Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault (Expanded Edition)
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Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault by Stephen R.C. Hicks
How to Debate Leftists and Destroy Them: The Art of The Argument: Productbeschrijving Productbeschrijving Tracing postmodernism from its roots in Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Immanuel Kant to their development in thinkers such as Michel Foucault and Richard Rorty, philosopher Stephen Hicks provides a provocative account of why postmodernism has been the most vigorous intellectual movement of the late 20th century. Ockham's Razor; Expanded editie 19 december Verkocht door: Amazon Media EU S. Deel je gedachten met andere klanten. Nuttigste klantenrecensies op Amazon. This is a superb, important book, one which I have begun recommending to friends and colleagues.
It is a history of postmodernism that connects its relationship to history, the history of philosophy, leftist politics and even the ugliness of contemporary art. By the mid 20th century it was clear that socialism was a grand failure, leaving the world awash in millions of dead bodies. Such straightforward Enlightenment tools as reason, logic and factual evidence made that clear. These strategies were ultimately designed to protect socialism from common sense criticism.
This has not advanced socialism to any appreciable degree, but it has roiled our colleges and universities and served as a countercultural infrastructure for a vast machine of indoctrination, one that seeks to win a succession of tiny battles when it is clear that the larger war has long been lost. He sees this as fundamentally a failure of epistemology that has been exploited endlessly. Hicks does not pursue the latter; that would require another book, but one which I would very much like to see him write. The book is one of the most lucid and accessible studies of the history of philosophy that I have ever encountered and it is particularly acute in its ability to connect the dots and trace the intellectual lineages and etiologies.
If you want to see how the defense of affirmative action, speech codes, and global warming activism ultimately connects with Rousseau, Kant and Marx, et al, this is the book with which you should begin. This expanded edition adds two relevant essays: Why Art Became Ugly. Hicks writes a beautifully distilled insight into what postmodernism is, why it exists, and why it is dangerous, applied in the wrong dose in the wrong place as it frequently is in this day and age.
I had never understood the connection between Marxism and postmodernism, but Hick's makes the connection abundantly clear. If postmodernism does, indeed, make the claim that there 'is no truth' and that there 'is no reality' then how does this fit in with the idea of Marx? As Hick's demonstrates, if postmodernists indeed drank their coolade, one would find that their political affiliations were, at the very least, randomly distributed among the ideologies of our time.
This is not the case, postmodernists are almost exclusively leftwing, and Hicks tells us exactly why, in a very compelling way. He also traces the roots of postmodernism all the way back to the enlightenment era, and he systematically charts how the age of reason sewed the seeds of unreason that was to follow in the later centuries with Nietche and Hegel et al.
The plethora of counterproductive subfields developed in the realm of PM, the intellectually irresponsible academics who perpetuate faulty takes on our senses and our ability to understand our world, the near infinite pages of vapid circular reasoning and bad philosophy practiced by its adherents, the countless abuses of, and attacks on, science and scientific rationality, among so many other things, are some of the sad fashions that are championed by the distraction known as postmodernism. Hicks expertly lays out the main paradigms of postmodernism and exposes them as honestly and accurately as I imagine is possible.
The far reaches of PM thinking is illustrated, via cultural studies, feminism, collectivism, banal concepts like deconstructionism, sociology and power dynamics, and its partial origins in Marxism. Hicks doesn't waste time or space or words, he wants you to understand fundamentally the doctrines and the contradictions and the failures and the shortcomings of one of the most prominent, but certainly not long relevant, intellectual trends to come about.
The informed individual is capable of making informed decisions. This is a simple idea postmodernism wouldn't agree with, but it's this idea that will eventually lead to postmodernism becoming the laughing stock mullet of philosophy. This might be one of the most important books for understanding our world today. Postmodern thought has been making inroads into the mainstream of western culture for decades, but we're only now beginning to see how pernicious it actually is. Its claims and strategies aren't easy to understand - let alone combat - unless you understand its philosophical pedigree.
Stephen Hicks does a phenomenal job in laying that out in a way that's extremely readable without sacrificing depth. The book came out This might be one of the most important books for understanding our world today. The book came out in but it feels far more relevant today. I'd be curious to see what Hicks thinks of the rise of Trump in the US and the revival of nationalism across Europe.
