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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. Why do skeptical and relativistic arguments have such power in the 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. Why do skeptical and relativistic arguments have such power in the contemporary intellectual world? Why do they have that power in the humanities but not in the sciences? Why has a significant portion of the political Left - the same Left that traditionally promoted reason, science, equality for all, and optimism - now switched to themes of anti-reason, anti-science, double standards, and cynicism? Explaining Postmodernism is intellectual history with a polemical twist, providing fresh insights into the debates underlying the furor over political correctness, multiculturalism, and the future of liberal democracy.


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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. Why do skeptical and relativistic arguments have such power in the 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. Why do skeptical and relativistic arguments have such power in the contemporary intellectual world? Why do they have that power in the humanities but not in the sciences? Why has a significant portion of the political Left - the same Left that traditionally promoted reason, science, equality for all, and optimism - now switched to themes of anti-reason, anti-science, double standards, and cynicism? Explaining Postmodernism is intellectual history with a polemical twist, providing fresh insights into the debates underlying the furor over political correctness, multiculturalism, and the future of liberal democracy.

30 review for Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault

  1. 5 out of 5

    Dan Rera

    Good book. Some flaws but, in the end, an interesting read. I didn't care for his encapsulation of Kant and the transcendentalist endeavor. He didn't seem to grasp the power of Hume's criticism/empiricism. Hicks would rather put the blame on Kant's shoulders (in part, it seems, simply because Kant is German and it fits better into his Anglo vs Continental dichotomy) than dignify that Hume was the real problem child of empiricism and that Locke's dogmatism was, to many, incapable of withstanding t Good book. Some flaws but, in the end, an interesting read. I didn't care for his encapsulation of Kant and the transcendentalist endeavor. He didn't seem to grasp the power of Hume's criticism/empiricism. Hicks would rather put the blame on Kant's shoulders (in part, it seems, simply because Kant is German and it fits better into his Anglo vs Continental dichotomy) than dignify that Hume was the real problem child of empiricism and that Locke's dogmatism was, to many, incapable of withstanding the strength of Hume's skepticism. In this way, it might be fair enough to say that Kant destroyed philosophy in order to save it, but to argue that everything was hunky-dory before Kant wrote the Critique is simply false. Also, there is an ever-present subtext of appeal to motive throughout the whole book. Kant sacrificed objectivity to save religion from empiricism. Kierkegaard sacrificed reason to also save religion from scrutiny. Heidegger folds in being with nothingness because of self-loathing. And, finally, postmodernists destroy language and, by extension reason, to prevent substantive demonstration of the validity of capitalism as triumphant over socialism (or, in other words, to prevent the effective rejection of utopian idealism). Hicks refuses to believe than anyone involved in the transition from Kant and Rousseau to Derrida and Rorty believed that they were genuinely involved in a passionate search for truth. Each was an opportunist, a sophist, trying to wring political, theological, and economic consequences from the bowels of epistemology, ontology, and linguistics. A stretch, to say the least. At the same time, he does a great job showing the would-be enormous coincidence that nearly all postmodernist thinkers are leftist collectivists. Instead of merely marveling at this phenomenon, Hicks delves into the thought and shows, quite powerfully, the connection between the historical development of differing strains of anti-liberal, collectivist political movements and the corresponding ideologies utilized to support them. Linking the zeitgeist between politics and philosophy isn’t the real selling point here; it’s showing how, when various anti-liberal movements fail to achieve their utopian ideal, committed utopians will construct elaborate philosophical frameworks to side-step the conclusion that collectivist utopianism is inferior to liberal capitalism. By his account, major strands of contemporary philosophy are simply no-true-Scotsman-esque reworking to preserve a conception of man’s perfectibility through the state. The most recent manifestation, deconstruction and absurdism, is just an overwrought tantrum of the utter failures of socialist implementation over the last 150 years. The author suggests that their strategy is based, in the words of Nietzsche, on the following motivation: “When some men fail to accomplish what they desire to do, they exclaim angrily, 'May the whole world perish!' This repulsive emotion is the pinnacle of envy, whose implication is, 'If I cannot have something, no one is to have anything, no one is to be anything!'” Ultimately, the author paints with broad brushes but makes a compelling enough point throughout that he can be excused for glossing over some detail at times. He is writing a polemic about an enormous subject that is designed to be accessible most readers, so I, at least, am willing to tolerate his seeming glibness. The purpose of the book is to make a compelling case that philosophy has been defined by political ideology, itself rooted in the dreams of willful men more interested in high-minded visions of human perfectibility than the murky lessons of actual history, and it achieves this purpose.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Martina

    What an awful, awful book. Equating postmodernists with leftists and then claiming they 'more often than others' (who the fuck is others?), engage in authoritarian 'political correctness' and more often incorporate rage and anger in their argumentation. Oh and for the love of christ on a crutch Dvorkin never said that. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intercou... What an awful, awful book. Equating postmodernists with leftists and then claiming they 'more often than others' (who the fuck is others?), engage in authoritarian 'political correctness' and more often incorporate rage and anger in their argumentation. Oh and for the love of christ on a crutch Dvorkin never said that. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intercou...

