home | more philosophy

Truth and Post-Modernism

Waiting for my dentist, I picked up a magazine titled Truth. Its writers were pictured – men in suits who looked kind. The one named T Sean Sullivan wrote:

It is pretty clear that the masses are seeking, as best, "situational-truth" and definitely have a love for "flexible-truth" (as if such could exist).

Mr Sullivan writes about an emotional slide away from absolute truth and claims that as a culture "we have departed from truth's true essence – we have left truth behind.

Truth's true essence? More redundancy there than clarity.

One reality might be interpreted differently by different observers. One reality, different interpretations. I don't know anybody looking for situational or flexible truth. As for me, I look for accurate descriptions and facts, and I appreciate efforts to achieve and acquire these.

Turning pages I find another writer, Chris Reeves, criticizing post-modernism, which he describes as a way of looking at truth that began around 1960. He writes: "Post-modernism is a belief that one cannot be certain about things (truths, realities)." He adds:

The post-modernist can be found using a number of catchwords like "subjective," "individual worldview," "pluralistic," "relative," "truth construct," "tolerance," and "choice" ... The problem with the post-modernist is that he doesn't play by his own rules. He is illogical and guilty of practicing the very thing he condemns. For example, he says "There is no absolute truth," but then he wants that statement itself to be absolute.

As one of the errant masses who has been described as a post-modernist, and who might use the word "subjective," It seems to me that Mr Reeves is mischaracterizing my point-of-view. Regarding what Mr Reeves refers to as absolute truth, I can agree with someone that something is black or something is white – or red. And if someone is color blind and tells me what I see as red he sees as gray I feel free to put that into a situational context. Mr Reeves appears offended by the word subjective. Truth is, color is subjective, coming to our eyes in wave lengths (one reality). I believe in using the word "subjective" where appropriate, but I also believe in empirical facts, for example that some people are taller than others — easily verifiable. I believe in standardized measuring and don't consider the result as flexible truth, whether it is in inches or centimeters.

As for postmodernism, Edward R Friedlander writes:

Real postmodernism is a thoughtful study of the limits of scientific inquiry, the origins and perpetuation of unreasonable prejudices, and the ambiguities of language. Even though I am not a professional philosopher, I appreciate real postmodernism as far as I'm able to understand it.

I'm reminded that Albert Camus said, "I am not an existentialist." (Les Nouvelles litteraires, 15 November 1945). I'm not interested in being labeled as post-modern. It's an attempt at too big of a characterization. I like references of more clarity of specificity.


Copyright © 2016 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.