement is dubious at best.
    2) Conflating Lyotard, Foucault, and Derrida is a gross oversimplification. They are very different on many issues, including points about universals, truth, justice, and democracy.
    3) Quoting Derrida’s statement about “no outside-text” out of context is particularly ironic, as the importance of context is what his statement is about. Contextomy is a fallacy, and perpetuating fallacies is illogical and anti-intellectual.
    4) The ruination of the West didn’t start happening in the last few years or decades. Oswald Spengler noticed “The Decline of the West” before Foucault, Lyotard, and Derrida were even born.
    5) There is so much cherry-picking of evidence here that all of the good that French intellectuals do is ignored: e.g., Derrida was a proponent of democracy and justice (Politics of Friendship); Foucault supports the values of the Enlightenment (see his essay “What is Enlightenment?”).
    6) The attribution of immense causal influence to a few philosophers really obscures the complexity of the history of ideas. The dynamics of postmodern thought didn’t emerge out of nothing. The thinkers associated with postmodernism navigate the same philosophical problems that have been around since the Platonists, Skeptics, Cynics, Stoics, Sophists, and Epicureans were arguing with each other over two thousand years ago. If you’re looking for the underlying patterns of thought that are shaping our current political and cultural contexts, you should look deeper than the second half of the twentieth century.
    7) Perhaps what’s worst about this piece is that, by blaming postmodernism for some (but not all) of society’s ills, it obscures the fact that white supremacy, populism, Islamophobia, and nationalism (all of which postmodern thinkers fought against) are much greater threats to universal values of justice and democracy than postmodern thinkers ever were.

    1. 1) Just because Derrida never uses the word “postmodernism” and never said he was a “postmodern,” doesn’t mean that he is not a postmodern. Most movements described in retrospective, weren’t coined at the time of their conception. Most Renaissance people never described themselves as such or used the word. Most terrorists don’t describe themselves as such. Most dictators would not have referred themselves to that. This point is a non sequitur.
      2) For all intents and purposes, they are similar in that they are postmodernist or otherwise contributed to the constructing (ironic because postmodernism is all about deconstructing) postmodernism. To expect her to provide their entire individual ideologies in order to make a point on postmodernism is a on the spot fallacy.
      3) How is what she quotes out of context? You make a baseless claim without providing evidence or otherwise elaborating on it. Between this and the above, you are promoting fallacy and anti-intellectualism here, ironically.
      4) No evidence again, but rather just conflation of your opinion with facts, yet again.
      5) She never said they didn’t support democracy or liberalism, but rather was outlining the history of postmodernism to understand it and its place in our modern day context. You’re cherry picking accusation is based off of a straw man and you are also ironically doing the cherry picking to build this straw man lol.
      6) Again, on the spot fallacy. In order to complete the synthesis of information you are proposing is needed to make a claim on the current state of our world and how we arrived here would take more than just one book, but volumes of books, if not an entire library. This is absurd.
      7) She doesn’t blame postmodernism for all of society’s ills and, in fact, actually claims it’s due to a lot of other issues in the last few paragraphs. Here’s one of the paragraphs I was referring to. Either you have terrible reading comprehension or failed to read the article. Despite this, you have the audacity to make claims this is an article riddled with fallacy and misinformation? My personal greatest gripe with postmodernism, is that it has indoctrinated people such as yourself, whether you know it or not, and has armed you to attack what you don’t disagree with fallacy and misinformation, yet hypocritically charging the people you disagree with as doing so themselves. The irony is incredulously frustrating.

      “We on the Left should be very afraid of what “our side” has produced. Of course, not every problem in society today is the fault of postmodern thinking, and it is not helpful to suggest that it is. The rise of populism and nationalism in the US and across Europe are also due to a strong existing far-Right and the fear of Islamism produced by the refugee crisis. Taking a rigidly “anti-SJW” stance and blaming everything on this element of the Left is itself rife with motivated reasoning and confirmation bias. The Left is not responsible for the far-Right or the religious-Right or secular nationalism, but it is responsible for not engaging with reasonable concerns reasonably and thereby making itself harder for reasonable people to support. It is responsible for its own fragmentation, purity demands and divisiveness which make even the far-Right appear comparatively coherent and cohesive.”

  8. Certainly this is not the most charitable reading of the “postmodernists”. Would you say there is nothing of value in understanding power structures in culture and throughout history? Or that context defines a lot more of what words mean, and what meaning means, than we’d like to think? You do not have to agree with the end result of some of these thinkers but if you cannot appreciate what they have done for our human understanding of ourselves then I am not confident that you have grasped the point of reading “postmodern” philosophy and literature.

  9. This is an aggressively obnoxious and anti-intellectual piece, distorting the arguments of its targets and, even worse, offering absolutely nothing in its own defense. If “postmodernists” reject “the concept of the unified and coherent individual,” to just give one example, they (and everybody else since Hegel) reject it because it is a weak concept. If you want to slag off thinkers, your very first task is to mount an actual argument in defense of the position they reject rather than wave your hands around. Seriously annoying.

    1. Postmodernism is absurd and build off of frequent use of abductio absurdum. Sure, it is true that individuals are influenced by their environments, but to deny that the individual exists is absurd and invalidates common sense. It’s an interesting thought experiment that can’t be disproven, but its invalidation of common sense isn’t worthy of the time and attention to try. For example of an abductio absurdum, Parmenides came up with the following: The distance between a bowmen and his victim can be divided by infinitesimal smaller distances. Therefore, the arrow when shot can never transverse this distance. You can’t disprove this, but it’s obviously not true. Another example, what is a horse? Well, we all know when we see one, but there is no precise definition of a horse as there are infinite possibilities/variations of what can be a horse. No two horses are exactly alike or ever will be, so there is no single definition of what a horse is. One could try and argue horses thus don’t really truly exist because there is no true horse, however, that doesn’t negate the apparent fact that we all know horses when we see them and we are never fooled with the similar looking donkey or mule.