Part of his thesis is that postmodernism rose from the ashes of left wing socialism and especially communism's failures in the 20th century. The failure of left wing socialism was gradual and allowed for its basic tenets to adjust and survive and morph into postmodernism.
Right wing socialism, on the other hand, failed so spectacularly in the form of European fascism that there was no time or moral opportunity for anything other than a few fringe groups to carry forward its ideas. At least in the US, that opened the way for the conservative movement to become a conglomeration of anti-postmodernists.
The right was invested - to various degrees - in the tenets of liberal democracy and the preservation of western civilization. In my view, that may very well be changing. Just as the left was taken over by postmodernist thought following the 's, the right seems poised to do the same. With Trump the American right has made a major gamble that goes far beyond his temperament or competence for the presidency.
The gamble is that he won't usher in the revival of right wing national socialism. To be clear, I'm not making the tired claim that Trump is some sort of neo-Nazi anymore than those on the left are communist authoritarians. However, just as the postmodern left is the heir to the failed philosophies of left wing socialism, Trump and the new wave of nationalism may prove to be the heirs of right wing socialism, thus ushering in a right wing version of postmodernism.
As someone convinced more than ever of how pernicious postmodern thought is, that scares the hell out of me. Right wing postmodernism will ultimately prove as hostile to western values as the left wing variety has turned out to be. The left has spent the better part of a century becoming nakedly hostile to western values. If the right follows suit, those of us who actually care about western culture will find ourselves in a very bad place. If I've strayed from actually reviewing the book, it's only because this is the effect the work has. It will have you thinking long after you've put it down.
I can't recommend it highly enough. Read it and then convince others to do likewise. Mar 18, Jake Desyllas rated it it was amazing Shelves: Why did an anti-enlightenment, anti-reason movement called "postmodernism" develop in the mid 20th century? And why were all the leading theorists of postmodernism from the far left wing of politics?
Hicks presents a brilliant answer to these questions in a very clear and easy to read style. He argues that postmodernism emerged as a rhetorical strategy of committed socialists once the failure of socialism could no longer be ignored. Rather than change their views, many devoted socialists chose t Why did an anti-enlightenment, anti-reason movement called "postmodernism" develop in the mid 20th century? Rather than change their views, many devoted socialists chose to move the goalposts. Instead of acknowledging flaws in socialist theory, they rejected logical consistency itself.
Instead of acknowledging that socialist countries failed to raise living standards whereas capitalist economies did, they changed the critique of capitalism to be all about relative inequality. The result is postmodernism: Postmodernism is a mess of contradictions, but Hicks' analysis makes sense of it. Also, you can get both the book and audiobook free on his website! A fascinating thesis, with two surprising claims. First that postmodernism's abandonment of reason is the endpoint of a line of philosophy that begins with Kant, who in Hick's account was the first to denigrate reason.
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Ironically, Kant was attempting to carve out a safe space pun intended for religious faith. But without reason to partner with faith, faith can become capricious and egoistic. Second, the crisis of socialism provided the need for postmodernism's leap into the dark of nihilism. Postmodernists have, up to now, been uniformly people of the left. With the very recent rise of a nihilistic, anti-liberty, populist right, postmodernism may be getting a balance and, dare I say egalitarianism, it never wanted.
Hicks book is a bit too old to address this startling change, so I will: It's not a pretty sight. This book is an excellent introduction to both the philosophical foundations of Postmodernism and the history of its battle with the Enlightenment outlook. The author analyzes the views of specific philosophers who provided the ideas that led to contemporary postmodern thinkers; including brief summaries of the views of each. Comparative charts are provided along the way that are helpful in assessing different views and changes in philosophy over time. He elucidates the links between the ideas o This book is an excellent introduction to both the philosophical foundations of Postmodernism and the history of its battle with the Enlightenment outlook.
