If you ever have to deal with such types as friends or family, you may want to read this book to know, at a deeper level, what you are dealing with and possibly, how to challenge it. To many, the antitheses of modern humanism, which was founded on Enlightenment principals, would be the philosophy of Postmodernism. Postmodernism, born in France and acclaimed widely in academia in the United States, can be most simply described as relativism; whereas, everyone's perception of reality--of truth--has an equal opportunity of being legitimate due to either personal or cultural circumstances.
Therefore the existence of God, if "true" for you, is no less reasonable that the non-existence of that same God if that opinion is "true" for me for me. The political Left in America, over the past 45 years or so, has been marred with postmodernism, and the Right has taken advantage of that fact. I call this the "who are we to judge" affect. The Right, as a traditionally reactionary political force, fights back with fundamentalisms of every sort So what of Humanism? Humanism, as I've argue in my new anthology, Toward a New Political Humanism Prometheus , is best understood as a liberal ethical philosophy based partly on Enlightenment principals Is there then, a way to understand and implement a progressive humanism which, while Leftist in political orientation, is still Enlightenment based?
Challenging Postmodernism is a philosophical treatise which examines the problems with Postmodernism and its anti-humanistic implication, and tries to determine whether or not the intellectual Left is indeed guilty of, on mass, cultural relativism. It then explains how a progressive politic is indeed very much in step with Enlightenment humanism.
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Detmer first tackles postmodern thinking up front. In doing so, he discusses Edmund Husserl's arguments against postmodernism of the last century, as well as the works of Jean-Paul Sartre and how Richard Rorty, who Detmer suggests "has little use of the concept of truth," uses the work of Sartre against postmoderism.
Husserl and Sartre are the building blocks for Detmer's own thesis. That is, if truth is to be regarded as social constructs by society itself, rather then reflecting how things really are, then the claim itself that truth is to be regarded as socially constructed , must then itself be understood as a social construct Moses could part the seas, and Jesus could walk on water in the "age of miracles" when real-world physics did not apply, but not today.
I once had a student in a critical thinking class I taught tell me that just because Angels existed in reality for her, and not for me, it did not mean one of us was necessarily mistaken! Detmer differentiates this kind of thinking from the more scientific notion that to get closer to the truth, we need to have a wide-spread scientific consensus on the epistemic factors evidence of a truth before accepting it. The first asserts that there is no consensus in some area of thinking, but rather controversy and disagreement.
The second premise that if there really was a way things really are, we would not have so much controversy about it. Detmer offers several explanations for how misleading this kind of argument is.
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One is the fact that "frequently, not all parties to a dispute have access to the same evidence. Therefore people confuse relativity of justified belief with relativity of truth. That access, in today's world, is gained through the media. Detmer argues that there are two main reasons for the widespread problem of "poor reasoning and ignorance in America today: Concerning the former, one example he cites is Noam Chomsky's work on uncovering the facts behind the U. Detmer asks, "could it be that vast amounts of information that is vital to the understanding of how the world works, and crucial for anyone who would participate knowledgeably in discussions of public policy matters, is routinely excluded from mass media journalism?
Could it be, in short, that a major reason why most Americans are ignorant of their country's history is that the U. For instance, when a political crisis occurs, the press goes first to the political party in power to get their opinion; then, for a contrasting opinion, the press goes to the other major party. So to Americans looking on, a political solution will either come from the Republican or Democratic side of the aisle, as if no other opinions may hold a better solution.
Further complicating this, it is important to note that in these times, when many members of both major parties respond to every crisis in almost the same way, journalists following this simple-minded "rule" have no latitude for discovering detailed and often more plausible information. Also, Detmer points out that the press's criteria for finding out who should provide the two sides to any argument, they often look for who will offer the best "entertainment value," for who is most popular, or for which opinion fits the political slant of their publication or production as is well-known, many of these have shifted far to the Right since the merging of major mass media operations, mostly owned by the likes of Clear Channel, Rupert Murdock, and Disney.
Confusion about tolerance, Detmer argues, actually creates an atmosphere where truth itself is considered dangerous, arrogant, or oppressive. The "we must be tolerant, no matter what, of others feelings' or cultures" argument. As an atheist who has studied religion for some time, I can argue on evidence--historical, scientific and philosophic-- against the existence of God and the supernatural.
However, if I dare to do so in public, no matter how pleasant I am, I am often perceived to be arrogant or close-minded.
Challenging Postmodernism Philosophy and the Politics of Truth
What is interesting is that this is not only the reaction I get from religionists who are sensitive about their beliefs, but from many agnostics as well. That I can argue with strong evidence against the existence of Moses, angels or God, seems to make others feel that I somehow think I have the monopoly on Truth I feel this is so because many people tend to be suspicious of anyone who even seems to be claiming a truth, unless they themselves agree with that truth.