  3. 4 out of 5

    vi macdonald

    Almost spectacularly moronic. Not only an impressively wrong headed, bad faith reading of postmodern thought, but Hicks decides whip out his idiotic interpretations of pre-enlightenment, enlightenment, and modernist thought while he was at it. The fact anyone is seriously taking this impressively bad scholarship seriously is both a testament to the influence of Lobster Lad and how ready people are to latch onto literally any source that “justifies” their worldview, no matter how poorly informed Almost spectacularly moronic. Not only an impressively wrong headed, bad faith reading of postmodern thought, but Hicks decides whip out his idiotic interpretations of pre-enlightenment, enlightenment, and modernist thought while he was at it. The fact anyone is seriously taking this impressively bad scholarship seriously is both a testament to the influence of Lobster Lad and how ready people are to latch onto literally any source that “justifies” their worldview, no matter how poorly informed or illegitimate said source may be.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Douglas Wilson

    Stephen Hicks is some sort of Objectivist or Randian, and so that should be said right up front. And this means I do not know how he managed to get that many rocks onto his magic epistemological carpet, and still less do I know how he got it to fly like that. But let us assume his craft was flight-worthy . . . Hicks spent the entire book beaning postmodernists with rocks. He has a good arm, and is a nice shot. I haven't enjoyed a book this much in quite some time. Hicks provides an essential serv Stephen Hicks is some sort of Objectivist or Randian, and so that should be said right up front. And this means I do not know how he managed to get that many rocks onto his magic epistemological carpet, and still less do I know how he got it to fly like that. But let us assume his craft was flight-worthy . . . Hicks spent the entire book beaning postmodernists with rocks. He has a good arm, and is a nice shot. I haven't enjoyed a book this much in quite some time. Hicks provides an essential service here -- he shows the connections between postmodern theory and hard Leftist politics. Here is his thesis: "The failure of epistemology made postmodernism possible, and the failure of socialism made postmodernism necessary.."

  5. 5 out of 5

    Sandra

    Explained the genesis and developments of postmodernist theory to philosophy-averse me. I never stayed up till 3am for a philosophy book before.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Mahmoud Awad

    Another comical presentation of that fundamental libertarian inability to differentiate Nazism from Bolshevism. Shape your expectations accordingly.

  7. 4 out of 5

    R

    Carl Jung used to say, 'People don't have ideas, ideas have their people.' Postmodernism has pierced the minds of its victims, possessed them and controlled them. Postmodernism is filled with superstition and it's explicitly anti-science, anti-reason, and anti-logic. The people that come up with these theories are truly pathological. Postmodernism is the Alex Jones of philosophy. Carl Jung used to say, 'People don't have ideas, ideas have their people.' Postmodernism has pierced the minds of its victims, possessed them and controlled them. Postmodernism is filled with superstition and it's explicitly anti-science, anti-reason, and anti-logic. The people that come up with these theories are truly pathological. Postmodernism is the Alex Jones of philosophy.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Martin Rundkvist

    Hicks's history of Kantian philosophy is competent, but his constant Ayn Rand libertarian attacks on the Left are tiresome. Turns out that when he says "socialism collapsed", he means "Michel Foucault felt disillusioned when he learned about Stalin's mass murders in the late 50s". Hicks's history of Kantian philosophy is competent, but his constant Ayn Rand libertarian attacks on the Left are tiresome. Turns out that when he says "socialism collapsed", he means "Michel Foucault felt disillusioned when he learned about Stalin's mass murders in the late 50s".