He elucidates the links between the ideas of philosophers and makes connections; for example, he identifies the nexus between postmodern thinkers and leftism. The book is structured with four chapters on intellectual history preceded by an introductory essay on the definition of Postmodernism, and followed by a concluding section that comments on the current state of affairs. While critical of the post-modern project, it is a thorough and fair presentation of Postmodernism from a pro-enlightenment individualist point of view. View all 3 comments. Sep 08, Safat rated it it was amazing.
I took up this book because I see the word 'postmodernism' thrown around a lot, without any clear understanding of what it is. This book not only explains and diagnoses postmodernism, but also attempts to trace its ancestry. What is then, postmodernism? Well, it's more like anti-modernism? What is modernism, then? Modernism is the core set of values adapted in the Enlightenment. In medieval times, people predominantly believed in the supernaturalism, that man is wretched, and driven by faith, rat I took up this book because I see the word 'postmodernism' thrown around a lot, without any clear understanding of what it is.
In medieval times, people predominantly believed in the supernaturalism, that man is wretched, and driven by faith, rather than reason. Along came the modernist, who said that there's an 'objective reality' out there, that can be known by reason, and promoted individualism over the medieval collectivism. Of course, that left very little room for God or other supernatural ideas, at least the intellectuals were becoming increasingly naturalistic in their worldview which got disposed of God, or marginalized God.
Consider Spinoza's God, later adopted by Einstein, which doesn't really interfere in man's daily affairs. What's the point of such inactive God, a religious person might ask. Understandably, this made certain pro-God intellectuals seething with rage. So they marshalled an attack on the values of the modernism. Presumably, it all began with the great Kant. Kant argued, if we perceive the 'outside world' through our senses, so can't possibly know the 'objective world' out there, we can only perceive the filtered data that our senses allow us to perceive.
So, any idea of knowing the 'objective reality' therefore must be dismissed. Now, Kant supposedly was an advocate of reason. But also, he put reason in its 'right place'. It's more like saying, 'I'm a great advocate of women rights, but it must be understood that women have no valid rights outside their own kitchen' borrowing an analogy here provided by the author of the book, because I found myself incapable of making a better one. Kant said, okay, you want to use reason, fine. But remember that the realm of reason is severely restricted to the senses , and don't try to claim anything 'absolute' using your silly little reasons.
Now, why did Kant have to undermine reason? He himself said that he had to undermine reason to 'make room for faith'. Reason can do whatever it wants within the phenomenal world guaranteed by the senses, but who knew what lies outside the senses? Later, Hegel took it one step further. Whereas Kant posited that there is after all an 'objective reality', which is and will be forever close to us because of the finitude of our senses, for Hegel, there was no objective reality at all. This whole phenomenal world is the creation of the subject himself.
While Kant undermined the scope of reason epistemologically and quite rationally, in my opinion , Hegel took a metaphysical leap, and did it irrationally. The anti-reason stronghold was strong in Germany. Another famous German philosopher, Schopenhauer, who was contemporary of Hegel and hated him to the guts, also condemned reason as limited and unlike Hegel, was an atheist.
Later another atheistic anti-reason big fish in philosophy, Nietzche, remarked, "They are no philosophical race, these Englishmen: In the twentieth century, we see continental anti-reason philosopher like Heidegger, and analytical philosophers like Wittgenstein, both of whom restricted the realm of reason in their own ways. Then came the philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn, who in his landmark book 'The structure of scientific revolution' propounded that the idea that our idea objectivity is 'theory laden', we see the world to fit in within our theories, and there is ultimately no objectivity after all of course, the idea is much more nuanced and goes beyond the scope of this petty review.
Where do this all fit together?
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Contemporary postmodernists cite Foucault, Derrida, Rorty. These figures in turn cite Wittgenstein, Heidegger, Nietzche, Marx, and who in turn cite figures like Schopenhauer, Hegel, and the main culprit Kant. So you can see how it all goes down. In the first part, the author discusses the epistemological roots of postmodernism, which is to say that everything is more or less subjective, and objective knowledge is not possible in any real sense. Oh, yes, and everything is dependent on 'subjective interpretation'. But we also know that the father figures of twentieth century postmodernism are all far left.
Here in the second part of the book, the author traces back the political root of postmodernism. As a hardcore Matrix fan, epistemology always appeals more to me than politics.
