Tuesday, August 15, 2006

What's right and what's wrong with Post-Modernism

The term "post-modernism" is too totalistic. In actuality there are "post-modernisms." Some "post-modernisms" are frightfully flawed. Others offer important insights into human knowing that are supportive to the Christian way.

There are certain streams of "post-modernism" that seem to assert knowing is a matter of living within a coherent view of life or narrative. Whether the view of live is connected to reality is unimportant. The notion that a knowable, real world exists is either rejected or ignored. This view is frightfully flawed. As a Christian, I believe it is flawed because of my belief in the idea of creation and the imago dei. I believe God did create a real world and because I/we bear the imago dei, that world is knowable. I also believe common human experience and the commonality of human apprehension of everyday experience tells us there is a world that can be known. What is frightful about this kind of "post-modernism" is the way it can lead to power being the only unifying reality for human experience. (Just read your Nietzche on this.) Totalizing ideologies fill this void. The result is the 20th century.

The kind of "post-modernism" that is helpful is the stream that critiques the positivism, objectivism and scientism of the enlightenment (we should probably speak of enlightenments and modernisms as well). These approaches lift knowledge culled from the scientific method and the tool of methodological doubt as real knowledge. In its most extreme form, any other kind of knowledge is only opinion. The kind of "post-modernism" that sets itself to critique this (e.g., Michael Polanyi) is helpful and fruitful. This approach is not skeptical about reality. This model argues that knowledge is a bigger thing than what methodological doubt can produce. Tradition, common experience and faith are seen as authentic conduits of knowledge. Scientific method is not rejected. It is affirmed and celebrated in its right context. In fact, this stream argues that it was the making of scientific knowledge into the only authentic knowledge that led to the horrors of the 20th century and the will to power celebrated by Nietzche.

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