  9. 5 out of 5

    Philip of Macedon

    By titling this book Explaining Postmodernism, Hicks is being overly gentle toward the postmodernist dogma, since his handling of the material warrants the more apt title of Vanquishing Postmodernism. Word for word, page for page, this is the most substantial and coherent philosophy-critical text I've read. Where other works will waste time and space and become bogged down in semantics and jargon and insider lingo, this book cuts straight to the point with powerfully worded and clearly written p By titling this book Explaining Postmodernism, Hicks is being overly gentle toward the postmodernist dogma, since his handling of the material warrants the more apt title of Vanquishing Postmodernism. Word for word, page for page, this is the most substantial and coherent philosophy-critical text I've read. Where other works will waste time and space and become bogged down in semantics and jargon and insider lingo, this book cuts straight to the point with powerfully worded and clearly written prose that doesn't waste your time or attempt to impress you with the superficial. This is the most appropriate way to write such a book, because this is the biggest contrast to postmodernism possible, in that it accomplishes clarity of purpose, clarity of point, and contradicts much of what constitutes postmodern writing. He could have afforded more time with certain ideas, and fleshed out his sources and ideas better, but in the end the use of space in this book was about as good as could be hoped for. Hicks is perhaps not very charitable or gentle in his handling of past thinkers who have in some way impacted what we today see as postmodernism, but he presents a well researched history of the intellectual thought that brought us the Enlightenment, and provides an equally compelling and well informed history of what would become the anti-intellectual response to modernism's Age of Enlightenment: postmodernism. He fleshes it out with the thinkers responsible for such dogmatic and irrational modes of thinking, and outlines their chain of influence and the perplexing logic they espouse in the face of reality. Some of these thinkers are even associated with Enlightenment era thought, and it's interesting to see how their ideas were used by others in the development of what eventually came to be known as postmodern philosophy. Explaining and analyzing the philosophy is not a trivial problem, and this is magnified by the turbulent discussions that are currently in fashion. Whenever one attempts to criticize postmodernism in anything other than delicate and roundabout postmodernist terms, inevitably a fellow with a non-ironic CCCP t-shirt pops up to say, "That isn't postmodernism," or, "Postmodernism is an artistic and literary movement," or, "Kant was not a postmodernist, so how could his work possibly contribute to any of the postmodern landscape?" or, "Postmodernism and Marxism are completely unrelated and have nothing in common!" This is postmodernizing the discussion. An anti-intellectual trend that I thought had merely existed for a few decades in fact has roots reaching back over a hundred years, sometimes coming from not so wild or radical sources. One of the most surprising connections Hicks draws is between Nietzsche and postmodernism. I've seen people try to dismiss this. But having read a decent amount of Nietzsche myself, I realize that it is impossible to dismiss this connection. The relationship is blatant. Nietzsche's perspectivism is not merely a seed, but the tree trunk upon which much of postmodern philosophy is built. Perspectivism is the direct ancestor of such poorly grounded modern notions as social constructivism, relativism, and subjectivism. And Hicks touches on other unexpected ancestors to postmodern thought, some of which were rather reasonable or thoughtful. The transformation of once thoughtful ideas into their reactionary and irrational components, particularly within different cultural contexts, designed specifically to deflect the logical criticisms of socialism's weaknesses by developing an inherently useless and contradictory process of anti-logic, can lead to some bizarre conclusions that are not only unable to explain anything within view of objective reality, but are celebrated for their inability to do so. For it is postmodernism's driving purpose to bring weight and some form of credence to ideas and values that are fundamentally flawed, and that are incapable of being defended through established modes of logic and reason. Doing so requires the abandonment of reason and the adoption of child like and amateurish thinking that I think can only be summarized as anti-thinking. Anti-thinking is not the same as non-thinking, which is the act of doing nothing. If we look at thinking as driving, then non-thinking is simply sitting still, perhaps not even being inside the vehicle. But anti-thinking is then akin to intentionally driving through a half mile of hazard cones, side-rails, and straight off a bridge. The hazard cones, the side-rails, the bridge, the gravity that pulls one into the river, to the postmodern anti-thinker all of these are merely constructs, subjective interpretations of reality based on a struggling power hierarchy through history coloring their perceived veracity, and therefore this path through the cones and rails and off the bridge into the water is no less valid than the calm path over the bridge to the other side, because to some distant observer we could say that the other side and the river bed are indistinguishable from one another and therefore they are kind of indistinguishable in real subjective experience, right? And while one person may interpret getting to the other side as just one step closer to the end of their journey, the person drowning at the bottom of the river could perceive this slow, panicked suffocation as one step closer to the end of their own journey. See, man? It's all about experience and our inability to really know things objectively. This is postmodernism. One will encounter very many enthusiastic defenders of postmodernism who are not lazy, but the way they formulate arguments, points or counterpoints, process information, or even approach a topic has this residue of obsessive skepticism toward objective fact, a cynicism toward knowledge, a religious-like faith in the shaky hypotheses of power structures as the explanation for all human history and interaction, and they will almost always show that this cynicism and skepticism and faith are borne not of a hyper-awareness of the subject, but of a vast ignorance and incapability of understanding the subject. As soon as one attempts to discuss the subject with this defender, the defender jumps onto a bicycle and begins anti-thinking all over the sidewalk, or rather, expressing postmodern conjecture in every direction, declaring objective knowledge of objective reality impossible, and therefore all ideas and thoughts equally valid and equally subordinate to social conditions. This goes a long way toward explaining why the criticisms of this work are largely leveled by those steeped in the blind dogmatism being criticized, infected with many of the same shortcomings in their thought and information processing. You see this when evangelicals criticize works of atheist thinkers, and their greatest arguments are, "These men are not familiar with the Bible!" Perhaps not as familiar as you, no. But a strong familiarity with the Bible is not a prerequisite for pointing out the many weaknesses, flaws, and absurdities of religious thought. Postmodernism, as an ideology, a philosophy, a mode of thought, is a conundrum that provides nothing of value to intellectual discourse, and prides itself in that. Nothing can be valuable in postmodernist ideation, which probably sounds profound to a high-schooler. But seriously pondering that concept for a few moments ought to shine some light on why postmodernism not only doesn't, but can't, provide a worthwhile way of thinking about things. Only through irrational pseudo-intellectual and contradictory exercises is postmodernism capable of forwarding the ideas it holds sacred. That is to say, postmodernism is only validated by postmodernism, and even then, only by playing by a different set of rules than it subjects the rest of the intellectual world to. Any idea that cannot stand up to the same criticisms that its proponents level at other ideas, and instead requires a new criteria on which to be evaluated, is a joke. Maybe not even a joke, but a punchline without a joke. Hicks factually and carefully explains the origins and causes of postmodern thought and how it has become an unfortunate cornerstone in much modern thought. Postmodernism's irrationality and deep seated confusion about knowledge is only the beginning, as anyone who's had the misfortune of engaging with postmodern practitioners will readily confess. 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. And it would be fine if these attacks or criticisms were informed or based on a sound understanding of the very things being criticized -- but they uniformly are not. Postmodernists are like the child playing a board game who doesn't understand the rules, no matter how often and how slowly they're explained, and is unable to make progress through the game. He objects that these rules are completely made-up, which sounds like an astute (for a child) if pointless observation until you realize he isn't talking only about the rules of the game, but that he also thinks the numbers on the die are made up because they can't possibly represent anything, and that the tumble of the die is determined by oppressive power structures, and that the colors on the board are unfair to him, and that the images on the cards are only representations of reality and therefore they don't represent anything meaningful, so he can interpret a card of Suffering Poison Damage and Enfeeblement as a card of Infinite Immortality and Invincibility because he feels like it, and the win conditions don't make sense because they depend on factors other than his arbitrary whim and desire, and anything that happens to him in the game is unfair and wrong. So he takes the board and the pieces and declares his new rules as the Real Rules, and he loudly asserts that because in the vague, poorly defined world of His Rules, His Rules are law, because only His Rules conform to his undefined requirements. And Rule number One is that all Rules Are Made Up, unless they are His Rules, in which case they are Real Rules. Rule number Two is that anything he comes up with on the spot is a valid new rule, and all old rules are invalid, because they were created outside the paradigm of this new rule set. And despite acknowledging that all Old Rules were made up, he is unable to acknowledge that his new rules are made up, and that they make even less sense, are incoherent and contradictory even in context of the tiny New Rules vision, and that even the game board and pieces are not valid parts of the game, because they were made without regard for the New Rules. This is about as apt an analogy can be made for describing postmodernism in a nut shell, despite its multitude of offshoots and origins and complex relationships with other poor modes of thought. See Rorty, Derrida, and Lyotard. Hicks expertly lays out the main paradigms of postmodernism and exposes them as honestly and accurately as I imagine is possible, though not without a few mischaracterizations that I think were a bit far-fetched. The far reaches of PM thinking is illustrated, via cultural studies, feminism, collectivism, 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.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mark Alexis

