Postmodernism follows modernity, the era of the Enlightenment, which lasted roughly from the Renaissance until the outbreak of World War I. Period definitions tend to vary. Jonathan I. Israel, who wrote a number of great tomes on the subject - "Radical Enlightenment" and "Enlightenment Contested" considers the Enlightenment proper ended by 1750.
Postmodernism is rooted in the Counter-Enlightenment movement, a philosophical reaction to the Enlightenment. The departure from modernity is most clearly marked by the ideas of Swiss-French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778), who radically rejected all the tenets of modernity. Further watersheds in post and anti-modern thought are marked by Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, and Heidegger.
Postmodernism proper made its influence felt most dramatically in Europe during the interbellum and in the US as well after World War II, having its temporary culmination with the counter-culture of the 1970s and 1980s.
The current revival is largely due to the dissemination of those ideas to younger generations and the arrival of the fellow-travelers at the corridors of power after having taken “the long road through the institutions.” The informative term was coined by Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937), an political theorist and founding member of the Communist Party of Italy. When revolution stubbornly refused to catch on he advised a “long march through the institutions,” by whih he meant the capture of the arts, cinema, theater, schools, universities, seminaries, media, and the courts.
The process was greatly assisted by the subversive activities of the Soviet KGB and Frankfurt School. The insidious influence of these anti philosophers can hardly be overestimated.
After the failed 1968 revolution the fellow travelers became aware of the possibility that they might seize political power after all, after achieving 'cultural hegemony,' or control of society's intellectual life by cultural means.
The term postmodernism is used in these pages in a limited sense, covering philosophical efforts as structuralism and post structuralism; not as a creative style in art or design, nor as a designate of a time period. The term is used here to indicate the whole of relativist and subjectivist thinking as it is applied in a political context, roughly between 1968 and the present.
As well as the revival of the Middle Ages, some trend watchers have detected an end to the postmodern epoch, but frankly there are few signs of an impending demise. Apart from the much vilified neo-conservatism there is no reaction, counter, antithesis or rival political philosophy in sight that might capture popular attention: if the dialectic of Thesis and Antithesis holds true, what we should see at some point is a positivist or rationalist revival. This is not on the horizon. Neo Atheism - a off shoot of Skepticism also does not qualify. That said, the general conditions are ripening for a return to some form of 'total state' under a charismatic post-democratic leadership.
Skepticism is a Naturalistic theory that also holds that man is incapable of acquiring knowledge about reality. It even rejects consciousness and reduces man to a collection of spare parts, a live robot if you will, or a walking factory of genes and hormone secretions, the evolutionary/biochemical approach to humanity. In effect, it reduces man to the animal level.
The term Skepticism by its Greek root σκεπτω, to think, suggests reason, but on the contrary, the theory excludes it. It is a sad conclusion that Skepticism is endemic in current academia. Anthony Rizzi, founder and director of the Institute for Advanced Physics has written a very informative book on the basic principles of Aristotelean philosophy. "Science before Science: a guide to thinking in the 21st century" was written for the express purpose of exposing, refuting and hopefully reversing the fallacies in academia, related to the sources that underlie this form of relativism.
Pragmatism is another departure from reality and sensory based information. Absolutes are considered perverse and truth has no basis in fact. Pragmatism has the opposite effect of deontology. The latter is the ethics of good-intent-bad-result-never-mind, the postmodern permanent get-out-of-jail card. In Pragmatism the opposite holds true: the aim justifies the means. If an idea – being in itself unknowable - leads to the outcome desired by its proponents it should be accepted as true on that ground alone, irrespective of unknowable 'facts of reality.'
The champion of Pragmatism is the American pioneering psychologist William James (1842-1910), who gave the concept its name. The brother of novelist Henry James and of diarist Alice James wrote: 'The true,' to put it very briefly, is only the expedient in the way of our thinking, just as 'the right' is only the expedient in the way of our behaving.”
