Posts Tagged ‘determinism’

How Postmodernism Leads To Fascism (part 1)

May 1, 2008

It is hard to talk to talk to people who believe that truth is relative. And there are more and more such people all the time.

C.S. Lewis described the fallacy of any theory that rejects the connection between thought and truth. In his book Miracles he said “All possible knowledge … depends on the validity of reasoning,” and developed his argument thus:

No account of the universe can be true unless that account leaves it possible for our thinking to be a real insight. A theory which explained everything else in the whole universe but which made it impossible to believe that our thinking was valid would be utterly out of court. For that theory would itself have been reached by thinking, and if thinking is not valid that theory would, of course, itself be demolished. It would have destroyed its own credentials. It would be an argument which proved that no argument was sound – a proof that there are no such things as proofs – which is nonsense.

To disbelieve in truth is patently self-contradictory. To “believe” means to think that something is true; and to say, “It is true that nothing is true” is fundamentally meaningless nonsense. The very statement, “There is no absolute truth,” is a statement of absolute truth. In the past, this pseudo-intellectual exercise was little more than a parlor game for the vacuous and simply not taken seriously. But it is very serious today, indeed. Today these views are held not only by much of academia, but by the average man on the street.

The rejection of absolutes is not merely a fine point of philosophical debate. Relative values accompany the relativism of truth. Today, we are a morally velocitized culture. What was unthinkable decades ago is openly practiced today; and what is unthinkable today will surely be openly practiced within a few years’ time.

What we have today is not merely immoral behavior by virtually all previous standards of conduct, but an abandonment of moral criteria altogether. More, we have an abandonment of meaning itself; and so today, we look for meaning in ways that would have bewildered, saddened, and shocked our forefathers.

The intellect is being replaced by the will. Reason is being replaced by emotion (which is one reason our kids are falling so far behind in math and science, and why so many are so passionate about a political candidate whose positions they cannot even begin to articulate). Morality is replaced by relativism. Reality itself is becoming viewed as little more than a mere social construct that can be manipulated by language. It all depends on what the meaning of the word “is” is.

Today, I frequently encounter people who hold mutually inconsistent ideas. I literally wonder how their heads do not explode from the contradictions they spout. It might simply be ignorance or confusion, but it really doesn’t matter: holding to mutually inconsistent ideas is a sure sign of believing that there is no such thing as absolute truth.

Where did all this come from?

Postmodernism as any form of coherent intellectual discipline largely developed from the field of literary criticism, especially from deconstructionism. So it is no surprise that postmodern scholars stress the importance of “contextualizing,” putting an author or an idea in the context of the times and showing its connections to all of the other “texts” that constituted the culture. But it turns out that one can deconstruct this deconstructionism to see where this thinking has been before, and where it will surely go again unless we turn away from these ideas. It is revealing, for instance, to contextualize Martin Heidegger, who originated the anti-humanism of both the academic theorists and the environmental movement that is so significant in the postmodernist academic circles of today. David Levin has written that Heidegger criticized humanism for tolerating totalitarianism. But Levin was quite disingenuous; the fact is, we now know that Martin Heidegger was a Nazi (see Victor Farias, Heidegger and Nazism, tr. Paul Burrell (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1989), p. 253).

Heidegger’s active involvement in the Nazi party and his shameless promotion of its ideology puts a very different light on his rejection of the individual, his repudiation of traditional human values, and his glorification of nature and culture. We find that EVERY SINGLE ONE of these postmodernist concepts were central tenets of fascism. It should be no surprise that the deconstructionist critic Paul de Man has also been revealed as an apologist of Nazism (for the connection between Heidegger’s Nazi ideology and his philosophy, see Tom Rockmore, On Heidegger’s Nazism and Philosophy (Berkeley: U of California Press, 1992). The fact is, postmodernism as a philosophy shares the same underlying concepts as fascist thought.

Postmodernists of today and the fascist intellectuals of the 1930s BOTH embrace a radicalism based not so much on economics but on culture. They BOTH reject identity in favor of cultural determinism. They BOTH reject moral values in favor of the will to power. They BOTH reject reason in favor of irrational emotional release. They BOTH reject a transcendent God in favor of an impersonal, mystical nature.

