Now, here’s a thing – Philosophy can be quite a tricky thing to get hold of. Occasionally during the course of these articles I have tried to look at some aspects of philosophy and to see how they influence modern-day thinking and life, and what that means for us as Christians. Having touched upon Existentialism and looked at the Stoics I decided I was ready to move onto something a bit more detailed. Emmanuel Kant (1724-1804) is a very influential figure still in modern philosophy, so I thought I’d look at him. But to be honest, I was very quickly in over my head – he wrote a lot and it is all very complicated (He lived to be 80 and so wrote a lot of things as well!)
So, here goes with something more accessible – Postmodernism! Not very profound in my view, but as both a philosophy and an artistic and critical viewpoint very prevalent in modern society. Some of the key names in postmodernism are Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault and Jean-François Lyotard (there is a strong French influence).
Rather than being a clear, consistent and coherent school of thought Postmodernism is more a broad stream of thinking and perspectives – indeed almost by definition it has to be. In essence it’s a kicking over of what came before, that is to say, modernism and rationalism (bear in mind that modernism often sets itself against religion). So, some things that postmodernist would deny are:
- That there is an objective natural reality, a reality whose existence and properties are logically independent of human beings.
- That any statement of scientists and historians can, in principle, be objectively true or false. (‘There is no such thing as Truth’).
- That reason and logic and science and technology make things better.
- That there is such a thing as human nature that would exert itself without outside pressures.
This list could be much longer!
The truth is that some of what postmodernists say is true, some is true in part, but most is not. Some people would say it is no more than anarchy dressed up. However, it underpins much modern thinking, particularly in the arts (for example the notion that an un-made bed can be a work of art or the rise of ‘reality’ TV shows that appear to chronicle people’s daily lives, but actually are prepared and rehearsed!). Fundamentally, in its denial of objective truth it undermines the Word of God as much, if not more than it undermines modernist science and philosophy.
In a world where nothing is
certain, anything is possible. Religious writers such Don Cupitt (‘The Sea
of Faith’) and Karen Armstrong (a former nun) reflect postmodernist
thinking in their rejection of the identity of God, the Bible and the primacy
of any one faith.
postmodernism is cheap, lazy and dangerous. As Christians we need to be aware
of its influence all around us, and on guard against it.
 See the helpful article ’Postmodernism’ by Brian Duignan at https://www.britannica.com/topic/postmodernism-philosophy