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Post Modernism- What Is It?


BeachOfEden
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Fred will do this more justice than I can but, here goes ...

 

Modernism is/was a wordview, an era, a way of describing who we are and how we relate to the universe. Modernism, in a simplistic nutshell, is the worldview that grew out of moving away from religion and God and towards science.

 

Post-modernism is the worldview that some say is developing now. Science, while still important, hasn't been found to contain all the answers that many hoped it would. Many are turning to philosophy, religion and God again, and are allowing that belief to influence their worldview.

 

Fred?

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Wow, it's been a busy day around here!

 

Ok, in a nutshell:

 

Modernism -- which is roughly synonymous with "The Enlightenment" in Europe, beginning around 1600 -- is characterized mainly by the turn away from tradition and authority, and towards reason and experience; and the twin dependence on clear and distinct ideas -- rationalism: Decartes, Spinoza, Leibniz -- and demonstrable sense data -- empiricism: Locke, Hobbes, Hume. Essential to philosophical modernism is the concept of foundationalism -- that we can, via deduction and induction, demolish all hearsay and superstition, and arrive at certain unquestionable foundations, upon which the whole superstructure of knowledge can be erected. Progressive optimism at its finest, really.

 

Postmodernism -- which comes up in proto-forms as early as the mid-1800's in Nietzsche and Kierkegaard, and comes to full flower in folks like Sartre and Camus in the early 20th century, and the "pragmatist turn" with Davidson and Rorty in contemporary philosophy -- deconstructs the grandiose claims of modernism, and claims that they are nothing but human will masquerading as scientific objectivity. But, rather than being simply a return to a naive premodern trust in authority and tradition, postmodernism adds to modernism's suspicion of authority its own suspicion of reason itself. Now even reason and logic cannot be trusted to arrive at the truth in any form -- indeed, "truth" is just a marginalizing word anyway, meaning whatever those in power believe. PM stresses tradition, and community, and experience -- but not as truth-bearing entities. They exist to engender solidarity, to enrich lives, to embody a shared sense of belonging, etc.

 

Sheesh, I actually came up with three E's totally by accident! Bizarre. Anyway, I think that's probably it in a nutshell.

 

Personally, I would say that there are important insights in both modernism and postmodernism, that need to be taken seriously in any account of knowledge. In premodernism, truth and power were wedded together in an undifferentiated form. Modernism -- which, despite its distrust of religion, actually inherits its faith in the rational intelligibility of the universe from classical theism -- differentiated truth from power in a widespread way, for the first time in human history, allowing science to progress independently from religion. It would be difficult to overstate the importance of this step in human development -- even as we recognize the dark side inherent in our unbridled optimism about progress. Postmodernism, at least in its non-self-collapsing forms, integrates them back together in a more subtle and consious way, allowing us to see how, despite being conceptually distinct, they are really inseparable in practice. Consequently, we should be confident with modernism that we can make good rational sense of the world -- while, at the same time, with postmodernism, recognizing that we always bring our own horizons, limitations, and self-deceptions into the mix when whenever we try to grasp it. And that goes for institutional forms as well as individual ones. Complete certainty, for reason and tradition alike, is a fantasy.

 

Ok, that's all for now.

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Anyway, I think that's probably it in a nutshell.

 

Nutshell? :blink:

 

Kidding! Great synopsis.

 

But, rather than being simply a return to a naive premodern trust in authority and tradition, postmodernism adds to modernism's suspicion of authority its own suspicion of reason itself.

 

I get a kick out of the idea that Kierkegaard really disliked Hegel (The System?) The quote from Kierkegaard about the Eternal being in time could be a synopsis of Hegel's entire ontology.

Edited by AletheiaRivers
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A wonderful synopsis of the eras of enlightened thought, Fred. Have you begun teaching any of this to the kid yet between the piano lessons? Really a cute one !!! :)

 

But as an aside, do you think that Einstein's and Heisenberg's work on relativity and quantum uncertanties had much to do with the shift in the 20th century from the power-driven optomistic approach to a balanced, good-bad outlook in the post modern times ? I see a relationship there, but I don't know that anyone has ever specifically pointed that out.

