March 28, 2023
by Doug “Uncola” Lynn:
My first article this year was entitled “The Abolition of Man Amid the Consequences of Reality” and referenced the book “The Abolition of Man” by C.S. Lewis as a means to critique the devastation of postmodernism.
The next article, “Gnostic Parasitism in the Post-Modern Simulacrum”, reviewed the first installment of the “Mere Simulacrity” video series posted at SovereignNations.com which summarized the conjuring of the postmodern world.
This post will serve as my third installment on postmodernism and summarizing the sixth (6th) video in the “Mere Simulacrity” series called “Breaking the Spell of the Postmodern World”, by writer and researcher Michael Young.
Although the second (2nd) video in the “Mere Simulacrity” series entitled “Hermeneutics and Perspectivalism” , by Dr. William Roach, provided a more comprehensive look at the chain of philosophers that ultimately fathered postmodernism, I chose to review Michael Young’s video because he emphasized three main philosophers, along with other relevant writers, who explain our current times quite effectively, in my opinion.
That said, however, I do want to mention an analysis by Dr. Roach (from the 2nd video) as a foundation of understanding: He claimed (and I paraphrase) that Plato’s Metaphysical Idealism led to Immanuel Kant’s Epistemological Idealism which led to Friedrich Schleiermacher’s Hermeneutical Idealism and eventually, to postmodernism and linguistic idealism, which are now transitioning Western Civilization into “The Simulacrum” where reality is subverted to the point of two plus two equaling five. Again, these are my words, not Dr. Roach’s.
Simply put: The progression of bad philosophers, scholars, idealists, and their acolytes, have ultimately succeeded in separating the postmodern world from objective reality. And, along the way, Marxism came about as a result of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels interpreting Kant.
Once again, this article is being posted as a courtesy for “time-challenged” readers and because I believe the information is important to understand. It is a summary only and paraphrased according to my own perspectives. I will take any blame in advance for any unintentional errors, omissions made in haste or for the sake of brevity, misunderstandings, and/or misrepresentations – and will leave it up to the readers to sort these out… should they choose to view the actual video in full. And in the event of any errors or misinterpretations, I apologize in advance to Mr. Young.
“Breaking the Spell of the Postmodern World”, by Michael Young
Michael Young is a writer and researcher in the areas of political philosophy and culture. Considered to be an expert in postmodernism and critical theory, he is a visiting fellow at the Center for Renewing America and a critic of Social Justice.
Interestingly, Young begins his talk by describing effective ways to communicate with others and claims “big ideas” like philosophy, theology, and meaning, are understood by people in four (4) main ways:
Stage 1: Theoretical – reason, logic, rationality, evidence
Stage 2: Experience and feeling – drama and the arts – messages in media and music
Stage 3: How we interpret the world
Stage 4: The practical application of ideas as they apply in the real world
These enter the brain as follows:
Stage 1: Through argumentation and debate
Stage 2: Through the illustration of stories and analogies
Stage 3: Through the description of how and why the ideas make sense
Stage 4: Through the explanation of how the actual ideas operate in reality
Young warns that (Stage 2) stories and analogies can often be told to manipulate feelings but, correctly applied, they are an effective means by which people can connect Stage 1 to Stages 3 and 4.
A Philosophical Understanding of our Current World
Young begins with a 1994 quote from author and playwright Vaclav Havel, who was also a previous president of Czechoslovakia:
Today…. we know immeasurably more about the universe than our ancestors did and yet it increasingly seems they knew something more essential about it than we do – something that escapes us.
The same thing is true of nature and of our selves.
The more thoroughly all of our organs and their functions and their internal structures and their biochemical reactions that takes place within them are described, the more we seem to fail to grasp the spirit, purpose, and meaning of the systems they create together and that we experience ourselves.
And, thus, today we find ourselves in a paradoxical situation: We enjoy all the achievements of modern civilization that have made our physical existence on this earth easier in so many important ways, yet we do not know exactly what to do with ourselves or where to turn. The world of our experiences seems chaotic, disconnected, confusing. There appear to be no integrating forces, no unified meaning, no true inner-understanding of phenomena in our experience of the world. Experts can explain anything in the objective world to us… yet we understand our own lives less and less.
