Do you understand what youâ€™re fighting?
In this article I will explain the fundamentals of the Postmodernist philosophy â€“ which in the previous century has gained a wide consensus, among researchers who studied the behaviour of atoms to the theories of literary critics. Previously, Brett Stevens has elaborated a distinction between an esoteric and exoteric approach to politics. The exoteric way of doing politics signified a â€˜populistâ€™ repetition of dogma and equating that to knowledge. With this distinction Brett Stevens meant that until you immerse yourself in something, and study all of the details, you do not know the fullness of implicationÂ nor the discipline as a whole.
My response was that â€˜being an esotericâ€™ is sort of a requirement for being an initiate. Leo Straussâ€™ esoteric reading of Platoâ€™s text meant that he intended to explain Platoâ€™s texts the way Plato had intended them to be understood. Strauss held that beneath the superficial first-glance (exoteric) layer of the text there was another, deeper layer, only accessible to the esoteric initiate. With other words: There was no telling where Strauss began to sell his own ideas as Platoâ€™s philosophy when he set about to expound â€œthe True meaning of Platoâ€™s textâ€. (With this, Strauss was effectively the first Postmodernist, beating even Derrida to it, who placed a question mark at every comma in Descartesâ€™ writing. In this way, both made the point that an original text cannot be seen as a source separate from its interpretation.) Likewise, I said to Brett Stevens, many academics follow their own paradigm and they refuse to listen to the arguments of people like us. Instead of objectively considering our arguments and the facts we bring to bear, they dismiss reasoning on beforehand because the people who conducted them are not part of generally accepted intellectual â€˜discoursâ€™ (the non-initiates).
Brett Stevens brought forward the exoteric/esoteric dichotomy to make clear that practice makes perfect â€“ the more willing you are to invest effort into something, the more likely you are to succeed.
By saying this what I just did, I lifted the mystery, magic and mystique from the term â€˜esotericâ€™, and have revealed it for what it is. Brett Stevens, however, also emphasized that the esoteric was not supposed to be understood as something illogical or hidden away. Yet this is what people canâ€™t accept. They will say: â€œIt canâ€™t be that simple!â€ and will put the veil back on and wrap it in a package of mystery, so that they can be mesmerized again by their own incomplete understanding.
The esoteric/exoteric distinction comes from Medieval scholasticism, the study ofÂ religious sources by monastic orders,Â and the interpretation ofÂ oracle before that. Figurehead of this is Maimonidesâ€™ Guide of the Perplexed. Written for Medieval religious people who came into contact with philosophy and from that moment on were not sure what to believe anymore. Maimonides argued that behind the text as it was passed down on paper, there wasÂ the True, deeper meaning. Then he explained this meaning in a way to show that religion and philosophy werenâ€™t mutually contradicting. For example when it says â€œsome guy rides up to the throne of God with a chariotâ€, this means that we are supposed to look up to God with reverence, not that it literally happened. However there were only the words of Maimonides versus those of the text. There was no third authority to appeal to whether any interpretation really was the True meaning behind the religious text. Problem! Postmodernism â€˜solvedâ€™ this by declaring the death of the author, meaning that no text could be separated from its interpretation. Everything was text; the universe was a living, breathing, body of text. There was no â€˜Trueâ€™ meaning of a text; there was only an infinite variety of possible interpretations, which depended on the questions with which one approached the text.
You see, this itself is a perfect example of â€˜esotericismâ€™. Imagine some guy who just googles â€˜Postmodernismâ€™ and comes out on this article. Such people will not take this post serious. They will think: â€œThereâ€™s a thousand books written about the subject of Postmodernism. Itâ€™s preposterous that some unknown guy can lay down the workings of Postmodernism within some post that I accidentally came across in the internet. Thereâ€™s got to be more to Postmodernism than that. I understood what he wrote, but obviously this cannot mean that I understand the fundamentals of Postmodernism. It canâ€™t be that simple; that would be absurd.â€ Yet thatâ€™s what I did: I pointed down the problem from which Postmodernism was born and explained the way in which it answered that problem. The next moment they will forget what they read here.