  10. Great essay! But a few questions. First, isn’t post-modernism an attempt to realize what Paul Ricoer called a hermeneutics of suspicion, which he advocated for after seeing the power of various hegemonies to control the social realm? And isn’t that basic impulse a healthy and needed one? Seems there was and perhaps always will be a need to agitate for better forms of analysis in both cultural research and in the non-hard sciences (where methodologies seem to lack the objective grounding they have in the hard sciences.) Second, don’t you think Foucault should get just a little bit of credit in expanding our sense of human cruelty, seeing it as operating in different ways and through different techniques in our institutions? While it would be silly to equate cruel words and cruel deeds, it is however important to understand the many ways human oppression perpetuates itself, and that seems to be kind of an important part of his project, perhaps its most valid and enduring part. Third, as someone who switched from doing some grad work in philosophy at Berkeley in the 80s to do an MFA in the early 90s, I was always arguing with my Marxist friends at Columbia for certain post-modern approaches to art and culture. And in those discussions it was obvious that post-modernism as an art movement was rather radically different from its philosophical namesake; I’d argue that the art movements were far more fundamentally democratic in their goals and achievements than the theory project was. The art movement had both a baroque wing (marked by the bricabrac/broken geometries look) and a much more situationist-inspired wing which ended up being much more enduring and transformative. In general the movement of post-modern artists set out to change the imagination’s boundaries and hierarchies, and this is a very different project from the theorists’ project to deconstruct western metaphysics. Perhaps the closest the two movements came to borrowing from each other is in the broad post-modern art project to deconstruct the art museum, an institution that at that time did not exactly resemble the enlightenment’s ideals and has as a result of these struggles become much more democratic and much more concerned with enlightenment ideals.

  11. Good effort to characterise postmodernism in opposition to modernism and its consequences on today’s mentality.
    However there is a reason why postmodernism could ‘trump’ over modernism, Enlightenment and Reason as human yardsticks for all & everything.
    Reason (positivism ) is insufficient and incapable of reaching truth, (and logic: everything cannot be relative without there being an absolute) and faith has to go WITH reason, not against it or without it. This is the Islamic perspective.

    See more here: Modernism And Postmodern Thought
    and: liv-isl.in/2dhpIvP

  12. Interesting assumption that something must be simple and easily comprehensible to be true. Thinking about the complexity of language, literature, everyday life, politics, that seems unlikely.

  13. Wow, nice job ignoring my comment completely and, by the looks of it, not publishing it at all. I guess that’s one way of clinging on to prejudice.

  14. Niklas Luhmann, while making occasional use of Derrida (but never of Foucault, although he had read him), used to joke about postmodernism by asking how such a trend could occur while the empirical social world became more and more modern, that is functionally differentiated world-wide (globalization).

  15. I really disagree with some of this article. It’s easy to claim forensic rhetorical terms, such as a claim of “confirmation bias,” when sounding scientific, but I think a further review of Aristotle’s Rhetoric would be helpful. There he differentiates between kinds of knowledge, demonstrative logic and rhetoric, where one emerges from a reasoned, though not-demonstrative, consensus, and the other asserts facts.

    Also, postmodernity doesn’t proscribe that people construct their own truth, it describes that people do this, in the context of a community. Truths of social science, in particular. The biases it identifies in science aren’t in the method, however, but in the questions asked, the systems that decide what is worth knowing, the financiers of scientific agenda. This is no small, divisive point. Ironically, the author quotes Charles Murray, member of the American Enterprise Institute, who presents an excellent case study of this in his “reasoned” examination of intelligence and race that isn’t quite “politically correct” for those engaged in identity politics. What standard is used for knowledge? What data? He has no agenda in thinking that black people are not as intelligent as white? That’s just some scientific fact that identity politics is too politically correct to accept? (Jared Diamond gives an excellent examination of this). But trying to emphasize this, even if the author thinks that this doesn’t happen all the time, or minimizes this issue, does not mean that such thinking destroys objective thought. Quite the contrary – “Identity politics” in the academy faces the real threat to human rights that have emerged from an “objective” academic community. To the extent that science has an objective center, it is determined by a professional community and is always up for review in the face of new evidence. The problem is when that professional community limits voices and perspective that it decides are unreasonable, which is by no means an objective issue. Not even in method, but the questions asked. This is rhetorical, especially when some voices are excluded. It’s convenient to talk about, say anti-vaxx people, who coincidentally share much of the rhetoric of early Christian Scientists about having their opinion feel “excluded.” But this also emerges from very real silencing of issues in medical justice, where some diseases and treatments receive scientific backing and some don’t. Think of how much activism led to scientists making public a treatment for HIV for example.

    What you do with raw data immediately conjures up narratives, just as journalists create different stories with the same facts. I appreciate that not all narratives have the same factual weight. But ignoring the concerns of someone like Said or Foucault, who reveal what is at stake politically in these assumptions – like colonization – is a mistake. The issue isn’t even that a metanarrative has collapsed, as much that, in the name of justice, the metanarrative has a more collaborative authorial nature. Distributive justice is fast becoming the only “certain” form of justice and the basis for fairness in the West because it seems more certain. But knowledge has never been this way. I fear this when I read Michael Shermer, for example, who can discredit religion and conspiracy theory, and then declare the free market libertarian way the true understanding of ordering for society (yet the free market has many of the same qualities as the Christian God and is no less susceptible to doubt over its actual existence beyond our rhetorical construction of it).

    Overall, I think it’s a bit simplistic to separate postmodernity from human rights in this way. Those who believe in science and reason (which, while connected, are not always the same) privilege an authoritative perspective based on facts and reasoning. But ironically, this begins to question whether something as “rights” exist, which cannot be proven. The mainstream church has championed this very position, based on authority. The only difference seeming to be the source of authority. To the contrary, I think postmodernity has strengthened human rights in this way. Its advocates, some of which you quote in this article, seemed to champion them personally.

    Also, I’d be interested to know what the author thinks of Foucault’s Fearless Speech.

  16. Some of the distrust of scientific knowledge goes back to Wittgenstein – or at least to certain readings of his later writings, as David Wootten shows in his brilliant history of the scientific revolution, The Invention of Science. What he also shows is that early science advanced by defeating philosophy, at that time the handmaid of theology. Perhaps in late C20 post-modernism could be seen as an attempt by the philosophers to bite back and recover some of their lost authority.

    1. “What he also shows is that early science advanced by defeating philosophy, at that time the handmaid of theology. Perhaps in late C20 post-modernism could be seen as an attempt by the philosophers to bite back and recover some of their lost authority.”

      That is an inherent impossibility, since science could never defeat philosophy. It is inextricably linked through philosophy through theory of science, which is a discipline of philosophy. When something is considered “proven” is a philosophical consideration. Applying science to it would not only be abusing science (since ‘proven’ is not an observable function), it would be plain circular logic.

