Prepare to get your hands dirty. This post attempts to dig up the roots of wild and crazy public policies.
We are trying to take down an entire worldview by our vote, as recent elections indicate. But this is very difficult to accomplish. We need to understand what we are up against.
Let’s first look at the big picture of how we got here, before we get to specific policies.
Kant (1724-1804) kicked it off. Boiled down, he said we cannot know the thing-in-itself apart from our mind interpreting it.
Oliver A. Johnson, emeritus professor of philosophy at the University of California, Riverside, in his article “Immanuel Kant,” (in Great Thinkers of the Western World, ed. Ian P. McGreal, Harper Collins, 1992), says of Kant’s epistemology (study of knowledge):
We can have no knowledge of things as they are in themselves, existing independently in a physical world. (p. 283)
This troubling conclusion means that we cannot separate our subjectivity from how the world exists in its own right. Our objective knowledge of the world has been frustratingly moved out of reach.
Let’s now go right to the heart.
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) was a powerful anti-philosopher. He says in this brief excerpt that facts do not exist; only interpretations do. He writes:
Everything is Interpretation: … Against those who say “There are only facts,” I say, “No, facts are precisely what there is not, only interpretations.” We cannot establish any fact in itself. Perhaps it is folly to want to do such a thing. (Quoted in Louis P. Pojman, Classics of Philosophy, Oxford UP, 1998, pp. 1,015-16, emphasis original)
This is called perspectivism, and an interpreter of postmodernism describes the practical outcome of it.
We have lost the ‘real world’ and the ‘apparent world,’ he [Nietzsche] thought, and it follows from this eerie situation that there are no facts, only interpretations. With that breathtaking claim we broach the doctrine that Nietzsche called ‘perspectivism.’ It is a shorthand for a group of different doctrines – that truth is perspectival, that logic is, that knowledge is, and so on … There is no absolute, Nietzsche declared: being is always becoming and ‘being human’ is fluid rather than fixed. (Kevin Hart, Postmodernism: a Beginner’s Guide [Oneworld, 2004], p. 35).
This hyper-skepticism can be summed up in one word: postmodernism.
It has worked its way into the cultural water we drink and air we breathe.
Now we can look at specific policies.
1. Implementing Worldview Studies in curricula
Christian universities and high schools have accepted perspectivism as if there are no objective truths out there, but only our competing worldviews. So they teach “Worldview Studies.”
This is the wrong approach. Instead, reality should shape ideology, rather than our worldview or ideology shaping the truths of the real world.
In concrete policy terms, these universities and high schools need to drop Worldview Studies and just teach Philosophy 101.
But I concede, as my opening sentences say, that the worldview approach is here to stay. So I have modified my wishful thinking here.
2. Destroying the essence of marriage and gender differences
What is something as simple as a pencil? If you can find the definition of a pencil, then you have discovered its essence, which distinguishes it from other objects like a pen. Close, but not the same.
Two men getting married? Close, but not the same.
However, postmodernism is hyper-skeptical of essences.
Until recently, marriage had an essence: one man and one woman enjoying a comprehensive bodily union that is unique to them and distinguishes them from all other sexual relations (and even just friendships or family relationships like brothers). But in a debate over same-sex “marriage,” one advocate for redefining marriage proclaimed: “Marriage has no essence!” In other words, it’s open to reinterpretation and redefinition. Perspectivism.
To take postmodernism to its deeper outcome, it also says human sexuality is fluid, not fixed. There are no clear gender differences. The essence of maleness and the essence of femaleness is being shattered.
So now we have transgendered males demanding to be allowed into women’s locker rooms and restrooms, invading the latter’s public spaces that should be reserved only for them.
This policy denies womankind’s safety and privacy. Ideology over safety and common sense.
4. Negotiating with evil politicians
Humankind used to have an essence: a rational soul. Christianity added that the essence is a contaminated rational soul. We don’t even need a biblical text to reach that conclusion, which is deduction. We can observe humans over the centuries. That’s induction.
Postmodernism, however, denies humankind’s essence. So why not overlay it with the (naïve) ideology of wishful thinking? The West has a secular, easygoing, live-and-let-live outlook, so surely everyone else does.
Perhaps this naïveté explains why postmodern leftists can’t reach safe and sane conclusions drawn from the clear fact that the Supreme Leaders in Iran and the regime wreak havoc on the world. Endangering us and our allies, postmodern leftists deny the obvious and blithely negotiate with demonstrably evil terrorists who masquerade as goodhearted, rational humans.
5. Denying origins
Postmodernism says key concepts, like justice and rights and even God, are up for grabs like a loose ball in basketball. Meaning is fluid and playful, and the context and original intent do not limit those foundational truths.
So judges, growing up in this postmodern environment at the university, cut the Constitution loose from its original and historical context and interpret it as a living document, subject to the modern, evolving zeitgeist. The Constitution says whatever they intend per their politics, not what its authors originally intended.
6. Politicizing science
For postmodernism, science (or cause and effect) has no firm foundation (see Hume). If we have no secure knowledge, then why not overlay and shape it through political ideology?
Apparently some scientists indeed choose their ideology over facts, so they have fudged the facts to panic or stampede politicians to cough up more money for research grants.
Recently nations have signed the Paris climate deal that slams Western economies and redistributes money to “victim” nations.
I could go on, but time to wrap this up.
No doubt there are direct political sources to these wacky policies, like Marxism and its successor ideologies.
But postmodernism – or hyper-skepticism – also describes the roots of left-wing public policy. Epistemology – or its lack – also clarifies the battle.
So how do we win it?
Here are some suggestions.
Expose who many liberals really are. They’re amoral, anything-goes postmodernists. Use it as a pejorative.
Conservatives who have access to the media must educate themselves on this philosophical battle. They must reject ancient hyper-skepticism, against which Aristotle fought, that has recently morphed into postmodernism.
Our education system needs to explain postmodernism, so students can figure out that they are being swept along by hyper-skepticism. Then they can decide which policies are better.
The main thing is that that there really are essences. Marriage has an essence, and there are essential differences between maleness and femaleness. Humanity itself has an essence that places it above other mammals.
Our policies must be rooted in the real world, not a utopian vision of how we wish it to be. Knowing the historical facts of human conduct that reveals bad human nature will keep us safe and sane.
Don’t deny the obvious that you can see with your own eyes. Your five senses are an accurate source of common sense. And common sense has enabled Americans to thrive since our founding – and indeed, most Homo sapiens since they have been walking the earth. Hyper-skepticism is a minority viewpoint.
The original intent and historical context of the Constitution should not be shoved aside in favor of social engineering. Winning elections and nominating the right judges can put a stop to it.
Be confident in this: the real world – which really does exist and can be objectively known without our mental games and interpretations – must come before ideology.
Deconstruction: The Language Games People Play
Deconstructing Gender Differences
Three Cures for the Skeptical Sneering Age!
Postmodern Roots of Leftist Policies
I wrote this post on April 26, 2016.