The Truth about the Truth


Postmodernism has largely sought to modify our notions about how to think of the world. In doing this it has attempted to downplay rationality in favour of more subjective criteria.

 

Steiner Kvale was the Professor of Educational Psychology at the Aarhus University in Denmark. He was a noted international authority on postmodernism and psychology. In his view, some of the most important themes of postmodernism were:

  • A doubt that any human truth is a simple objective representation of reality.
  • A focus on the way societies use language to construct their own realities.
  • A preference for the local and specific over the universal and the abstract.
  • Acceptance that different descriptions of reality can’t always be measured against one another in any objective way.
  • A willingness to accept things as they are on the surface rather than to search for deeper meanings.

 

Postmodernism is not a comprehensive theory or a comprehensive philosophy. It is predominantly a cultural artefact that leads to diverse diagnoses and interpretations of the world coloured by the convenience of the underlying beliefs of its adherents. It is intellectually lazy and constructs scenarios to favour the world view of its adherents.

 

So this perverse viewpoint rejects the notion that underlying our understanding of the world that there is a reality that we might come to know through science and empirical understanding. Instead it posits that knowledge is subjective so that any particular interpretation of the truth is as adequate as any other and of course any version of the truth that reinforces my own personal world view must stand above all others.

 

Kvale explained:

In postmodern thought there has taken place an expansion of rationality. It is not just a “momentary lapse of reason” but going beyond the cognitive and scientific domain to include also the ethical and aesthetic domains of life in reason. “Modern times” involved a restricted concept of rationality with a dominance of technical means and rationality. There has been an emphasis on plans and programmes, on calculation, prediction and control. Reason and science have been overburdened with visions of Utopia where all human problems would be solved in the long run by the methods of science and technology.

 

Well perhaps all the problems of the world won’t be solved by rationality and science but I am sure this approach will take us further towards truth than dubious processes dependent on personal, subjective and irrational notions will. And it is surely erroneous to state as Kvale did that postmodernism represents “an expansion of rationality” when it indeed threatens rationality.

 

Now the problem with postmodernism is that it allows everyone to construct their own particular version of the “truth” that suits their own particular view of the world. And even worse, it prevents others from interrogating that “truth”. When truth becomes a subjective construct of the individual and it is coloured by the individual’s worldview often involving gender, religion, ethnicity, and political considerations and so on, interrogating the truth results in claims of racism, homophobia, Islamophobia and many other taboo areas where only the brave hearted are prepared to go..

 

Now to the casual observer postmodernism would seem to be a nihilistic philosophy and you might be forgiven if you asked what is the point of it. Well, in fact postmodernism is a disruptive artefact designed to have us question traditional Western beliefs. Whilst it offers nothing of substance to replace such beliefs, it opens up the opportunity for more radical thoughts to be implanted in the minds of doubtful people. And of course it is postmodernism that has fuelled those doubts. It is essentially a tool for indoctrination. It provides an opportunity for the radical left to displace conventional, traditional beliefs with the barrage of “woke” tropes they now promote.

 

It is the strategy that Mao used to initiate China’s “Cultural Revolution”.

 

There are limits to what we can know. I have used Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle in physics and Goedel’s Incompleteness theorem in mathematics in previous essays to demonstrate this fact. But nevertheless our best understanding of the world comes from the application of logic and the scientific methodology, not by subjective means.

 

Now I have written before about “other ways of knowing” and I believe that intuition has played a considerable part in the progress of knowledge. But something is not true just because you like the idea. Scientists and mathematicians have often been led by their intuition to propose various theses. But then they had to do the hard slog of verifying their particular notion to the satisfaction of their peers. The idea itself has to be substantiated for it to be considered as truth.

 

Students of the history of science would know the story of the German organic chemist, August Kekulé. Kekulé was trying to work out the molecular structure of benzene. Legend has it that he sat dozing by the fireplace in the winter of 1861. Kekulé suddenly had a vision of a snake devouring its own tale. That inspired him to explore the notion that the carbon atoms in the benzene molecule might be interlinked in a circle. This in fact proved to be the case. Kekulé’s fire side dream was a prompt but the concept could not have been developed without Kekulé’s knowledge of chemistry. So the intuitive idea was not in itself the truth until scientific methodology supported it.