    Reading Stephen Hicks' Explaining Postmodernism left me wondering whether (some) people haven't become too smart for their own good, yet also reminded me of the adage that a smart person is not the same as a wise person. In this book, Mr. Hicks traces postmodernism back to its intellectual roots. For those unfamiliar with the subject, postmodernism is the twentieth-century philosophical movement, still dominant and pervasive in academia today and with tentacles reaching deeply into our wider soci Reading Stephen Hicks' Explaining Postmodernism left me wondering whether (some) people haven't become too smart for their own good, yet also reminded me of the adage that a smart person is not the same as a wise person. In this book, Mr. Hicks traces postmodernism back to its intellectual roots. For those unfamiliar with the subject, postmodernism is the twentieth-century philosophical movement, still dominant and pervasive in academia today and with tentacles reaching deeply into our wider societies, that contends that man is unable to make objective notions about truth, reason and human nature, and that any such claims must be the product of his socio-economic, historical, cultural, gender and ethnic circumstances. The foundation of this school of thought, Hicks argues, was laid two hundred years ago by Immanuel Kant, whose Critique of Pure Reason was an effort to protect his Christian faith from attack by early Enlightenment philosophy. In an exquisite historical and intellectual overview of German philosophy, Hicks follows the bloodline from Kant to Hegel, Kierkegaard, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, and ultimately to Martin Heidegger, who was in turn a key influence on the twentieth-century postmodernists. The author proceeds to do the same with socialism, which started with Jean-Jacques Rousseau, a contemporary of Kant, and worked its way through the ages in the writings of Hegel, Herder, Marx, Fichte, Spengler and Junger, all of whom provided fertilizer for the writings of Heidegger. In case you were wondering why this list includes "Men of the Right", that's because Hicks identifies the collectivist Left and Right, correctly in my opinion, as merely two sides of the same coin. The difference is that national socialism was left entirely discredited in 1945, while its equally ugly twin brother wasn't until at least 1956, when the Soviets crushed any illusion about their true intentions one might still have had at that point in time. It would seem paradoxical for postmodernism to marry socialism: After all, the former denies any claim to impartial knowledge or absolute truth, so one would expect its adherents to be found all over the political spectrum. Nevertheless, the two strains ultimately came together in the twentieth century, when all the great postmodernist thinkers, Derrida and Foucault included, were hardcore socialists at the same time. Hicks argues that the crisis of socialism lay at the root of this phenomenon. While Marx had argued that the rise of capitalism would inevitably lead to an ever greater schism between the rich and poor in society, in reality the opposite was true and the middle classes were prospering. In fact, by the mid-twentieth century the middle classes were living lives of which the kings and emperors of yesteryear could only have dreamed. At the same time, it became patently obvious to any impartial observer that life behind the Iron Curtain was an absolute nightmare. The house of cards came thundering down when the Soviets invaded Hungary in '56 to crush the popular uprising against the socialist rulers in that country. Socialism had always been the product of reason and logic, starting from the idea that the Marxist revolution would inevitably follow in every capitalist society and ending with the illusion that smart technocrats could engineer their nations into workers' paradises. When all that got shattered, postmodernism proved the refuge for the disillusioned socialists. It became, in Hicks' words, "a symptom of the far Left’s crisis of faith," and "a result of using skeptical epistemology to justify the personal leap of faith necessary to continue believing in socialism." Some of the reviewers of Explaining Postmodernism have been predictable in their criticism: The author is an Objectivist (gasp!) who wrote a book critical of the Left, while not, in fact, "explaining postmodernism". These detractors ought to be ignored, because Hicks explains it all very well and correctly identifies it to be a phenomenon of the Left. This observation is by no means revolutionary (if you'll pardon the expression). Nevertheless, the book is not without its flaws. It becomes clear pretty quickly that Hicks has little use for religion. He starts from the premise that the early Enlightenment thinkers, with their emphasis on reason and logic and rejection of religious superstition, had it right, and provided the foundations of our modern democracy and ordered liberty. Hicks shows to have a blind spot here. Because Christianity is not on his radar, he never ponders the question whether it serves a function in a modern democratic, capitalist and free society, let alone whether the latter can even survive without the moral foundation provided by the former. Thinkers such as Tocqueville, a keen student of democracy, argued it couldn't. Given that the Enlightenment grew more radical and anti-religious with every new generation of thinkers, it's fair to ask whether it, and the modern societies it spawned in the West, weren't top-heavy from the beginning. (No, I don't necessarily have the answer to that.) Secondly, the roots of postmodernism can arguably be traced back to the first days of the Enlightenment, not just to the later "counter-Enlightenment philosophy" of Kant. Thomas Hobbes, who is not even mentioned in the book until footnote 67, contended that, since human life in the beginning was "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short", man started forming societies governed by the rule of law out of sheer self-interest. It happened in reaction to his fear of violent death. In other words, to Hobbes the social contract was conventional, not natural. This marks the first departure from the natural law doctrines found in classical philosophy and Christianity. But the greatness of an outstanding book like Explaining Postmodernism lies in its invitation for us to conduct a civil and rational argument about what postmodernism is and where it originated, devoid of the ad hominems, reductio ad Hitlerum, cries of "racism" and other base cannon fodder employed to win 'debates' in our postmodern world these days. Stephen Hicks has done us a great service here. I highly recommend this book to anybody interested in the topic.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Griffin Wilson