But as pages went by, I got hooked with the political dimension too. I wouldn't go much into the political dimension. The thesis of the author is this: Reason is a white western social construction. Nothing, including art, is really of any ,everything is subjective and dependent on interpretations. Consider the famous Duchamp phenomenon, who, when asked for submission of an art by the Society of independent artists in New York, submitted an urinal.
Not that he made it himself, but he bought it from a mass producing factory, and signed his name on it. The implication was clear. Art is not anything 'sublime'. If I see art in an urinal, it is art indeed, it is all subjective and relative. Art can be something I piss on. The tone of the author was anti-postmodernist, he clearly doesn't like the group.
He psychoanalyzed the 'pathologies' of postmodernism, and to some extent sympathized with the poor deprived leftist postmodernists. But then at last, he concluded that postmodernism can't be refuted unless its historical premises can be refuted. He, however, doesn't refute the premises, but rather abruptly ends the book there. I'm afraid that its because the proper refutation cannot be done. Kant hit a dead blow when he showed that objective reality must forever be close to us, to us creatures bound by our limited senses.
Denial of this premise doesn't make any rational or scientific sense to me. Aug 10, Peter Mcloughlin rated it it was ok Shelves: This book is a little dated coming out of the culture war debates of the s. I was no fan of postmodernism in the s. I am slightly warmer although still not very warm to postmodernism these days. I, however, less warm to "classical liberals" who bandy words like collectivism as epithets. This book is mostly polemical in a time where Triumphal liberal capitalism fresh from the end of the cold war could demolish any other point of view towards its end of history as collectivist irrational This book is a little dated coming out of the culture war debates of the s.
This book is mostly polemical in a time where Triumphal liberal capitalism fresh from the end of the cold war could demolish any other point of view towards its end of history as collectivist irrationalism based on appeals grievances of the lower orders. Didn't these disgruntled lefties get the memo they would say at the time "there is no alternative" to quote the likes of Margaret Thatcher?
Well, history has an uncomfortable way of not ending. This book was a product of its time just another conservative polemic against the radicals in the English department. But these days all the real postmodernists are on the right. You can't get more surreal and reality-denying subjectivism than our current President. Of course lately, people like Jordan Petersen are resurrecting the conservative animus against those treacherous postmodernists to appeal to conspiracy theorists who blame all modern ills on things like the "Frankfurt School" and "Cultural Marxism" a term that itself harks back to the Nazi catch-all term for any opponents of National Socialism.
So postmodernism is a hot topic again after a decade and a half slumber.
So this tired debate is revived and apparently, Amazon decided to offer this book to Petersen acolytes for free. Anyway I myself find myself rooting against the author because while I find postmodernism to be a flash in the pan I loathe right-wingers more. Here is a video which I think speaks more to where postmodernism lies these days and it is not in the English department but the White House.
This video does quick work on showing what a piece of shoddy garbage this work is. Jan 03, Ali Arabzadeh rated it did not like it. Its superficial and useless! Jan 03, Omar Ali rated it really liked it. A very lucid and devastating criticque of contemporary postmodernism. The author or so it seems, I am not familiar with his other works is pro-individual, pro-liberty and pro-capitalist, but even if you disagree with all three, you will find this book useful.
The survey of the roots of modern postmodernism in earlier anti-enlightenment philosophies is very informative and well worth reading. And its only 4. Apr 24, Mickey Hernandez rated it it was amazing Shelves: If I could I would give this book a 4. It was a fantastic elucidation of traditional Marxist, Neo-Marxist, and Post-modernist ideas. It also provided a good amount of background from thinkers such as Rousseau, Kierkegaard, Kant, Nietzsche, and other authors who influenced 19th and 20th century thought.
The criticism of Post-modernist and Marxist thought is, in my opinion, mostly sound. For my money, it identifies a lot of what is wrong, or at the very least, inefficient and inadequate, with so If I could I would give this book a 4. For my money, it identifies a lot of what is wrong, or at the very least, inefficient and inadequate, with some of the popular ideas that has permeated throughout 21st century society.
