Descartes & Postmodernism
In class tonight my professor made an interesting observation regarding the “postmodern movement.”
His point was that postmodernism isn’t necessarily a “shift” but rather a strain, albeit a radical one, within modernity.
To illustrate this point he pointed us to one of Johnny-Dee’s favorite philosophers, Rene Descartes. Descartes is widely believed to have ushered in the enlightenment/modernity with his famous rationalistic approach to understand reality. He attemped to raze his entire belief system down in order to begin again on a sure foundation. His famous dictum “I think, therefore i am,” came in part from the belief he had found an undeniably certain foundation to begin on, that of the belief that he couldn’t refute the fact that he was a thinking creature. From this basic belief Descartes built from the ground up (hence his association with strong foundationalist epistemology).
While my professor readily affirmed that the postmodern person would find Descartes trust in his reason to find truth seriously misguided and naive at best, the postmodern actually bases this critique on the father of the Enlightenment’s methodology.
Like Descartes, the consistent postmodern person use a “methodology of doubt” when evaluating truth. That is to say that Descartes and the postmodern believe that it is doubtful whether anything their beliefs are true or can be justified.
Their is an obvious difference between the two when it comes to applying this methodology. Descartes answer is to begin again, hopeful that through reason he can find “something to believe in.” The postmodern however takes this methodology to its extreme conclusion, elieving that ultimately nothing, not even reason can save them from drowning in relativism.
So while there are differences in application, the method in both camps is (roughly) the same. Maybe the postmodern is more consistent, or maybe too cynical. So while in some ways “postmodernism” is different in how it understands epistemology than modernity, they both are branches growing off the trunk of skepticism that fueled the “age of reason.” So really instead of being a completely new monster or “shift,” maybe it is just a further outgrowth of the ideals of modernity.
I’m sure many will disagree with my professor’s assessment. This was only a comment he in passing; i’m sure he has much more to say than this. I for one see alot of truth in what he says. Any thoughts?
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Quote of the DayOur definition of the grace of God says that it is 'unmerited favor.' That is true, but it tends to focus on our undeservedness. . . At the same time, b/c grace has its source in love, what love promises when it makes the other an object of love CREATES in the loved one an expectation of blessing. We have not merited this blessing, but it is rightfully ours b/c it has been promised by love. -Ray Anderson