Until they come across some mysterious guru who dresses all his knowledge in a shroud and never answers a question, but instead responds to every question by raising more questions. The guru might intrigue people and will probably gain a following. He feeds on peopleâ€™s wanting to believe that there must be more to it than what they can understand for themselves. They want a tip of the veil to be lifted, so to say, so that they have the prospect of a vast universe of unexplored mystery. â€œThere is more to it than meets the eyes, because there must be.â€Â Even if they already understand the very fundamental of Postmodernism since they read what I just wrote.
This is why, whenever I make a single step forward, the world immediately takes a thousand steps backwards.
I could of course have added that this Medieval problem was not addressed by Modernism, because Modernism had different things to worry about. The major one of which was: â€œNow that our kings and clerics are losing power to the rising citizenry, on which principles do we set up an orderly state?â€ Modernity was more willing to reduce authorities to arguments and to appeal directly to Reason when it came to judging the validity of these arguments. This is a form of intellectual courage which transcends scholasticism and for which I admire the Modern frame of mind: Descartes started by doubting the very basic assumptions of knowledge, and on every topic he brought to bear what he could, and after that passed the verdict of Reason. Truth itself was the ultimate authority, and not some scholarly academic or popular opinion. This way he reasoned himself consequently to the top, pursuing every thought to its inevitable outcome. That’s exactly what’s necessary to drag ourselves out of today’s swamp of relativism. Nihilism, however, means giving up faith in the power of Reason itself, refusing to attribute value even toÂ an orderly and consequent conduct ofÂ thought. From that, arguments can’t bring one back. It’s a deficit of Character.
When people on this website are attacking â€˜Modernismâ€™ they are really attacking Utilitarianism. Utilitarianism which, because it embraced the greatest happiness of the greatest good, indirectly embraced the standards of the masses, that is the drive to seek direct-impulse-satisfaction present in many people, inevitably boiled down to vulgar hedonism. When you are attacking â€˜Modernismâ€™ you are attacking relativism, meaning that no standard of conduct is superior to that of another.
â€œSure, in our society theft may not be allowed, but thatâ€™s only because weâ€™re raised by Western families. But who is to say Western conduct is superior to that of the Uga-buga tribe? After all, we cannot be neutral judges between the moral creed of the West versus that of the Uga-buga, since we ourselves are already conditioned to prefer the Western attitude. Sure, we may say that Western civilization has produced more material wealth, but then a preference for the West would only be based on that preference for wealth, and this preference in turn is keynote to our civilization.â€
Do you see where this is coming from? This is Postmodernism: No interpretation of a text can be superior to another interpretation of a text. Thereâ€™s nothing outside the text that can play the role of judge. And a civilization, is a text. We are all part of a web of text that constantly bobs and weaves, but that never breaks to give way to some external referent â€“ the â€˜original meaningâ€™. Postmodernism argues that the whole idea of â€˜originâ€™ is a fraud; as soon as you explain a text, you add something to it. You continue to write the text, by adding to the subtext that is the world.
Postmodernism struggled against authority; as such it tried to unmask the idea of origin as a form of power, an authority; it was just an excuse to give some inhabitants of a land more rights than others. Not a â€˜falseâ€™ authority mind you. Postmodernism never speaks of â€˜trueâ€™ or â€˜falseâ€™. This goes back to Heidegger and Nietzsche. Nietzsche had already argued that everything was rhetoric in a struggle for power. He held the concept of Truth to be just another tool within this struggle; after all the moment we intervene in a debate with a Truth-claim, we are already affecting reality, the state of which is the very thing debated.Â Â Heidegger wrote about Platoâ€™s cave; the cave-dweller compared what he saw with his eyes (the world of the cave) against what he saw under the sun (the world of ideas). Heidegger concluded that this meant comparing the world people live in to another higher world. For him, thisÂ implied that human beings would be fundamentallyout of touch with reality, if this higher world would be the measure of the adequacy of their observations, which seemedÂ absurd to him. For Heidegger, it seemed absurd to subscribe a higher degree of reality to a world of thought than to the world in which we conduct our lives: When we open the refrigerator to get a glass of milk we are as closely in touch with reality as we can get. The scientific mode of contemplating the world is not the daily mode of observation, letâ€™s say when you are on your bike on your way to school. It was for Heidegger therefore the most daily that was the most relevant. It was nonsense to think that science and philosophy could hold a higher authority than the experience of daily life. This was his famous saying of Herakleitos and the stove in his Letter on Humanism (People of renown came to the house of Herakleitos expecting him to be doing stuff of epic importance. Instead, he was lighting his stove. When the visitors appeared disappointed, Herakleitos said: â€œBut God is here too,â€ highlighting the sacredness of the ordinary and the mundane.)