      And Wootton has made some pretty sobering mistakes of fitting the data to the hypothesis rather than vice versa. Cf. the review in the Guardian here: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/nov/28/invention-of-science-scientific-revolution-david-wootton-review

  17. I appreciate the summary here of postmodern thought and I think the general characterization of the detrimental impact of identity politics on contemporary social and political life is accurate. I also sympathize with the author’s rejection of the postmodern ethos.

    But I think the author is hasty, if not crude, in linking postmodernism to identity politics the way she does. As I see it, the key problematic is in the question of the relation between post-modern forms of epistemic and moral relativism ‘and’ identity politics. The ‘and’ is crucial to trace. In other words, causal connection is anything but obvious.

    Cultural relativist sensibilities after postcolonial critiques do not necessarily entail rejection of human rights and old school liberal values, but they certainly prioritize or give primacy to the oppressed; for good reasons! The author underestimates the ethical engine moving the impulse to defend the marginalized.

    Another related fault is the author’s treatment of the paradigmatic figures which borders on caricature. Derrida (and Foucault) is a rich complex human thinker with a large corpus; Derrida’s personal view varies depending on the phase of his life and the respective text in question; and Derrida’s cultural reception is an entirely different inquiry, that is, followers of him doing their own thing with the teacher’s textual endowment (not to mention Derrida in later years is a rather conservative, if self-styled exponent of enlightenment principles). And it seems the author is practically, if unwittingly, conflating the latter (i.e.,: cultural reception) with the life and corpus; this has the effect of polemics overriding substance; that is, talking past each other.

    While this is of course somewhat unavoidable on a public intellectual platform, it nevertheless incidentally reinforces the validity of the postmodern view of the destruction of any absolute truths. The point is that one could also present Derrida and Foucault, particularly in terms of the later phases of their work, as pushing back against this postmodernism.

    Three living public philosophers I admire greatly for pushing against such postmodernism and instead thinking big, on the edge of culture yet rooted in principles and realism, are: Peter Sloterdijk, Charles Taylor, and Quentin Meillassoux – albeit doing so in very different ways.

  18. To identify with or promote the very term “postmodernism” requires an especially wide and shallow pool of narcissism. For three thousand years history repeated itself in different clothes until this discovery.Deconstruction runs hand in hand with it’s sterile proponents.

  19. “Oh we understand capitalism … 1% of the population owns 90% of the wealth.”

    I’m actually surprised that you can write. But your “understanding” of capitalism is still laughable. Don’t give up, one day you’ll get it 🙂

  20. The part about deconstructing narratives is what I knew about post-modernism from school, and what I pretty much practice in my own life. I mean, in the end that’s just skepticism 101.
    What I “find problematic” is the narratives these people then reconstruct. Also the collosal misunderstanding of science – science has always been about verifiable predictions, not about narratives or objectivity or politics or whatever. You can’t deconstruct science more than what scientists already do on a daily basis.

  21. Good as far as it goes – but would have been better if it gave “post-modernism” it’s “due” — recognized the legitimate truths it contains – and the legitimate truth of relativism – and then went on to point out it’s adolescent motivated or self-serving and intellectually lazy abuses of it….. But by just painting post-modernism as all bad – and cultural relativism as about the same – the argument and persuasiveness of this piece seems weakened rather than strengthened… The author seems to have some confirmation (or exclusionary) bias herself in not recognizing these aspects…. Thesis, antithesis and synthesis — Take a lesson from Zen – the “west” is way behind in this philosophical evolution – and the “third” or “middle way” is what must be found — instead of engaging in all bad- and all good – It is tempting — One makes a trail back to something and from which seems to have come negative results — and so one villainizes the apparent source — completely ignoring the truth and reason of the source — and the errors of the mindset that had preceded it which it was a response to and/or trying to correct —- and also missing the mis-takes, misinterpretations, mis-turns and self-serving uses of it since its inception…. and lazily simply blaming IT for any negative result there-after — and claiming that what was prior to it was pure and blameless and is all good…… This just puts us back in the same place prior to the arising of this reaction and response and leaves un-attended the actual holes and mistakes or blind spots of what came before it — as if they will not again arise – become problematic and not be responded to (maybe in a worse more skewed hostile and more damaging fashion…). If we throw out the whole of something because of its hard – difficult and problematic parts — on the premise that we have found fault and untruth in it — we only regress and suffer more — Better to do the hard work and be grateful for the truths it holds and integrate them – than reactionarily just create another absolute enemy which we are now all “not allowed” to take and benefit from the good and truth it actually DOES have to offer – because that would be disloyal….. (sounds like the person who could not accept the apparent fact that most accused witches in medieval times were poor beggars because that did not fit her accepted system of thought….)

  22. “Postmodernism, most simply, is an artistic and philosophical movement which began in France in the 1960s and produced bewildering art and even more bewildering “theory.”

    Very curious thing. I’ll give you that there are probably theories that are bewildering to you at least and that are associated with postmodernism. But… art? What was so bewildering about postmodernist art? For example, do you enjoy modern electronic music? I certainly do — I even produce that myself. I’m a huge fan of Andy Stott, for example. Really great stuff. Check out “New Romantic” by him (though the vocalwork is by Alison Skidmore, an opera singer that he collaborates with).

    See, the point I’m trying to make is, electronic music for example originates from IRCAM university, which not-so-surprisingly is located in Paris, France. Now, if I had to guess, you would not enjoy the music that is done in IRCAM. It’s really crazy — spectralism and what not. I am a very open person musically speaking and even I find it bewildering! But I also happen to know, that this particular university has given us a whole world of new music, that even you likely enjoy.

    In fact, nobody ever associates postmodernism with anything else than visual art. It’s quite interesting, how postmodernism is blamed for making art bad — yet all we get are examples from visual art, not so much for music. Don’t you think it’s curious as to why?

    More so, even in visual arts, such argument is often made by cherrypicking certain examples or manipulatively. Check out, for example, PragerU (a joke for an institute) video on the matter.

    Do you in all seriousness have to offer any real criticism for the art that postmodernism has inspired? If not, then you should hold your tongue (or fingers!) on the matter. It’s hard to separate you from the kind of bullshit we see from PragerU and other “alt right” places. To me it seems like you fell prey to their so-called “criticism” of postmodernism. It surely is appealing to find a narrative that there is some kind of movement out there that is making your world bad for you. You know, like some people find a narrative on how banksters, the Rothschild family, people of jewish heritage etc, make this world bad for them. It’s surprisingly common human behavior.