    A more accurate title might be "Explaining Postmodernism: Misreading Philosophers from Rousseau to Foucault." This work will fit nicely into my 'worst' shelf, never did 5 minutes go by without a comical misinterpretation, erroneous conflation, or blatant falsity surrounding any number of philosophers and their ideas, particularly Kant, Nietzsche, Hegel, Heidegger, Foucault, Derrida, and 'the postmodernists' (which is really a useless and unhelpful category) in general. To any fan of this book I c A more accurate title might be "Explaining Postmodernism: Misreading Philosophers from Rousseau to Foucault." This work will fit nicely into my 'worst' shelf, never did 5 minutes go by without a comical misinterpretation, erroneous conflation, or blatant falsity surrounding any number of philosophers and their ideas, particularly Kant, Nietzsche, Hegel, Heidegger, Foucault, Derrida, and 'the postmodernists' (which is really a useless and unhelpful category) in general. To any fan of this book I could recommend two things: 1. Actually read the work of those Mr Hicks is critical of 2. Watch this short video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHtvT...), which I pretty much find correct Mr Hicks does not really even criticize any of the aforementioned philosophers on their own terms, but instead aims his cross-hairs at the so-called 'SJWs,' or leftists who like to yell at buildings, through these figures. I can guarantee that very few of those people could make sense of even a page of Kant, Derrida, Nietzsche, or most other names Mr Hicks mentions.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ali Arabzadeh

    Its superficial and useless !

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ben De Bono

    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. 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 in 2004 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 1960'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.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Bry Willis

    Stay away from this book unless you are looking to confuse yourself to the concept of postmodernism. This is textbook example of poor scholarship. I couldn't finish this book. The chapters I read so misrepresented the authors and their positions, I would have no idea what to accept as valid. In some cases, it was apparent that Hicks could not have read the work he was 'explaining'; rather, he was engaged in some sort of game of telephone, and his explanation and ensuing critique were of some non Stay away from this book unless you are looking to confuse yourself to the concept of postmodernism. This is textbook example of poor scholarship. I couldn't finish this book. The chapters I read so misrepresented the authors and their positions, I would have no idea what to accept as valid. In some cases, it was apparent that Hicks could not have read the work he was 'explaining'; rather, he was engaged in some sort of game of telephone, and his explanation and ensuing critique were of some nonexistent strawman. NB: It is no coincident that Jordan B Peterson espouses views in lockstep with Hicks. It may be that this is the only resource Peterson has even read on postmoderns or postmodernism. It is doubtful he has even read an actual work by a postmodern or poststructural author. I might find the same to be true for Hicks.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jake Desyllas

    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? 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 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: an anti-rational critique of the entire enlightenment project. 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! http://www.stephenhicks.org/publicati...

  16. 4 out of 5

    Fredösphere

    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. 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. 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. 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. The capitalist/globalist engine of growth, despite its inequality and seeming indifference to individuals, has performed an unprecedented humanitarian act in the last 50 years by lifting vast numbers of people out of miserable poverty. 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: just as the left lost its religion a century ago and turned to nihilism, so now (in Western countries) is the right. It's not a pretty sight.

  17. 4 out of 5

    James Henderson

    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. 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 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.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Omar Ali

    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 4.99 on kindle, so you can put it on your phone and read bits and pieces at leisure (which 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 4.99 on kindle, so you can put it on your phone and read bits and pieces at leisure (which is more or less what I did).

  19. 5 out of 5

    Mickey Hernandez

    If I could I would give this book a 4.5. 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 4.5. 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 some of the popular ideas that has permeated throughout 21st century society.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Chad

    A challenging read, but worth the effort. With every chapter, more fell into place in my mind regarding how we got where where we are today with everything from vicious political rhetoric, universities as hothouses for leftist ideologies, the irrational popularity of patently ugly art, to the rise of nihilistic thinking that often leads to unspeakable acts of violence.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sylvester

    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. Starting from Rousseau, Hicks went on to explain the failings of Kant, Hegel, Heidegger, Derrida, Rorty, Foucault, Dewey and Nietzche. 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. Each Chapter is dedicated to a specific era of philosophy and showcasing just how the evolution of irrationality came about. Starting from Rousseau, Hicks went on to explain the failings of Kant, Hegel, Heidegger, Derrida, Rorty, Foucault, Dewey and Nietzche. 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.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Thore Husfeldt

    This is a splendid little book! Lucid and informative. 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. Recommended—if somebody can point to this book’s “good twin” (i.e., an equally concise description of postmodernism from somebody who actually likes it), I’d be happy to read it. This is a splendid little book! Lucid and informative. 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. Recommended—if somebody can point to this book’s “good twin” (i.e., an equally concise description of postmodernism from somebody who actually likes it), I’d be happy to read it. If—like me—you come from a positivist position, you will enjoy the book’s analysis of the epistemological framework of postmodernism. It is as a highly entertaining experience of getting your biases confirmed, at times deliciously vitriolic, and times highly informative and eye-opening. However, if—like me—you are an unrepenting leftist, be warned that the book’s acerbic barbs against the collectivist left are equally warranted and painful. Indeed, the book’s main analytical point is that postmodernism’s epistemological and political aspects need to be understood simultaneously.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Schwabauer

    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. 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 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. But be forewarned: if postmodernism is your friend, you may not like seeing its mask of good intentions ripped away.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Roman Skaskiw

    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. 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 needed to perceive the catastrophe -- logic, reason, truth, language. Here's my video summary / review: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0PJ_0L...