The Heraklitean doctrine asserts there was no permanent reality except the reality of change; permanence is but an illusion of the senses. Heraklitus (535-475 BC) taught that all things carried with them their opposites, that death was potential in life, that being and not-being were part of every whole - therefore, the only possible real state was the transitional one of becoming. An idea must be judged by its utility in a particular situation. What works today, may not work tomorrow.
Pragmatism is a Romanticist version of relativism. Extrovert action is valued over introvert reflexion. Pragmatism is essentially amoral. It has contributed to the nastiness of Postmodernism by exercising a sort of secular, Western form of taqqiyah (a form of deception Muslims use to conceal the truth. This Islamic concept to deceive an enemy (i.e., non-Muslim, infidel, kafir, etc.) is not only common practice, but is considered a virtue among Muslims). It is governed by the same principle: our goal is so ethical that even the unethical is justified in reaching it, the utility which is expedient towards realization of the goal.
As a consequence pragmatism is dishonestly presented as the opposite of what it aims to achieve. It seemingly is the practical over theory, portends to position the individual in a central role, ostensibly respects reason and facts, while its very principle constitutes an assault on logic (everything is in flux), gives a central role to feelings and passion (subjectivism), denies reality (nothing is absolute), and reduces the individual to an atom of the collective. That collective - in pragmatism is usually 'our generation,' 'the rave,' or society - it's not an aggregate, but an 'organic unity.'
It holds a number of Orwellian concepts, as Hegel's 'ethical whole' to which individual free will must be sacrificed for the creation of the Collective Will to Power, and Rousseau's notion which has come down to us in Marxism, of 'true freedom through the state'. A picture of mystical collectivism is emerging which looks ominously familiar, but is by itself not enough to warrant great concern.
Is gets stickier when pragmatism is coupled to dogma and subjectivism. This is the winning combination that made National Socialism such a lethal ideology: the two principles strengthen one another. One can see how that works: the aim justifies the means because we say so. Dogmatism couples blind belief to an already brutal concept.
The so-called 'mixed economy' as advocated by Third Way techno-Socialists may serve as an example of the Pragmatist approach to political questions. The 'reasonable alternative' lends random concepts and ideas from one political movement or philosophy or other as a practical application or a desired goal: the result is an unintegrated, ideological hotchpotch.
State controls through corporatism, the redistribution of capital through taxation, and subjective benefits for unequal groups is so pronounced in this branch of politics that it is doubtful if the compromise between statism and individual private property, freedom and individual autonomy in the future will be guaranteed. The border between the state-granted rights to citizens, and the infringements by the state on the private realm, is haphazard and highly arbitrary in Pragmatism. Considering that the Pragmatist approach to foreign policy is presently replacing nations with transnational states in competing super federations, it is seriously in doubt if the value of liberty will prevail in the face of the Pragmatic approach.
Objectivism versus subjectivism
Object (n.), from 1398, "tangible thing, something perceived or presented to the senses," from M.L. objectum 'thing put before' (the mind or sight), neut. of L. objectus, pp. of obicere 'to present, oppose, cast in the way of,' from ob 'against' + jacere 'to throw.'
Subject (n.), borrowed directly from L. subjectum 'foundation or subject of a proposition,' a loan-translation of Aristotle's to hypokeimenon. Grammatical sense is recorded from c.1638. The adj. is, attested from c.1330. Subjective 'existing in the mind' is from 1707.
In philosophy subjectivism means that thought creates reality. Reality (the object) is dependent on human consciousness (the subject). This means that man does not need to concern himself with the outside facts of reality to attain knowledge. The mind – containing raw percepts and emotions (unfiltered and unprocessed by reason) - has the power to create 'reality' in conformity with his wishes. Pathos, not logic, is therefore man's primary tool of cognition.
Reality is not a collection of objective facts, but merely an illusion of a real world. That world is Kant's noumenon and cannot be known by the human mind: man is incapable of objective knowledge. (see chapter 3.b.) Iconically Albert Einstein once asked a subjectivist, "do you really think the universe is not there when you aren't watching it?" A subjectivist might legitimately ask, "If I die overnight, will the sun rise tomorrow?"