In Gene Edward Veith’s book, Modern Fascism: Liquidating the Judeo-Christian Worldview, he discusses in detail fascist ideology, its intrinsic opposition to the biblical worldview, and its survival in contemporary culture and postmodernist thought. He demonstrates that the irrationalism, the cultural reductionism, and the anti-human values of the postmodernists have already been tried once, and the result was catastrophic. Fascism is coming back. Communism has fallen, but throughout the former Soviet empire democracy is opposed by a new alliance of ex-Marxists and nationalists, who are trying to forge a new National Socialism (witness Vladimir Putin’s shutting down a newspaper for publishing his secret divorce and remarriage to a young Russian gymnast). American academics see themselves as pro-Marxists (or neo-Marxist, or post-Marxists, or however they sell this utterly failed system to themselves), but their desire for a government controlled economy, their cultivated irrationalism, and their reduction of social issues to questions of culture and race are actually more similar to Mussolini (i.e. fascism) than to Marx. If Marxism is modern, fascism is postmodern. And, as per the title of another of Veith’s books on the subject, we are living in Postmodern Times.

In addition to Gene Edward Veith’s insightful works, a further excellent reference is the book The Seduction of Unreason: The Intellectual Romance with Fascism from Nietzsche to Postmodernism by Richard Wolin (whose study substantially agrees with this paper). A review of Wolin by George Crowder available online is also very much worth reading. Although Crowder disagrees with the conclusion that fascism is implicit in postmodernism, he nevertheless acknowledges that the philosophical premises between the two ideologies are virtually identical. There is a genuine interrelatedness between fascist and postmodernist thought that simply cannot be denied.

For all their earnest championing of the oppressed, and their politically correct sensitivities, postmodernist intellectuals, no doubt without realizing it, are actually resurrecting the ways of thinking that gave us World War II and the Holocaust. Perhaps the postmodernists think their good intentions will mitigate the implications of what they are saying. But intellectuals thought this once before, with terrifying consequences. David Hirsch has warned, “Purveyors of postmodernist ideologies must consider whether it is possible to diminish human beings in theory, without, at the same time, making individual human lives worthless in the real world.” Ideas have consequences.

The Tenets of Postmodernist Ideology and The Political Implications of Postmodernism (Understand that this is a presentation of what postmodernists believe and the corresponding implications of these beliefs):