 

Also, it is my belief that we are in a comparable shift in philosophical approaches to life from the post modern dualistic model to a more wholistic vision of the world's and universe's systems, both natural and human-made. This might also help explain, in addressing Beach's question, whether or not the world's religions' overall movement towards ecumenism the past thirty years or so is a complimentary effect. Again I think of Huston Smith's, The World's Religions, Vatican II, and Hans Kung's book, A Global Ethic, as landmarks.

 

Thoughts anyone?

 

flow.... :rolleyes:

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A wonderful synopsis of the eras of enlightened thought, Fred. Have you begun teaching any of this to the kid yet between the piano lessons? Really a cute one !!!  :)

It's probably getting lodged in there at a precognitive level when I ramble on to myself about it.

 

But as an aside, do you think that Einstein's and  Heisenberg's work on relativity and quantum uncertanties had much to do with the shift in the 20th century from the power-driven optomistic approach to a balanced, good-bad outlook in the post modern times ? I see a relationship there, but I don't know that anyone has ever specifically pointed that out.

I'm not sure chronology is on your side here. Definitely not with Nietzsche, whose ideas were already firmly entrenched in writing before Einstein published his first papers on relativity (~1905 if I'm remembering correctly). Maybe Sartre was familiar in a really general way with Einstein's work, but I've never heard of any connection. I think it's probably just one of those fascinating synchronicities of ideas -- like Newton and Leibniz discovering calculus at almost exactly the same time, with no interaction whatsoever between them.

 

Also, it is my belief that we are in a comparable shift in philosophical approaches to life from the post modern dualistic model to a more wholistic vision of the world's and universe's systems, both natural and human-made.

Yes, but there is still a deep commitment to philosophical and scientific reductionism operating in systems theories today. Ken Wilber's integralism is a notable exception, as it grounds developmental complexity in an actual ontology of being. I'm half-tempted to call Wilber the Plato of the 21st century, but that might be a tad extreme. I guess, IF there were a Plato of the 21st century, he'd have as much a claim to the title as anyone.

 

:D

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So if a person from the far religious right were to say they thought we, as Progressive Christians believed in post=modernism would they be right or wrong? Cause not too long along I was on a Liberal Christian forum on MYSpace and fundamental person explained that he thought our Christian progressivism was the embracing of Post-Modernism..and that he explained this as one beliving that there are no absolutes in this world. How would you, as a Progressive Christian respond to this?

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So if a person from the far religious right were to say they thought we, as Progressive Christians believed in post=modernism would they be right or wrong? Cause not too long along I was on a Liberal Christian forum on MYSpace and fundamental person explained that he thought our Christian progressivism was the embracing of Post-Modernism..and that he explained this as one beliving that there are no absolutes in this world.  How would you, as a Progressive Christian respond to this?

Well, the first difficulty is that there is no "Progressive Christian View." Some PC's are strong post-modernists -- most of the Jesus Seminar types in an academic university setting would fall into this category. Some are modernists, though that set is probably a dwindling minority. I think an integral view (like my own) would also have to be considered progressive, and yet this view very explicitly rejects strong post-modernism.

 

I think you can't answer the question about PC in general; you have to answer it about particular strains of it. If by PC he means Jesus Seminar type liberal Christianity, then I'd say, yes, his accusation that PC embraces the post-modern rejection of absolutes is correct.

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" ... fundamental person explained that he thought our Christian progressivism was the embracing of Post-Modernism..and that he explained this as one beliving that there are no absolutes in this world ...

 

The Three Postmodernisms: A short explanation

 

The first postmodernism is the one that modern people talk about a lot. It’s a big scary monster of nihilism and relativism and self-destruction that seeks to undo all that is good in modern Western civilization. This definition of postmodernism (it denies truth, denies reality, denies morality) is useful, I think, to scare people so they’ll stay loyal to their modern institutions, which, they are told, are the last bulwark against the chaos at the gate. This postmodernism is absurd: it says, “There is no truth,” which means that if the statement is true, it is also false. This first postmodernism probably doesn’t exist outside the imaginations of frightened modern people and those who seek to intimidate them – plus among some college freshmen who get carried away after drinking too much.