 

But the postmodernists, rather than accepting the validity of knowledge eked out through such rational processes, argue that Western science has been used as a tool to subjugate others. In particular they argue that it devalues the traditional beliefs of indigenous peoples. The postmodernists are stridently anti-Western and, as a result, strive to “decolonise” the sciences and mathematics by attempting to argue that traditional indigenous beliefs have equal validity to the science and mathematics honed by rational processes over centuries which underpin Western thought.

 

The nonsense of this proposition is exemplified by the fact that I have not heard of a postmodernist relying on a shaman, witch doctor or a traditional sorcerer to solve their medical issues.

 

Claire Lehmann, the founding editor of Quillette magazine recently published an excellent article in The Australian newspaper which she titled “Knowledge and Truth are not mere Matters of Opinion”.

 

She recounted how indigenous activists in New Zealand and Australia were trying to insert into the educational curriculum so-called “indigenous science and mathematics” as though it had equal validity with Western science and mathematics. This is of course ludicrous. Indigenous people possess knowledge of the natural environment that was essential for survival in tribal societies in difficult environments. No doubt Western society might learn from this knowledge.

 

But as I have written elsewhere, the basic understanding of science and mathematics in such indigenous societies meant that they would be precluded from developing the differential calculus or Maxwell’s Wave Equations.

 

Now some truths are easy enough to learn but many are harder to discern.

 

For example it is easy to learn that electric stove tops are hot. All you have to do is put your finger on one to find that out! But to find out how they get hot requires a basic understanding of Ohm’s Law and other fundamentals of the theory of electricity.

 

Because the truth is not what you might like it to be, it can often be unpleasant and sometimes a burden. The Genesis parable of Adam and Eve eating of the fruit of the tree was no doubt designed to illustrate this.

 

Postmodernism is bent on creating its own ”convenient” truths which are often at odds with the real truths arrived at by rational processes of science and mathematics which have guided Western thought for centuries. If we yield to this notion we are in danger of regressing from a modern sophisticated society back towards the primitive tribalism from which these notions of subjective truth emanated.

 

It is both intellectually lazy and wrongheaded to believe we have the capacity to create our own subjective “truths”.

4 Replies to “The Truth about the Truth”

  1. Post modernism is whatever the post modernist wants it to be. They view themselves as entitled to define their own facts, despite the facts. They are constantly reinterpreting and regurgitating, to produce a vacuum.

    On the point of the declared domestic violence emergency and your email comments – I agree, and would like put forward two other points:
    1. Albo speech confused the issue. He was saying the emergency is men being violent against women, but then it became women and children and then finished with women children and men. Whatever he was slurring in about, I think the thrust of the protest was male violence towards women.

    But then it’s also been conflated with porn and restricting the age for access.

    2. It’s concerning that it is possible that the protests by women can be felt by all men that they are by default a pandemic. As if all men are a Baden Clay as the potential within all, by default, until proven otherwise. I mean women are saying they don’t feel safe because of men. Such generalisation is concerning and laws are becoming (for men) guilty until proven innocent.
    Like swearing during an argument with your female partner is a leading indicator to the a murder. Like disagreeing to spend the family budget on a handbag is coercive control.
    Men are vulnerable and many men are broken and more men than women take their own lives (and this number is higher than the deaths of women from male murderers). Where’s the emergency on this?

    1. Always good to hear from you Matt! The pursuit by the left of “woke” ideals leads to many contradictory outcomes and is a growing threat to our liberal democracy. The underpinning platform for a democratic society is undoubtedly free speech but that, more than ever, is threatened by the strictures of identity politics. No doubt you would agree with Jerry Seinfeld who recently complained that due to political correctness the only legitimate target for comedians is now “stupid, old, white men”!

  2. Thank you Ted, quite right of course…. Perhaps you could go further and speculate on why mainstream media promotes this insidious deconstruction of the very society that gave them birth, and why do out own political leaders vilify the (western) civilisation that gave them their power. What’s in it for these guys that bite the hand that feeds them? It’s a mystery (as David Helfgot said in “Shine”)….. Yours Jack

    1. Pleased to get a response from you Jack. It is unfortunate Jack, that mainstream media have been captured by the left. And so many of us now lack the courage to stand up and be counted when confronted by political correctness because of the vitriol it attracts. But I am now an old man with nothing much to lose so I don’t intend to be silenced.

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