Dec 13, Sylvester Kuo rated it it was amazing Shelves: It's basically a companion piece to Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology , Hicks explained the rise of postmodernism through history and philosophy. Each Chapter is dedicated to a specific era of philosophy and showcasing just how the evolution of irrationality came about.
The best part of the book was the chapter titled "Socialism in Crisis", which simply sho It's basically a companion piece to Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology , Hicks explained the rise of postmodernism through history and philosophy. The best part of the book was the chapter titled "Socialism in Crisis", which simply show how the collectivists tried to reinvent socialism constantly to address its failing but it always fails. Hicks provided a handy chart to show the 3 major tenants of socialism now: Environmentalism wealth is bad , Multiculturism everything is oppressive and Political Correctness censorship.
Primarily, the left and the right's difference is their view on objective reality. The left denies that reason, truth and logic are existential values. As the leftism evolved over time, even logic is not needed as long as there is feeling. My only real problem was with Hicks' use of the term "collectivist right" early on, despite he later explained and quoted Hitler and Mussolini as a leftists. Could be confusing for a few amateur readers. This is a splendid little book! I particularly liked the historical overview of philosophical precursors to 20th-century postmodernism, which I found concise and illuminating.
This author makes no attempt at hiding his monumental contempt towards the intellectual and moral failures of its subject. It is as a highly entertaining experience of getting your biases confirmed, at times deliciously vitriolic, and times highly informative and eye-opening. An excellent overview of the historic roots of postmodernism Much of this book is spent in summarizing the philosophers who set the foundation for Marxism and post-modernism.
While the overview is helpful, the middle is also a bit of a slog, especially for someone not enthusiastic about the admittedly important differences between those philosophies. The "slog" is why I gave it four stars instead of five. Light reading it isn't. That said, the author makes an excellent case for the origins and d An excellent overview of the historic roots of postmodernism Much of this book is spent in summarizing the philosophers who set the foundation for Marxism and post-modernism.
That said, the author makes an excellent case for the origins and destructive nature of postmodernism--as well as socialism--and then goes on to explain its current political expressions. The copious footnotes and bibliography are also helpful. Anyone looking for a solid introduction to postmodernist theory would be well-served to begin here. Oct 09, Roman Skaskiw rated it it was amazing. One of the most important books I've read.
Its big idea is a comparison of the evolution of socialist thought to enlightenment thought. When enlightenment logic and reason was perceived as a threat religion, a series of "counter-enlightenment philosophers" waged a war on logic, reason and truth. This tradition continued in the 20th century when the catastrophe of socialism became too great to ignore, the post-modernism picked up the counter-enlightenment tradition and waged a war on the very tools One of the most important books I've read.
This tradition continued in the 20th century when the catastrophe of socialism became too great to ignore, the post-modernism picked up the counter-enlightenment tradition and waged a war on the very tools needed to perceive the catastrophe -- logic, reason, truth, language. Jun 24, Jack Gardner rated it it was amazing Shelves: Explaining the Seemingly Inexplicable Greatly appreciate this very readable exposition, by a rational mind heroically treading where others become repulsed and confused. Makes understanding this opaque intellectual jungle enjoyable. Informative - even essential - for understanding 20th century culture, its unraveling, and continuing influences.
Reviews the long history and identifies the leading characters in the development of this "philosophy. The expanded edition's essay on Explaining the Seemingly Inexplicable Greatly appreciate this very readable exposition, by a rational mind heroically treading where others become repulsed and confused. The expanded edition's essay on developments in art is alone worth the price. Oct 28, Heba rated it really liked it.
Oct 16, Blair rated it liked it Shelves: Essentially, it is the denial that an objective reality exists. For those who hold this view, words themselves are a meaningless game. I am not going to play. This book an account of how the systematic questioning of objective reality developed over the centuries, in the form of a guided tour of philosophers from Rousseau to Foucault. It seems that every explanation I read of the meaning of philosophers such as Kant and Hegel is like a Rorschach test — the authors see in it the genesis of their own philosophy. This book is different — the author sees what he does not want to see.
