[PODCAST] #495: Dr. Stephen Hicks – Postmodernism As A Political Project?


(Part Two) Our investigation into the philosophical roots of social justice continues...

Dr. Stephen Hicks is a Professor of Philosophy at Rockford College and the Executive Director of The Center For Ethics and Entrepreneurship. He joins me today to discuss the consequences of postmodernism as a political/education project.


- Words as weapons
- Do the postmodernists of the mid-20th century set out to undermine the enlightenment?
- The philosophical movement has a long philosophical lineage dating back to Rousseau and the German idealists, it comes to prominence in the 1960s
- What's confusing for the novice here - These people looked back the enlightenment, reason as a starting point instead of faith and superstition, how did they look at dividends that were paid, that they were the beneficiaries of, science, engineering, medicine, free markets, abolition, spreading material wealth, emergence of leisure time, near universal literacy and not say this is something we could improve upon?
But instead, this is something to be undone or attacked?
- Postmodern art
- Hypothesis: post-modernism is the crisis of faith for the academic left (it's how socialism moves forward)

Bumper Music:
"The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades" Timbuk 3
Well I'm well aware of the world out there,
getting blown all to bits, but what do I care?

"After the Gold Rush" Neil Young
Look at Mother Nature on the run
In the nineteen seventies.

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  1. “The postmodernists of the 1920s….” Hi, Brett, I recognize you’re likely to continue dismissing any criticism of objectivism out-of-hand with the usual ad homs and straw men generalizations, but I think it’s important to register the postmodernist challenge to objectivist theory anyway on your website for the 20% of your audience open to debate. I’ve added this episode to my growing collection of objectivist/Trivium doublethin; I’ve been using these audio files for an advanced online critical thinking class because my students have recognized the need to take Ayn Rand’s philosophical arguments seriously and deconstruct them. Ayn Rand’s famous dictum at the start of any debate was to first define your terms, right? So three episodes in, let’s see how we’re defining our terms. What is postmodernism (aka post-structuralism)? How is it distinct from modernism (aka structuralism) lest we confuse the two, right? And, relatedly, what is structuralism? I’ve noticed a trend where objectivists intentionally, or in their ignorance of the primary sources, conflate structuralists (of the 20s) with post-structuralists (of the 70s). This is despite post-modernists’ explicitly empirical attacks against the structuralist theories’ of determinalistic structural power (race, religion, culture, government). For instance, if you’d ever read Derrida’s Of Grammatology, you would have observed that roughly 1/3 of the book is spent deconstructing Rousseau’s philosophy – particularly the blank slate and noble savage – in even more damaging and intelligent ways than the Objectivists do. Need I say that the Trivium’s blank slate belief that every child is born naturally good and intellectually curious but is corrupted by evil, satanic governmental institutions like public school clearly stems from Rousseau, and has been debunked empirically and widely in our post-modern era. Another 1/3 is spent deconstructing Levi-Strauss’ fake ethnographic work on indigenous cultures, who he claimed were non-violent. You may recognize the disproven concept of the noble savage also remains prevalent in New Age 1.0 and Trivium 2.0 (but not 1.0) dogma. So as far as your explicit conclusion that postmodernists are overthrowing empiricism and the Scientific Method, I must strongly disagree based on my reading of the primary sources. If you’ve read different postmodernist books on the subject, I’m open to debate, but in the absence of any primary sources, I’ll go with what I’ve read.

    Another primary source I’d recommend on this subject, and I’ve heard Thadeus Russell recommend this one several times, is Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Science. If you’d read this book, you’d know the key difference in grammar is not that the postmodernists seek to overthrow empiricism or the scientific method but rather wish to SITUATE it with in its proper historical and cultural context. This is the difference between Science and Scientism which the Objectivists also talk about, but the post-modernists again deconstruct it more thoroughly and less dogmatically.

    One area we can likely agree on is Nietzsche’s overarching influence on both modernist and postmodernist theories, including Objectivism (which, as my students have recognized, is clearly a modernist Structure in itself). I succinctly summarize Nietzsche’s contributions to philosophy in three elements:
    1) God is dead.
    2) Power exists.
    3) Man’s divine power is regained individually through honest recognition of 1 & 2.

    To my knowledge, no serious philosophical counter-arguments have been mounted to Nietzsche’s challenge.

    We also agree that modernists and post-modernists almost universally fall into the trap of psychological darkness and depression, although I’d argue this is a result of taking Nietzsche’s challenge seriously rather than anything the postmodernists actually discuss. In other words, the few intellectual philosophers, who seem full of doom of gloom because they’ve accepted Nietzsche’s challenge, are not as mentally unhealthy and are not spreading mental illness to those who listen to them as they may appear at first glance (although I admit a large percentage of them could benefit from meditation, a cold shower, and a study of Eastern philosophy). Rather, I think the deeper truth they’re pointing out is how crazy and mentally unstable everyone in the West is who appeals to a monolithic cultural, religious, or governmental authority. Indexical thinking (Jesus saves) is so much more widespread than symbolic thinking (I save myself through my interpreting of the world). When you admit we’ve evolved from monkeys and not a Hebrew God and still have monkey brains that are detrimental to the social and mental health of the human race, some degree of darkness is likely to ensue. The Marquis de Sade, Dostoevsky, Camus, Carl Jung, and a bunch of other deep thinkers in the modern era took this darkness seriously, whether or not they found they’re way out is another story. The challenge was not to ignore, ad hom, dismiss, or censor this honest realization that darkness exists, but to take it seriously and deconstruct it from historical, economic, psychological, linguistic, scientific perspectives until the existing authoritarian dogma loses its power and dissolves, leaving behind greater individual freedom.This is why David Ray Griffin’s postmodernist deconstruction of 9/11 is the one I recommend most. The alchemy of deconstruction turns darkness into light. This is also why Foucault’s historical deconstruction of the field of psychiatry – SITUATED within different historical eras and cultures is the most widely read and taught of the postmodernists’ books. This is also why I included Lacan, who focused almost solely on the unconscious cultural and evolutionary factors that influence mental health, along with Derrida and Foucault, as the three major postmodernist philosophers that everyone should read and understand the basic grammar of BEFORE they criticize postmodernism. Clearly, I don’t need to argue against Objectivism or the Trivium. Postmodernists have already won the debate of ideas, and we live in a postmodern world and will continue to do so until objectivists read the ideas, process them, and respond to them intelligently rather than create more strawmen arguments out of ignorance of the primary sources and ambiguously define key terms. Apologies for the length, I know how much you hate to read ;).Just so you know, I’m not the one dropping bombs and then running away from the fight.


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