 

The second postmodernism is the closest reality to the first fantasy. It’s actually a kind of adolescent postmodernism. It’s the kind of postmodernism that some people like to declare as being “over” since September 11, or since 1990, or since I’m not sure what. This adolescent postmodernism is associated with one or more of the following:

 

Relativist Pluralism

 

Consumerism

 

Alienated European intellectuals

 

Political Correctness

 

 

Some people call this extreme postmodernism or deconstructive postmodernism. I call it adolescent postmodernism because it has many of the characteristics of adolescents, and because it is an early phase that must give way to other phases. Outside of sophomore English and graduate philosophy classes, you don’t find this form of postmodernism much any more.

 

Although it’s not the phantasm presented by the first postmodernism, this one can be dangerous. If some alienated European intellectuals tell enough people that any point of view is as valid as any other and that it’s politically incorrect to say anything is “selfish” or “wrong” or “arrogant” or “destructive,” and if consumerism then comes along and appeals to their basest self-interest, with little concern for one’s neighbor, community or world … you have a really bad recipe for a really putrid future.

 

The third kind of postmodernism is what we might call “emerging postmodernism.” It can’t be fully defined yet; it may be decades away from mature definition. But it moves beyond the four characteristics described above.

 

<snip>

 

Emerging postmodernism agrees that modern reductionistic rationalism needed to be stopped or “deconstructed,” and it sees that relativist pluralism “worked” as a chemotherapeutic agent, but it doesn’t mistake this dangerous short-term medical necessity as a long-term regimen for health. It seeks to move beyond relativistic pluralism, and sees “emergent thinking” and “integralism” as better alternatives to both modern reductionistic rationalism and relativist pluralism. (For more on emergent thinking and integralism, see my book “A Generous Orthodoxy,” or Ken Wilber’s “A Theory of Everything.”)

 

While alienated European intellectuals have indeed written the formal philosophy of adolescent postmodernism, and while they (and others) are beginning to popularize some of the emerging postmodern thought, emerging postmodernism must become a global endeavor. In the two-thirds world, it will more likely be called “post-colonial” rather than “postmodern” for obvious reasons.

 

<snip>

 

With these three postmodernisms (and no doubt, others too) in circulation, it is understandable that people get confused with the term postmodern.

 

<snip>

 

I think "Integral" is a much better term for what Brian McLaren proposes. Perhaps "post colonial" is good too. The term "postmodernism", even "emerging postmodernism" has too much baggage attatched to it.

 

How would we word that Fred? "Hi, I'm a modernist." "Hi, I'm a postmodernist." "Hi, I'm an Integralist." "Hi, I'm an Integral Viewist." ;)

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Wow, that's a rather freakish synchronicity! I've never even read any McLaren, including the post you copied over, and I had no idea that he had ever advocated Wilber's integral view. Rockin'.

 

 

How would we word that Fred? "Hi, I'm a modernist." "Hi, I'm a postmodernist." "Hi, I'm an Integralist." "Hi, I'm an Integral Viewist." ;)

"Hi, I'm Fred."

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I've been saying that there is some weird freakin' synchronicity happening over the past few weeks on this board. I don't even tell you the half of it.

 

In Keith Wards book he has a bunch of stuff to say about Kenosis and kenotic spirituality. I've been reading theology and philosophy for years and I've never come across the term. I put aside Ward's book a few months ago and just picked it back up. If I'd finished reading it when I started it, I probably would have glossed right over his mentioning of Kenosis. I swear, sometimes I feel downright guided. :rolleyes:

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Hi ! I'm Flow !

 

Synchronicity would have to be considered to be a term from the modernist era since it was popularized by C.G. Jung. But then again one could argue that Jung was one of the post modernist pioneering fathers.

 

I prefer the term "harmonic convergence" since it is a musical sort of term and it describes the culmination of a process of coming together for a reason, like deadheads at a concert. Rockin' indeed !!

 

We always said that too much of anything was just enough, but then we were probably just a bunch of coneheads who were dedicated to consuming "mass quantities". But we did end up winning the golf championship at the country club !!

 

flow.... :D:D:D

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I'm a little new joining in here, but have great interest in both postmodernism and progressive Christianity. I don't know that I would agree that we could talk about 3 kinds of postmodernism. There are many, many forms, but would agree there are still some emerging forms of postmodernism.