  • Existentialism. Existentialism provides the rationale for contemporary postmodernism. Since everyone creates his or her own meaning, every meaning must be equally valid. Religion becomes merely a private affair, which must not be “imposed” on anyone else. The context of one’s meaning makes no difference, only the personal commitment – to give otherwise meaningless life some subjective degree of meaning. Jean Paul Sarte chose communism; Martin Heidegger chose Nazism; Rudolf Bultmann chose Christianity. Everyone inhabits his or her own private reality. Thus, “What’s true for you may not be true for me.” In today’s youth culture (and video/computer games are a classic example), we find a growing dark side to this existential subjectivism; we see a growing cynicism, pessimism, and dislike for reality as more and more people elect to create their own private realities and “tune out” to the world around them.
  • Moral Relativism. Moral values, like all other kinds of meaning, are created by the self. The best example of this existential ethic can be found in those who call themselves “pro-choice” in their advocacy of abortion. To them, it makes no difference what the woman decides, only that she makes an authentic choice (whether or not to have her baby). Whatever she chooses is right – for her. “Pro-choice” advocates are astonishingly disinterested in any objective information that might have a bearing on the morality of abortion or the status of the unborn. Data about fetal development, facts about the despicable ways abortion is performed, philosophical argumentation about the sanctity of life – all such objective evidences from the outside world are meaningless and can have no bearing on the woman’s private choice. As we can see in the “One child per family” policy of forced abortion in China, however, this view of individual choice cannot stand for long in a larger community that accepts the premises of abortion. Ultimately, as we shall see, one’s will must be subsumed into the will of the majority.
  • Social Constructivism. Meaning, morality, and truth do not exist objectively; rather, they are constructed by the society. The belief that reality is socially constructed is nothing less than the formula for totalitarianism [as David Horowitz pointed out in “The Queer Fellows,” American Spectator, January 1993, pp. 42-48. For a similar discussion applied to Hollywood values in K.L. Billingsley, The Seductive Image: A Christian Critique of the World of Film (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1989), pp. 112-113)]. Democracy presumes that individuals are free and self-directed. They are capable of governing themselves. But postmodernism holds that individuals are NOT free and in fact are directed by their societies. If the members of a society are passively and wholly controlled by societal forces, then self-governance would be impossible. Furthermore, if reality in fact is socially constructed, then the power of society and those who lead it becomes unlimited. We see this carried out to its logical extreme in Orwell’s 1984, in which the all-powerful state totally shaped the culture and controlled the very thoughts of the masses.
  • Cultural Determinism. Individuals are wholly shaped by cultural forces. Language in particular determines what we can think, trapping us in a “prison house of language.” Whereas Christian religion teaches that God constructs reality and creates man in His image to comprehend that reality, to see society as the creator (of reality) is to divinize culture. With these postmodern assumptions, every problem must have a societal solution, and nothing would escape the control of those who direct such a society. “Totalitarian” means that the state controls every sphere of life, which is exactly what postmodernism implicitly assumes in its presuppositions!
  • The Rejection of Individual Identity. People exist primarily as members of groups. The phenomenon of American individualism is itself a construction of American culture with its middle-class values of independence and introspection, but it remains an illusion. Identity is primarily collective. Postmodernism minimizes (even subsumes) the individual in favor of the group. This can only result in a collectivist mentality in which the claims of the individual are lost within the demands of the group. An ideology that that believes that personal liberty is an illusion can hardly be expected to uphold, allow, or tolerate human freedom. Subscribing to the former view ultimately must rule out the latter.
  • The Rejection of Humanism. Values that emphasize the creativity, autonomy, and priority of human beings are misplaced. There is no universal humanity since every culture constitutes its own reality. Traditional humanistic values are canons of exclusion, oppression, and crimes against the natural environment. Groups must empower themselves to assert their own values and to take their place with other [human as well as non-human] planetary species.
  • The Denial of the Transcendent. There are no absolutes. Even if there were, we would have no access to them since we are completely bound to our culture and imprisoned in our language. Moreover, excluding transcendent values places societies beyond constraints of moral limits. There is no God outside, above, or transcendent to society that holds a society accountable. Society is not subject to the moral law; it makes its own moral law.
  • Power Reductionism. All institutions, all human relationships, all moral values, and all human creations – from works of art to religious ideologies – are all expressions and masks of the primal will to power. If there are no absolutes, the society can presumably construct any values that it pleases and is itself subject to none. All such issues are only matters of power. Without moral absolutes, power becomes arbitrary.
  • The Rejection of Reason. Reason and the impulse to objectify truth are illusory masks for cultural power. Authenticity and fulfillment come from submerging the self into a larger group, releasing one’s natural impulses such as honest emotions and sexuality, cultivating subjectivity, and developing a radical openness to existence by refusing to impose order on one’s life. Since there is no ultimate basis for moral persuasion or rational argument, the side with the most power will win. Government becomes nothing more than the sheer exercise of unlimited power, restrained neither by law nor by reason. One group achieves its own will to power over the others. On the personal level, the rejection of all external absolutes in favor of subjectivity can mean the triumph of irrationalism, the eruption of raw emotion, and the imposition of terror.
  • A Revolutionary Critique of the Existing Order. Modern society with its rationalism, order, and unitary view of truth needs to be replaced by a new world order. Scientific knowledge reflects an outdated modernism, though the new electronic technology holds great promise. Segmentation of society into its constituent groups will allow for a true cultural pluralism. The old order must be swept away, to be replaced by a new, as yet undefined, mode of communal existence.

(Note: Although I do not provide citations, and my own ideas are interspersed throughout this paper, much of this three part series emerges directly from the influence of two works by Gene Edward Veith, Jr.: Modern Fascism: Liquidating the Judeo-Christian Worldview, and Postmodern Times: A Christian Guide to Contemporary Thought and Culture. At some future time I intend to add page references. Veith’s penetrating analysis of culture needs to be considered as we enter into what are incresingly perilous times.)

See How Postmodernism Leads To Fascism (part 2)

How Postmodernism Leads To Fascism (part 3) is available here.