In short, we live in the post-modern world where everything is possible and almost nothing is certain. We have all the advancements of modern technology yet we’ve lost the meaning of life.
Young then told a story from college that humorously describes the modern world:
One of his friends had too much to drink, passed out, and when he woke up he asked: “Where am I?”
So Young asked his friend: “Do you know who I am?”
And his friend replied: “Now we’re in trouble! I don’t know where I am and you don’t know who you are!”
That story, according to Young, describes the postmodern world. But the world wasn’t always that way. On the contrary, the modern world was a realm of enlightenment; it was noble and objective and viewed in terms of reason and logic, good and evil.
In order to understand, Young considers three philosophers as “major landmarks and hubs” toward “the city of postmodernism”:
A.) French sociologist, philosopher, and poet, Jean Baudrillard (1929–2007)
To understand Baudrillard’s view of modernity, Young used an analogy of a regular strawberry that soon inspired strawberry flavoring, strawberry soda, strawberry candy, etc., until someone decided to make a strawberry-flavored slurpee that tasted like a strawberry-flavored Jolly Rancher. But after the multiple (increasingly phony) generations, the “strawberry” slurpee had nothing in common with the original strawberry.
Baudrillard believed the underlying reality of the world had been obscured and, thus, so has the human perspective on reality.
It’s all fake. Everything is manufactured, processed, and inauthentic.
B.) French philosopher Jacques Derrida (1930-2004)
Derrida developed the Philosophy of Deconstruction and to explain, Young utilized another analogy:
You are visiting a construction site and a worker there grabs a five-gallon bucket, tips it upside down and says to you: “Here…, have a chair”.
In terms of objective meaning, how can a bucket be a chair? How can these words be used for the same object?
Derrida claimed… since there was no mystical or metaphysical transformation of the object…. the answer to those questions was simply context and interpretation.
So far, so good. But, then, Derrida concluded that everything is context and interpretation and that there is “no objective absolute universal frame of reference for interpreting language at all.”
Therefore, meaning within any type of communication, or media, is a product of interpretation and context.
But, Houston, we have a problem.
If meaning is derived solely from our interpretation according to context, then it means there is nothing objective with which to fix the meaning.
According to Derrida, everything exists within the historical and cultural context of language and all perspectives regarding language and worldviews are relative. There is no objective truth: Only interpretations and reinterpretations of language and the world.
Or as phrased by Young: “There can be no stable, fixed, objective, absolute, descriptions of the world because there is no objective frame of reference within which to interpret the world…”
And… even if there WERE an objective frame of reference, it would be communicated through language which is subject to context and interpretation.
The errant philosophy of Derrida, therefore, proposes an infinite number of personal perceptions which affect context and interpretation.
In the video, Young summarized this as follows:
… in a post-modern view of the world there is no objective interpretation of either language or the world… both the world and any description of the world can be interpreted and understood in a nearly infinite number of ways and there is no objective way to decide which descriptions are objectively correct and which interpretations of those descriptions is the right interpretation.
C.) French philosopher Michel Foucault (1926-1984)
So, Dear Readers, you may be wondering how decisions are made in the Realm of Relativism.
Well, (in near Darwinian and Nietzschean fashion?) Foucault answered that question by claiming “power” decides; or, more specifically, those with the validity, the credibility, and the legitimacy in society decide for the society at large.
Using a baseball analogy, Young framed it thusly:
1.) Old Game Rules: The pitcher throws the ball and the umpire objectively calls it as a ball or a strike
2.) New Game Rules: The pitcher throws the ball and the umpire decides one way or another
In the first scenario, the umpire (expert) observes what is true and the objective is to make the right call.
But in the second (post-modern) scenario, the umpire decides what is true and this allows for self-interest, or bias, or what Young labels as “motivated reasoning”, to occur.
Young cites Foucault as saying this in an interview:
Truth is to be understood as a system of ordered procedures for the production, regulation, distribution, circulation, and operation of statements.
In the postmodern view, then, truth is not a matter of corresponding to, mapping, or describing the world… it is, instead, a system of organizing and distributing statements.
People in positions of power decide what is true in a way that benefits
society at large them.
In postmodern politics, knowledge and power are two features of the same object that reinforce each other. Therefore, the truth is not to change minds but to change to the political, economic, and institutional regime which produces truth for its own ends.