 

I'd also agree it's a drastic oversimplification to say there is "a progressive Christianity." There are many forms. I always get nervous when someone makes a statement like one made about the link between postmodernism and progressive Christianity made at the beginning of the quote. When ever we start oversimplifying, especially in a categorical fashion, we necessarily begin distorting the abstract aspects. Such statements are often lead in to more problematic disagreements. Personally, I think its good to generally slow down the conversation at that point as acknowledge we are talking in oversimplifications and explain what each individual is meaning by the terms they are using.

 

There's an old saying, "Whoever defines the terms wins the argument." This could apply quite well here!

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In response to the question about postmodern spirituality or religion, I can add a take on it, but don't think it applies across the board. The essence of a postmodern spirituality to me centers on the acknowledgement of our limitations in knowing any objective or ulitmate truth about religious or spiritual truths.

 

In my understanding of postmodernism, epistemology is a key issue. I see the primary postmodern epistemology to be an epistemological pluralism which embraces multiple ways of knowing while being suspicious of over-reliance on any one way of knowing. So, for example, the Bible may be taken serious, but it cannot be the end all of knowing truth. Even if the Bible is believed to be an Ultimate Objective Truth, our interpretation of it never is -- even on what seems most evident. So to know, we need to rely on mulitiple ways of knowing.

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In response to the question about postmodern spirituality or religion, I can add a take on it, but don't think it applies across the board. The essence of a postmodern spirituality to me centers on the acknowledgement of our limitations in knowing any objective or ulitmate truth about religious or spiritual truths.

 

In my understanding of postmodernism, epistemology is a key issue. I see the primary postmodern epistemology to be an epistemological pluralism which embraces multiple ways of knowing while being suspicious of over-reliance on any one way of knowing. So, for example, the Bible may be taken serious, but it cannot be the end all of knowing truth. Even if the Bible is believed to be an Ultimate Objective Truth, our interpretation of it never is -- even on what seems most evident. So to know, we need to rely on mulitiple ways of knowing.

 

I would thoroughly agree with you to a point. I believe that the "multiple ways of knowing" path is possible for more of us these days because of our immersion in a technological environment in urban areas. But this has a limitation, as we all know, since there is such a thing as "too much information".

 

Trying to assimilate and integrate such stupendous amounts of information leads inexorably to individual and group confusion regarding just what to believe collectively. I believe that we're all undergoing just such a conundrum in the world today because of the intent and activities of our government over the past few years and the reportage surrounding that. And it is obvoius that we do not have an inkling of what the "truth" of it all is despite "factual and objective" reporting.

 

Science and technological advances are a little more reliable in their degree of truth content since these things must be replicable and testable to be utilized and built upon in the real world, but they are limited in temporal aspects. But the information itself, which leads to a state of knowing, is usually factual and objective, or at least it is purported to be in both of these situations .

 

Now when it comes to information regarding spiritual and religious beliefs and experiences I believe that we are in a different ballgame. This is subjective in its nature since the information is rooted in the emotional and mystical experiences of individuals and certain groups of individuals. That the Bible can be interpreted in about as many ways as there are individual philosophies of those reading and interpreting it should be self-evident.

 

But there are crossover happenings that are both recorded as objective fact and become known world-wide, and that also instill a set of subjective beliefs in those who access the information over time. For instance, there is no doubt that something miraculous and paranormal happened at Fatima in Portugal around the time of WWI, and to my knowledge the Vatican still has not told the world what the third prophecy told to the children was/is. Besides that, thousands of people saw the sun do weird things in the sky. What do we do with information like that in terms of defining just what we might come to know as truth?

 

My own opinion is that we are increasingly dealing with degrees of quantum uncertanties in events such as this, and in such situatuions "truth" depends upon what is observed. And we all see the world and its events so differently.

 

flow.... :rolleyes:

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Can anyone give a religious explaintion of what the belief of post-modernism is? I have an idea..but not sure I have the full understanding of it? Would you say that you are religiously speaking a post?modernist? Partly? Why or why not?

 

Here's an article about postmodern Christianity. I feel like it's somewhere between the more conservative traditions but not quite in the same place as liberal theology either. The Emerging Church

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Thanks for posting this!:D I read it and it is a GREAT article. Infact. I will post a new thread on it called, "The Emerging Church."