This in turn can be related to the foreground-background switch, another important influence of Postmodernism;Â laying the focus on what’s marginal. Scientists were no longer supposed to look at the headlines of the newspapers, but instead at the advertisements. A large overhaul always started small, somewhere in the sidelines; many renowned artists and thinkers werenâ€™t very influential in their own era. They sort of set the stage for a new paradigm to rise.
The concept of a paradigm can be seen as the peak of Postmodernism since one canâ€™t step outside of his paradigm.Â Look at the picture and you’ll seeÂ a young woman or an old woman, but you can’tÂ see them both at the same time. Each paradigm comes with its own questions and own answers, and therefore we canâ€™t speak about â€˜Truthâ€™. We can only say that some perspectives highlight certain aspects of reality while leaving others in the dark. With other words; you regard the magic of the Uga-buga tribe as inferior because you take a look at their worldview with Western assumptions about what is important in the back of your mind. But you canâ€™t step outside of your paradigm to judge whether these assumptions are justified, since assumptions of what is important come and go per paradigm.
You see, Shakespeare is not written by Shakespeare; Shakespeare is just part of a body of text that continues to write itself whenever anyone contemplates it or discusses it. For this reason, aunt Beth is not to be taken less serious when expounding her view of Shakespeare than when Prof. Dr. Epic is. The difference is just that one of the two is paid for doing so. Which pretty much comes down to what BrettÂ Stevens pointed out, that byÂ what he calls the ‘exoteric’ approach, it is overlooked that it usually takes years of study and a close attention to detail toÂ reach a level of profound ability.
Now, I think that aunt Beth may as well be right and the professor could be wrong, but this is decided by appealing to reason and the facts. Postmodernism would say that the assessment of a fact rests upon the theoretic assumption from which it is observed, and these assumptions would again be relative per paradigm. With other words; facts are opinions.Â Postmodernists would back this upÂ with something I pointed out before, namely,Â that there is no external referent we can appeal to when weighing the value of a paradigm. We can only say that some perspectives highlight certain aspects of reality while leaving others in the dark.
Postmodernism was strengthened by the scientific finding that the observatory was part of the observation; in order to be observed the object in question would have to transfer some of its innate energy to the beholder. This led people to conclude that objectivity in the natural sciences was per definition impossible. That finding seeped through to the social sciences, and there it got the form of the assumption that Western scholars are per definition biased to favour Western patterns of behaviour.Â I planÂ to write a book inÂ the future to explain how many problems of society (lack of clear standards of behaviour due to the fragmentation of role patterns and cultures) stem from problemsÂ with the theoretical principles underlying the natural sciences.
Our obsession with cultural and moral intolerance come from the dent thatÂ Western society took. Since the French Revolution science was our most important authority since we owed our international superiority to it. In the twentieth century however, due to some experiments by Einstein and others, objective knowledgeÂ wasÂ held to be troublesome. This has unleashed an instability upon society we have still not recovered from.
For a Postmodernist, objectivity is a form of intolerance. Because everything that is assessed, is assessed on the basis of some criteria. And these criteria are different per paradigm. Change the paradigm and the conceptions change; â€˜massâ€™ was defined and understood totally different by Aristotle than it was by Einstein, and for Einstein it was still different from what it was for Newton. And regardless of these differences, they were still able to provide working solutions to a variety of problems. Therefore, itâ€™s just a matter of which Conundrums you find important and which paradigm one applies to solve these. Any society comes with its own problems, due to the different circumstances which it finds itself in, and therefore itâ€™s intolerant to regard one civilization more advanced or superior than another. We have to accept that thereâ€™s no â€˜Truthâ€™ to appeal to; we canâ€™t transcend the circumstances that condition us, and therefore canâ€™t overstep the boundaries of our paradigms (remember you canâ€™t see a duck and aÂ rabbit at the same time). The best we can do is to accept that different perspectives elucidate different aspects of different matters. From this it follows that we have to embrace diversity, including gender identities, homosexuality and transsexuality. In the sixties there were groups in universities working to legitimize paedophilia. After all being dismissive of the paedophilic sexuality just rested upon the preference of some worldview which was not intrinsically superior to other possibleÂ perspectives on sexuality.