Science needs tax-dollars to tell you what is true and… because science tells you what is true… it needs more tax-dollars.
Therefore, postmodernism is not about corresponding to reality. It’s about power. Truth is a social phenomenon and different societies will have different truths and their own arbitrary processes of determining what is true.
For example, in Christian societies, Christians have the power to say the Bible is true. But in Islamic societies, Muslims have the power to say the Koran is true.
It almost seems reasonable, doesn’t it? Hence the treachery.
The strawberry-flavored Jolly Rancher-inspired slurpee is “strawberry”, the five-gallon bucket is a “chair”, and truth is determined by power:
Or, according to Young:
We live in a hyper-real world where we’re inundated with signs and symbols…we are surrounded by the strawberry slurpee version of the real thing. There is no objective frame of reference through which to interpret either language or the world and there is no lynchpin or no immovable pillar which can serve as the fixed point by which anything else can be defined or interpreted. And truth, finally, is not a matter of making statements which correspond to reality, truth is a matter of who has the power to decide which ideas, concepts, and arguments get elevated to the status of truth.
And here is the problem: The “experts” in power are subject to bias.
To further explain, Young uses a railroad analogy: If you are in a train that is lined up on parallel tracks next to another train and the other train starts to move, it might look and feel like your train is moving instead.
So, you begin looking around for a fixed point to see if you are moving or if it is the other car or train in motion.
But if all the fixed points, like buildings and street lamps, and the mountains are moving too and everything is moving all at once – that is postmodernism.
According to Young:
Nothing is fixed. Nothing is stable. There are no immoveable pillars, there’s no absolutes, there’s no eternal truth, there is no absolute meaning in language, and no absolute frame of reference – in postmodernism, everything moves… meaning changes, the truth is ever shifting, perspectives are constantly altering, knowledge is ever-changing, morals are ethereal and subject to whim. Nothing has any objective, universal, absolute fixed meaning; and when you try to catch your bearings, there is no immoveable foundation to lean on. There are no conceptual bearings, there’s no immovable pillars and there is no fixed point to use to catch your bearings…. and this is the philosophical situation in America.
Academic theories were formulated in universities then filtered into the culture. Now everyone has their own “truth” and one
man’s human’s truth is another man’s person’s lie.
The Cultural Situation
Next, Young quotes Daniel Yankelovich who is the author of a book entitled “New Rules: Searching for Self-fulfillment in a World Turned Upside Down”. In addressing the cultural shift that has been occurring in America, Yankelovich, referencing other writers, wrote the following:
Tomorrow is not going to look like yesterday. Tomorrow, to the extent that the data can yield clues about it, is being shaped by cultural revolution that is transforming the rules of American life and moving us into wholly uncharted territory.
In examining this revolution, we need to be clear what we mean by the word “culture” and the view of the anthropologist Clifford Geertz, provides focus. Geerts emphasized “shared meanings” as the essence of culture; the common understandings of what we hold about the varied particulars of social life and individual behavior… ‘When you know a society’s shared understanding you can see the character of its culture.’
Sociologist Daniel Bell gives the concept a philosophical dimension: ‘Culture… is to provide a coherent set of answers to the existential situations that confront all human beings in passages of their lives.’
So, in a practical manner, shared meaning is important in order to provide coherent answers to discuss our lives on the “ground level”, so to speak.
To continue quoting Yankelovich:
… a genuine cultural revolution, then, is one that makes a decisive break with the shared meanings of the past, particularly those that relate to the deepest questions on the purpose of human life.
The Cultural Revolution of Postmodernism, then, is described as being quite broad in scope and depth:
The changes wrought by the cultural revolution encompass the full sweep of American life: The private space of our inner lives, the semi-public space of lives within family, work, school, church, and in our own neighborhoods and the public space of our lives as citizens. The new meanings involved discard many of the traditional rules of personal conduct. They encourage greater tolerance, permit more sexual freedom and put less emphasis on sacrifice for its own sake. In their extreme form, the new meanings simply turn the old ones on their head and, in place of the self-denial ethic that once ruled American life, we now find people who refuse to deny themselves anything out of the strange moral principle that I have a duty to myself.
