Helen Pluckrose recently wrote an article entitled, HOW FRENCH “INTELLECTUALS” RUINED THE WEST: POSTMODERNISM AND ITS IMPACT, EXPLAINED. Pluckrose is “a researcher in the humanities who focuses on late medieval/early modern religious writing for and about women. She is critical of postmodernism and cultural constructivism which she sees as currently dominating the humanities.”
She notes, “We on the Left should be very afraid of what “our side” has produced.”
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.
Yes, postmodernism has entrenched itself throughout academia – the humanities, the social sciences, and even the administration. The last hold out are the natural sciences, but as we have seen from the March for Science, it is making significant inroads even there. And this is not merely an academic concern. For if the universities become a source of postmodern indoctrination, remember it is the university which produces the public opinion makers – journalists, filmmakers, political activists, teachers, lawyers, judges, etc.
So what does this portend?
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.
Postmodernism seeks to dismantle all of this, one nut and bolt at a time.
Pluckrose does a good job explaining postmodernism and outlines how it can dismantle the sciences:
Despite this, science as a methodology is not going anywhere. It cannot be “adapted” to include epistemic relativity 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.
Oh, but there is more to it than that. If you think how the March for Science is merging the scientific community with the hyper-politicized postmodern movement, as I have explained before, public confidence and funding is likely to suffer. What’s more, once postmodernists begin acquiring more and more power to distribute state funding (because only racists, homophobes, sexists, and transphobes would dare deny them such participation), identity politics will begin to determine what science does and does not do.
Things are even worse for the rest of academia:
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 relativity but epistemic relativity. English (literature) too, in my experience, is teaching a thoroughly postmodern orthodoxy. Philosophy, as we have seen, is divided. So is history.
So how do we stop this intellectual death spiral? Pluckhouse writes:
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.
I appreciate the efforts, but I’m afraid that’s not going to work. You can’t out-discourse a movement that does not recognize the value of discourse. They will respond to your efforts at discourse with various forms of censorship.
Look, postmodernism is simply the natural outcome of an atheistic worldview. When you deny the existence of God, you also end up denying many things about humanity. And that is what is playing out here. It’s a package deal. The Left was able to champion the universal principles of freedom, equality and justice, along with consistency, reason, humility. But those are values and principles borrowed from the Judeo-Christian worldview. Those are things Christians have long learned about in their churches – realities nested in the Large Reality of God.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
The Left was able to dispense with God and retain such universal principles only because of the inertia of the Judeo-Christan culture it found itself in. But that inertia is dissipating. It was never sustainable. So the Left is standing there insisting on universal principles in a reality that is nothing more than matter and energy. It speaks of freedom, equality and justice, but the universe doesn’t care about such things. With nothing to back up those claims, the postmodern Left simply takes the next logical step and insists those universal principles themselves are as delusional as God. Without the Judeo-Christian cultural inertia, the Left naturally transforms into the postmodern Left.