    >It reacted against the liberal humanism of the modernist artistic and intellectual movements, which its proponents saw as naïvely universalizing a western, middle-class and male experience.

    And what? Do you disagree with this? You don’t even do as much as to attempt to state your reasoning of why it is not so?

    “It rejected philosophy which valued ethics, reason and clarity with the same accusation. ”

    Well this is funny. Rejected philosophy which valued ethics, reason and clarity. So what are you saying? That it does not value ethics, reason or clarity itself? There certainly are different views of what is ethical. There’s this great series in netflix, “Black Mirror”, you should really watch it and see how well your ideas of what is ethical or not, hold with your own feelings. If you can’t even be certain about your own ethics, how could you imply that there aren’t different views on ethics to begin with? There is no amount of biology that can really help us to create universal ethics.

    Same thing goes with reason. For example, if you are a classical liberal as I suspect, you probably hold freedom in high value. But is it really reasonable in a logical sense? It’s not, because your view would mandate a government to protect your private property, which ultimately in a libertarian utopia would be the only function of a government, because taxing is equated with taking out some of your freedom. The problem with this worldview and its coherence is simple: if you deny my access to something that you own, you’re effectively limiting my freedom. Effectively, this ideology also denies absolute freedom, despite claiming that it is about absolute freedom.

    Clarity is the biggest nonsense here. Clarity is associated with the way you can understand the world you see around you. The premise of each ideology in existence is that it provides the absolute clarity…even ideologues that begin from denying the possibility of attaining absolute clarity (such a nice paradox though!)

    “Above all, postmodernists attacked science and its goal of attaining objective knowledge about a reality which exists independently of human perceptions which they saw as merely another form of constructed ideology dominated by bourgeois,”

    Postmodernists surely have done very bad job at it, because as it is right now, experimenters are assumed to have free will in physics. This is because that way, the results of the experiment are not tied to the fact that there is human perception involved. You see, the alternative is called superdeterminism, which is really bad news for physics. Want to know how bad? Well, imagine a videogame where you play as an experimenter. Any experiment you do will provide a… scripted result. Yup, that’s what superdeterminism is. It’s also called “conspiratory” but that’s bit misleading, because it’s not really that particles “conspire against you”, it’s that the events were tied to each other from the very beginning. The fact that you’re going to make an experiment and the fact that there are going to be particles involved in it was already “decided” from the very beginning by the rules.

    Does this sound bewildering to you? It probably does and should, but its rejection from physics has nothing to do with how bewildering it is (see, multiverse and other theories like that are just as bewildering, yet much more accepted). It is rejected because it’s really bad news for physics who are so keen on finding out the “underlying objective reality”. Superdeterminism would provide some clarity as to why physics haven’t had any success lately in finding “the big secrets” of the universe. There may be none to find out anymore.

    Postmodernists haven’t even attacked physics, although biology to some extent (and their “attacks” are related to things that have nothing to do with physics). And their most common attacks are related to sciences that are not natural sciences. Economics, psychology, sociology, history and so forth. There’s a plethora of people who would say that objectivity has got nothing to do with these sciences. Heck, out of these I hold only historians in high regard because most of them in fact do understand it when explaining historical narratives of events and are quite open about it.

    And lot of science is, in fact, full of bourgeois ideology. I, for example, can happily reject most of neoclassical economics for this mere reason. It has little to do with the lives of ordinary folks, it has to do with economists and their whole physics envy thing, where they’re trying to construct a model that shows us the “objective reality”. So far in terms of guiding governments, they have had pretty much no measurable success of their methods.

    In fact, lot of applied economics successes (such as automated trading systems) have been the result of physicists boarding the ship to economics (Mark Buchanan has written a lot about this).

    “We see in Lyotard an explicit epistemic relativity (belief in personal or culturally specific truths or facts) and the advocacy of privileging “lived experience” over empirical evidence. We see too the promotion of a version of pluralism which privileges the views of minority groups over the general consensus of scientists or liberal democratic ethics which are presented as authoritarian and dogmatic. This is consistent in postmodern thought.”

    So what kind of tragic examples you can provide us about how lived experience is prioritized over empirical evidence? It’s also interesting that you talk about “empirical evidence”, because that only means the data. However, statistics isn’t all about the data, it’s also about reasoning with the data. The data is categorically true: whatever you measure is what you measured. But what you deduce from the data, that’s the part where things get fuzzy. Here’s a small read for you: http://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.0020124

    And before you think that’s just one meaningless research paper, you should read up a bit on the author of that paper. He has also other papers on this theme. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/joes.12032/abstract (I really like that one)

    So yes, in conclusion, I would say that it’s authoritarian and dogmatic to trust the scientific method so much. The reason is not really due to scientific method itself, it’s rather due to that any scientist is still a human. Any research done has a specific purpose out there. I value science in how useful information it provides us and the usefulness of that information is dependent on whenever it is successfully applied anywhere.

    “He leaves almost no room for individual agency or autonomy.”

    And how is this a problem? Do you believe that the concept of responsibility suddenly disappears if we believe in a determinant world? That would be odd, since it evolved in a determinant world. I do believe in a determinant world and I think all the time about how to address things responsibly in my life. There’s nothing really special about that. Although after the realization, our legal systems may seem arbitrary and artificial, but so would any other alternatives. The concept of responsibility and guilt have a genesis in our own evolution, there’s no real way of getting rid of them unless there is a selection pressure towards individuals that don’t feel responsibility or guilt. And there is no convincing path towards a society like that from our current one. Psychopaths may find relationships easily, but they will have very hard time having a family.

    And even if such a society would come about (which would be very, VERY far away from our current lives), who are you to judge its contents really?

    “This is the historical reality, but we are at a unique point in history where the status quo is fairly consistently liberal, with a liberalism that upholds the values of freedom, equal rights and opportunities for everyone regardless of gender, race and sexuality. ”

    So essentially your argument is that the status quo is liberal and that’s why postmodernists should back off? Please, just no. You’re only talking about values, which do not matter in the first place. A good example of this is economics. Economists often defend their field from claims of having a right-wing (or bourgeois) bias by referring to a statistic where economists scatter across the spectrum. Problem with this is that the questionnaire itself actually only asks for values.