Here, Young points out a “self-fulfillment contradiction” and the mismatch between the goals of Americans seeking self-fulfillment and the means they employ to achieve those goals.
Or, stated another way, former duties, self-sacrifice and obligations have been traded for self-expression, creativity, and self-fulfillment and doing whatever one wants.
Referencing Yankelovich, Young cites the psychological flaw in such self-indulgence as being a byproduct of (seemingly endless and) excessive economic affluence – but with the primary defect as follows: The false premise that “the human self is a hierarchy of inner needs and self-fulfillment is an inner journey to discover them. This premise is rarely examined even though it leads people to defeat their goals and end up isolated and anxious instead of fulfilled”.
People have been deceived into believing they are just a bag of inner needs and desires and their purpose in life, according to Young, is to just “go around and find out what they are;… there’s nothing objective… the only resources for meaning come from the inner self ”.
Or in other words: To self-fulfillment seekers, meaning is entirely subjective. There is nothing outside one’s self with which to find meaning and, therefore, there are no duties or obligations outside of one ’s self that can provide meaning.
Duties and obligations have been forsaken in the pursuit of vain self-discovery.
Addressing the social conflict and confusion created by such subjectivism, and, especially, as aggravated during times of economic turmoil, Young quotes Yankelovich again:
Hungry to live their lives to the brim and determined to consume every plate on the smorgasbord of human experience, self-fulfillment seekers challenge firmly-held norms stirring a fierce backlash among citizens who fear moral chaos.
… A society preoccupied with introspection and self-fulfillment is easily caught off guard by an unanticipated shift in economic relationships… an error in which people are eager to enjoy the benefits of 30 years of unparalleled economic growth is a terrible time psychologically to face disagreeable economic truths.
…. Eventually, we will have to face the fact of the rot in our institutions and infrastructure, the ability of our schools to teach slovenliness in the standards of efficiency and precision, the decay of our railroads, bridges, harbors, and roads, the aging of our industrial plants, the litigiousness of an over-lawyered society, the decline of our political parties, the bland arrogance of the news media, the living-in-the-past of labor unions, the irrelevance of our colleges, the short-term myopia of our industrial leaders, and the seeming inability of the government to do anything efficiently and well.
Those as other symptoms of a troubled society nag at us like a neurotic boss who’s aware of his or her own power and prerogatives but who has forgotten how to do the job.
… In our demand for greater fulfillment in a time of economic turbulence, we have set in motion forces that can either lead to a higher stage of civilization or to disaster.
Will we achieve the synthesis between traditional commitments and new forms of fulfillment? Or will we, indeed, end up with the worst of two worlds… a society fragmented and anomic, the family in shambles, the work ethic collapsed, the economy uncompetitive, our morality flabby and self-centered, and our personal freedom even more restricted than under the old order?
If so, we enter a period of bitter polarizing social conflict that will tear us apart, wreck our society, and crush our spirits.
All of that was written in April, 1981.
To expand further, Young offers an analogy of a “post-modern building”: A building may have windows that are non-uniform, whimsical, and nonsensical, a staircase that goes to nowhere, absurd landscaping, strange arches, doors that don’t open, and upside down cabinetry…. but the foundation cannot be whimsical and nonsensical because the foundation is where the building and the world meet. If the foundation is not secure the entire building will collapse.
The same is true of beliefs. If one’s beliefs are not on a solid foundation, then their ideological house will crumble where it meets the world.
Trapped in a realm of subjectivism, we end up with hermeneutical tribes where people of the same beliefs congeal into insular societies whereby they can interpret the world according to their respective worldviews.
Liberal, conservative, Woke, MAGA, Libertarian, etc.
Then, when big world events happen like elections, or wars, et al, each tribe views the event according to their respective worldview, values, and frame of reference.
Those who best understand and articulate the moral construct for any given tribe, become internet influencers for that respective tribe.
When a global event occurs, like the Ukraine war, the tribes compete for the best, most viral, moral interpretation of the event. The same goes for immigration, etc.
This is narrative warfare whereby facts don’t matter because facts are interpreted according to the different worldviews of each tribe.
In the post-modern world all “facts” are subject to context and interpretation.
So where does this lead?
