The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Exploring ‘Explaining Postmodernism’ By Stephen R. C. Hicks

Posted on | November 28, 2011 | 24 Comments

by Smitty

Explaining Postmodernism is among the better books I have read in some time. Hicks, in a concise, lucid way, serves PoMo’s historical development since the Enlightenment.
EP, in my opinion, is to philosophy what Liberal Fascism by Goldberg is to politics. In many ways, EP offers a different angle on a broader slice of the history covered by LF, though Hicks is less explicitely partisan than Goldberg. Then again, the PoMo crowd mostly speaks for itself.

The intention in this blog is to do a series of six posts on Hicks, using his Table of Contents as an outline, and offer a short response to the ideas offered by the PoMo crowd. By way of introduction, I’m approaching life as a Christian of the Baptist persuasion, with an undergraduate engineering degree and military experience.

What Postmodernism is
First, Modernism:

“Modernism’s essentials are located in the formative figures of Francis Bacon (1521-1626), and René Descartes (1596-1650) for their influence on epistemology, and more comprehensively in John Locke (1632-1704), for his influence upon all aspects of philosophy.” (EP, p. 7)

“Postmodernism rejects the entire Enlightenment project.” (EP, p. 14)

Here is the summary of the two schools of thought:

Modernism Postmodernism
Metaphysics Realism: Naturalism Anti-Realism
Epistemology Objectivism: Experience and reason Social subjectivism
Human Nature Tabula rasa and autonomy Social construction and conflict
Ethics Individualism Collectivism: egalitarianism
Politics & Economics Liberal capitalism Socialism

(adapted from EP, p. 15)

Postmodern Academic Themes
It this sounds like the Long March Through the Institutions, you may have been paying attention.
PoMo LitCrit has been thoroughly lampooned here.

“The law is a weapon to be used in the social arena of subjective conflict, an arena driven by competing will and the coercive assertion of one group’s interests over those of other groups. In the West, for too long the law has been a cover for the assertion of white male interests. The only antidote to that poison is the equally forceful assertion of the subjective interests of historically suppressed groups.” (EP, p 16-17)

Two points:

  1. you had to shoot the face off of any notion of justice to get there, and
  2. this statement seems to sum up Eric Holder’s DoJ.


. . .postmodernism rejects the notion that the purpose of education is primarily to train a child’s cognitive capacity for reason in order to produce an adult capable of functioning independently in the world. That view of education is replace with the view that education is to take an essentially indeterminate being and give it a social identity. (EP, p 17)

Two points:

  1. this is evil, and
  2. they shan’t have my son for their creepy experiments.

Conclusion, or, my take:
As an Information Age sort of fellow, analyzing philosophy, like debugging code, gets down to questions of “Where is the state kept?”. That is, most of the thumb-wrestling over the ages boils down to arguments about information, its shape, and its longevity.

As the series unfolds, the intention is to offer what amounts to an American evangelical Christian response to all this. Which is not to say that all of these philosophers were, themselves, atheistic.

For starters, we are all a collection of atoms, giving us some type of existence. That existence interacts with time to give us more or less intellect. Intellect is governed by ethics, which, according to my thinking, is not precisely the same as morality.

The spirit, for those of us positing the availability of a soul beyond the scope of time, is where morality comes in. For an example of why I think breaking the circular definition of ethics/morality is important, consider: Congress regularly spends far more than the Treasury receives in a given year. Has for a long time. Yet we haven’t jailed all of Congress, because, apparently, there isn’t anything seriously unethical about systemic theft along these lines.

Anybody with a shred of morality, however, senses that the fish is rotting from the head down. To those so morally debased as not to see a problem with the situation, may the Almighty have mercy on you.

Come back late this afternoon for another exciting installment.


24 Responses to “Exploring ‘Explaining Postmodernism’ By Stephen R. C. Hicks”

  1. Soopermexican
    November 28th, 2011 @ 9:54 am

    This is great. In order to defend the institutions and principles behind our country, we need to know the philosophies upholding them, and those threatening them. Good job… I had a similar chart in a recent post: … The only thing I’d disagree on is that we should focus on where the state is. While that is important in application to politics, philosophy is a worthwhile pursuit, when it gets to the truth, regardless of politics. What I’m getting at, is if following truth led me to believe the state should be enlarged (which I don’t believe), then I’ll go there.

