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Postmodernity: An Unfortunate Reality

May 27, 2016

Contrary to what a majority of people in our culture may think, philosophy matters.  It matters even to people who never give philosophy a thought.  It impacts them and our culture in ways that most of us never consider.  The coming to dominance of postmodernity is a vital example.  The arrival of postmodern thought over the past half century to a  point where it now is the dominant mindset of our culture has taken place with very little conscious awareness.  Even though very few people could define postmodernity if asked it directs their thought on a daily basis.  It is my goal to deal with the mindset of postmodernity in ways that everyone can understand.  This may turn out unsatisfactorily for any academics who may read it, but I am not writing for them.

First, understand that postmodernity is not a set of conclusions or some new set of ideas that someone has come up with.  Postmodernity represents a whole new way of thinking.  When I say that it has become the dominant perspective in our culture, that means that younger people no longer think the same way that people my age think.  This newer way of thinking impacts every aspect of life, political views, religion, ethics, values, etc.  In real ways we no longer speak the same language.  Underlying thought patterns are different so conclusions may not just be different they may be totally incompatible.

So, what makes postmodernity so different?  Modernity was rational.  It placed ultimate value on humankind’s ability to reason.  In the end stages it was also naturalistic as it had managed to largely explain away the supernatural or divine.  This was not true of the early stages of modernity.  Postmodernity finds the rational to be suspect.  Greater value is placed on the experiential.  Stories are likely to hold more value and influence than syllogisms.  Modernity believed in objective Truth that we could arrive at using the reason and logic available to us.  Postmodernity believes in subjective truth which because it is subjective may vary from person to person.  What to the modernist would be a perfectly obvious reality, two mutually contradictory statements cannot both be true, is rejected by the postmodernist.  Postmodernity embraces the supernatural in all of its forms.  The distinction is made between being religious, that would be for modernists with emphasis on theology and creed, and spiritual, that is more open and defined by experience and emotion.  The difference between how these two terms are generally used is more than semantics.



Modernity certainly had its problems.  The assertion that objective Truth does exist resulted in many concluding that they had the handle on that Truth.  Therefore anyone who disagreed with them must certainly be wrong.  It resulted in intolerance and hostility that come from arrogance.  Here the problem lies with the people claiming absolute certainty and not in fact with the concept of Truth itself.  Whether it be governments, religious institutions, or individuals Truth has always needed to be handled with a substantial measure of humility.  When two competing Truth claims exist it must be remembered that one may be True and one false or they may both be false.  They simply cannot both be true.  It has been the reality of modernistic arrogance that has resulted in many rejecting the very idea of Truth.

With that said, I believe, that we must accept that postmodernity is the reality with which deal.  This simply is the way that the large majority of people in our culture now think.  We must come to understand what the reality of this way of thinking is.  We don’t have to like it.  I for one don’t like it.  My own brain will be forever locked in modern ways of thinking.  However, with that said, it does little good to lament the death of modernity.  I have done more than my share of that.  We must all learn to cope with the new world in which we find ourselves and we must realize that we need to find new ways to communicate with those who think differently from the way that we do.

Ultimately, I believe that postmodernity is a self-destructive and unworkable system.  If each individual is entitled to their own truth how can a society or any subset of that society function?  When values conflict, how can the group proceed?  Even core values like respect for others, can be rejected.  If some want to say majority rules, why?  If might or wealth dictate behavior, then one’s truth dominates all other truth.  As much as I believe postmodernity is destructive and unworkable, I must try to find ways to communicate that understanding in postmodern language since that is the language that is now being spoken by most around me.  Modernity was around for a few hundred years.  Postmodernity is just a baby.  I think that we need to find ways to turn it around or at least modify its worst elements but in the short run I am not optimistic.


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