Thursday, November 26, 2020

postmodernism as the root of all evil

Dr. John Pepple wrote a very interesting blog post titled "Another Challenge for the Critical Race Theorists."  Do give it a read.  I wrote a lengthy comment to that post (the writing of which comment caused traumatic flashbacks to grad school), and I now repost it here:

Back in grad school, when I was inadvertently marinating in postmodernist thinking (a hypnosis that took years to snap out of), I heard talk of "rationalities," plural, and "logics," plural. Among the PoMo thinkers I had to read, there were some who contended that rationality itself was a tool of Western oppression to be wielded against non-Western people (they had to argue this case rationally, of course). Rationality, after all, led to the creation of the technologies of war that resulted in mass death. Therefore, according to PoMo thinking, rationality is inherently toxic. Just as certain people on the right blame communism/socialism for over 100 million deaths in the 20th century, postmodernists blame rationality for millions of deaths in the 20th century. So "math is racist" is the latest rhetorical salvo in an ideological conflict that's been going on for quite a while. Much of this nonsense wafts out of academe and into the general populace, infecting minds as it permeates the masses.

Part of the problem is postmodernism's resistance to the idea of universals. Using the disparaging term "totalizing metanarrative" to describe universals, postmodernists argue that any attempt at describing anything in a general way, i.e., teasing out general principles, is inherently oppressive because it disrespects specific historical context, and in PoMo, absolutely everything is radically contextualized and subjectivized. The very claim that human beings might have "a nature" is disputed (this is what led Steven Pinker to write his anti-PoMo monograph The Blank Slate). Rational pursuits like math and logic stink of totalization because their insights apply everywhere and to everyone, regardless of context. 2+2=4 is an apodictic truth to be feared because it obtains whether you happen to be black, white, yellow, Asian, German, or Martian. The PoMo rebellion against totalization is what leads to the social balkanization we see: intersectionality is an ideology predicated on identity politics, which itself is derived from PoMo thinking: I have my reality, and you have yours. The ironic result is cultural segregation: whites can never understand the black experience, and vice versa, and if blacks want to flourish in a university, then there must be black-only spaces for black students and black teachers—the very segregation that people like Martin Luther King had fought against. Far from seeking a healthy "e pluribus unum" unity, people in this camp seek an absurdist plunge into a perverted notion of diversity.

The whole thing is quite sad, and to my mind, it's the result of wholly unnecessary stupidity. But if stupidity is congenital and therefore incurable... what can be done? Maybe it's not stupidity so much as what thinker Bernard Lonergan called scotosis, i.e., willful intellectual blindness.

No comments: