The term postmodern came into common use in the arts and architecture in the 1950's and in literature in the 1980's, but was used as early as 1870. (See History of Postmodernism at Wikipedia.)
We use it here to define a philosophy and world view of many Gen-Xers.
Postmodern philosophy is skeptical or nihilistic toward many of the values and assumptions of philosophy that derive from modernity, such as humanity having an essence which distinguishes humans from animals, or the assumption that one form of government is demonstrably better than another.
It was influenced by philosophers such as Søren Kierkegaard (1813 - 1855),
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) and
Jacques Derrida (b. 1930).
In a 1998 Discovery Inst. article, Gregory Dunn notes:
"There has been a great deal of ink spilled on the topic of postmodernism, some of it helpful, most of it not. It should be noted at the outset that postmodernism has two facets: the one its intellectual underpinnings, the other its cultural manifestation."
French sociologist Jean-François Lyotard has pointed out, the hallmark of a postmodern viewpoint is a certain "incredulity toward metanarratives, a metanarrative being a comprehensive account of the nature of reality, similar to the concept of a worldview".
"modernism's faith in inevitable progress is such a metanarrative. The Christian view of a personal, triune God working out his purposes in human history is another. For the postmodernist, such accounts of reality are deeply suspect; we are no longer able to say with any confidence that there is one true account of reality. Indeed, postmoderns exhibit a radical skepticism toward the true. "The only thing that is certain is that nothing is certain," they would say, or--to put it another way--the only truth is that there is no truth. Notice that this goes beyond mere pluralism, a view that says "What is true for you is true for you, and what is true for me is true for me." The postmodern view is more than that there is simply a number of differing accounts of the true; for postmodernists, the very notion of "truth" is up for grabs."
Dunn refers to a 1945 address on Christian apologetics, where C. S. Lewis said:
"A century ago our task was to edify those who had been brought up in the Faith: our present task is chiefly to convert and instruct infidels."
The Compact Oxford English Dictionary refers to postmodernism as "a style and concept in the arts characterized by distrust of theories and ideologies and by the drawing of attention to conventions."
Shawn Lawrence Otto's article "Antiscience Beliefs Jeopardize U.S. Democracy"
in the November, 2012, Scientific American talks about the antiscience trend in politics. Otto argues that
"In the 1960s and 1970s a philosophical movement called postmodernism developed among humanities professors displeased at being deposed by science, which they regarded as right-leaning. Postmodernism adopted ideas from cultural anthropology and relativity theory to argue that truth is relative and subject to the assumptions and prejudices of the observer."
* Dates for the start of the start of postmodernism vary.
|Dates ||Philosophy ||Simple description
|<1600 ||Premodern ||Get truth/knowledge from authoritative sources. Ultimate Truth could be known and the way to this knowledge is through direct revelation. This direct revelation was generally assumed to come from God or a god.
|1600-1980* ||Modern ||Discover truth/knowledge thru scientific empiricism (scientific method) and reason or logic.
|1980- ||Postmodern ||Epistemological pluralism which utilizes multiple ways of knowing. This can include the premodern ways (revelation) and modern ways (sceince & reason), along with many other ways of knowing such as intuition, relational, and spiritual.
Some go beyond pluralism and state there is no absolute truth.
1950 is the most common date, but we use 1980 when Postmodern philosophy has been associated with the Gen-Xers.
- Constructivist epistemology
- Constructivists maintain that scientific knowledge is constructed by scientists and not discovered from the world; opposed to positivism.
- Method of argument originating in ancient Greece.
The aim of the dialectical method is to try to resolve the disagreement
through rational discussion.
- Cultural Relativism
- The view that all beliefs are equally valid and that truth itself is relative, depending on the situation, environment, and individual.
- A division of Philosophy which studies the nature and scope of knowledge.
- Humanistic civilization
- Belief that human beings possess the power or
potentiality of solving their own problems,
through reliance primarily upon reason and scientific method.
The Common Will and The Common Knowledge, which dwells in all of us, provides us with responsibility, conscience, and pity for one another.
Vatican II council's declaration "Dignitatis Humanae"
echoes the modern world by, making man the end of all things.
- A story about a story. In terms of the Bible, a collection of stories, the metanarrative (Big story) is about the existence of God and salvation thru Christ.
- -The need to destroy existing economic and social institutions.
- The philosophy of considering practical consequences or real effects
to be vital components of both meaning and truth.
An Overview of Premodernism, Modernism, & Postmodernism, by Louis Hoffman, Ph.D. at PostModernPsychology.com
"Apologetics of Longing and the Postmodern Mood", Discovery Inst. article, Gregory Dunn
Postmodernism at AllAboutPhilosophy.org
On Truth and Reality: Philosophy Physics Metaphysics of Space, Wave Structure Matter. Famous Science Art Quotes
What is postmodern (doc), Agnes Heller
Wikipedia: Postmodern_philosophy, Postmodern_Christianity
Modernity in the Sequence of Historical Eras
Reaching a Postmodern Generation Christian perspective by Josh McDowell
Return to Mind and Ideas
last updated 22 Feb 2009