 

BTW, I agree with both of you...that even if we were to embrace the belief that the Bible was and is the word of God..and was/is more than just a positive collection of man-made fairy tales...still..this would not and in my opinion, does NOT erase the FACt that since we are ALL imperfect..then ALL of our understandings about what we read in the Bible and our interpretations of God and Christ would still be IMperfect and therefore flawed.

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Science and technological advances are a little more reliable in their degree of truth content since these things must be replicable and testable to be utilized and built upon in the real world, but they are limited in temporal aspects. But the information itself, which leads to a state of knowing, is usually factual and objective, or at least it is purported to be in both of these situations .

 

 

This sounds like modernism to me, maybe more of a more contemporary modernism that acknowledges some limitations, but still modernism. From an epistemological view, the core of modernism is the focus on science, which includes technology to a large degree, as being the primary ways of knowing. Scinece, here, is seen as an integration of empricism (knowing through senses) and reasons (applied to science which brings the scientific methold).

 

I don't think postmodernism denies that there is additional confusion with multiple ways of knowing. However, what I think it maintains is that this is a more honest look at the world. The world is not a nice, neat place with easy answers. Of course, generalities about postmodernism are always limiting, too.

 

The emphasis on multiple ways of knowing also does not say that all ways of knowing are equal or valid in all circumstances. Rather, in some realms we need to rely more on science, but also consider other ways of knowing and the limitaiton of scinece. In other places, science does not provide the best answers and other ways of knowing are more central, but science should still be considered.

 

Many people stay away from postmodernism precisely for the reason that it doesn't provide clear answers, it brings much more information into consideration, and it emphasizes our limitations in knowing. All three of these things can lead to anxiety. I think its quite legitamite to critique these from a philosophical perspective if there is a difference in opinion. However, my concern is that many people shy away from postmodernism because of the implicit anxiety related to this theory. It's more comfortable to rely on science and technology, but is it a more honest way of viewing the world? Or more honest of a philosphy when examining the world? I don't think so.

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Of course, generalities about postmodernism are always limiting, too. ...

 

 

Which is why I appreciated McLaren's point in the article about "Three Post-Modernisms."

 

It's not really that there are three different postmodern views, but that the first two are misunderstandings, over-generalizations and exaggerations. :)

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Thanks for posting this!:D I read it and it is a GREAT article. Infact. I will post a new thread on it called, "The Emerging Church."

 

BTW, I agree with both of you...that even if we were to embrace the belief that the Bible was and is the word of God..and was/is more than just a positive collection of man-made fairy tales...still..this would not and in my opinion, does NOT erase the FACt that since we are ALL imperfect..then ALL of our understandings about what we read in the Bible and our interpretations of God and Christ would still be IMperfect and therefore flawed.

 

Beach,

 

Brian McLaren, the author of the article I quoted, is a major voice in the Emerging Church movement. He's working hard to clear up the misunderstandings about post-modernism and what might be found beyond postmodernism. Here is a link to one of his webpages.

 

A New Kind of Christian - Click Here

Edited by AletheiaRivers
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Cool. Thanks! This Emergent Church sounds like the idea that I was wishing for in my head..where you take the contemporary approuch from the Seekr-Senstive Church..but minus the "Memebers-ONLY-salvation mentality more often than not attacted to the Evangelical Protestant churches.:)

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"Progressive Spirituality" has a history. The following is a summary of what Pierre Janet wrote in 1926. It is from The Discovery of the Unconscious, (Ellenberger, 1970):

 

What Janet calls "progressive tendencies" is the highest development of individual and original conduct. On this level man achieves his own unique individuality, but he also recognizes the fullest individuality of each one of his fellow men, establishing with them a relationship of spiritual intimacy. The search for individuality extends also to events, notably to historical ones. Janet arrives here at one of his favorite speculations, which he expresses in veiled terms: "We grow in time like plants in space." This means that the evolution of man, even of man as a biological entity, is open toward the future. In that regard, Janet seems to agree with certain thoughts expressed by Bergson in his Creative Evolution. "Evolution," he concludes, "is not finished, and human action has been and will be a source of marvel."

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