It leads to “Clownworld”, according to Young, which describes the “denialism and absurdity that occurs when we have a post-modern world of self-expression” – and into nihilistic absurdity to the point of pregnant men and defunding the police to reduce violence.
There is no genuine shared meaning anymore. Western societies can’t even define what a “woman” is, let alone marriage.
According to Young: “Nothing has the status of being absolutely good, right, correct, legitimate, or valid.”
Subjectivism is, essentially, nihilism and our world has become so fake that Joe Biden received his Covid vaccination on a photography set that was mocked to resemble the Oval Office.
In the book “Mere Christianity”, C.S. Lewis compared morality to a convoy of ships:
In order for a voyage to be successful, the ships need to avoid running into each other, they need to be able to keep from sinking, and they need to be able to go where they are going.
Obliterating and relativizing all of the ideas, concepts, values, morals, and norms of our society… and leaving our society no objective ideas, no objective truth, no objective meaning… is the equivalent of shredding the sails of a ship, destroying its rudder and leaving it adrift and directionless on an open sea with no lighthouse, compass, or anchor with which to determine where it is.
With no ability to pick any particular direction, and no way to navigate the difficulties of an open sea, the ships will simply drift and be unable to reach any particular direction to say nothing of being able to avoid crashing into each other.
And that’s the spot Western Civilization finds itself today.
As a society, we don’t know where we are, who we are, or where we’re going.
And, even though America has no destination…. it is determined to get there just as quickly as possible.
What Can Be Done?
From an ontological and/or existential perspective, Young identified “Logos” as the order and divine organization of the universe; or, as defined by the Encyclopedia Britannica, as “the divine reason implicit in the cosmos, ordering it and giving it form and meaning” according to ancient Greek philosophy and early Christian theology.
The Logos is the foundation of Western Civilization. It is an immovable pillar. The Logos is objective truth that can be discovered and understood by anyone who earnestly seeks it because truth exists in reality.
The Logos is what “makes the universe intelligible” and gives it “objective meaning”.
According to Young:
In [the Bible’s Book of] John Chapter 1, when John says “in the beginning was the Word” the term that we translate as “Word” is actually the Greek word Logos and John was arguing that he, like the Greek philosophers, accepted that there was an eternal, objective Logos, a divine principle… which was the reason and the intelligibility implicit in the cosmos.
Young asserts that we cannot avoid postmodernism. It is already here. Therefore, we must go through the postmodern age and the “first step of getting through it is the return of the Logos to prominence and centrality in Western Civilization”.
This post completes my (personalized) review of Michael Young’s “Breaking the Spell of the Postmodern World”, the sixth video of several within the “Mere Simulacrity” series posted over at SovereignNations.com . Once again, each page there contains tabs at the bottom that connects to the next video in the series.
I have watched all of the videos and found them to be very enlightening. The speakers are excellent, the presentations are extremely cohesive and I believe the information to be pertinent to current world circumstances.
The ideology of postmodernism must be dismantled and, toward that end, I believe the “Mere Simulacrity” video series is worthwhile for those willing to invest the time.
3 thoughts on “A Postmortem on Postmodernism”
I find life pretty simple as I have standards and principles to base my behavior upon, and I do mean that, versus the oft changing morals of others. The Bible defines Truth, in psalms 119 verses 142 and 151. It also tells us, within the context of Exodus 22:25 & 35 and ‘the love of money is the root of all evil’. It tells us that ‘usury’ is destroying the world. These simple verses are not easily distorted or misunderstood from a linguistic or societal perspective. Post modern society is now a write off and we will see that write off manifest.
Throughout that journey if you can hang on to your principles and ethics then nothing else will really matter.
Thankfully the entire earth, through changes in the sun ongoing and accelerating, will be challenged in ways which will force individuals to look for value and meaning in something other than acquisition of money or satisfying lust. The last wake up call of this type was almost 400yrs ago. It’s about time!
I believe this guy’s take on Wokism as an extension of Marxism fits nicely into your review of post modernism. It is intentional, not natural or genuine has conscripted so many useful idiots and virtue signalers into its ranks. These individuals actually believe there is no object truth. So sad.
Its been awhile. Thanks Uncola! Glad to see you’re still pumping out amazing insights.
More commentary on this piece at this link:
(Doug / Uncola)