    As I’ve said before, freedom to one person might mean slavery to another. I am content with paying taxes and can live happily without the feeling that any of my freedom is stolen. A libertarian person disagrees; his freedom is stolen. We both may hold freedom to the highest regard. So who is right and who is wrong? What kind of logical device can you come up with that solves this issue? Am I supposed to feel angry over being taxes or is the libertarian supposed to feel happy (or indifferent) for being taxes?

    The problem with political compasses such as that Noah chart is quite simple: the left-right dichotomy is based on very old ideas, two centuries old, in fact. The way they see is that French revolutionaries were “left wing”, whereas the bourgeois was right-wing. This sort of analysis doesn’t hold true in our century, where it is not bloodlines that dictate our future but rather the socioeconomic status.

    It’s not the liberal values that are problem with modern liberalism, it’s the conception of how they are realized. Same goes with equality, opportunity and so forth. You’re treating these issues as if they really were that banal. They are not, simply to put it. Be it laissez-faire or a communist society, you will have people who say that people are treated equally and they have equal opportunities and you will have people who say the opposite.

    Liberalism in itself is nasty ideology due to liberals incapability of understanding what is “forcing” and what is not. This is clearly demonstrated for example in UK policymaking, where “nudging” is the new fad. Nudging is considered ethical practice only because it is not considered forcing.

    And it’s very curious, you see, statistically speaking these methods may be effective, but they aren’t still “forcing anyone”. So all you have to do is to just manipulate people into doing something without physical force and voilá, it’s all good.

    With these kinds of ideas, you could actually do other things. For example, China is planning to use credit scores in an interesting way. https://www.privateinternetaccess.com/blog/2015/10/in-china-your-credit-score-is-now-affected-by-your-political-opinions-and-your-friends-political-opinions/ (there is also a Black Mirror episode in season 3 which covers this same topic in not-so-heavy fashion)

    Or, you can also theoretically “nudge” people into suicides. If you want to know more about this, google “Blue Whale”. Don’t dig too deep though, especially if you understand Russian language. Russia condemned this small little game and has imprisoned so far one “curator” because of it, who however doesn’t get a long sentence because you see, “suicide is a choice”. See, a liberal morality can only get appalled by what this, but the the logical part of brain can’t really understand what is so appalling about it.

    I could honestly go on with this, but I think my main points are quite covered. The way I see it, you, the author, are just the product of what is known as “scientism”. You feel that science can really save us and should be valued above everything else. But you ignore the inherent flaw of science: a scientist is still a person and science as an endeavor is still something that humans participate in. And the way you talk about science is also weird. “Empirical evidence” for example is a great term that doesn’t have much merit outside of “popscience”. It’s a catchphrase to suggest that empirical analysis is some sort of “black box” that doesn’t have any caveats and that provides us with reliable information without our cognitive biases and what not.

    When you’re presenting scientific method like this, you’re just being dishonest about it.

    Also the quote that you tried to use to disprove epistemic or cultural relativism was really golden. Yeah, I guess someone solving a Smets-Wouters DSGE model is bit like conducting an experiment where you squeeze a tennis ball into a wine bottle. This only convinces people who have no idea what scientific inquiry actually is and how many issues it has.

  23. The research and knowledge behind this article are undoubtedly impressive, and perhaps uniquely useful in understanding how post-modernism has so pervasively contributed to the fragmentation of left/liberal discourse. However, the article seems to give undue weight to academic and activist outliers rather than seeking to establish whether there has been emerging consensus in both fields.

    I think a more helpful question would be “Is there more of a consensus on more categories of issues than there was in the past?”

    Outliers will always be amongst us. Some of them, like evolution, women’s emancipation, and climate change gain weight and become mainstream. Others, like colonialism and Aristotle’s belief in the “Four Elements” fall by the wayside. It is hard to know which outlier views are doomed and which will in 20 years be part of the mainstream, but giving any weight at all to an academic who questions whether a giraffe is taller than an ant doesn’t really help the debate. Outliers carry varying weight, but consensus always carries more weight, and it is natural for the some outliers to become consensus.

    The weight given to outliers will no doubt be influenced by social, political and economic conditions, as has happened in US and Britain. But In my view, despite outliers, we do seem to be tending towards consensus on major universal issues of justice (although the article’s suggestion that justice is separate from freedom and equality seems flawed) and this is something that the article brushes over. By looking at postmodernism as a tool whereby a range of issues can be explored and raised, and those issues then categorised together, it is possible to see that there is indeed a stronger societal consensus on more issues. And isn’t that the aim of liberalism?

    It is perhaps that the transitional/disruptive nature of the process whereby outliers are filtered out or adopted can cause alarm, but this is an eternal aspect of discourse, and it is slightly worrying that the article seems to be suggesting that we should be trying to establish a left/liberal utopia of “consistency, reason, humility and universal liberalism” free of outliers. The idea of a “strong, coherent and reasonable liberalism” seems too close to a liberalism which seeks to eternally protect itself against outliers which may gain weight and become consenus.

    It’s notable that the article (correctly) mentions the threat to science, but doesn’t seem to appreciate the extent to which science itself relies on outliers. For example, there are many theories regarding the fundamentals of physics, but almost all of them must be false – yet we are intellectually obliged to hold on to each until it is falsified. The (scientific) process whereby an outlier theory in science becomes consensus or is held out as “the best theory” is inevitably different from the cultural process whereby non-scientific ideas of justice become accepted as consensus. However, that is not a reason to be disturbed by the apparently fragmentary nature of the current discourse and to give undue weight to outliers.

  24. The “scientific worldview” proposed here is really a pseudoscientific one, peddling in objective truths that a probabilistic and temporary science as it is practiced today cannot hope to deliver. While warning against homeopathy, naturopaths etc. is good and fine, it should be done grounded in solid methodology and not in some naive view that just as much declares empirical data holy writ without any understanding of its generalizability, the confounders it may present itself with and the fact that interpretation of data is always hypothesis-laden.

  25. I hold English-language discussion classes in the Conceptual History department of a South Korean university, though my own background is scientific. Whenever we get on to this topic, I am accused of critiquing a “straw” version of postmodernism. You do not address the problem of why intelligent well-educated people should be so reluctant to abandon this preposterous twaddle, but I believe it is driven by science envy. Humanities scholars feel humiliated, not just by the success of the scientific worldview, but also by its coherence and integrity: postmodernism is itself a rival metanarrative, however inadequate.