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jack Gardner

    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." Highly recommended. 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. 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." Highly recommended. The expanded edition's essay on developments in art is alone worth the price.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Heba

    if you don't know about postmodernism this book is a good start. despite the fact that the author is biased against postmodernism he still uses definitions from original literature of PM philosophers. now I feel fairly prepared to converse about general ideas of PM philosophy. if you don't know about postmodernism this book is a good start. despite the fact that the author is biased against postmodernism he still uses definitions from original literature of PM philosophers. now I feel fairly prepared to converse about general ideas of PM philosophy.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Nate Weger

    Resentful Cain and Righteous Abel Review of Explaining postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault by Stephen Hicks My attention was directed to this book by Jordan Peterson but I had first heard about 'postmodernism' listening to Ravi Zacharius on YouTube. Although Stephen is not shy letting the reader know what he thinks of postmodernism from his 'rational' philosophical perspective I think that he is even handed in articulating at least where it comes from and its basi Resentful Cain and Righteous Abel Review of Explaining postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault by Stephen Hicks My attention was directed to this book by Jordan Peterson but I had first heard about 'postmodernism' listening to Ravi Zacharius on YouTube. Although Stephen is not shy letting the reader know what he thinks of postmodernism from his 'rational' philosophical perspective I think that he is even handed in articulating at least where it comes from and its basic tenants. The book is technical but comprehensible by anyone that has heard about postmodernism and wants to know more about it knowing on the outset that the author doesn't support it. If you are a Western, non-marginalized product of the enlightenment you will probably agree with him. If not then you will probably write a review saying something like 'no that is not what Derrida and Foucault meant' but then you would have to use reason to prove your point which will be difficult and they will then instead resort to colorful language to express your resentment and ad hominom points. Having said that, I was particularly interested in Stephen Hicks analyses of postmodernism's roots in Kant, Hegel and even Kierkegaard. The reformation created this idea that man doesn't need an intermediary (pope, priest, etc..) to talk with God. Through both revelation and reason the Bible could be understood and applied by anyone who took the time to apply themselves - that every person can have an individual relationship with God. This simple idea arguably gave birth to the enlightenment and as Hicks points out many of the 'enlightened' minds in the height of the enlightenment were card carrying Christians (Newton, Liebnez) or at the very least deists (Bacon). As most people know, exposing everything to the light of reason brought many advances scientifically which positively affected the common man but this also had its own negative side affects, as well. Nietzsche points this out. He realized that since Darwin used enlightens reason to give an alternate understanding of how we all came about besides being created that this essentially 'killed God' and even though he was by no means a fan of religion, he recognized that this was not a good thing for humanity. The child that was birthed by the Reformation grew up and killed its Father in the Enlightenment. The problem was that a big black abyss of darkness filled where the Father used to be. This was called Nihilism and everyone who is 'reasonable' has to deal with it and what everyone since then has been trying desperately to neutralize. The reality is that it caused an existential crisis in the child because of the paradox that if your father never existed how can you exist? It is the nuclear waste that is a direct result of reason. I understood this before I read this book but what I didn't know, and that Hick's points out, is that many of the philosophers of the enlightenment still had deep religious convictions and faith (of the Christian kind) and they all realized the threat reason posed on their faith but more importantly they became aware of this abyss called nihilism. This can be summed up on the Dostoevsky quote Hick's mentions "Even if I find out Christ is not real I would still believe in Him" The alternative at least for Dostoevsky was too dire (and stressful). It became obvious that ones reason when pitted against ones beliefs caused anxiety. Kierargaard realized this and pointed it out. Hence, he became known as the first existential philosopher in that he reformulated Christian faith as an answer to the existential paradox reason created. In their attempts to subvert reasons strangle hold on reality, the philosophers of old used their reasoning power to try and fight reason back and give a little room for faith or non-reason again (seems very ironic). So, weirdly, according to Hicks, postmodernism's long lost cousin, in a way, is Christian doctrine. Hick's even goes as far to connect the two in the present day using the example of creationists wanting to 'irrationally' set up their theory as truth and silence all others (not sure if this is totally fair) with postmodern ideology of not listening to any rational argument against it since reason itself is the source of the problem. Another historical observation that he makes that I found very interesting was when he juxtaposed the two paths enlightenments reason took and the two very different outcomes it produced in Britain first (and later America) and France. The question that while they were cut from the same cloth of the Enlightenment, as it were, why did they have such different outcomes? The bloody French revolution and the relatively bloodless British and American revolutions. He traces this back to the two philosophers Voltaire and Locke and how really reason itself took two paths. Almost like the child that was birthed as reason mentioned above was actually a set of twins and like all Biblical stories of twins - one is bad. Locke embraced the reason of the enlightenment but did not throw out the 'reasonable' Christian ideals from the reformation (the good twin that didn't kill the Father). He did make a point out of using reason to chop off the dead wood that the reformation started chopping, though, hence 'separation of church and state'. He did this not as a matter of hating religion and religious thought, though, as it is used most frequently today. He did it rather as a reasonable