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I. Postmodernism

Postmodernism, of course, is variously characterized. Among the views that go under this rubric are to be found a rejection of classical foundationalism; the declaration that there are no foundations of any sort, classical or otherwise; the claim that there is no such thing as objectivity (and it’s a good thing too); deconstruction (‘the deconstruction 423company’); the claim that there is no such thing as truth, or that if there is, it is something totally different from what we thought (perhaps it is a social construction, “what our peers will let us get away with saying,” or something else of that sort); the claim that truths are made, not discovered; the claim that there aren’t any objective normative standards and that we somehow make whatever standards there are; and the claim that all that really matters is power. There is opposition to ‘metanarratives’, there is the insistence that God is dead (which is ordinarily intended to imply, I believe, that there is no such person as God), and there are patronizing references to God (“good old God,” as Jacques Lacan refers to him538538   Cited in Grace M. Jantzen, “What’s the Difference? Knowledge and Gender in (Post)modern Philosophy of Religion,” Religious Studies 32 (December 1996), p. 446.). There is also a kind of exultation or apotheosis of autonomy, so that (as with Heidegger539539   At least according to Richard Rorty; see his Contingency, Irony and Solidarity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), p. 109.) one feels guilty for not having created the world (along with the suggestion that God should be ashamed for having the temerity to interfere with one’s autonomy540540   “God is thus the proper name of that which deprives us of our nature, of our own birth; consequently he will always have spoken before us, on the sly. He is the difference which insinuates itself between myself and myself as death” (Jacques Derrida, Writing and Difference, tr. A. Bass [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978], p. 181).). There is a sort of recrudescence of the nineteenth-century romantic exultation of the self, self-deification and its rejection of all things bourgeois. There is historicism, the idea that our historical and cultural setting determines what we can think, so that we can’t but think what we do think (and right now we can’t accept serious Christian belief); there is warmed-over Nietzschean and Sartrian bombast, lots of Sturm und Drang (or “sturm und drang und tenure,” as Ernest Gellner says541541   Postmodernism, Reason, and Religion (London: Roudedge, 1992).) and much else besides.


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