Postmodernism, Practical Applications: Podcast

Skip this article and go to the podcast here.

I decided to do podcasts several months ago in order to take controversial topics and topics that have a small footprint of interest off my “front page” and put them “behind the counter,” meaning not as easily accessible, except by the sincerely interested.

Today, I am going to do a bit of a hybrid. There is always something that stirs me to write. The first impetus for this series was a politician in the news who was caught in a lot of lies. I will not mention him because this is not about politics. He could easily have been a Democrat or a Republican as they both lie at times. But listening to the discussion on TV by the row of talking heads, the debate of “what is truth” came up. One pundit said something like this, “This is reality. Lies are transactional. If you want to be elected, and the voters want you to be something great, then you lie to get their votes and there is nothing wrong with that. After all, what is truth? His exaggerated resume was his truth.”

Dutch Realism – Before Postmodernity

Then, I found myself in several ongoing conversations about postmodernism and truth. If you haven’t followed me until I had cancer, you will not realize that I’ve been writing about the concept of meta-truth (a truth that transcends everything else) for more than thirty years. By studying the history of western culture, I am also convinced that society works better when it acknowledges absolute truths as being worthy of pursuit through reason. But I have discovered within these recent conversations that I have to work harder in clarifying what I mean, as the present culture defines truth and the pursuit of truth very differently than what I mean. When they hear me say “truth” they hear “social dogma.”

My use of “truth” is simply, that which is consistent with reality.

J. Michael Jones

My use of “truth” is simply, that which is consistent with reality. So, the politician who said he was a Jew and wasn’t, is a lie because you can’t be a Jew (biologically) one day and not the next. The idea that men should control their wives is a cultural dogma promoted by some groups as “absolute truth,” but it is certainly not the “meta-truth,” which I am writing about.

Postmodern Art

But we are now living in a post-truth and post-reason age, and postmodernism has been the pied piper of this movement, in my opinion. So, 10,000 very smart scientists, who have spent their entire careers of research to say that X is true. But then a talk show host, gifted in gab, who has never studied the topic says that X is not true, and it suddenly becomes a moral equivalency or just two equal opinions. This would not have happened before the 1970s because America was still in the modern age (believing in truth and reason examining evidence as pretty-good tool for finding truth).

What is Postmodernism?

In my last podcast I did a grossly-oversimplified history of postmodernism. The term itself first emerged a hundred years ago to define a new kind of art. But art is a good surface marker to what is happening, philosophically, within a culture and the term soon was used to describe the philosophical movement. The simplest definition of postmodernism is the loss of an overarching narrative about life and existence. This can mean the loss of universal truths, morals, or meaning. It is also the devaluing of reason as the process of finding that truth. In postmodernism, questions are good, answers are bad.

In postmodernism, questions are good, answers are bad.

J. Michael Jones

I’ve heard two statements from postmodernists. Some believe that there are no universal truths and others admit that truths exist, but we have no means to know it. Each of these beliefs have led, especially Generation Y: (Born 1981–1996) and Generation Z (Born 1997–2010), into a type of nihilism, being without hope, or meaning. Some find hope, morality, and meaning via existentialist mechanism, “Life has meaning because I believe it does and will make it meaningful through my existence within it … but there is not a meta-truth giving it meaning. The sun will probably explode and we all die in the end.

But here is the catcher. We are daily bathed in absolute truth and we live accordingly without doubt. We could not function for five seconds without the belief in the absolute laws of nature (Newtonian Laws) and our use of reason to find them and trust them. I claim that >99.9% of our lives is using our senses to detect evidence and using reason to make sense of those findings in a world dominated by absolute, meta-truth. We couldn’t get out of bed or walk across the floor except for trusting the meta-truth in nature. I assert, that it is an illusion to reject truth, calling it just a human concept in the big areas of existence, spirituality, or meaning.

The postmodernist often defines the process of trying to know truths as arrogance, or intolerance (toward others with a different truth). This is where the confusion of truth Vs social dogmas exist.

Christians have always had a love-hate relationship with reason and meta-truth. Throughout their history they have often subjected to “God’s truth” as an alternative at times to reality. Claiming that the earth is just six thousand years old is one modern example. Muslims do the same. In that process they often want to attack reason, demote it as inferior to something spiritual, as if God didn’t create reason or reality. But if God exist, then reason is his gift to humankind, not a “nasty human idea”or even from the devil.

A Brief History of Postmodernism

History is messy and for me to explain this in one paragraph I have to grossy oversimplify it.

The French Revolution started (I think) in 1789. At the end, when the king and religious establishment had been … well guillotined, the people marched into the main cathedral, Notre-Dame de Paris, put the philosopher Momoro’s wife on the priest’s throne and declared her the “Goddess of Reason.” The new center of France’s “religion.” On the podium was a “Torch of Truth.” This cult of reason, following in the footsteps of the enlightenment, believed that human reason would lead all of society to an utopian state, solving all their problems.

The Goddess of Reason Crown at Notre-Dame

Well, reason didn’t save them, as chaos followed. The book and movie, Les Miserables, is set in this chaotic time period following the French Revolution. There was a profound disillusion with human reason and the pursuit of truth (rightly so). The problems is that, in my humble opinion, human reason, as great as it is, is limited. It does not solve moral problems and technology does not fix all cultural problems.

About this time, the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard (and others) began to write about an existential world of meaning outside the process of reason and truth ( as alluded to above). Then the pendulum began to swing in the opposite direction and ended up with the postmodernism (the death of truth) in the twentieth century.

Postmodernism is not the Devil

I am not writing, screaming that postmodernism is evil or the end of civilization. I think iit has reached its peak and is now declining. It is not clear yet about what will replace it, but some are suggesting metamodern, a hybrid between postmodern and modern. Modernism of course is the lingering hope that truth exist, we can find that truth through examining the evidence and using reason, to find solutions.

I also want to be clear that postmodernism is not a moral problem. People who believe in it are mostly rational, good people with good intentions. Postmodernism has also contributed to society. There were many social dogmas, promoted as “truth” (but not truth in my opinion), which the postmodernist were able to destroy by using deconstructive approaches. “No, it is not right for men to control women. You say it is a truth (for example “Biblical truth”) but it is really because you are a man and can selfishfully benefit from such a belief and there are no other motives.”

The Willamette Meteorite Being Hauled off Clackamas Indian Land

My podcast today (click here) explores postmodernism via the “Postmodernism-Parable of the Meteorite.” It examines the idea in its practical application and why it is so attractive to people.

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