Summary of Chapter 9: THE VANISHED HORIZON—POSTMODERNISM (Pgs.172-190)


          In this chapter Sire argues that Postmodernism (PM) changed everything starting with the death of God which grounded its’ wisdom and demise in Modernism.  This is because far from being “Post” anything, it’s nothing without Modernism.  What it has accomplished though is taking Modernism’s views to their natural end which failed to meet their own criterion.

To begin with, Sire admits defining (PM) is difficult.  The term was first used to describe architecture.  One definition advanced of (PM) is: it denies there is any one metanarrative that is more credible than another to explain to us the nature of reality (e.g., theism, pantheism, or atheism make part of the whole).

A good way to understand (PM) is to compare it to Premodern and Modern views of reality to grasp its’ significance.  Pre-moderns for example focused on attaining a just society by basing it on the just God of revelation.  Moderns contrarily focused their view of attaining justice through universal reason.  Post-moderns however despair any universal attaining of justice because language is what constructs reality or meaning itself.

Sire continues and explains how the three different views lead to a way of ruling by virtue of their starting point.  Pre-modernism lead to medieval hierarchy, Modernism lead to Enlightenment democracy, and Postmodernism leads to anarchy.

Concerning first principles, Pre-moderns saw metaphysics (being, existence) as the grounds for epistemology (how we know anything); Moderns held that epistemology is the grounds for ontology (the study of existence, being); and Post-moderns hold that epistemology is the grounds for significance but end their search with no confidence in human reason.  The self-refuting nature of (PM’s) many positions is here obvious by their use of reason to make said statement.

Sire continues to point out the self-refuting nature of (PM) positions like its notion of truth that it is forever hidden from us.  These “authorities” are telling us the “truth” that truth is forever hidden from us.

When (PM) says that all narratives are a mask for a play of power, they fail to see that they also are giving us a narrative of reality that according to them also falls into the category of a “play of power”.

Another notion of (PM) is that language is what’s used to construct who people are and what is ethical or not by society.  This ends with a radical relativism that if consistently lived out has as its’ champion the sociopath.

It leads naturally that from this view of language, the discipline that is king is literary theory, rather than theology, philosophy or science.

Sire than considers many of (PM’s) shortcomings not least of which is their denial of any objective truth but act as if it really exists by their writings and “insights” into describing reality, thus elites, not true experts end up ruling everywhere including the sciences (Pgs.184-187).

PM has rightly criticized naturalisms’ too high a view of reason, explained that language can be used to exercise power over people (these are not always negative situations however) but (PM’s) seem to overlook that their own criticism’s also apply to their use of words.

Sire points out that the “truth question” is very uncomfortable for (PM’s) and it should be pressed.  Moreover, their negative view of reason should be considered in light of their use of reason to advance their position.  That is, they employ their negative view of autonomy by using said autonomous human reason.  It’s just self-refuting.

Finally, Sire concludes that (PM) is not so much a worldview, but a parasite on worldviews and it’s not surprising therefore that this position lacks confidence in truth, a trust in reality or hope for the future.  Pessimism, nihilism and anarchy result if this thought of (PM) is followed to its natural conclusion.         


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