Tag Archives: Reality

How French ‘intellectuals’ ruined the West: postmodernism and its impact, explained

by Helen Pluckrose Areo magazine, 27 March 2017.

Postmodernism presents a threat not only to liberal democracy but to modernity itself. That may sound like a bold or even hyperbolic claim, but the reality is that the cluster of ideas and values at the root of postmodernism have broken the bounds of academia and gained great cultural power in western society. The irrational and identitarian “symptoms” of postmodernism are easily recognizable and much criticized, but the ethos underlying them is not well understood. This is partly because postmodernists rarely explain themselves clearly and partly because of the inherent contradictions and inconsistencies of a way of thought which denies a stable reality or reliable knowledge to exist. However, there are consistent ideas at the root of postmodernism and understanding them is essential if we intend to counter them. They underlie the problems we see today in Social Justice Activism, undermine the credibility of the Left and threaten to return us to an irrational and tribal “pre-modern” culture.

Postmodernism, most simply, is an artistic and philosophical movement which began in France in the 1960s and produced bewildering art and even more bewildering  “theory.” It drew on avant-garde and surrealist art and earlier philosophical ideas, particularly those of Nietzsche and Heidegger, for its anti-realism and rejection of the concept of the unified and coherent individual. It reacted against the liberal humanism of the modernist artistic and intellectual movements, which its proponents saw as naïvely universalizing a western, middle-class and male experience.

It rejected philosophy which valued ethics, reason and clarity with the same accusation. Structuralism, a movement which (often over-confidently) attempted to analyze human culture and psychology according to consistent structures of relationships, came under attack. Marxism, with its understanding of society through class and economic structures was regarded as equally rigid and simplistic. Above all, postmodernists attacked science and its goal of attaining objective knowledge about a reality which exists independently of human perceptions which they saw as merely another form of constructed ideology dominated by bourgeois, western assumptions. Decidedly left-wing, postmodernism had both a nihilistic and a revolutionary ethos which resonated with a post-war, post-empire zeitgeist in the West. As postmodernism continued to develop and diversify, its initially stronger nihilistic deconstructive phase became secondary (but still fundamental) to its revolutionary “identity politics” phase.

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Tim Minchin on the real world


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Lynne Kelly on the wonders of the real world

Lynee Kelly quote

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Russell on reality

“We all believe that we live in a common world, peopled not only by sentient beings like ourselves, but also by physical objects. I say we all believe this, in spite of the fact that some philosophers have pretended to doubt it. There are on the one hand solipsists who maintain that they alone exist, and make desperate efforts to make others agree with them. Then there are philosophers who hold that all reality is mental, and that while the feelings we experience when we look at the sun are real, the sun itself is a fiction. And as a development of this view there is the theory of Leibnitz, according to which the world consists of monads that never interact, and perception is in no degree due to the action of the outer world upon the percipient. In this view we may be said to be all dreaming, but the dreams that we all have are identical in structure. These different views, I say, have been advocated by different philosophers, and I do not think that any of them can be disproved. On the other hand, none of them can be proved, and, what is more, none of them can be believed, not even by their advocates.” – Bertrand Russell

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