  26. So far, this is best criticism of the intellectual fraud carried out by those French pseudothinkers and their cheerleaders. I had only read before Scruton’s criticisms, but this essay deveals its manipulations extraordinarily well. Congrats and thank you for this superb piece.

  27. I’m afraid that this article’s version of Derrida is rather hysterical and illiterate. Pretty much anyone grounded in Freud (Lacan, Derrida, Kristeva, Barthes, Sollers, Zizek, etc.) implicitly or explicitly has rejected identity politics with the same force that they reject ego psychology. Moreover, quite to the contrary of this article, Derrida has stated that his use of an ‘a’ in “differeance” is actually a method for embracing the universal: “differance is not an opposition, not even a dialectical opposition; it is a reaffirmation of the same, an economy of the same in its relation to the other, which does not require that the same, in order to exist, be frozen or fixed in a distinction or in a system of dual oppositions…. I have always mistrusted the cult of the identitarian, as well as that of the communitarian discourse often associated with it. I am always seeking to recall the more and more necessary dissociation between the political and the territorial. So I share your anxiety concerning the communitarian logic, the identitarian compulsion, and like you I resist this movement that tends toward a narcissism of minorities that is developing everywhere — including within feminist movements.” I am quoting here from Derrida’s published interview with Elisabeth Roudinesco, entitled For What Tomorrow. I would also recommend taking a close look at his response to the Chomskyists, Sokal and Bricmont. Derrida was a staunch supporter of Salman Rushdie, and his translator Gayatri Spivak was among the first academics to speak out against FGM. His ties to the ethics of the humanist philosopher Emmanuel Levinas are absolutely essential to understanding his position, which you grossly misrepresent here.

    1. Thanks for this. You select very different passages of Derrida’s work to the postmodernists using his ideas to argue for hierarchical binaries and their reversal. I agree that he came into conflict with social justice activists, particularly feminists, for producing a method of deconstructing everything to the point where activism was impossible. Kimberle Crenshaw and Mary Poovey made this criticism of pure deconstruction. I will read this interview with Roudinesco and see how it can be reconciled with the hierarchical ideas and scepticism about universality which seems to be his legacy in postmodern SocJus activism.

  28. Thank you for this very intersting text. As a French person I always wondered why some major french philosophers from France nevet got translated in english as much as Foucault, Derrida or Deleuze. Raymond Aron, Emile Cioran, Philippe Murray are major philosophers and heavy weight adversaries to Sartre, and Foucault

  29. I am having a hard time understanding how this postmodern movement is “liberal” in any way? They seem more like some of the alt-right people in the US now.

    1. In France, a liberal is a soft conservative. By French standards, Clinton is a conservative, and Sanders is a a center democrat. US Republicans are an extinct species. Writers and philosophers are oracles they can say that Mao failed because China didn’t apply the right amount of communism.
      Libertarians are not the same animals in the US and in France. But that’s a long story.

    2. A bit of horseshoe theory. At some point when you’re so extreme you loop around and resemble the extreme on the other end. SJW and Alt-Right are complete opposites that work on the same principles.

      1. As much as they try to deny that – they are.
        I’m amazed how much shit I’m catching from both groups for pointing out their obvious fallacies and ideological lunacy. They refuse to acknowledge their own irrationality, preferring to parrot whatever duckspeak their gurus came up with recently.

  30. BRAVO!

    Stellar piece here. Thank you for the articulating something that is in dire need of being said. Will share widely!

  31. Unregulated capitalism, promoted, without shame since the early 70s, first by the US, then by the UK, acting as trojan horse in the European, RhineLand capitalism, bear just as much responsibilities. How many armies, happy to join the regressive left, did it create?

    Liberals using crowds to stomp on individual liberties, are building the mobs which will break social order.

    Republicans, bowing before a handful of plutocrats, pass bills meant to please a few, where citizens are just homo-economicus units, with no duties to their community.

    Then, as equality before the law is replaced by equality in all things, unhinged millennials will take to the streets to claim privileges they have not earned.

    For which libertarians clothed in their self-righteousness, chanting freedom is absolute in choirs, will make way to a new oppressor.

    Therefore, I disagree with the scope of your piece, while I agree with the consequence of post-modernism. You just proved you were well read, but without much courage to shorten your exposé.

    The root of all evils, in this rotten western world of ours, is its absolute lack of restraint. To which your president is the most perfect and most harmless example.

    You can have courage, and find in all things, where and how restraint should be exercised.

    Or you can carry on, until the death of the good man, and all is lost.

    1. I think you’ll need to be more explicit. Are you saying I should have focused on capitalism rather than the development of postmodernist thinking in academia and beyond? I’m English, btw.

      1. In my experience, the _vast_ majority of left-wing criticism of capitalism is ignorant of even basic economics. It’s like climate change denial, but for the left. If you decide to write about economics, then imagine that you’re writing about something very technical, like abstract mathematics, and imagine how well you’d do without a graduate degree, or access to someone who has one. Just my 2 cents.

        1. Oh we understand capitalism but we reject the unregulated out-of-control capitalism that is in-place now. When 1% of the population owns 90% of the wealth the system is terribly out of balance and dangerous for society as a whole. Most pro-capitalism people never want to discuss this. They think it is great.

      2. Just to say I’m french, I agree with your analysis, post-modernism did kill France. I’ve lived through the times when the promises of the century of enlightenment were taught in high school, to the time when Shoa Survivors could longer come in classrooms to tell the story of the genocide. It took 40 years, and this is a direct – albeit unintended – consequence of post-modernism. On that part, you are (painfully) correct.

        However, France isn’t the West, and therefore, the scope of your exposé is incorrect.

        For example, the UK won’t die from post-modernism, it will disappear because it always was a fragmented kingdom. Wealth kept it afloat, Brexit will end it. For Britain, in its unrestrained race to accumulate wealth, governments never cared to fix the shameful and now interconnected pockets of poverty created since the industrial revolution.

        It is not capitalism, nor post-modernism, but unrestrained, arrogant, race to accumulate wealth.

        Germany, together with part of Nordic countries will also fall as a result an unrestrained use of one of their founding principle, but it won’t be the same as France, or the UK.

        If your question is ‘what ruined the west?’, then the most fruitful approach to finding an answer is to understand the logistics that allowed isolated ideas to become absolute. That is to say, how ruling without restraint become the norm?

