Monday, November 22, 2004

OK, I quit and The Story of Stanford in the Late-80's

I think it is only fair to keep a record of this thrashing I took over these posts.

To all the smart guys out there -

OK, I give up!!!

It is clear. I was in way over my head on the post-modern question. Two or three pretty smart folks smacked me down pretty bad.
Though I think whatever I was talking about (something very modern I take it) is actually pretty spot on to explain some cultural phenomena and the like, absolutely has nothing to do with post-modern...

Oh well, ya win some ya lose some..

Jeremy Pierce (parableman) said:
I think your last comment just shows that what you're calling postmodernism just isn't. Postmodernists insist that there is no objective or valueless judgment. What you're talking about is really the height of modernism, a radical empiricism that's entirely skeptical about anything to do with moral claims besides just saying that we have things we value and others have things they value. The fact/value distinction is a modern phenomenon, and moral relativism and cultural relativism are the result of modernist epistemology. Jeremy Pierce

JPE (from
L'eprit D'escalier) just had had about enough of my dabbling and said basically that all my points are not examples of post-modernism. (see comments).

1. So here's the outcome. I will not dabble in stuff so far over my head and return to stuff I know a bit better.
2. I will return to this topic in a few years...After I recover from this thrashing...

You guys are great. Oh and thanks to Catez for the original post that got me thinking ...

The original post (below...)

A friend, who is not the intended audience of my post on Postmodernism, nonetheless, made a good comment. He said, “Brad, what on God’s green earth are you talking about?... and why?”

The following is a little background on why I think it is important for people, and especially the clergy, to be educated in philosophy (which by the way I am not).

So the question is, “Why is it important to be able to understand the basic terms of such erudite a subject as philosophy?”

A Little Background
I attended Stanford in the early and mid-1980’s. During this time, there was a movement a foot to change the “Western Civilization” requirement for freshmen. Also, at this time, I was a “black-politic” radical. About 3-4 nights a week, I sat around a table drinking coffee with members of the Black Student Union and the Gay and Lesbian Alliance plotting how to take over the world. No lie.

During this time, there was a movement on college campuses to get major corporations to divest from South Africa (i.e. pull capital out of the South African economy as a protest against apartheid). I and my friends were arrested a few times, and we actually defended ourselves in a trial that lasted about 3 months. It was all very exciting times.

These two groups, the radical left and the committee to change the Western Civilization series, are very inter-related. How you might ask? They are related at a philosophical and epistemological level.

In the argument over the Western Civilization tract at Stanford, there are two contrasting approaches to education. One approach is to teach the history of the western mind by having students read the great books of the great thinkers. From this perspective, the students learn the effects of certain thinkers on history and art and technology etc.. The students learn the evolution of Western thought and civilization and the arguments of different intellectual schools. The students even might argue about the merits of each thinkers approach to knowledge and their proposals. For example, we have Thomas More and the humanistic Renaissance or we might look at the development of science and the response of Rousseau. Can we learn from history? Can we effect our times by understanding the past? This approach supports a classical view of education. This approach supports a basic view that intelligent and educated learning can help society. We can understand our world and solve problems. It all seems very enlightened to me.

On the other side of the aisle were the post-moderns. They didn’t call themselves post-modern in the ‘80’s but listen to the argument. The argument is the following.

Who is to say which thinker is correct? Is not this entire tradition based on a western white male power structure? Is not a better method and more helpful method to expose students to the different perspectives of various cultural groups and tribes? Each voice and stance needs to be heard. Women see the world differently than men and students need to learn to hear the woman’s voice. Black and African voices need to be heard. The basis of learning is not to determine what questions were being asked and what problems were being solved and how this effects culture. No, the need of the hour is to be able to validate the voice of each tribal element at the global party.

Well, well, well. This creates a big dilemma. As an educational institution, do we expose our students and have dialogue over Aristotle or do we read Alice Walker? Do we read about the story-telling of the Native Americans or do we read John Locke. The reality is that the reading list or the freshman Western Civilization tract or “World Cultures” tract is about 30-35 original works. If we attempt to hear the voice of the “tribes” of the world and give everyone equal time, then all those white men are going to have to go to the proverbial back the bus. The name cards at the formal dinner were all being rearranged.

This fight was very bloody. People’s careers are actually on the line. If we stop reading “Saint Thomas Aquinas” then the medieval historian is going to lose his or her job.

Similarly, the post-modern view is based on a core belief that truth is based on perspective. The methods of the enlightenment are flawed because of the male dominated political realities, and, in fact, the great goal of our human evolution is to overthrow the dogmatic thinking of the past and embrace a new method that allows for a multi-cultural, global-village of mutual respect.

The core is that all worldviews are actually political. It is leftist because it is based on the desire to overthrow all bourgeois understandings of value and it is philosophical because it aims to over throw western methods of acquiring meaning. The ivory tower folk see this as the evolution of the world. They are historicists like Marx and Hitler and Hegel.

There are many problems with the post-modern view, and this view is the dominant force in Europe and the Left in the US. I will simply state two problems and ask you the reader to figure out why my analysis is correct.

1. Ultimately, the post-modern view leads to anti-Semitism. They always have and they always will. Can you tell me why??

2. Post-modernism undermines the war on terror.

So why you ask is this discussion important. Hmm? Let me count the ways.

brad (now it is safe to read part 1 What is Post-modernism?)

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