conclusion that true belief has to be belief that has the liberty to not believe. Just like how Luther made the individual responsible for his own relationship with Christ (he is a 'personal' saviour), Locke went a step further and made the citizen responsible for their own liberty irrespective of religious affiliation. He did, however, go through great pains to show everyone that he really did believe that Christianity was a reasonable guide for the individual and key to a just, civilized society. Just read the last of his three books (The Reasonableness of Christianity as Delivered in the Scriptures, A Vindication of the Reasonableness of Christianity, A Second Vindication of the Reasonableness of Christianity). Maybe he wrote them to sell his brand of enlightenment rational to the Puritans and Quakers or maybe he actually believed it - only God knows. So, what did Locke keep that Voltaire threw out? Reasonable Irrationality I would call it. Others call it religion. Still others would say that there are some laws that are deeper than reason and that were set up as the very foundation upon which reason rests. These 'truths' are across all cultures and people's and are detailed out very well in CS Lewis' Book 'The Abolition of Man'. These truths must be the foundations of any religion for that religion to have any validity. These truths are the 'light' and only where they are absent is the 'darkness'. The best example of this is the infamous line in the Declaration of Independence copied almost verbatim from Locke by Jefferson. The original unedited Jefferson version goes: We hold these truths to be sacred & undeniable; that all men are created equal & independent, that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent & inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, & liberty, & the pursuit of happiness; This idea of human equality and subsequent human rights is not a rational idea. The idea that all are 'created' equal does not drop out with reason. If there is one thing that is certain, it is that people are not born equal. Some have higher and lower intelligence. Some are stronger. Some are born with diseases. Obviously, we are not equal. This was and is an irrational statement. Yet, all human rights pivot on this fulcrum. Where you do not have it you have atrocities and inequalities way worse than where you do have it. Where it is the foundation of the laws of a land you have liberty, freedom and unrivalled success. It is important to note that at the time it was implemented it was an experiment. No civilization had ever tried this before. But, if it didn't come from reason where did it come from? Sounds a lot like Romans 14, possibly? Or as Tolstoy put it in War and Peace: "And it occurs to no one that to admit a greatness not commensurable with the standard of right and wrong is merely to admit one’s own nothingness and immeasurable meanness. For us with the standard of good and evil given us by Christ, no human actions are incommensurable. And there is no greatness where simplicity, goodness, and truth are absent." The Reformations affect on Locke is corroborated by Francis Schaefer in his book How Should We Then Live? This combination of reason and reasonable irrationality unleashed an incredible amount of good and human advancement. It gave room for the ideas of universities and hospitals to flourish and almost all of them were religious (reasonably irrational) institutions to start with. Like Hick's points out, the average life of every person at least in the countries that adopted Locke's brand of reason has become unthinkably better. What used to take a whole legion of slaves to keep a house warm and well supplied is available to pretty much everyone in the Western world (not using slave labor of course). There are exceptions, but the mass majority have more food, faster and more comfortable transportation (even if you are just using the bus), fresh water, heat or AC that only kings and nobles could have had less than 150 years ago (and most times even better). Refrigeration alone completely transformed food for society. Now you can eat meat and fruit all year long. Can you imagine 200 years ago telling someone this? They would think you were nuts or a magician. That alone should make you happy whatever situation you find yourself in. Go to your local McDonalds and have a Big Mac - just because you can. The other path? Reason only. Well, like Hicks suggests, this is what Voltaire advocated for and led to the bloody French Revolution and Marxism led to communism (socialism based on the state) and national socialism (socialism based on race). Both of these nihilistic philosophies tried to eradicate any reasonable irrationality and both brought unprecedented suffering and spilled blood like never before in the history of the world. So much so, that it was ironically irrational. When Nietzsche said "God is Dead" what he really said was: "God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?" Nietzsche amost had it right. There will always be lots of blood. The question is just whose blood. It is true that God's blood was spilt by humanity but way before Neistche wrote this. Was it not of the same motivation, though? That eternal blood that was spilt was enough for all humanity and when embraced by the Lockean's was enough to pay the price. Juxtapose that with the 100's of millions of gallons of blood that were spilt under nihilistic regimes and anyone with a shred of 'reasonableness' has to admit that reason alone - Simply - Doesn't - Work. The sacrifice just was not enough to pay the price of paradise. You need to choose which twin to follow and in that regard Hicks speaks well when he states postmodernism is nihilistic. Postmodernism is the reincarnation of the resentful twin-brother. Resentful because God didn't die forever. He survived in liberty and freedom of choice (belief) and the world is a better place because of it. He wants to poison everyone, to make them turn on their liberty and accuse it for any problem that has ever happened to them rather than their own responsibility. He is only a skeptic, though, with no real answers. He is the Grand Inquisitor saying that the weight of liberty is too heavy for the average person to bear. He is irrational like his brother but not reasonable. He is Cain and his sacrifice was not worthy and we are watching with our very own eyes as he tries to kill Abel. The good news is that there is a wave of new philosophers that have room for reasonable irrationality of faith claims again and you see it in folks such as William Lane Craig, Alvin Plantiga and Ravi Zacharias. The unfortunate thing is that their contempories, the so called 'New Atheists' sound a lot like the postmodernists. I am filled with hope with folks like Jordan Peterson, though. Liberal folks who recognize the beauty and value in the traditional beliefs and work to synthesize them into arguments palatable to the hopefully post-post-modern mind.  