    2. I can’t answer on your answer. I’ve argued why I think postmodernism is damaging the west. By all means, write your own piece on why ‘unrestrained wealth’ whatevers are instead.

      1. Self mastery and/or what’s a good life, aren’t trendy topics anymore. Considering what happened to the two philosophers who had interests in such matters, your answer isn’t surprising.

    3. hello! which two philosophers are you speaking of (in your reply to Helen’s reply to your reply)? I am interested in the topic of “self mastery” and “what the good life” is.

      1. Can’t really summarise much about those two philosophers, considering their contribution to western civilisation. So don’t shoot please.

        Nietzsche died following a mental collapse, and Socrates was tried and sentenced to death for ‘corrupting the minds of the youth’; he eventually committed suicide (though despair wasn’t the cause, obviously).

        Nietzsche wrote “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”, where the notion of ‘Ubermensh/Superman’ is an allegory representing the path to self-mastery. The story has link to the Indo-Iranian-greek kingdom, a flourishing civilisation that existed in Northern India, around 150 BC, which we – westerners – all come from, either through linguistics or philosophy.

        Socrates would probably go to jail these days, or be killed, or made a social outcast. Just for asking the same questions ‘what is a good life’, ‘what is friendship’, ‘what is virtue’.

        None of what Nietzsche and Socrates left us (thru Plato’s dialogues) are much fun to read though. Plus Nietzsche’s dualism is exhausting…. Hence, reading diverse books, varying information sources is probably the best way to stay the course. Keeping an eye on the prize, that is *freedom*. I can’t help mentioning, that the sanskrit for freedom has numerous meanings, some of which we are already familiar with, others not so much:

        “freedom of will, the being one’s own master”

        There over 60 different flavours of ‘Freedom’ in Sanskrit. As Levi-Strauss pointed out, Europe and Asia are cousins who have lost sight of each other for far too long.


        Finally, for those – non french – who still wonder why post-modernism took over France, and *may* do the same in the US, here it goes.

        Between Camus and Sartre, only Sartre emerged as a victor. It was a matter of simple logistics, Sartre went to France’s best schools, Camus didn’t. Sartre was well-off, Camus was dirt poor.

        Sartre early on, had an economic, social, and cultural advantage, that Camus couldn’t have possibly overcome, even with a Nobel prize. As a strike of bad luck, Camus died midway of his life, so Sartre ran unopposed.

        Postmodernism become the logical continuation of existentialism, men were nothing more than white pages on which the well-read, and well-connected could write whatever they see fit. Resistance was futile, attempts to claim otherwise were squashed. Camus remained an author for high-school girls, while Sartre made his way to the pinnacles of higher education.

        In French universities, Camus was a *harmless* writer, rarely taught (if at all). Mind you, nothing he’s ever advocated for was of any use in taking the Bastille. Sartre however, was weaponised. And a damn’ good WMD.

        All republicans and libertarians at heart were ideologically shot, smeared with the stench of colonialism, genocide, together with the murder of first nations. There was a saying in France, ‘when you meet a republican, you ought to pluck your nose’. Whatever.

        They took a shot at Camus, failed to whack him internationally, but succeeded in making him irrelevant in France.

        So here we are, with this endogenic French society. Those who married Sartre, hired obedient soldiers. The same who viewed communism has a force of freedom (and obviously never read Camus), are now in bed with religious ideologues. A train they hope to get off when they need it.

        The victory of post-modernism isn’t an ideological victory, or a victory on the merits of an idea. It’s always was a logistics problem. Like a startup, the first to reach a critical mass is the winner. And the winner takes all.

        That’s my problem with this piece. In today’s world, a debate on the merits of an idea is futile, because truth is irrelevant; only logistics matters.

        Intersectionality, how many battalions?

    4. Bilal is well. He has decided to remain where he is to look out for his younger siblings and be active in underground secularist and liberal circles. We still talk and he is active onine. I did publish his diary online.

      1. I could only find extracts on your blog (Aug. 5th), is there a url you can (safely) share so I can read the rest?

        For personal reasons, it really resonated, and I loved the reading, albeit heart-wrenching.

        “If only some restaurant on the way home was open, i’d have lunch during friday prayers.”

        Sometimes, change starts with the most mundane of all tiny-steps. Like refusing to leave your seat in a bus, or being asked to get off of a train car.

        And refusing to do so.

      1. Anti-intellectual? Is that your post modernist way of ignoring an immensely important warning that the ideas you hold are ultimately destructive and capable of dragging us all down into a primitivist pit of suffering? Perhaps we should all split into tribes of our own identities where we can live in peace and die screaming during childbirth or miserably of polio because there isn’t an objective thinker in the entire bunch? Though I assume you’d rationalize that pain as being an integral part of your own lived experience.

      2. @Sawyer Pence

        Your rant is cute, given that it makes Joe Buckstrap’s case. You evidently don’t even know what he was referencing with “positivist”, have no clue about modern scientific method, but have no qualms dishonestly adorning yourself with its achievements.

        Your bullshit about “objective thinkers” only underscores that the foundation of your argument is not evidence but ego and the fact that you lash out at anyone attacking the point as relativist only underscores that you do not even make an effort to understand the evidence of an issue.

        It’s frankly nauseating when a fundamentalist dogmatist like you abuses the achievements of modern biomedical sciences.

      3. @tyelko That’s cute that you can hide your lack of knowledge about the natural world behind experientialism. But it’s all epistemic cowardice, I wonder how vaccines would be developed in a culture that denied positivism categorically. Magic perhaps?

      4. @Sawyer Pence
        That’s cute that you want to project your scientific illiteracy onto others. The problem with your attempt is very simple, however – between you and me, I’m the one with a PhD in biomedical sciences and you are the one who quite evidently has never, ever, taken a single look into primary scientific literature – or you could answer your question yourself: Through a probabilistic approach based on a maximum tolerated likelihood for the observation to be reconcilable with a valid null hypothesis.

        But I fully understand that for a simpleton crawling after positivism and pining after a cartoonistic world with simple answers for complex questions, statistics and stochastics is just a bit too hard to grasp.

        The problem, though, remains that the knowledge that positivist induction is plain impossible is not really new. As the evidentiary nature of any supposed evidence in itself is an assertion for which evidence could justly be demanded, it always boils down to either circular logic or an infinite regression.