  2. richard mcenroe
    November 28th, 2011 @ 10:00 am

    Kudos for the up-front profession of yer Baptistry, for folks here who may not have already known it.  I don’t think we necessarily need divine intervention to debunk postmodernism.  Maybe to translate some of the term papers and theses, though…

    I will be checking out this book.

  3. Tanuki Man
    November 28th, 2011 @ 11:05 am

    First link is bad. Please fix.

  4. smitty
    November 28th, 2011 @ 11:11 am

    Link fixed. Why must HTML be smarter than me?

  5. smitty
    November 28th, 2011 @ 11:12 am

    The state exists in people’s heads. 7 billion mostly unsynchronized databases.

  6. htowt
    November 28th, 2011 @ 11:13 am

    Barbara Oakley recommends Iain McGilchrist’s “The Master and His Emissary” which covers this subject from an historical perspective starting with the Greek philosophers.  His analysis is from the neurological standpoint, looking at how people interpret the world through the right brain (The Master) or the left brain (His Emissary).
    It may not predict the future with any certainty, but it sure helps us understand how we got here.  You are on the right track.

  7. Soopermexican
    November 28th, 2011 @ 11:14 am

    my head is unstated.. or rather, understated =D

  8. Anonymous
    November 28th, 2011 @ 11:53 am

    It’s not, it just demands you be correct by it’s standards.

  9. smitty
    November 28th, 2011 @ 12:07 pm

    You put that second apostrophe in there just to offend my sense of standards, didn’t you?

  10. Quartermaster
    November 28th, 2011 @ 1:03 pm

    if we had a parser it would have rejected that post for bad mechanics. 🙂

  11. Quartermaster
    November 28th, 2011 @ 1:05 pm

    Modernism was bad enough, but postmodernism is nothing short of insane. I wouldn’t dignify their form of education as an experiment, but as a manifestation of their insanity.

  12. Kristi
    November 28th, 2011 @ 2:31 pm

    Alas, any truly tasty discussion of philosophy must include religious ideas as well. 

    But seriously, folks: I’ve been battered about the head by postmodern types for longer than you’ve probably been alive.  Over time I’ve learned to cope, but it’s always nice to find something fresh to add to my arsenal. 

  13. Anonymous
    November 28th, 2011 @ 2:45 pm

    My grasp of grammar in general and punctuation in particular isn’t nearly sophisticated enough to deliberately anything.

  14. richard mcenroe
    November 28th, 2011 @ 3:07 pm

    Your grasping at straws.

  15. Bruce Dumstan
    November 28th, 2011 @ 3:09 pm

    Don’t be too hasty on this guys. Catholic conservativism has a postmodern wing, especially Alasdaire MacIntyre.

    He argues that liberal pluralism and moral incoherence are inevitable through modernity. In fact this is one way of seeing the Catholic Church’s response to the Reformation – ‘You have your reality and we have ours’.

    Not the same as Romanticism, which is gnostic and atheistic and actually very modern. 

    Hicks may have missed this, that modernity arose out of Protestantism (Max Weber, ‘Protestant Ethic and Spirit of Capitalism’) while Postmodernism is various Catholic-influenced writers like Heidegger and the French trying to take us back to pre-modern idyll, before the great fracturing.

    Alasdaire MacIntyre holds up Thomas Aquinas’ interpretation of Aristotle as the essence of Western thought, and the medieval world ruled by the Church as a moral peak of civilsation. 

    Man was the center of the universe. The ‘Enlightenment’ began a program of actual dehumanisation, judged by its results. 

  16. Bruce
    November 28th, 2011 @ 3:11 pm

    Dumstan? Where did that come from? Sorry I don’t get this comments thing. 

  17. Bruce
    November 28th, 2011 @ 4:19 pm

    Here, this summary of MacIntyre’s best book is good:

    “To MacIntyre, morals and virtues can only be comprehended through their relation to the community in which they come from.”

  18. Robo-Love: Link It Forward
    November 28th, 2011 @ 5:24 pm

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  19. smitty
    November 28th, 2011 @ 5:34 pm

    @xRedRoverx This should run to six segments; see what you think.
    I’ll be making general rebuttals of a religious nature, while remaining brief and not raging evangelical.

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