There are two kinds of subjectivism, depending on the view of who creates 'reality.' The main subjectivism theorist, Immanuel Kant, did not support the possibility of the creation of personal 'realities'. Instead he posited social subjectivism, the idea that social groups create their own realities. To Kant, man as a species, does have the mental structure to create reality.
Later followers accepted that fundamental approach but carried subjectivism to further extremes: if the mind exists, there is no reason why all should have the same mental make-up, why mankind should not consist of competing groups, each with their own type of consciousness, vying with others for the control of 'reality.'
Marx posited a social subjectivism of oppressing and oppressed classes while the Nazis, following in their footsteps, substituted social class for race (polylogism). They invested ethnic groups with their own mental constitution, a racial version of subjective 'truth,' invalid for others. This is what present day postmodern multiculturalists term the 'narrative'. Over the last two centuries the notion has given rise to various racial theories.
In a social setting the outcome of subjectivity is segregation, or in postmodernism, multiculturalism. A multicultural society is a subjectivist political model, an archipelago of distinct cultural and racial islets. It should not to be seen synonymous with 'immigration country' or be confused with its opposite, 'melting pot.' Read also: The Dialectics.
In these pages the term subjectivism is used both in the individual and in the collective sense, often in pointing out in a social or a political context, the subjective inequalities as set out in the Marxist dialectic. It becomes best visible in Socialist policies - such as subsidies, grants and preferential treatment of minorities, and in multiculturalism - the relativist approach to empowering cultural and racial minorities, and the shifting of capital, power and rights from the powerful to powerless, as opposed to objectiveness which aims at applying one set of rules or standards to all.
The opposing position to subjectivity is objectivity, which rests on the view that reality exists independent of the human mind. The subject perceives the object to acquire knowledge of it. Instead of the introspection involved in subjectivism, the attention is directed outward, to the facts outside the consciousness.
In a social or political setting the objective approach seeks to apply equal rules and treatment for all concerned, without regard of the individual involved - king or beggar - or his particular circumstances, poor, rich, social caste or background: murder is murder, no matter who committed it and in what circumstances.
Objectivity has been the highest standard of moral judgment for a very long time.
To give a characteristic example between the subjective and objective perspective: conflict mediators are trained to allow the less powerful party all manner of compensation in proportion to their subjective inequality in order to ensure equality of outcome. In other words, the dice are loaded against the party who is deemed 'more powerful', in itself highly arbitrary and subjective.
Laws and rules may be written down in documents with a view to objective application, if they don't apply to all in equal measure, the result is whimsical, reverse class justice.
As the term subjectivism reflects so well the rejection of objective reality, the word is used here almost as synonymous to relativist thought patterns.
It must be well noted however that subjective in these pages does not translate to the opposite of Objectivism, Ayn Rand's brilliant philosophical theory of Capitalist ethics. Although some principles and definitions may coincide, in no way it is meant to follow its tenets as a theory, which would require strict detachment of the observer from the matter in hand, uncompromising submission to the laws of nature, and rejection of any knowledge not based on (sensory) empiricism.
Only one designate, however, is clearly descriptive of the core fallacy, namely Rand's term 'the primacy of consciousness' - as opposed to 'the primacy of existence,' or in Natural Philosophy 'the primacy of essence,' opposed to 'the primacy of being.' The terms 'consciousness first' or 'existence first' are also used here for short measure.
For proper understanding an illuminating question might be, does a new born already possesses self-awareness, or is that a faculty that is developed only later, well within toddler age? Unborn children have an awareness of things surrounding them, sounds and bumps, but that doesn't constitute self-awareness. Relativism - perhaps not always consciously so - holds that humans posses self-consciousness independent of our physical bodies, a philosophical remnant of what in religion is the immortal soul.