  28. 4 out of 5

    Blair

    In Search of the False Dichotomy What exactly is “postmodernism”? Essentially, it is the denial that an objective reality exists. For those who hold this view, words themselves are a meaningless game. So when they challenge the use of the term “postmodern”, remember they are playing their favourite game. I am not going to play. “Postmodern” is fine by me as a label for this way of thinking. This book an account of how the systematic questioning of objective reality developed over the centuries, in In Search of the False Dichotomy What exactly is “postmodernism”? Essentially, it is the denial that an objective reality exists. For those who hold this view, words themselves are a meaningless game. So when they challenge the use of the term “postmodern”, remember they are playing their favourite game. I am not going to play. “Postmodern” is fine by me as a label for this way of thinking. 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. Again, I don’t really care. I will take the ideas presented in this book on their own merit, and not worry if they truly represent someone’s philosophy. 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. Objectivism Isn’t One might think that an attack on postmodernism would give us the tools to challenge it. 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 the senses give us only internal representations of objects, then an obstacle is erected between reality and reason. 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.” This issue is that we cannot directly experience reality; we can only interpret it through our senses. One is reminded of Plato’s analogy of the cave. 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. Does Science Diminish Community and the Human Spirit? “Science’s most successful models then were mechanistic and reductionistic. 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?” The author correctly points out that the simplistic philosophy of science at the time was an inadequate explanation of reality. 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. “But what happens, worried the early Counter-Enlightenment thinkers, to traditional values of community and sacrifice, of duty and connectedness, if individuals are encouraged to calculate rationally their own gain? 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?” This is a very legitimate problem. 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. Mathematics and Reality “Logical and mathematical propositions, do not deal with any facts, but only with the symbols by means of which the facts are expressed. 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.” “Truth is impossible, evidence is theory-laden, empirical evidence never adds up to proof, and logical proof is merely theoretical.” These statements are mostly true. 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. But they are. 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. Science works. 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: “Individuals are constructed by their surrounding cultures, cultures that have an evolutionary life of their own, those cultures themselves being a function of yet still deeper cosmic forces. The individual is a tiny emergent aspect of the largest whole, the collective Subject’s working itself out, and the creation of reality occurs at that level with little or no regard for the individual. The individual is merely along for the ride.” Emergence usually means that a complex system cannot be understood knowing only about its parts. 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. The Unity of Left and Right “What links the Right and the Left is a core set of themes: anti-individualism, the need for strong government, the view that religion is a state matter (whether to promote or suppress it), the view that education is a process of socialization, ambivalence about science and technology, and strong themes of group conflict, violence, and war.” The author argues that left and right are converging again. “In effect, this strain of Left thought came to agree with what the collectivist Right had long argued: that human beings are not fundamentally rational—that in politics it is the irrational passions that must be appealed to and utilized.” He makes the case that because socialism has failed so badly, the left has been forced to appeal to the irrational to keep going. 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. “If subjectivity and relativism were primary, then postmodernists would be adopting political positions across the spectrum, and that simply is not happening. Postmodernism is therefore first a political movement, and a brand of politics that has only lately come to relativism.” This is a fair point, but postmodern thinking is seeping into parts of the right as well. Again, left and right are becoming more alike. Hypocrisy is not a Bug. It is an Essential Feature. “On the one hand, all truth is relative; on the other hand, postmodernism tells it like it really is. 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.” Not only does science tell us nothing, language itself has no meaning. Words are not about truth or reality or even anything cognitive. They serve as a rhetorical weapon. This is the strategy: “Attack it as sexist and racist, intolerantly dogmatic, and cruelly exploitative. 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. Then fill the void with the correct Left political principles.” So what remains? Feelings. “From Kierkegaard and Heidegger, we learn that our emotional core is a deep sense of dread and guilt. 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.” This is what happens when we abandon reason. Apparently philosophers such as Kant and Hegel originally attacked reason in defence of their religious faith. “I had to deny knowledge,” wrote Kant in the Preface to the first Critique, “in order to make room for faith.” “Faith,” wrote Kierkegaard in Fear and Trembling, “requires the crucifixion of reason”; so he proceeded to crucify reason and glorify the irrational. On this basis their successors have constructed a new pseudo-religion that would horrify them. But What Can We Do About It? I suppose this book performs a useful purpose by giving us a tour through the evolution of the philosophy that questions the value of reason. If only I could trust it. For example, Karl Popper was a strong defender of scientific method, but gets labelled as a postmodernist because he acknowledged that evidence was theory-laden. That means scientists need to be wary of confirmation bias. It seems if you are not completely with us, you are against us. After all, confirmation bias is not a problem for believers in Objectivism. I want to know what we can do to resist postmodern thinking. How should we teach our children to inoculate them against it? How can we undermine the faith of its believers? How can we challenge postmodern ideas from entering public life using language that ordinary people can understand? This requires a combination of philosophy and psychology. The contribution of this book is only of modest value.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Bakunin

    This is an interesting book which tries to explain the success of postmodernism. Unfortunately I am not as erudite as I should be so I cannot claim to know whether or not the author is making false claims against Kant, Foucault, Heidegger and Derrida. (The one mistake I did notice was a minor one: he wrote that the famous German author and war veteran Ernst Jünger was wounded 3 times when it was in fact 17 times). Hicks is arguing that following the enlightenment there came a reaction to it and This is an interesting book which tries to explain the success of postmodernism. Unfortunately I am not as erudite as I should be so I cannot claim to know whether or not the author is making false claims against Kant, Foucault, Heidegger and Derrida. (The one mistake I did notice was a minor one: he wrote that the famous German author and war veteran Ernst Jünger was wounded 3 times when it was in fact 17 times). Hicks is arguing that following the enlightenment there came a reaction to it and this reaction was especially evident in Germany. Germany became a breeding ground for intellectuals who wanted to disown the value of the intellect and its ability to grasp truth. Kant clearly defined the limits of pure reason and in doing so paved way for the defense of religion as well as other political utopias. Neither the left nor the right during the 1800's were praising the individual and instead they both used criticisms of reason to pave way for their own defense of some form of collectivism. Postmodernism came about in 50's as a result of the failure of socialism (according to Hicks). The four main proponents - Lyotard, Foucault, Derrida and Foucault - wanted to find a way to defend marxism when all over the world it seemed to be losing ground. They did this by shifting focus from class struggle to equality and by creating a disbelief in reality (and truth). A few months ago I was arguing with an erudite philosophy student who argued that he was a Kantian which meant that we as humans have no way of knowing the real world (what Kant called "Das Ding an Sich"). Therefore our reality is created by our minds and our language is the only thing we can rely on. We create concepts like the spider spins its web (according to Nietzsche). This seems to align nicely with what Hicks was arguing was the central tenets of postmodernism. The author is clearly in favor of classical liberalism and a free society (in the real sense of the word) which makes the book slightly biased. I will try to read some of these philosophers because I don't want to judge them without having read them. I would still recommend this book to anyone who wants a starting point for an understanding of what has happened to the West during the last 300 years.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Murdock

    An essential book for understanding the extreme polarization we're currently seeing in the West, with its quagmire of political correctness, bitter identity politics, censorship and de-platforming of speakers at universities, and the incredibly persistent zombie of a failed socialism that just won't die. Hicks offers convincing arguments for how we got to this point, and where the split occurred in both the philosophical literature and politics. Unfortunately, he stops short of offering solutions An essential book for understanding the extreme polarization we're currently seeing in the West, with its quagmire of political correctness, bitter identity politics, censorship and de-platforming of speakers at universities, and the incredibly persistent zombie of a failed socialism that just won't die. Hicks offers convincing arguments for how we got to this point, and where the split occurred in both the philosophical literature and politics. Unfortunately, he stops short of offering solutions. Highly recommended. Brilliantly written. Extremely approachable.

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