Next to Nietzsche, Heidegger, Thomas Kuhn, Paul Feyerabend, Jacques Derrida and Lyotard, Foucault was an extremely important influence on Postmodernism. Especially his Birth of the clinic. In the French Revolution, the royals and the clerics were thrown out of power and their belongings were confiscated. Since the Church had cared about retards and beggars, these were left to wander on the streets, where they caused agitation. Then, the class of doctors and medics emerged, which developed into an institute that quickly gained in power. Scientific breakthroughs stimulated the industry. Disenfranchised people were locked up in asylums, others were made to do repetitive work at weaving machines or running tires. This was authority; labour was controlled and disciplined and this organization used labour as a source of power.
Heidegger had stated that the Modern worldview was all about using knowledge to control nature, whereas it should be the nobility of man to listen to her. According to Foucault and the others, this Modern paradigm (which he called an ‘Episteme’)Â was productive yet intolerant. It spoke about Truth and Reason, while suppressing the freedom of others to give shape to their identities. Totalitarianism was the last and inevitable outcome of this Modern paradigm, and all of this could be traced back to Plato. After all, for Plato, the Truth had been an absolute authority. The Modern paradigm had acquisitioned this claim to Truth, yet failed to see that it was but one of possible perspectives. Therefore it had developed itself to be an era of suppression; the Christian suppression of the woman, the Victorian suppression of sexuality, the Industrial suppression of the working class, the Fascist oppression of the foreign races. They were all just signs of the intolerant Western expert-system. Instead, the potential of mankind was good and altruistic. This potential was to be freed, since suppression of this potential by institutions, such as the police, the Church, and the patriarchal family, lead to sadism. Yet it is often overlooked that the Postmodernists, by overthrowing the Modern paradigm, just replaced the previous expert-system with their own (see George Orwellâ€™s 1984). And this one was even more oppressive, because it came with its own dogma, that is, that nothing could be held to be True. Sure, this was a contradiction, but that signified that the non-contradiction principle was just another of the intolerant basic assumptions of the interchangeable Modern paradigm. In Orwellâ€™s story, one could at least make a stance for his principles by declaring that it was True that 2 times 2 was 4. The Postmodernist philosophy would simply hold such a statement to rest upon rules of arithmetic which are not by definition preferable to any other set of rules. Itâ€™s merely a question of to which basic assumptions one happens to be initiate.
Bottom line is that people who call themselves ‘Conservatives’ claim to be fighting Modernism, but what they’re probably struggling against is a degenerated form of Utilitarianism (Mill originally intended his philosophy to alleviate the grey masses towards the aristocratic level of refinement) mixed with Postmodernism. I would personally label myself ‘Liberal’ rather than ‘Conservative’, since I study history with an outlook towards the future.Â This universal historical analyses allows one to gain an objective understanding of civilizations, and irreconcilable (Â incommensurable) paradigms therefore do not exist. My aim is to Liberate people fromÂ internal and externalÂ forces that keep them from reaching their full potential, and I am convinced that government should only interfere with this as a last resort.Â My first step towards attaining this goal is by providing the audience with objective knowledge about the philosophical currents that hold our society in check. (Remember, not as in totday’s Newspeak, where ‘Conservatism’ means siding with big-business andÂ the military-industrial complex, and ‘Liberalism’ means siding with the marijuana-smoking hippies who protest against them.)
Postmodernism is not a breach with the Modern-scientific paradigm, as it claims. Instead it is a continuation of it. After all, it shared the Enlightenmentâ€™s assumption that the sciences were the authority next that of the Church, since Postmodernism held the epistemological problems of science to hold significance for our ethics and morality.