postmodernism, it is an interesting term is it not? The term postmodernism implies that we have, or at least,
something has, moved beyond the modern times to create something new, something
unique, something different. This
is a word that we throw around all the time in day-to-day conversation. You hear comments like, 'well in these
postmodern times in which we live' or 'isn't that art piece a wonderful
representation of postmodern principles?' to which the listener usually
responds by smiling and nodding in agreement, perhaps they even add some ohhs
and ahhs. We act as if the ideas
of postmodernism are known to all and known by all, but is that really true? Do
we really know what the postmodern worldview is all about? Do we know where it came from or where
it is taking us? Do we even
attempt to deal with this sometimes-incomprehensible word that we toss around
so casually? I would argue that we
do not, but it is definitely time that we start.
what is postmodernism? Well it is
a worldview. So, what is a
worldview you might ask, I would love to tell you. According to David A. Noebel, "A world view is the way we
view our world and our place in it"(15). This is important to know so that we
recognize that postmodernism does not just dabble in philosophy or some other
relatively small area of our culture but it penetrates everything. We must understand this as we seek to
understand postmodernism because we must seek to understand it as it relates to
every area of the human experience, if we are going to do that we must first
recognize that it can be related to every part of the human experience.
that we are on the same page with worldview we can start looking at the
specifics of postmodernism. At the
heart of postmodernism there are questions. Postmodernism was born out of a time where people were
questioning everything. That meant
government, religion, science, reason, art, everything (this is why it is a
worldview and not a philosophy, because it effected the way people viewed every
part of their world).
Postmodernism pulls the ground out from everything that people
previously believed, but unlike other movements that questioned the established
order, postmodernism did not set down a new carpet. This leaves us with a worldview that is in essence floating
about; its primary foundation is the fact that it has no foundation.
what does this mean, how do postmodernists see the world and the nature of
mankind? Well first of all they
would not have liked my last question.
Postmodernism rejects the idea that there is an overarching story of the
world or mankind. Postmodernism
does not want to create groups and describe them as a whole. In otherwords postmodernism rejects the
idea of a metanarrative. This
leads to a focus on the self. Postmodernism
wants to look at individual beliefs, values, moral standard etc rather than
looking at what is socially acceptable or universally agreed upon. This way of looking at things
definitely has its down falls, for example it is really difficult to form a
postmodern judicial system because postmodernism believes in relativism. There are however some positive ways
that this principal can be applied.
Glen Stanton points out one of these positive applications when he
discusses individual learning.
During the modern era there was a tendency to just absorb knowledge
because it was coming from an authority.
As postmodernism questions authority it must also question gaining
information from an authority.
Postmodernism makes a big push toward learning on your own. Each individual should question information
and understand it for him or herself.
Stanton argues that this is a good thing especially in the church
because it pushes people to become active learners and really focus on the
relationship with Christ rather than the ritual and tradition of religion that
we so often do (Stanton 1-2).
we discussed earlier, postmodernism is a foundationless worldview, this means
that postmodernism wants everything to be relatively purposeless. Postmodernism doesn't
believe in metanarrative, it doesn't believe in absolutes, it doesn't believe
in any greater power. The
rejection of metanarrative can be blamed for the view of a purposeless world
because to give purpose to the world is to say that the world has an
overarching story, which is a metanarrative. To say that life has purpose is to make a metanarrative out
of life. To say that an individual
has purpose is to draw a connection between individuals grouping them together
and once again forming metanarrative.
At this point I would like to discuss a
senates that embodies the above idea.
Here it is, "This sentence has no logical purpose." This follows the principal of
purposelessness that postmodernism is so fond of. But there is a snare in the theory, and this snare will
cause a run through the entire worldview of postmodernism. The sentence does have a logical
purpose. The purpose is to
communicate an ideal of postmodernism.
This sentence perfectly illustrates the constant conflict in the
postmodern worldview. The conflict
between what postmodernism wants to be and what the constraints of reality will
allow. You see as much as postmodernism
fights the idea of foundations; reality demands that every building has to have
a foundation. As much as
postmodernism wants to say 'there can be no absolute statements,' they must
make an absolute statement in order to say there can be none. This is why postmodernism is such a
difficult thing to understand because it does not even understood it's
Postmodernism is a
complex thing. It cannot be easily
explained nor can a short definition hope to give any form of understanding of
the topic. I hope that my
explanation above has at least started to give some incite to this crazy
postmodern world in which we are living.
With any luck the next time you encounter this odd word in casual
conversation you will have a better understanding of what it means and how it
effects the world in which we live.