        But go ahead continuing to claim that you are promoting science by declaring that you have a much better grasp of the natural world than scientist. You evidently don’t grasp that every single one of your posts confirms Joe Buckstrap’s accusation of anti-intellectualism. You’re a freeloader enjoying the fruits of science while spitting in the face of those who bring them.

      5. @tyelcho

        You prattling on about a PHD it sounds like you hardly deserve doesn’t impress me. Scientific truth isn’t contextual and playing games with ontological categorization to desperately avoid calling statistical facts the best representations of objective reality we have is deceitful. Falsifiable claims are at the center of science, and turning the truth value of observations into ephemeral and contextual non-sense will be the death of useful science. It’s certainly telling that postmodernists avoid mathematics like its the plague. At least as a biology student, you were able to get away with only some algebra and an undergraduate class in statistics to avoid confronting the fundamentalist principles embodied within.

      6. wasn’t my take. This is someone on the left who sees that his side is starting to un-tether itself from reality in the same way that the present presentation of “the right” seems to have completely. The basic attitude I hear in this person’s definition of post modernism is that if the “objective truth” isn’t apparent, then we may as well assume there is none and just go with our feelings. Personally, I think it’s better to assume there is one and keep trying to approach it, keep track of our successes, build on them, just to keep some objective reality in view, just so we still believe in one, even if it’s hard to define. “Reality” is still a useful concept, and just because the actual reality is just out of reach doesn’t mean the concept of it isn’t important and useful.

      7. Bruno Latour himself, sort of pope of french postmodern epistemology studies, made his mea culpa ; and not today with Trump and co, no, 14 years ago. Must read (24 p).
        « (…) Was I wrong to participate in the invention of this field known as science
        studies? Is it enough to say that we did not really mean what we said? Why
        does it burn my tongue to say that global warming is a fact whether you like
        it or not? Why can’t I simply say that the argument is closed for good?
        Should I reassure myself by simply saying that bad guys can use any
        weapon at hand, naturalized facts when it suits them and social construction
        when it suits them? Should we apologize for having been wrong all along?
        Or should we rather bring the sword of criticism to criticism itself and do
        a bit of soul-searching here: what were we really after when we were so intent
        on showing the social construction of scientific facts? Nothing guarantees,
        after all, that we should be right all the time. There is no sure ground even
        for criticism. Isn’t this what criticism intended to say: that there is no sure
        ground anywhere? But what does it mean when this lack of sure ground is
        taken away from us by the worst possible fellows as an argument against the
        things we cherish?
        Artificially maintained controversies are not the only worrying sign. (…) »

      8. @Sawyer Pence

        “You prattling on about a PHD it sounds like you hardly deserve doesn’t impress me.”

        As if a scientific illiterate were qualified to judge that.

        “Scientific truth isn’t contextual and playing games with ontological categorization to desperately avoid calling statistical facts the best representations of objective reality we have is deceitful.”

        No, what is deceitful is the misrepresentation of statistical probabilities as facts just because you are statistically illiterate. There is a reason why there is a big reproducibility problem in many sciences, and aside from shoddy craftsmanship based on scientific illiteracy like yours, it is also based on the sheer number of studies being conducted, which causes plenty of your oh so best representations of objective reality in fact be simple random data scatter because even with a limited tolerated probability of observations being reconcilable with a valid null hypothesis, enough studies being done makes the aggregate probability of a so-called type 1 error go against 1.

        And that’s not even touching on the problem of sampling issues and the limits of generalization.

        “Falsifiable claims are at the center of science, and turning the truth value of observations into ephemeral and contextual non-sense will be the death of useful science.”

        Cute, coming from the dunce who does not understand how the reliance on falsifiable claims flies in the face of any positive objective truths.

        “It’s certainly telling that postmodernists avoid mathematics like its the plague.”

        And it’s telling that you avoid theory of science like it’s the plague

        ” At least as a biology student, you were able to get away with only some algebra and an undergraduate class in statistics to avoid confronting the fundamentalist principles embodied within.”

        And if you declare the Earth to be flat, it will probably snap to conform with your ideology as well, isn’t that right? Because our supposed disciple of objective truth quite evidently has no qualms making up bullshit to fit the data to his ideology.

        Given that all you know is that I have a PhD in biomedical sciences, what my undergraduate courses were is nothing you have any data about whatsoever. But that’s ok for you – if you don’t have any, just make them up to produce the desired outcome.

        If you want to see a danger to science and to public health, look into the mirror. Frauds like you who declare their hypothesis right by power of ego come a dime a dozen and they have killed plenty of people already with their narcissism.

      9. @Jeff/neighsayer

        “The basic attitude I hear in this person’s definition of post modernism is that if the “objective truth” isn’t apparent, then we may as well assume there is none and just go with our feelings”

        Who gave a definition of postmodernism in this discussion subthread – or indeed made any statement on postmodernism whatsoever?

        That’s the problem here – in the absence of actual information, you and Sawyer Pence make up data to support your preconceptions. That’s not how this works.

    1. Yes, I’ve been looking for something like his is a primer for the understanding of US Politics in the moment.

    2. Here is yet another case of what journals in the social sciences are willing to publish.

      In this case it is not a hoax. The author really means what she writes. And what she writes, is utterly absurd concentrated insane nonsense.

      A “scientific field” where such texts are accepted for publication are not scientific, but pure waste of public money.

      “In this semimanifesto, I approach how understandings of quantum physics and cyborgian bodies can (or always already do) ally with feminist anti-oppression practices long in use. The idea of the body (whether biological, social, or of work) is not stagnant, and new materialist feminisms help to recognize how multiple phenomena work together to behave in what can become legible at any given moment as a body. By utilizing the materiality of conceptions about connectivity often thought to be merely theoretical, by taking a critical look at the noncentralized and multiple movements of quantum physics, and by dehierarchizing the necessity of linear bodies through time, it becomes possible to reconfigure structures of value, longevity, and subjectivity in ways explicitly aligned with anti-oppression practices and identity politics. Combining intersectionality and quantum physics can provide for differing perspectives on organizing practices long used by marginalized people, for enabling apparatuses that allow for new possibilities of safer spaces, and for practices of accountability. ”


    3. Jordan Peterson:
      Postmodern studies at the universities should be defunded. They give no benefits to society. 80 % of publications in the humanities garner zero citations.

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