Following that logic, though it is quite clear again, with strong evidence , that the invasion of Iraq was unjust and based on lies, should mean that folks would be suspicious and angry that Bush claimed he had "the truth" about Iraq. But those who, for whatever reason, actually enjoy where this country is now heading, cannot seem to see it that way. Throughout Challenging Postmodernism, David Detmer offers clear and detailed examples of where postmodernism exists today; it might surprise some folks that it is not only found in elements of the Left New Age spiritualists, alternative medicine advocates, and anti-establishment folks who are such for the sake of being so , but on the political Right which often has one "justified" set of rules for themselves and a whole different set for "the other.
Happily, Detmer also offers solutions to these problems and, by citing Noam Chomsky's defense of rationality and science, claims as does Chomsky that there is no need to abandon Enlightenment conceptions of evidence while still being fair, just and culturally aware--indeed that may be the best path toward such ethical goals.
Quoting Chomsky for the purpose of emphasizing an ethical framework based on Enlightenment Humanism and of the virtues of truth, Detmer records, "Why don't our leaders tell the truth?
Challenging Postmodernism: Philosophy and the Politics of Truth
When they're going to destroy Iraq, why don't they announce: We want to establish the principle that the world is ruled by force, because that's the only thing that we're good at. We want to prevent any independent nationalism. We've got nothing against Saddam Hussein. He's a friend of ours. He's tortured and gassed people. But then he disobeyed orders. Therefore, he must be destroyed as a lesson to other people: This is an excellent critique of postmodernism.
It avoids caricatures, deals with these thinkers on their own terms, and shows the fundamental flaws of this view of truth and knowledge. Philosophy and the Politics of Truth by David Detmer. Philosophy and the Politics of Truth 3. According to proponents of postmodernism, one of the principal achievements of recent Continental philosophy is the rejection of the idea of "objective truth" in favor of the notion that truth is a social construct, which varies from one culture to another.
This claim has given rise to heated reactions among philosophers of the Anglo-American analytic school. Their critici According to proponents of postmodernism, one of the principal achievements of recent Continental philosophy is the rejection of the idea of "objective truth" in favor of the notion that truth is a social construct, which varies from one culture to another.
Their criticisms usually take the form of wholesale dismissals, which do not address the texts and arguments of postmodernists, and they almost always stem from a politically conservative vantage point, which is hostile to the generally leftist orientation of postmodernists.
As a result, philosophical differences are frequently obscured by the conflict arising from differing political agendas. In this accessible, nontechnical discussion of the controversies surrounding the ideas of truth, philosopher David Detmer faults both the critics of postmodernism for entangling the philosophical discussion of truth with their disapproval of postmodernist political views, and the postmodernist critics of objective truth for the defective logic and incoherence of their critique.
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Unlike most analytic philosophers, Detmer engages extensively and directly with the texts of postmodernists. He provides substantial discussions of Husserl, Sartre, Rorty, and Chomsky, and also addresses the topics of journalistic objectivity, scientific truth, political correctness, and other timely issues. While sympathetic to Continental philosophy, Detmer nonetheless defends the idea of objective truth and attempts to show that doing so is a matter of considerable political importance.
Detmer's thorough and lucid discussion will appeal to anyone who finds the postmodern rejection of objectivity and truth dubious and who is yet uncomfortable with the highly conservative political rhetoric of the loudest voices in the anti-postmodernist crowd. Paperback , pages. To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up. To ask other readers questions about Challenging Postmodernism , please sign up.
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This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Jun 22, Sarah A French Girl rated it liked it. Good, but repetitive at times. I just wish more people into social justice, who self identify as liberals or admire post-modernism would read it. Apr 14, Tyler Lane rated it it was ok. Since I agree with Professor Detmer's dismissive attitude towards postmodernism, one must ask why I gave his book such a low rating.
The answer is because this is a terribly written, endlessly repetitive book. First, to the extent that it challenges postmodernism, Detmer makes one essential argument ad nauseam: This is a crucial point, yet didn't require pages. Yet Detmer, like many academics particularly in the humanities, is incapable of writing coherently, so takes the opportunity to make the same argument in as many convoluted ways as occur to him. Further, he simply cannot write a sentence without several asides that make you forget what the point was. That which doesn't make the point about the self-referential test is chock full of attacks on individual philosophers.
Somehow, he also convinced himself or his editor that an extensive chapter on the Iraq War was related to postmodernism, though it doesn't occur to him that the term objectivity may mean different things in different fields I do stats; I wouldn't tear apart a philosopher for using "significant" in a way that didn't refer to p-values. His interjection of political opinions is particularly irritating, as some of the most cogent critics of postmodernism are right-wing or libertarian e.
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