I suspect the interpretation is just as subjective. However, the main merit is that we get a master class in the use of the false dichotomy from both the postmodernists and the author himself. We get surprisingly little of that. I think our author is avoiding issues that are not compatible with his own belief system. He is clearly some kind of Objectivist. While almost every postmodern argument is based on a false dichotomy, the Objectivists employ the same tactic.
For them, it seems to be enough to point out that Capitalism works and Socialism does not. We even get tables showing how many fewer cows there were in Russia after Communism! Socialism failed, therefore Capitalism should operate without interference. At one point we are actually told that we must choose between and egoism, both deeply flawed conceptions. The Problem of Perception There are a number of statements in this book that are worth considering in more detail than the author chooses to. Let us start at the beginning with the problem of perception.
If reason is presented with an internal sensory representation of reality, then it is not aware directly of reality; reality then becomes something to be inferred or hoped for beyond a veil of sense-perception. But cave dwellers and certain academics are different than the rest of us — we have to work for a living. Our actions have consequences. If the mental models we use to interpret our senses are faulty, we correct them or we die. In other words, we all use scientific method, testing our hypotheses against reality, whether we know it or not.
This argument does not address the real world; it merely sets up a false dichotomy between perfect comprehension of reality and knowing nothing at all. However, it does raise the legitimate concern that we must be careful about what our senses tell us. When applied to human beings, such models posed an obvious threat to the human spirit.
What place is there for free will and passion, spontaneity and creativity if the world is governed by mechanism and logic, causality and necessity? Unfortunately, this reductionist view of science is still widely believed. The irony is that it is postmodern ideology, with the claim that we are determined by social circumstances, that threatens the human spirit. Will not such rational individualism encourage cold-blooded, short-range, and grasping selfishness? Will it not encourage individuals to reject long-standing traditions and to sever communal ties, thus creating a non-society of isolated, rootless and restless atoms?
Traditionalists seem to forget that the ruling classes who actually made the decisions had plenty of cold and hot blooded selfishness. Objectivists solve the problem by proclaiming the virtue of such selfishness. Those of us in the real world need to find the proper balance between the individual and community. If logic and mathematics are divorced from experiential reality, then the rules of logic and mathematics hardly say anything about that reality.
The implication is that logical or mathematical proofs cut no ice in adjudicating competing claims of fact. Analytic propositions are entirely devoid of factual content. And it is for this reason that no experience can confute them. Offering logical proofs about real matters of fact is thus pointless. Logic and mathematics on their own deal with abstractions. It may be a mystery why these abstractions are such powerful tools to help us understand physical reality.
Science is the connection between logic and physical evidence. It is correct that there are no proofs in science, but there are degrees of confidence. The author fails to address these arguments. While the conclusion that science cannot produce meaning is yet another false dichotomy, so is the implication that if the conclusion is false, the entire argument has no merit. The Direction of Emergence I found this statement interesting: The individual is merely along for the ride.
For example, a perfect knowledge of the cells we are made of would not give us much insight into human beings. Here it is turned around to suggest that the individual emerges from the collective. I suppose there is some truth to that. Cells must function in a way that keeps the human alive. But really a false dichotomy is being set up between the individual and the collective, and we are supposed to choose the individual. I think this is a bit simplistic, but then, Objectivists are obsessed with socialism. I suggest both the traditional and modern left are filling a void left by the absence of religion.
Postmodernism is therefore first a political movement, and a brand of politics that has only lately come to relativism. Again, left and right are becoming more alike. Hypocrisy is not a Bug. It is an Essential Feature. On the one hand, all cultures are equally deserving of respect; on the other, Western culture is uniquely destructive and bad. Values are subjective—but sexism and racism are really evil.
There is a common pattern here: Subjectivism and relativism in one breath, dogmatic absolutism in the next. Words are not about truth or reality or even anything cognitive. They serve as a rhetorical weapon. This is the strategy: Undermine its confidence in its reason, its science and technology. The words do not even have to be true or consistent to do the necessary damage.
Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault
Then fill the void with the correct Left political principles. From Marx, we feel a deep sense of alienation, victimization, and rage. From Nietzsche, we discover a deep need for power. From Freud, we uncover the urgings of dark and aggressive sexuality. Rage, power, guilt, lust, and dread constitute the center of the postmodern emotional universe.